Welcome to this week’s Media Roundup: a curated digest of top stories and major developments in the climate finance space.
Read on below.
A panel of 12 legal experts from around the world on Tuesday released a proposed definition for a new international crime called “ecocide” covering “severe” and “widespread or long-term environmental damage” that would be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court in the Hague, alongside genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. The panel’s announcement was seen by environmentalists and international legal scholars as a significant step in a growing global campaign to criminalize ecocide, which requires one of the court’s 123 member nations to formally request consideration of a fifth crime within the court’s purview. The process could take years to complete.
BC Hydro and the provincial government have announced a new five-year plan for the Crown corporation that provides incentives for people to switch from fossil fuels to electricity to power their homes, businesses and vehicles. Under the plan, BC Hydro will spend nearly $190 million to promote fuel switching in homes, buildings, vehicles and industry. More than $50 million will be spent to attract industries to B.C. to run their businesses and reduce their carbon footprint by using hydroelectricity. Bruce Ralston, the province’s minister of energy, mines and low carbon innovation, says the plan could lead to lower rates for BC Hydro customer rates, potentially by about 1.6 per cent by 2026. Premier John Horgan says the plan could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 930,000 tons by 2026.
Illinois has become the first Midwestern state to pass a law banning fossil fuels. On September 15, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (SB 2408) into law. The nearly 1,000-page clean energy bill received a bipartisan majority in both the House (83 yes to 33 no) and the Senate (37 yes to 17 no). Illinois is the fourth largest coal producing state, following Wyoming, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The law phases out the use of fossil fuels like coal in the power sector by 2045, outlining a clear path to achieving a carbon-free electric grid.
Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Montreal, announced a new climate strategy that includes completing a divestment from oil production holdings by the end of 2022. The C$390 billion ($315.2 billion) pension fund also announced in a news release Tuesday it plans to increase the value of its low-carbon portfolio to C$54 billion by 2025 and reduce the carbon intensity per dollar invested by 60% by 2030.
Academic endowments are entering a new normal after the richest school in the world followed the lead of other colleges and universities to divest from fossil fuels. Harvard University and its nearly $42 billion endowment succumbed to years of pressure this month when President Lawrence Bacow said it would phase out its current fossil fuel holdings. The institution said it has no intention of making future investments in the industry. Now a cascade of similar announcements has followed, with Boston University, the University of Minnesota and the $8 billion MacArthur Foundation pulling the plug on fossil fuels.
Students at the University of Maine are calling on the system’s board of trustees to completely divest from fossil fuel holdings following similar decisions by a growing number of colleges and universities around the country. “It’s clear that addressing climate change … is a central concern of the student body,” Charlie Cooper, an organizer with the group Divest UMS, said during a UMaine System board of trustees meeting Monday. “Talk to folks my age about these issues and you’ll hear a few central themes: anxiety about our future, despair for species already lost, and ever-dwindling faith in those people and institutions in power who stand by and fail to act. I invite the board to make the right call and act.”
A small group of climate change activists held court at the city halls of Glenwood Springs and Carbondale on Friday afternoon, advocating for the nonrenewal of city bonds in fossil fuels. Environmental advocacy group 350 Roaring Fork, a subsidiary of 350 Colorado, organized a petition that received around 400 signatures asking the two municipalities — plus Snowmass, Pitkin County, New Castle and Basalt — to write letters to investment funds Colorado Surplus Asset Fund Trust and Colorado Statewide Investment Pool asking them not to renew bonds in two prominent energy companies, Exxon and Chevron.
Bolstering arguments for rapidly phasing out fossil fuels to not only combat the climate emergency but also potentially save millions of lives annually, the World Health Organization on Wednesday updated its guidelines on air quality for the first time in over 15 years. Since the previous guidelines were issued in 2005, a growing body of research has strengthened experts’ understanding of how polluted air affects human health, even at low levels. While the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that exposure to air pollution causes at least seven million premature deaths per year, some research suggests the true toll is even higher. A study published in February estimated that fossil fuel-related air pollution alone killed about 8.7 million people in 2018, accounting for 18% of global deaths that year.