Climate Good News — The Tony Bennett Edition

My day started by standing in line for coffee behind a man singing perfectly in tune to the Tony Bennett song playing in the background. His delightful energy inspired this post, as if to say “today’s the day we focus on the good!” So let’s celebrate some climate victories that make us want to fill our hearts with song!

  • Arctic drilling prospects frozen: Earlier in October, the Obama administration canceled plans to sell any new Arctic drilling leases and refused to extend leases previously sold. This big move comes after Shell already halted its failed $7 billion hunt for oil amid numerous setbacks. Some say the victory should be attributed activists delaying Shell’s broken icebreaker, the Fennica, from returning to Alaska through direct action protests in Portland. Others say the activists’ work had nothing to do with the decision, citing plunging oil prices and lower than expected yields from Shell’s early drilling efforts. Whatever the reason, we should celebrate it. Freezing the possibility for future Arctic drilling represents a major climate victory, both because of its direct implications and because of what the Arctic represents symbolically: it’s one of the world’s last pristine wildernesses, and Alaska is a place for the effects of global warming are being felt acutely.
  • R.I.P. Keystone XL Pipeline: Last week Transcanada, the Alberta-based company seeking to build the contentious 1,179-mile pipeline that would carry 800,000 barrels a day of petroleum from Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast, asked via a letter to the State Department that its permit requests to build the pipeline be suspended. And on Friday afternoon, President Obama announced that his administration had rejected a request by TransCanada to construct the Keystone XL. For years, activists, lawmakers and citizens have sought to block construction of the pipeline. Not only would it be a conduit for Canada oil sand petroleum (a type of oil whose extraction process produces 17 percent more greenhouse gases than conventional oil), but it’s a project that holds a great deal of symbolism for those invested in the climate fight. Projects like this determine how we answer the question as to whether we’re going to move toward a clean energy economy, or further ensnare ourselves in the “business as usual” model dependent on climate-destabilizing fossil fuels.
  • Carbon pricing efforts worldwide have doubled since 2012: Carbon pricing now covers about 12 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, a sign of great momentum leading up to the U.N. summit on climate change taking place in Paris later this month. The World Bank found that the number of carbon pricing programs, both those implemented and planned, has risen to 38 from 20 since 2012, nearly doubling. South Korea began carbon trading this year while both Chile and South Africa plan to tax on carbon emissions. Rachel Kyte, a vice president and special envoy for climate change at the World Bank, noted the significance of this climate victory, saying: “There is a growing sense of inevitability … that there will be a price on carbon for governments and businesses.”
  • Portland divests from future fossil fuel investments: Earlier this fall, both Multnomah County and the City of Portland voted to divest from the Carbon Tracker 200, the top 200 companies still maintaining reserves and drilling for fossil fuels around the world. Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury explained the philosophy behind the move, noting: “Where we invest our dollars is a reflection of our values” while also stressing how crucial it is that oil reserves stay in the ground if we are to combat global climate change. OEC’s Colin Price was there to testify in support of the resolution, stating, “The time has come for Portland to disentangle itself from the industries chiefly responsible for the climate crisis that threatens our community’s health, key industries, natural resource heritage and way of life. Our organization’s own experience with portfolio divestment illustrates that strong market performance can co-exist with a fully divested portfolio; earlier this year our staff made the decision to divest its endowment portfolio. We moved our funds into a custom-built investment portfolio that reflects both our values and a commitment to a strong financial performance. One year later, we’ve seen that it’s possible to make such principled decisions without sacrificing the success of one’s investment.”

So yes, of course, there remains much work to do. But amid the negative headlines we’re so accustomed to seeing cross our feeds, let’s start our Monday by reveling in the progress made thus far, and by acknowledging that we may be winning in our efforts to build a better world.

Devon Downeysmith, Climate Communications & Outreach Manager

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