Latest report unveils large-scale climate impacts and is the most urgent science-led call to action yet
February 28, 2022
The latest Working Group II report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is full of the most up-to-date and accurate science around climate change and its impacts – and phew, it’s a doozy. Over the next few days we’re likely to see the headlines flooded with daunting language like “extreme weather,” “uninhabitable regions,” and “irreversible harm.”
We’re also likely to see the fossil fuel industry’s propaganda machine switch into overdrive and try to convince us that there’s nothing we can do about it, that we should just focus on building the resilience the report mentions many poorer economies lack to blunt the toll of climate change. But that’s a lie.
We don’t become resilient to things we have the power to change – we become resilient to things outside our control that we must learn to live with. And make no mistake, we do have the power to stop fossil fuel expansion and invest in a new economy that lifts up people and the planet.
We can still mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. Every ton of carbon we prevent today means less warming and lives saved in the future. In light of current events, there is also a strong case to be made that the fossil fuel status quo lives in an already fragile system riddled with choke points and concentrates far too much power in too few hands, threatening millions in more ways than one.
But although you won’t hear it in mainstream outlets, the report also emphasizes climate justice and acknowledges Indigenous and traditional knowledge. About time.
To hear Todd Paglia, Stand.earth’s executive director, say it: “We must take immediate action on the wishes of frontline communities to no longer suffer toxic economic, social and environmental conditions. Period.”
Perhaps we should finally heed Indigenous wisdom, stop the assault on nature, give it time to repair itself if given the opportunity. It’s certainly well past time for us to heed modern science, which the report flags loud and clear – simply cutting emissions isn’t enough. We need to adapt fast.
“We have to shift into high gear, and fast,” explains Paglia, “The lesson of the last couple decades is that doubling down on policy analysis and incremental and voluntary corporate reform that didn’t work in the past is not going to work in the future. To accelerate change in line with what the science demands, philanthropy and the climate movement need to ramp up massive pressure from the grassroots up, calling out the bad actors and pushing them to change how they do business. If the fashion and IT industries commit to coal-free production, or the shipping industry moved to zero-emissions shipping tomorrow, that’s a game changer. Industries like aviation and fashion need to change their supply chains, which are in fact more complicit than they realize in driving climate change. And major financial institutions bankrolling these industries could decide they’re not going to back polluting industries.”
Finally, the report drives home once again, the inequity in the climate crisis. And how unfair it is to expect poorer countries, and even poorer communities in wealthy countries, to undo damage they haven’t primarily caused.
Tzeporah Berman, Stand’s international program director, agrees. “This report tells us that climate change is getting worse, it’s already killing people and destroying nature and making the world poorer. The consequences of inaction will be felt the most by countries in the global south and marginalized communities all of the world who have done the least to cause it and can least afford to manage the impacts. The time for vague discussions about offsets and technological fixes to produce ‘clean’ coal, oil and gas are over. We can stop the worst impacts but it requires bold new ideas like the fossil Fuel Treaty and immediate commitments from wealthy countries to stop the expansion of oil, gas and coal, protect intact forests and support emerging economies to build electrification and renewable energy and keep carbon in the ground.”
And with that thought firmly lodged in our minds, we’d like to focus on something different than what you’re likely to see from lots of outlets around the world today. Instead of concentrating on what could come if we don’t act, we’d like to talk about the work this community and our allies are doing to actively push governments and corporations toward the brighter future we so desperately need and know is possible.
How Stand.earth is pushing action and impact
SAFE CITIES MOVEMENT
Communities around the world are already moving off fossil fuels to protect local health and safety and global climate as part of the SAFE Cities movement. Many cities in the US and Canada are making new buildings all-electric. Petaluma, California won’t permit new gas stations. London is going all-electric with buses and Shenzhen, China has done the same for buses and taxis. Los Angeles recently banned new oil drilling and will phase out existing wells. Whatcom County, a refinery community in Washington State, made permanent a prohibition on refinery expansion. Not only is a fossil free future possible, it’s happening now. We just need to rapidly accelerate the solutions that are already here.
Stand’s corporate campaigns target outsized polluters in the fashion, ocean shipping, and IT sectors, highlighting how major brands in these sectors must rapidly move from climate commitments to concrete actions, including advocating for clean energy in manufacturing countries and collaborating with governments and ports on zero-emissions shipping.
