Civil society is full of anchor institutions that often provide leadership by setting agendas and raising awareness of certain issues. One such group of these institutions is universities and due to the recent dispute with the UCU these organisations have often found themselves in the news. Although this trade union confrontation being at the forefront of discussions of campuses around the country, a number of universities are also making headlines by divesting themselves from fossil fuel companies. Removing universities’ financial support for companies destroying the earth will be a major step forward and has the potential to radically change the debate around anti-climate change measures.
Germany has become a world leader when it comes to renewable energy and climate action. According to the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, over 31% of the country’ energy needs come from renewable energy which is significant given how many countries in the developed world are nowhere near that level. The consequence of this has been that air pollution emanating from Germany has declined but the nature of air pollution is that it crosses national barriers and as a result German cities are looking at new ways to reduce air pollution further. One such announcement made in the last week was that some are considering making public transport entirely free.
The Chinese government have correctly been praised from people around the world for its rapid expansion of renewable energy capacity, especially in regards to solar power. However increasing the amount of electricity generated from sustainable sources is not enough to slow down the impacts of climate change and reduce pollution. One of the other aspects of this issue is afforestation as this reduces the aggregate amount of carbon dioxide filtered out of the atmosphere. Thankfully it appears that China will act on this issue as well because the government has announced that it will plant enough trees to cover an area around the size of the Republic of Ireland.
The Adani Group is an Indian-based coal company that is seeking to expand their operations in the Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland. However, Adani have claimed that they do not have the capital to expand but this has been not been a cause of concern for the company as the Australian federal government has said that they would provide a A$1 billion taxpayer-funded loan to help finance the project. Unsurprisingly environmentalists in Queensland have been agitating against the expansion for some time now but the government in Canberra has take no notice. It appears, though, that Canberra will now take notice because of the Queensland state elections.
Something that has been troubling me in recent weeks has the emerging trend among people in the Democratic Party who, in their pursuit to demonise Trump, have decided to extricate him from the GOP. In there eyes Trump is an unprecedented and unholy aberration and that the US would be in much better shape if a different Republican was in office rather than Donald Trump. I don’t necessarily disagree with this premise as a President Jeb Bush wouldn’t be exactly good but I don’t suspect that he would openly muse about using nuclear weapons. However what has now taken over the Democratic Party is that Trump has now been separated from the Republicans to such an extent that many Democrats have rehabilitated the historical record of George W. Bush.
Despite finishing second in the recent general election Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party will lead the next government of New Zealand after reaching an agreement with the centre-left Green Party and the conservative populists of New Zealand First. The move will result in New Zealand’s first government not led by the National Party since 2008 and as a result much attention has been paid to what the priorities of the next administration will be. In recent days Ardern has been more explicit in what her government will do and on the whole the Left should welcome the announcements, although there are some caveats that need to be added.
The European Union prides itself on emission reduction, combating pollution and generally protecting the environment. There have been countless EU directives and regulations that require member states to monitor their levels of emissions and reduce these levels by certain threshold dates. This is some of the good work of the EU and should be commended by all who want to see climate change combated. However it appears that some of the agencies backed by the EU are not on the same page as the European Bank of Reconstruction Development (EBRD) has just announced that it will loan $500 million to SOCAR, the state-run oil company of Azerbaijan.