A scene in the Rocky Mountains. Photo: Russ Vernon-Jones

Love, Justice And Climate Change

Russ Vernon-Jones

Writing about climate, or even just thinking about climate, can pose a challenging dilemma for any of us. If we focus too much on what a desperate climate emergency humanity is facing, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or discouraged and pulled to give up. On the other hand, if we focus too much on the good news and signs of hope, some may be tempted to become complacent and feel that others are taking care of what needs to be done.

At our best, we develop an ability to simultaneously: 1) remember the magnitude of the crisis, 2) find hope in the good news, and 3) maintain a commitment to sustained action. We then engage both in lowering our own carbon footprints and in joining actions to accelerate the systemic changes that are essential.

Emotionally this requires what for many of us is a new approach — acknowledging our feelings of overwhelm and hopelessness, while at the same time, choosing to be hopeful. As we do this we can feel more fully alive, more connected with others, and full of purpose.

I trust that my readers will remember that climate change is causing severe suffering in many parts of the world and that almost everywhere, including in the United States, corporations, governments, and individuals are still doing things to make the crisis worse. With that awareness, I offer some highlights of good news from the year 2022 to help us all stay hopeful as we engage in making a difference.

Elections In Brazil And Australia
The climate-destroying deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon is expected to come to an end since voters in Brazil elected Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known as Lula), who has a track record of saving the forests. He replaces former President Jair Bolsonaro who had been accelerating the destruction of the rainforest. This will make quite a significant difference in global emissions. Earlier in the year Australians replaced their coal-supporting president with Anthony Albanese, who has promised to make Australia a “renewable energy superpower.”

Largest Ever U.S. Climate Bill
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) approved by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Biden is the largest climate bill in history, with some $390 billion of incentives for renewable energy. It is projected to result in reducing U.S. emissions by 40% (from 2005 levels) by 2030. The International Energy Agency expects solar and wind capacity in the U.S. to nearly triple and EV sales to increase sevenfold from today’s levels by 2030 in response to tax credits passed as part of the IRA.s

Low And Middle Income Countries (LMIC) Win Creation Of International “Loss And Damage” Fund
At COP27 the poorer nations won an historic unanimous agreement to create a “loss and damage” fund that will channel funds from wealthier high-emitting countries to poorer nations suffering the disastrous effects of climate change. The effort was led by Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the G77 alliance of low and middle income nations. While there are uncertainties about its successful implementation, the so-called “developing nations” have been calling for this fund for 30 years and hailed this as a major victory. This funding is also key to these nations having the capacity to reduce their emissions.

Largest Bank In Europe To Stop Funding Fossil Fuel Projects
The largest bank in Europe and the eighth largest bank in the world, London-based HSBC, has announced that it will stop funding any new oil and gas developments globally. HSBC was previously a major investor in fossil fuel projects, so this is a significant step in activists’ campaigns to get banks to stop financing fossil fuel development.

Global Emissions From Energy Will Peak In 2025
Analysis by the world’s leading energy organization, the International Energy Agency, finds that global emissions from energy will peak in 2025 and start to fall thereafter. It cited notable effects of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, the EU’s emissions reduction package, and actions by Japan, South Korea, China, and India. It also found that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is accelerating the transition to clean energy as governments seek alternatives to dependence on Russian gas.

China Is Transitioning To Renewable Energy
China is setting world records in renewable energy installation–adding more than 66 gigawatts (GW) of solar, and more than 23 GW of wind in 2022. By 2025, China is planning to add 570 GW of renewable energy, about half as much power as all power plants combined in the U.S. (including fossil fuel plants). In the third quarter of 2022, 73% of all EV’s sold in the world were sold in China. By November 2022, the number of EV charging points in China had more than doubled in one year to 4.95 million.

Major Milestone For Wind Energy In The U.S.
For the first time ever, on April 5, 2022, wind energy was the second largest source of electricity in the U.S., surpassing coal, nuclear, and oil. (So-called “natural gas,” which is methane gas, a polluting fossil fuel, is still the greatest source of electricity in the U.S.)

Climate Justice
“Inside Climate News” reported last month that, “State and federal energy laws are now more likely to include provisions to ensure that low- and moderate-income consumers receive a share of the benefits.” The federal Inflation Reduction Act included $60 billion of investments targeted to disadvantaged communities to support environmental justice. On the international scene, one experienced participant noted that, “COP27 marked the point where equity finally, decisively, took center stage.” He wrote that everyone (except some of the wealthy nation delegations) seemed to suddenly know that the world cannot succeed in phasing out fossil fuels unless fairness is central to how it is done.

Worldwide Concern About Climate Change
A majority of people in 192 countries are worried about climate change, according to a 2022 survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. Most of them also say it should be a priority for their governments.

There are plenty of reasons to be hopeful, and to be energized to take further climate action.

Happy New Year!

Russ Vernon-Jones was principal of Fort River School 1990-2008 and is currently a member of the Steering Committee of Climate Action Now-Western Massachusetts. He blogs regularly on climate justice at www.russvernonjones.org.

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