About time, too!
The Biden administration announced Thursday it will purchase 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, to share with 92 countries around the world through the World Health Organization's COVAX initiative — the international effort to get vaccines to low- and lower-middle-income countries that Donald Trump couldn't be bothered to join. The White House announcement noted this would be the "largest-ever purchase and donation of vaccines by a single country and a commitment by the American people to help protect people around the world" from the COVID-19 pandemic. Biden also called on other wealthy nations to do their part, too, which is one of those "American leadership" things that disappeared from the world for four years.
The administration plans to get at least 200 million doses shipped out by the end of 2021, with the rest of the 500 million shots being delivered by June of next year. The 500 million dose commitment comes on top of an initial plan to donate 80 million doses, announced earlier this year. Biden announced the initiative after meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson before this weekend's G-7 summit in Cornwall, Britain-Land:
Pfizer is selling the 500 million doses to the US at a "not-for-profit" price, and in his announcement, Biden emphasized that the vaccines would be distributed to other countries with "no strings attached," which means he's going to send out the vaccines without even pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on his son Hunter.
CNBC reported Wednesday that the US is also negotiating with Moderna to get additional doses of its vaccine to distribute through COVAX.
The announcement, timed to come just before the summit, is expected to goose other well-off nations to take similar action. Even with billions of vaccine doses, it's going to take at least through 2022 to get vaccines distributed across the world.
Biden has also said he favors waiving intellectual property restrictions so that pharma companies in the rest of the world can produce their own vaccines, although that's still waiting on an international agreement; French President Emmanuel Macron said this week he favors IP waivers as well, so there's one more thing for the G-7 to talk about, non? Germany and the UK have so far opposed any such waivers, while Japan and Canada seem to be on the fence.
One very big reason for the developed world to haul ass on getting vaccines to the rest of the world is that controlling the spread of the virus will reduce the chance that new variations will evolve and bite us. Next time your awful wingnut neighbor complains that Biden's being played for a fool and giving handouts to the world, maybe remind them that US America has a perfectly selfish interest in preventing some possible mutation from coming back here.
Then let your dog poo in their roses late at night.
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We know Fox News has been very upset about this.
Know how Fox News is always yelling real loud because Vice President Kamala Harris isn't personally at the border solving that problem with her bare hands? Harris's job has always been a bit more complicated and brainy than that, and it's specifically to work on the root causes that lead to migration crises and work with Central America and Mexico toward those aims.
And today, Harris is doing that! In Guatemala! And you can watch her press briefing with the Guatemalan president right here!
Sorry, Fox News, she's still not personally building baby jails, to put babies in. We know that would probably make you feel better. Not gonna happen.
Follow Evan Hurst on Twitter RIGHT HERE, DO IT RIGHT HERE!
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Pretty good news for life on Earth, though!
Yesterday was a pretty hopeful day for the prospects of getting global carbon emissions under control, thanks to three events that New Yorker climate columnist Bill McKibben is calling possibly the "most cataclysmic day so far for the traditional fossil-fuel industry." These are all big developments that are likely to bring about big changes in three of the world's biggest oil companies.
- A Dutch court ordered Royal Dutch Shell to sharply cut its emissions, by 45 percent over the next 10 years, a mandate McKibben says the company can "likely meet only by dramatically changing its business model."
- Chevron shareholders voted to require steep cuts in emissions caused by the company's products, which in effect would make the company responsible for emissions from oil and gasoline being used exactly as designed.
- At an Exxon Mobil shareholder meeting, members of a climate action investor group won two seats on the company's board of directors, in yet another sign that shareholders of fossil fuel companies want them to take more aggressive action on the climate emergency.
We'd also note that the three actions, though unrelated aside from happening on the same day, came a week after the UN's International Energy Agency warned that construction of new fossil-fuel power generation plants must stop immediately, among other steps needed to prevent the worst effects of planetary warming.
Clean Up Your Shell Game
Since 2015, Royal Dutch Shell has committed to reducing emissions, but not enough for a Dutch district court in the Hague, where Judge Larisa Alwin ordered the company to cut its carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030, compared to 2019 levels. Reuters points out that
Earlier this year, Shell set out one of the sector's most ambitious climate strategies. It has a target to cut the carbon intensity of its products by at least 6% by 2023, by 20% by 2030, by 45% by 2035 and by 100% by 2050 from 2016 levels.
