Tag Archives: Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Scientists call for end to tar sands mining

Repost from The Guardian
[Editor: This story is also covered (with great photos) in the National Observer, “Over 100 scientists call for oil sands moratorium.”  – RS]

North American scientists call for end to tar sands mining

More than 100 US and Canadian scientists publish letter saying tar sands crude should be relegated to fuel of last resort, because it causes so much pollution
By Suzanne Goldenberg, 10 June 2015 13.14 EDT 
The Syncrude tar sand site near to Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta, Canada
The Syncrude tar sand site near to Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta, Canada | Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

More than 100 leading US and Canadian scientists called for a halt on future mining of the tar sands, saying extraction of the carbon-heavy fuel was incompatible with fighting climate change.

In a letter published on Wednesday, the researchers said tar sands crude should be relegated to a fuel of last resort, because it causes so much more carbon pollution than conventional oil.

The letter, released two days after G7 countries committed to get off fossil fuels by the end of the century, added to growing international pressure on the Canadian government, which has championed the tar sands and is failing to meet its earlier climate goals.

“If Canada wants to participate constructively in the global effort to stop climate change, we should first stop expanding the oil sands. More growth simply shows Canada has gone rogue,” Thomas Homer-Dixon, professor of governance innovation at the University of Waterloo, said in a statement.

The researchers included a Nobel prize winner, five holders of Canada’s highest national honour, and 34 researchers honoured by Canadian and US scientific societies.

The researchers said it was the first time that scientists had come out as professionals in opposition to the tar sands. The letter offered 10 reasons for the moratorium call, ranging from extraction’s impact on local First Nations communities to destruction of boreal forests and climate change, and argued that foregoing tar sands production would not hurt the economy.

They said they hoped to present those findings to Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, who has lobbied hard in Washington and European capitals for the tar sands.

“We offer a unified voice calling for a moratorium on new oil sands projects,” the scientists said in the letter.

“No new oil sands or related infrastructure projects should proceed unless consistent with an implemented plan to rapidly reduce carbon pollution, safeguard biodiversity, protect human health, and respect treaty rights.”

They said the decisions made by Canada and the US would set an important example for the international community, when it comes to fighting climate change. “The choices we make about the oil sands will reverberate globally, as other countries decide whether or how to develop their own large unconventional oil deposits,” the scientists said.

Since 2000, Canada has doubled tar sands production, and Harper has lobbied Barack Obama to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would open up new routes to market for Alberta oil.

The crash of oil prices will likely put some future projects on hold, but are unlikely to affect current production, analysts said.

The organisers of the letter said all future projects should be shelved unless Canada put in place safeguards to protect local people and environment and prevent climate change.

“The oil sands should be one of the first fuels we decide not to develop because of its carbon intensity,” said Thomas Sisk, professor of environmental science at Northern Arizona University, and one of the organisers of the letter.

“It is among the highest emitting fuels in terms of greenhouse gas emissions … If we are trying to address the climate crisis this high carbon intensive fuel should be among the first we forego as we move to an economy based around cleaner fuels.”

Researchers including Sisk first outlined reasons for opposition to the tar sands in Nature last year.

Wednesday’s intervention deepens an emerging political and economic distinction around coal and tar sands among climate campaigners.

As a fossil fuel divestment movement moves from college campuses to financial institutions, a number of prominent supporters, such as Rockefeller Brothers Fund, moved swiftly to ditch coal and tar sands holdings, but plan more gradual moves away from oil and gas.

Scientists agree that two-thirds of known fossil fuel reserves will need to stay in the ground to avoid warming above 2C, the internationally agreed threshold on catastrophic climate change.

The Guardian supports the fossil fuel divestment campaign, and has called on two of the world’s largest health charities, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, to rid its holdings of coal, oil, and gas.

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    Palo Alto passes fossil fuel divestment resolution

    Press Release from Peninsula Interfaith Climate Action (PICA)

    Interfaith Victory: Palo Alto Fossil Fuel Divestment Resolution Passed

    PALO ALTO, CA — February 9, 2014.

    The City of Palo Alto, responding to concerns from Peninsula Interfaith Climate Action (PICA), voted unanimously to send a message to CalPERS (California Statement Employee Retirement System), the national’s largest pension fund, to pull its investments out of fossil fuels.