- Fossil Free Fashion: The fashion industry plays an outsized role in climate change, and despite many major brands making climate commitments, Stand.earth’s annual fashion scorecard shows the sector is simply not moving from talk to action at the scale desperately needed. Major brands must do more to advocate for the transition from coal to renewable energy in fashion-producing countries, which will not only help the sector cut its emissions, but address the public health emergency caused by these coal-powered factories in countries like China and Vietnam. Stand’s annual Fossil Free Fashion Scorecard got several companies to commit to emission reductions, and doubled down on calling out Lululemon – Team Canada’s official outfitter at the recent Beijing Winter Olympics – with a “coal medal” – in front of the flagship Vacouver store.
- Ship It Zero: For years, the cruise and ocean shipping industry’s climate pollution has sailed under the radar thanks to insider efforts to negotiate itself out of the UN Paris Agreement, despite being responsible for more climate emissions than the entire country of Canada. (If the entire ocean shipping industry were a country, it would be the world’s sixth largest climate polluter.) This shocking statistic shows how important it is for this sector to pursue zero-emissions shipping technologies this decade, in order to tackle the air and ocean pollution impacts caused by its fossil-fueled ships. If the ocean shipping sector hopes to adequately address its air pollution impacts in port communities, and if the cruise sector hopes to clean up its toxic dumping practices contributing to ocean pollution and acidification worldwide, they must look beyond false solutions like LNG and scrubbers and work alongside governments to create green shipping corridors and incentivize true zero-emissions technologies. Stand’s Shady Ships and Shady Routes reports highlight the role that some of the world’s biggest consumer goods companies — like Amazon, Target, IKEA, and Walmart — can do to spur investment in this zero-emissions shipping future.
- Fossil fuel divestment hits $40 trillion in assets: On Tuesday, March 1, Stand.earth and dozens of partners are hosting a virtual celebration to mark the movement milestone of global fossil fuel divestment commitments surpassing 1500 institutions representing more than $40 trillion in assets. Joined by multigenerational, intercultural movement leaders including Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Hip Hop Caucus; Alethea Phillips, Earth Guardians; Bill McKibben, Third Act; Abby Mohaupt, GreenFaith’; Omar Elmawi, #StopEACOP; Lu Aya, Peace Poets and Heather Coleman, Wallace Global Fund, we’re giving this $40 T milestone the celebration it deserves: with art, music, and storytelling, to chart the path for climate finance in 2022.
- Royal Bank of Canada: Defund Coastal GasLink and Stand with Gidimt’en: Right now, major banks like the Royal Bank of Canada are financing a fracked gas pipeline bulldozing through the land of the Wet’suwet’en nation in northern British Columbia, Canada. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs never consented to pipeline construction through their territories, which would risk the sacred headwaters of the Wedzin Kwa. Stand.earth is supporting Gidimt’en and Indigenous land defenders to demand RBC – a linchpin financier for the methane gas pipeline – to defund and divest from the project. Together with a broad and powerful coalition, we are escalating the fight for an end to fossil fuel finance toward RBC’s April shareholder meeting.
- Climate Safe Pensions Network: Stand.earth is supporting over 20 campaigns across North America demanding pension funds divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in solutions. In the face of rising anti-divestment legislation written by coal-executives, communities are pushing for state-level legislation that protects pensioners and our climate alike.
- Amazonia For Life: 80 x 25 Project: The Amazon rainforest is the last place in the world where oil drilling should be happening, let alone expanding. Road building connected to the oil industry footprint is a major driver of deforestation given that the first cut is the deepest and leads to roadside colonization and additional deforestation drivers from agriculture, livestock, and other associated industries. What’s more, aging infrastructure has contributed to hundreds of spills including one of the largest in 15 years. Expanding production will likely be accompanied by expanding pollution, further damaging which impactsIindigenous and land-based communities. Given the IPCC report findings, it is critical for governments, banks, and corporations to commit to ending all oil and gas expansion in regions like the Amazon that are in the midst of a tipping point crisis – consistent with the Exit Oil and Gas Platform.
- Old growth forests in British Columbia: B.C. is known for iconic old growth forests, but these carbon-rich ecosystems have been largely destroyed by industrial logging and remaining, rare old growth forests are still mostly unprotected and at risk. Old growth forests clean the air, shield us from fire and flooding, and store massive amounts of carbon. Once logged, it takes hundreds of years to recover the majority of that stored carbon. Protecting old growth forests is one of the most effective things we can do to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The B.C. government committed during the last election to implement all 14 recommendations from the old growth review panel, and ban logging for the most at-risk old growth forests immediately. But they still haven’t followed through, leaving the majority of these forests on the chopping block. Given that protecting old growth forests is one of the most effective things we can do to mitigate the impacts of climate change, Stand.earth is calling on the B.C. government to immediately implement logging deferrals across all priority areas identified by the old growth technical advisory panel.