Episode 17

CO2 emissions, the RE 100 initiative, Adidas and Uber

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The Angry Clean Energy Guy on the inexorable and intolerable continuing rise of emissions 27 years after the Earth Summit of 1992 in Rio de Janeiro; and on the RE 100, the best global initiative to fight back against catastrophic climate change by bringing together major businesses driving the world to 100% renewable electricity. Winner of the Week: Adidas, for challenging the (very irresponsible) fashion industry with a huge move to use only recyclable plastic and eliminate all plastic fiber in its 900 million items by 2024. Villain of the Week: Uber, for blatantly taking advantage of its London customers (and soon all others) by charging them a “clean air fee” (which is anything but) for every ride.

Photo by Assaad W. Razzouk

Episode Transcript

Hi and welcome to episode 17 of The Angry Clean Energy Guy with me, Assaad Razzouk. I am so happy you’re here. Thank you.

A quick reminder at the start: You can find all my transcripts on my website, https://theangrycleanenergyguy.com/. I hope you find these helpful and useful.

This week I am going to rant about the unbelievable continuing rise of emissions, which makes me so angry, but also about my favorite initiative anywhere to stop or at least fight back against this rise.

My Winner of the Week is Adidas, the iconic German apparel company and my Villain of the Week is those guys and girls at Uber and I’ll give you my reasons later in the podcast.

INEXORABLE RISE IN EMISSIONS

The UK Met office released an alarming press release. It said that faster CO2 rise is expected in 2019 so this year. Let me just try and express why this is just awful. What this means is that despite almost 40 years of talking and talking and talking about climate change, emissions are rising nonstop and their rate of increase is even accelerating.

I mean, that is absolutely terrible. Let me take a step back first.

So we all know that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and that too much of it makes earth warmer and warmer. When we burn oil, gas and coal, we produce carbon dioxide and we have been producing gigantic quantities of it since the beginning of the industrial revolution. When we talk about carbon dioxide, we talk about parts per million. This number tells us how many parts of carbon dioxide there are in 1 million parts of air.

So if we say that carbon dioxide is at 400 parts per million, that means that in 1 million particles of air there are 400 particles of carbon dioxide.

And the number matters. The number matters because carbon dioxide levels have gone sky-high since the industrial revolution because of manmade activity, because we are burning oil, gas, and coal.

Let me get a bit more specific about that, using parts per million numbers or ppm. It took us 5,000 years to increase the carbon dioxide parts per million from 270 to 280 so over the course of 5,000 years, basically nothing happened. Then it took us a hundred years to move from 280 parts per million or ppm to 290 and just 40 years to move from 290 to 300. The rate kept accelerating and it took just four years to move from 400 to 410 and we’re now above that number. So what we’ve now done is we have accelerated that rate of change in ways that are unpredictable and will kill millions as well as cost trillions.

So the consensus is that the planet is healthy for us at a level of 350 parts per million. 350. We’re already above 410 and we are zooming to 450. So when I learned that the UK Met office released a press release to say that they are expecting a faster rise in carbon dioxide in 2019, I took another look at that press release because it says that during 2019 the Met Office climate scientists expect to see one of the largest rises in concentration in 62 years of measurements. And that’s terrible. So we’ve been talking about climate for 40 years, but in effect, our global collective action has resulted in less than nothing. In other words, we did not decrease emissions and we did not even slow their rise.

Now there’s an enormous amount of very good people everywhere around the world trying to do something about this. However, we, all of us trying to do something about this are not succeeding.

THE RE 100 INITIATIVE

Today I’d like to draw your attention to one of the most important initiatives out there to make a big difference. And personally, I think it’s probably the most important initiative out there to make a difference and fight back and that is the RE 100 initiative. You can find it by googling RE 100.

RE 100 is a collection of companies that have committed to have 100% of their power come from renewable energy by a certain date. If you’ve heard my podcast before, you know that I think that corporations by and large are being very bad on the environment: Instead of being a force for good, they a force for bad. The RE 100 initiative is one exception because as an initiative it’s trying to appeal to their best instincts and collect a grouping of hugely influential companies that can make a very big difference in one place, then shepherd them to the right strategy in terms of how they source their energy, and this matters greatly.

It matters greatly because we know we have to be at 60% renewables by 2030 and about 90 or 100% by 2050 in order to have a chance to stop the earth warming by over two degrees centigrade compared to the industrial revolution level. Because otherwise trillions of dollars are going to be fried and millions of people are going to suffer and possibly die. So this matters. And when one thinks about companies, we should not forget that the commercial and industrial sector, so companies, is responsible for two thirds of the world’s final electricity demand. Two thirds!