    Councilmembers Marc Berman, Patrick Burt, Karen Holman and Liz Kniss submitted the initial “Colleague’s Memo” in favor of divestment. “Climate change poses a top-tier threat to our future. Our obligation to address climate change through all avenues requires support from all sectors,” noted Council member Cory Wolbach. “I was inspired to see the passionate and effective work of these congregations collecting 152 signed letters on behalf of fossil fuel divestment.  Those letters, presented by a cross-denominational coalition, sent a very powerful moral statement.”

    Eileen Altman is an associate minister at First Congregational Church in Palo Alto and a PICA member who spoke at the City Council meeting. “As Christians, we share a core set of values and concern for God’s gift of life, both human and all other life. Our investments should reflect our values.” said Rev. Altman. “This concern is not a liberal or conservative value, but is a Christian value. The US political system unproductively magnifies differences when Americans everywhere share 98% of the same values. Climate is about the future of our children and is especially about the people who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Climate is the biggest social justice issue of our time. From the pews in Palo Alto and throughout the United Church of Christ, the first denomination to pass a resolution to move toward divestment from fossil fuels (in 2013), we welcome the opportunity to respectfully dialogue about climate with churches in all regions of the country and across all party affiliations.”

    While the call for fossil fuel divestment may have its strongest impact as a symbolic statement, it also has practical implications for the economic value of employee pensions, explained Debbie Mytels, convener of PICA, which comprises a dozen local congregations that submitted signed letters to the Council in favor of the divestment resolution.

    “While we believe it’s a moral obligation to stop using the fossil fuels that are causing sea level rise, extreme weather events and drought-related crop losses,” Mytels said, “it’s also important to question how long investments in these companies will be financially valuable.”

    “If we want to protect our employees’ pensions, we need to get CalPERS to pull out of dirty fuels before they become ‘stranded assets’.” said Mytels, citing a recent statement by Deutsche Bank in Germany that said  “to meet climate change targets, over half of identified fossil fuel reserves will have to stay in the ground.”

    “While we are pleased with Palo Alto’s progress in becoming a city that supplies ‘carbon free’ electricity to its utility customers,” Mytels said, “we feel it’s time for our city to demonstrate further leadership by joining the call for divestment.”

    “Thankfully, Palo Alto itself does not own any investment in fossil fuels of any sort — that’s all the more reason for the Council to consider the long-term safety of our employees’ CalPERS retirement assets,” she added.

    Reverend Will Scott, from California Interfaith Power & Light (CIPL), noted that “CIPL and our growing statewide network of more than 640 congregations are grateful for the inspiring work of the Peninsula Interfaith Climate Action group, now a CIPL Regional Working Group. Their regular, committed, and personal engagement on the local level as people of diverse faiths concerned about the climate crisis, is a strong model for other regional working groups in our network. Indeed, they are exemplifying the sincere, collaborative, practical, rooted and creative community resiliency needed throughout the world to meet the seriousness of this global challenge. California Interfaith Power & Light is learning much from PICA’s practices and shared wisdom.”

    Palo Alto now joins a growing group of California cities, including San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Brisbane, Richmond, Fairfax, and Santa Monica in calling for dropping fossil fuels from employee pension funds. Sunnyvale may be the next city. Other regional agencies, including the Santa Clara Valley Water District, which is mandated to protect Silicon Valley citizens from floods, have also passed similar resolutions due to concerns about sea level rise.

    In advance of Global Divestment Day, Feb. 13, 2015, Norway announced last week that it would drop coal and tar sands companies from its national investment portfolio. Similarly, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund has made such a decision, along with 50 other philanthropic organizations. The divestment movement is also growing significantly among national faith-based groups, and nearby Stanford University has agreed to eliminate its holdings in coal companies. Today, California State Senate President Kevin de Leon introduced SB 185, directing CalPERs to divest coal fossil fuel investments.

    For more information about PICA, see http://www.interfaithpower.org/pica and http://pica.nationbuilder.com/

    City of Palo Alto Fossil Fuel Divestment Resolution.

    The Palo Alto City Council voted unanimously in favor of divestment:  https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B9dpI7FCQAAfghe.jpg

    PICA members celebrate: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B9dpI7JCIAAsuEF.jpg

    For more information about the international fossil fuel divestment movement, see http://gofossilfree.org/

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