The Angry Clean Energy Guy on China’s Belt and Road Initiative; Fund managers and oil companies; Jakarta; Cyclone Kenneth in Mozambique; Deforestation and Indian lawyer and environmentalist Afroz Shah
Floodwater destroyed houses / News.un.org
Hi, I am The Angry Clean Energy Guy, Assaad Razzouk. This is episode 6 of my broadcast and I am so happy you’re here. Thank you. This week you will hear rants about China’s belt and road initiative, about fund managers, about oil companies and about site loans.
BELT & ROAD INITIATIVE
Let me start with China’s belt and road initiative. This is a tens of billions, maybe hundreds of billions of dollars initiative by the Chinese to revive the ancient Silk Road linking China with Europe and all the countries in between through Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and many more, and all the way down covering East Africa as well. Now what the Chinese want to do is they want to help finance and build lots and lots of railroads, ports, gas pipelines, oil infrastructure, power projects and create new maritime roads and new trade routes in this entire zone. This week, China’s president signed or announced that he signed $64 billion in deals at a summit that China held for the belt and road initiative in Beijing.
China also said that it would commit to more sustainable financing standards because it’s been criticized – correctly – for the fact that many of its Belt and Road Initiative projects leave host countries with climate unfriendly infrastructure as well as a lot of debt because many of these countries can’t afford what the Chinese want to build; so the Chinese lend them money, which they probably cannot pay.
Now in addition, just last week, a survey was commissioned to see what do the people in some of these countries feel about building infrastructure which is climate unfriendly, including lots and lots of new coal which the planet cannot afford and certainly doesn’t need. And the responses were overwhelmingly, overwhelmingly negative to coal. In Vietnam, 89% want renewables fueling their lifestyles. Only 8% want coal. In Turkey, 86% want renewables. In South Africa, 80%. In the Philippines, 78%. In Indonesia, 65% and in Pakistan 61%. So that’s anywhere from 60 to 90% of the population rejecting coal, rejecting climate unfriendly infrastructure and backing lifestyles fueled by renewable energy. I really wonder, is anybody listening?
Now let’s talk about fund managers. The story across my desk this week, that 86% of UK fund managers, that’s the people managing your money, are calling on oil companies to align their businesses with the climate goals of the Paris agreement. Very commendable. So 86% of fund managers want the oil companies to get their act together and that’s the correct approach.
Note that just 90 companies globally are responsible for two thirds of the harmful emissions generated since the industrial revolution. Just 90 companies. All of them are oil, gas, coal or cement companies and all of their CEOs can fit in a short Tesla convoy. These guys, because I think they’re almost invariably guys, control five times as much oil, coal and gas as it is safe for us to burn. So put another way, 80% of their reserves must be locked away forever. And this tiny number of global companies is lobbying to prevent government action on climate change and spreading narratives that try to brainwash us into feeling guilty for our actions. This tiny number of companies, just 90, are at the heart of our current carbon intensive model destroying the planet. And they know exactly what to do. The oil companies, they know what to do. They need to shrink to one third of their current size and they need to become petrochemical companies rather than fuels companies. And doing that would be a hundred percent consistent with protecting their shareholders, with doing what they’re good at and with not dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as if it was a public toilet.
Now, so the fund managers are correct to call on oil companies to align their businesses with the Paris climate goals. Except there are two problems with that. The first problem is the very same fund managers. If you look at the very same fund managers making these pronouncements, 46% have zero policy to align their own investments with the Paris climate goals. And only 21% have a policy to align their funds with the Paris climate goals. That makes me so angry. I mean, calling on oil companies to do stuff is the same thing as doing absolutely nothing. And you know what? I think the fund managers know that they should stop issuing grandiose statements and instead invest themselves in a way consistent with the Paris agreement. They already know that fighting climate change means oil companies should be a third of their size. So why isn’t the market capitalization of the oil and gas industry going that route? Why? Because the fund managers are not pricing stocks and bonds the accordingly, which means they’re saying one thing and they’re doing something completely different. They are passing the buck and they are trying to look good enough while definitely not investing while taking into account climate risks. That’s crazy: Fund managers, you know climate risk is there, you know it’s going to hit your portfolio and you know you’re going to lose your savers money if you continue down the route that you’ve chosen to be on at the moment. Thank you.