The RE 100 initiative is trying to bring together big companies that are all committed to 100% renewables. And so it’s very important and hopefully they will be able to push them over time to bring forward the date at which they will reach 100% renewables as well as extend that pledge, not just to their own operations, but also to their supply chains. So the people who manufacture chips for Apple and not just Apple.

RE 100 is passive in the sense that as a company, you would pledge that you’ll go 100% renewables by say 2025, and then you would report back to RE 100 who will publish what you’ve done. There are no penalties or anything of the sort, however, it’s still positive reinforcement and so the bigger the RE 100 group is, the better it is. There were less than 100 companies as recently as two years ago. Now the number is approaching 200 and these aren’t just companies. These are the biggest companies in the world, including seven of the largest 10.

When you look at the makeup of the less than 200 companies that are part of the RE 100 there are a few interesting observations that come out.

You know, first it’s dominated, not surprisingly, by European companies. There is some American or North American presence, but it’s a lot weaker than the weight of the North American economy in the global economy. And there is some Asian presence but it’s a bit of a joke and certainly not enough Asian presence at all by any metric. The RE 100 list actually shows you that the people that are at the frontier of suffering from climate change and their companies seem to be the ones least aware of the problem and the ones taking the least amount of action and that’s got to change and it’s got to change very, very fast. We need the RE 100 companies to be more like 3,000 companies accounting for a big chunk of corporate use of electricity and we need their percentages, especially from North America and from Asia to be proportionate to the size of these economies instead of what we have now, which is an overweight Europe and an underweight United States and an underweight China and an underweight Japan and an underweight Korea and an underweight Singapore and an underweight Taiwan and an underweight Asia frankly in general.

My other observation is that frankly, some of these companies are jokers. Anybody committing to 100% renewable energy beyond 2025 is just kidding with us and not being serious and will eventually be called out. So the serious ones are the ones committing to 100% renewable energy by 2025 and hopefully they will extend that commitment as some have already done across their value chain. Because what we need in the fight against climate change is we need leverage, and companies have leverage. If Apple or Walmart say to their supply chain to go 100% renewables, I think there are pretty good odds that they can pull it off. And that is huge leverage because potentially it affects hundreds of other companies, hundreds of suppliers, thousands of suppliers to a company like Walmart. So these companies should be encouraged to do what they’re doing and they should be encouraged to do more.

And what they do really matters because governments are sleeping at the wheel.

The final observation if you go through the list of RE 100 companies is that not surprisingly, Big Oil and Gas are not members of RE 100 because what they want to do is they want to keep burning oil, gas and coal until we all fry and they simply don’t care.

I’ve documented in previous podcasts exactly how they go about deceiving us and shifting the responsibility and the blame to the consumer and to the end user instead of actually stepping up and doing something about the environmental destruction all around them. They are basically propagating the principle of “the polluter doesn’t pay” instead of the correct moral outcome and they are lobbying their way out of incurring any responsibility for their actions.

In Episode 16, I highlighted one strategy that Shell Oil employs to shift the burden to the consumer trying to fill up their car and frankly what they do is scandalous and I never tire of repeating it.

So, RE 100 is very important. These initiatives that gather companies that have leverage over multiple, hundreds, thousands of companies and millions of consumers are critical. What we need to do is we need more of them, local and global. So we need small RE 100 initiatives in every country in the world and we need a network of RE 100 initiatives so that the corporate sector leads the change that we need from dirty oil, dirty gas and dirty coal to clean energy-fuelled lifestyles.

So as I think you can hear, I actually love RE 100 and I am really showcasing it as a counterweight to that rise in emissions. That just doesn’t seem like it’s something that governments want to stop, but companies can do something about it and they must stop being a force for the bad.

So we should applaud initiatives like RE 100 and its sister initiatives, We Mean Business and the CDP because at least there, some very good people are trying to corral big companies into doing the right thing and what companies do matters.

Remember it took us just four years to drive CO2 parts per million from 400 to 410 when previously it took us a hundred years to drive it from 280 to 290 so things are getting worse and we need to rally around initiatives that matter. I get really, really angry when the blame is shifted to the consumer at the pump trying to fill their car, or the airline passenger for flying too much, when in fact the responsibility is with those extracting and selling the oil, gas and coal.

It’s the same story with plastics. Yes, of course we should all try and use less plastics, but if plastic was priced properly, we would not be using it. And it’s not priced properly because big oil, big gas and big coal (99% of plastic comes from oil, gas and coal) aren’t paying for the environmental destruction. And so as a result, the plastic that we’re using is mispriced. It’s really just as simple as that. If it was priced correctly, we would use a lot less.