But the court said that Shell's climate policy was "not concrete and is full of conditions...that's not enough."
The ruling is partly based in European human rights law, which certainly makes us wish Mitt Romney had been right back in 2012 when he called Barack Obama a scary European-style socialist type. If only! The ruling also ordered Shell to make absolute cuts in carbon emissions, as compared to the company's planned targets, which had enough wiggle room to allow, in theory, for actual expansions of emissions. Shell's CEO, Ben van Beurden, said at the company's annual meeting earlier this month that an absolute reduction in emissions would only be possible "by shrinking the business."
Sounds like Shell will have to do that, then, at least if its planned appeal is unsuccessful. McKibben notes that the amount of reductions the court ordered
is very close to what, in 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C.) said would be required to keep us on a pathway that might limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The court also didn't care for Shell's argument that people would be able to adapt to a warming climate, because get out of here with that stuff. The judges acknowledged that Shell believes humans could adopt strategies like using more efficient air conditioning, or managing land and water use to deal with sea level rise. Yes, we can do stuff to deal with some of the effects of the fossil fuels we keep burning, they wrote. But "these strategies do not alter the fact that climate change due to CO2 emissions has serious and irreversible consequences."
The Shareholders Are Revolting! Part One: Chevron
Shareholders at Chevron's annual meeting voted yesterday, by 61 percent, in favor of a proposal to cut back on so-called "Scope 3" emissions, which include emissions in the supply chain, like business travel, transportation of products, investments, and the like. That also includes carbon emissions resulting from the use of a company's products, which for an oil company is a hell of a lot of emissions. (Wonkette's Scope 3 emissions, on the other hand, would include those times that you laugh so hard that you poot.)
Reuters notes that while the proposal
does not require Chevron to set a target of how much it needs to cut emissions or by when, the overwhelming support for it shows growing investor frustration with companies, which, they believe, are not doing enough to tackle climate change. [...]
Oil and gas companies have long argued that they have little control over how their products are used, but with rising investor pressure they are forced to find new ways to cut emissions and fall in line with global climate change pledges.
Damn right they are! While Chevron has pledged to cut carbon emissions, it hasn't set any actual targets to move toward net zero emissions, which it damn well needs to. Such plans are fairly standard in Europe, although some judge may come along and tell a company it needs to be more aggressive.
The Shareholders Are Revolting! Part Two: Exxon Mobil
Meanwhile over at Exxon Mobil, shareholders at the annual meeting rebelled against management's wishes as well, electing two new board members from an activist investment fund called "Engine No. 1," which owns only a small portion (.02 percent) of the giant company's stock, but which nevertheless rallied enough shareholder support to put two of its four nominees on the board. Engine No. 1 has argued that the company must commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which conveniently is also President Joe Biden's target for the USA to get there as well. It has also argued that for the company to survive, it needs to diversify its holdings, invest heavily in clean energy, and get the hell out of fossil fuels.
The vote was delayed by a one-hour recess, during which Exxon execs no doubt tried to change some shareholders' minds, but nothin' doing.
With the green barbarians now no longer at the gate but actually on the board, the Wall Street Journal reports, Exxon CEO Darren Woods may find his days numbered, despite being reelected yesterday.
Andrew Logan, senior director for oil and gas at Ceres, a nonprofit focused on sustainability that supported Engine No. 1's campaign, said it would be difficult for Mr. Woods to retain his position as CEO after the vote.
"That certainly calls his leadership into question," Mr. Logan said. "There is no going back to the Exxon of old nor should there be."
Let's hope so, given that the Exxon of old — specifically during the 1970s — had been advised by its own scientists that burning fossil fuels would lead to heat being trapped in the atmosphere by CO2. The Exxon of old funded junk science to obfuscate that fact and to delay any action that might result in lower profits. The Exxon of old can't be done away with quickly enough.
This is all very good news, as McKibben points out:
It's clear that the arguments that many have been making for a decade have sunk in at the highest levels: there is no actual way to evade the inexorable mathematics of climate change. If you want to keep the temperature low enough that civilization will survive, you have to keep coal and oil and gas in the ground. That sounded radical a decade ago. Now it sounds like the law.
