By Dr. Alan Singer
The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, began Oct. 31 and will run through Nov. 12. Participants will include more than 190 government representatives and business leaders who are expected to discuss efforts to ensure countries and companies live up to climate-change agreements made at the 2015 Paris climate conference.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry, now the special presidential envoy for climate change, will head the U.S. delegation, which will include several members of President Biden’s cabinet. Biden, who is also scheduled to attend, reportedly plans to call on nations to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions required to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius — a still devastating number.
Long Islanders should pay close attention to this conference, as climate change will likely have a profound effect here, given that it’s causing sea levels to rise, and we live on an island.
Unfortunately, the Biden administration has so far been unable to pass its ambitious climate agenda in the U.S. Senate. Climate villains include Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, and virtually every Republican in the Senate and House of Representatives. Manchin’s political career is largely funded by fossil fuel companies, and he personally owns millions of dollars in coal company stock. He is trying to force the Biden administration to drop renewable-energy subsidies from the federal budget.
American corporations often claim they are good environmental citizens, particularly on the climate front. According to Alberto Carrillo Pineda of the Science Based Targets initiative, however, “You can look at a company’s website and see their sustainability report and it will look great, but then when you look at what is behind it, you’ll see there is not a lot of substance behind those commitments, or the commitments are not comprehensive enough.”
A recently released report by the Private Equity Stakeholder Project highlights how the short-term hunt for profit and market manipulation make U.S. finance capitalism one of the world’s biggest climate villains. While countries, including the U.S., are plagued by drought, forest fires and hurricanes because of climate change, the secretive private equity industry has invested more than a trillion dollars during the last decade in fossil-fuel companies. Virtually single-handedly, the industry keeps some of the worst-polluting oil wells, natural gas-leaking towers and coal-burning power plants pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. According to Alyssa Giachino of the Private Equity Stakeholder Project, “You see oil majors feeling the heat, but private equity is quietly picking up the dregs, perpetuating operations of the least desirable assets.”
Three of the corporate players highlighted in the Private Equity Stakeholder Project report are the Blackstone Group, KKR & Co. and the Carlyle Group/NGP Energy Capital. The Blackstone Group is the world’s largest “alternative” asset manager. While its ClearGen subsidy is committed to promoting “sustainable-energy infrastructure,” Blackstone invests in 25 fossil-fuel companies. Among Blackstone’s recent acquisitions is the pipeline company Tallgrass Energy, which is developing an “oil export terminal in Louisiana that would emit more than 500,000 tons of greenhouse gasses annually.” Tallgrass is also responsible for releasing thousands of gallons of oilfield wastewater contaminating North Dakota farmland. And Blackstone is notorious for investing heavily “in polluting plants located in proximity to communities of color.”
KKR plans to partner with the renewable energy consultant firm Crossover Energy Partners to develop solar and wind power projects. However, it also partners with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company to produce and distribute petroleum products and is expanding natural gas fracking projects in Wyoming. Overall, KKR invests in 28 fossil-fuel companies. The Carlyle Group/NGP Energy Capital plans to invest in Amp Solar Group, “a Canadian-based global energy transition platform,” but it is also investing in expanding oil production in Colombia and Ghana. Overall, it holds assets in 68 fossil-fuel companies.
While capitalists pollute the Earth and speed up global warming, nominally socialist countries like China are not doing much better and belong on the climate villains list. Xi Jinping, general secretary of China’s Communist Party, promises that China will start reducing greenhouse gases by 2030 and will be carbon neutral by 2060, but meantime, it is increasing coal production and the use of coal-fired power plants. The polluting plants receive tax deductions and are green-lighted for bank loans.
The list of climate villains must also include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Libya, Argentina, Colombia and Brazil, all nations that are expected to attend the Glasgow Climate Change Conference. Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, Aramco, is the world’s leading oil producer. It recently announced plans to increase its oil production by at least a million barrels a day by the 2030s. State-owned oil companies in the other countries are also planning to increase production. The United Arab Emirates was the first Persian Gulf country to pledge net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Meanwhile, it is investing more than $100 billion in new oil and gas projects.
Dr. Alan Singer is a professor of teaching, learning and technology and the director of social studies education programs at Hofstra University. He is a former New York City high school social studies teacher and editor of Social Science Docket, a joint publication of the New York and New Jersey Councils for the Social Studies. Follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/AlanJSinger1.