We must all take responsibility for the problem. But the 90 companies responsible for two thirds of emissions since the industrial revolution are way, way, way, way more responsible than the rest of us. And they should stop peddling bullshit. They should pay and they should pay the most. Their product is lethal and is not priced accordingly. On top of these 90 companies, just 3,000 companies cause $2 trillion of environmental damage per year, which by and large they don’t pay for. So the battlefield is all in the corporate world. Okay. Maybe not all, but certainly a big chunk of the fight that matters is at the corporate level.

And what we need at the corporate level to move the needle is we need directors of companies to be liable for environmental destruction. Because if they were, I promise you it would stop. It would stop. But at the moment they’re not liable. And that has to change. I don’t know if any insurance companies or accountants are listening, but that needs to change. Insurance companies should stop insuring directors and officers who cause environmental destruction as defined by the insurance company. And similarly, accountants should call them out in the financial statements. They should have a section on environmental destruction detailing what that company’s product causes in terms of damage.

There is a final point I want to make on this, which is that the RE 100 companies outperform their rivals. Yes, you heard that correctly. If you do the right thing, you are worth more money, not less money, and that’s according to an analysis of 3,500 firms released in 2018. So I would imagine if doing the right thing is not enough of a motivation, if the moral imperative is not enough of a motivation, then surely financially corporations should be motivated since RE 100 companies outperform their rivals.

WINNER OF THE WEEK

Thank you so much for listening to me, The Angry Clean Energy Guy, this far, thank you.

My winner of the week is Adidas. Adidas did something very big a few days ago. It basically challenged the very irresponsible fashion industry, with a huge move to eliminate all plastic fiber in its product by 2024 and use only recycled plastic.

I talked about the horrors of the fashion industry from an environmental perspective in Episode 14 and Adidas actually did something very material about it. Adidas manufacturers 900 million items and 50% of the material that it uses in these 900 million items are polyester and the polyester is powering the microplastics epidemic. The microplastics that all of you, all of us are currently breathing, eating and drinking. It’s in our bottled water, it’s in our fish, it’s in our salt and it’s in the air and big companies doing something about it should be applauded.

So Adidas, very well done. And Nike, are you listening? If you are, just do it!

VILLAIN OF THE WEEK

My Villain of the Week is Uber. Uber thinks it can basically outsmart consumers and its own clients worldwide and it’s started a new initiative to rip off people in London from January of this year.

They have been charging what they call a “clean air fee” of 15 pence per mile, which is huge, for every trip one takes through the app in London. Now Uber claim that this clean air fee, and I love the branding “the clean air plan”, is there because they, Uber, are striving to help reduce air pollution in London and they’re going to do that by raising 200 million pounds, which they will give to the drivers at about 3,000 pounds a driver in order to help them upgrade their car to an electric car by 2025.

It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Except it’s not. It’s evil. What Uber is doing is pushing responsibility, its responsibility to clean up its act, to the people that use Uber to go from point A to point B and then it’s holding the money of these people, so the 200 million pounds they’re trying to raise in the UK, for God knows how long, with no accountability, in order to maybe give it to drivers (one of these days) whose cars Uber does not own and who allegedly are not employees so that they upgrade their car. I am going to wait for the day when Uber actually puts its hand in its pocket to hand even a penny to a driver. Remember Uber is incredibly unprofitable. It’s built up a huge market position in multiple cities around the world by losing money, it’s reported an operating loss of $3 billion last year after losing $4 billion the year before.

So there I am, you know, thinking wouldn’t it be nice if I was Uber, to raise 200 million pounds that go into my treasury, which maybe I pay to drivers in a couple of years, who may or may not be around, and no one can actually trace what I’m doing or why, instead of me, Uber, putting my hand in my pocket and cleaning up my business model by upgrading drivers’ cars from my pocket, rather than from the pocket of the consumer already being ripped off by Big Oil trying to sell them offsets at the pump, as I said in episode 16, and by airlines trying to sell them carbon credits for their flights and by other polluters.

And you know, here we go. Uber is joining the polluters club that is ripping off consumers. So Uber, shame on you. Shame on you.

On that note, I’ve got only one more thing to say: Have a great week and thank you for listening.

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About Me

There is so much to be angry about, if you are a clean energy guy.

Every day, so many things that happen around the world make me angry when I look at them with lenses colored by the climate change chaos unfolding everywhere around us. And I am especially angry because I know we can solve the climate change crisis if we were only trying.


Each week, I will share with you a few topics that struck me and that I was very angry about – and this will generally have to do with climate change, solar or wind power, plastic pollution, environmental degradation, wildlife, the oceans and other related topics.

Assaad Razzouk

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