Let’s talk about Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. The president of Indonesia just announced that the country will move its capital away from Jakarta and away from Java as well, Indonesia’s most populated island to somewhere that they have not told us yet. It’s going to take them 10 years. It’s probably going to cost them 30 to $50 billion, but they have to do it and they have the courage to do it. And the reason they have to do it is because Jakarta is impossibly overcrowded. It’s also drained its aquifers. So it’s running very low on clean water and it’s sinking.
40% of the city is already below sea level and very vulnerable to floods. A colleague of mine once spent seven hours covering five kilometers to get to the airport because everything around him was flooded. Jakarta is sinking faster than any other big city on the planet.
So they had to do something and they’ve mustered the political courage to say that they will. Now let’s also not forget that climate change exacerbates these kinds of problems. So sea level rise, which is ongoing, is likely to just make it worse. Floods will also become worse, etc.
And that brings me straight back to Mozambique tragedies like what’s unfolding in Africa because of Cyclones.
Cyclone Kenneth and before it, just six weeks ago, Cyclone Idai make me really angry: First cyclones with hurricane strength to strike this far north show again how climate change always hits the poorest of the poor hardest. It’s always the poorest that seem to pay in the largest numbers and with the largest amount of suffering. The first Cyclone, Idai, hit Mozambique about six or seven weeks ago and left 900 dead and 3 million needing humanitarian assistance. This one, Kenneth, we don’t know how many it has hit. We cannot reach tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people that are affected. We can’t reach them because all their lands have been flooded. And these types of tropical cyclones, storm surges worldwide, are definitely worse because of climate change. Global sea levels are already eight inches higher or 20 centimeters than they were a hundred years ago. And this extra rise allows the storm surge to cause increased destruction and it’s just going to get worse. And here is what makes me really angry. We know that the world’s poorest contribute the least to global CO2 emissions. For example, just 10% of consumers worldwide, most of them in the global north, make up 50% or more of global carbon emissions. The humanitarian emergencies on the Upper East Side in New York get an enormous amount of coverage. They get $60 billion from Congress within a week. But tragedies and humanitarian emergencies like what’s going on in Mozambique force Mozambique, which cannot afford it, to borrow money in order to help its people on top of being hit by two cyclones in six or seven weeks and that’s just absolutely awful.
Do not allow disasters like this to go unseen and for people to stop talking about them and to stop caring. We have to donate money to the poorest that are suffering from climate change. And I wish the big oil companies, for example, had the decency to send $1 billion down to Mozambique to help, Mozambique that’s suffering the side effects of all the money that Big Oil have taken home over the last decades. But you and me and everyone need to also donate if we can – to the Red Cross, to MSF, to UNICEF and to humanitarian NGOs that are on the ground in Mozambique, in Zimbabwe, making a difference and fighting back this humanitarian disaster and if you do donate then thank you.
Thank you so much for listening to me, The Angry Clean Energy Guy, this far.
My loser this week is the country of Ghana in Africa. Ghana doesn’t even feature in the top 10 countries destroying rainforests in 2018 and I’m going to give you the list in a moment, but it’s number one in the world in the acceleration of deforestation, Ghana is destroying rainforests now faster than anybody else with its rate of deforestation up 60% in 2018 from 2017 now. As I said, it doesn’t even feature in the top 10 countries destroying rainforests. Number one of course is Brazil with almost four times the next country, which is the Democratic Republic of Congo, followed by Indonesia, Colombia, Bolivia, Malaysia, Peru, Madagascar, Papa New Guinea, and Cameroon.
My winner this week is Indian lawyer and environmentalist Afroz Shah. Afroz is amazing. Three years ago this week, he started the world’s biggest clean up. He targeted Mumbai’s Versova Beach, which was absolutely covered with plastic and by the time he was finished, three years later, he had been joined by 100,000 volunteers that he had trained. He had picked up more than 20 million trucks worth of plastic and turtles started to hatch again on Versova Beach for the first time in 20 years. Talking about climate change is fantastic, but acting is far more important and every one of us can make a difference. I love this quote from Afroz. He said, I feel I owe it to my planet to give, give, give, and not take, take, take. So be the change. Ecological and climate catastrophe means on top of the suffering, the erasure of our past and of our future.
Thank you for listening and don’t hesitate to send my way any questions you have about clean energy, climate change or renewables. Now, stuff in the green space that makes you angry is also always very welcome. Have a great week.
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.