Here's hoping that this really does mark a turning point. I might just go out and buy some oil stocks myself, just to be a pain in the ass.
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A morning Nice Time? What sorcery is this?
As a reminder that not everybody in the world is awful, hundreds of people in Glasgow, Scotland, swarmed into the street Thursday to block the removal of two men who'd been seized for "suspected immigration offences." The protesters surrounded a van from UK Immigration Enforcement and kept it from driving away with the two Indian nationals. One protester managed to wedge himself under the van, even. After an hours-long standoff in which the crowd chanted "these are our neighbours, let them go" (you could hear the Anglicized spelling), the men were finally released from the van and waved to the crowd. Here, have a Twitter video!
Protesters in Glasgow have successfully halted the deportation of two members of their community by UK Immigration… https://t.co/zzcatoNepA— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE)1620925273.0
The early-morning immigration raid angered many, particularly since it happened during Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. You've got to bet the Home Office assholes who planned the raid for yesterday knew exactly what day it was, if you'll forgive our assumption that immigration cops in the UK are just as awful as those in the US of A.
Once they were released, the two men were accompanied by members of the crowd to a local mosque.
Pinar Aksu, of Maryhill Integration Network said: "They messed with the wrong city."
One of the men, Lakhvir Singh, 34, from India, spoke to the PA news agency through a translator.
He said: "I've been astonished and overwhelmed by the support I've received from the people of Glasgow.
"At around 9.30am immigration enforcement carried out a raid and we were taken to security in the van.
"There were only five or six people at the time but word spread and then there were crowds of hundreds.
"We are so grateful for the support."
Here, have another video of cheering people, from Nadia Whittome, who at the age of 24 is the youngest member of the UK Parliament.
This is what solidarity looks like. When the Home Office carried out an immigration raid on two Muslim men during… https://t.co/xsDAHMEnPO— Nadia Whittome MP (@Nadia Whittome MP)1620938862.0
If you want to smilecry some today, just search "Glasgow" on Twitter.
There's also a lot of tension between the UK government and Scotland wrapped up in the local reaction to the raid. The Guardian notes that the Scottish government "has argued strongly for Scotland to have control over its own immigration policy, not least because of the country's unique depopulation pressures," but that UK immigration policy, including decisions about enforcement and deportations, remains with the UK government. To make matters worse, the UK is considering a new immigration law that will be even tougher on asylum-seekers — about which more in a moment
Also, this paragraph on new Members of the Scottish Parliament makes me want to go to there:
The protests took place as new MSPs were sworn in to what has been described as Holyrood's most diverse ever parliament, taking their oaths in British Sign Language, Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, Doric, Scots, Gaelic, Welsh and Orcadian, and after an election in which refugees had voting rights for the first time in Scotland.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who's also the MSP for the part of Glasgow where the raid occurred (we can't believe that's a coincidence!), was happy about the outcome, but not about the raid itself. She tweeted,
"I am proud to represent a constituency and lead a country that welcomes and shows support to asylum seekers and refugees." [...]
Condemning the Home Office action, Sturgeon added: "To act in this way, in the heart of a Muslim community as they celebrated Eid, and in an area experiencing a Covid outbreak was a health and safety risk.
"Both as MSP and as FM, I will be demanding assurances from the UK government that they will never again create, through their actions, such a dangerous situation."
And of course, the Home Office sounded very Trumpy about the whole thing; a spokescop said the UK government
is tackling illegal immigration and the harm it causes, often to the most vulnerable people, by removing those with no right to be in the UK. The operation in Glasgow was conducted in relation to suspected immigration offences and the two Indian nationals complied with officers at all times."
But here's the thing that makes us grin a little. That sort of talk is met a lot more skeptically, at least in many corners, than it is here. I was pleasantly surprised by the strategic use of scare quotes in this analysis by BBC Scotland social affairs correspondent Chris Clements, who writes,
The Home Office has just ended its consultation on its New Plan for Immigration - a policy that will speed up deportations for those who have entered the country 'illegally'.
Those in such a position will not be able to claim asylum and will instead be granted 'temporary protection', a status that would come under periodic review.
We can't imagine many American journalists would put skeptical quotation marks around the very idea that asylum seekers are in the country "illegally." Go, Scotland.
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