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Supporters of Native Activist Leonard Peltier Hold White House Rally, Urging Biden to Grant Clemency

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Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Hundreds of activists and Indigenous leaders are rallying outside the White House in support of imprisoned Native activist Leonard Peltier

Hundreds of activists and Indigenous leaders are rallying outside the White House in support of imprisoned Native activist Leonard Peltier

Hundreds of activists and Indigenous leaders are rallying outside the White House in support of imprisoned Native activist Leonard Peltier
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Have COPs Outlived Their Usefulness?

This story was originally published by Grist and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. Diplomats, academics, and activists from around the globe will gather yet again this week to try to find common ground on a plan for combating climate change. This year’s COP, as the event is known, marks the 28th annual meeting […]

This story was originally published by Grist and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. Diplomats, academics, and activists from around the globe will gather yet again this week to try to find common ground on a plan for combating climate change. This year’s COP, as the event is known, marks the 28th annual meeting of the conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. More than 70,000 people are expected to descend on Dubai for the occasion.  In addition to marathon negotiations and heated discussions, the fortnight-long assembly will see all manner of marches, rallies, speakers, advocacy, and lobbying. But, aside from fanfare, it remains unclear how much COP28 will, or can, achieve. While there have been signs that the United States and China could deepen their decarbonization commitments, countries have struggled to decide how to compensate developing countries for climate-related losses. Meanwhile, global emissions and temperatures continue climbing at an alarming rate.  That has left some to wonder: Have these annual gatherings outlived their usefulness? “You can’t say that an agreement that lets a problem grow into an emergency is doing a good job. It’s not.” To some, the yearly get-togethers continue to be a critical centerpiece for international climate action, and any tweaks they might need lie mostly around the edges. “They aren’t perfect,” said Tom Evans, a policy analyst for the nonprofit climate change think tank E3G. “[But] they are still important and useful.” While he sees room for improvements—such as greater continuity between COP summits and ensuring ministerial meetings are more substantive—he supports the overall format. “We need to try and find a way to kind of invigorate and revitalize without distracting from the negotiations, which are key.” Others say the summits no longer sufficiently meet the moment. “The job in hand has changed over the years,” said Rachel Kyte, a climate diplomacy expert and dean emerita of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. She is among those who believe the annual COP needs to evolve. “Form should follow function,” she said. “And we are using an old form.”  Durwood Zaelke, co-founder and former president of the Center for International Environmental Law, was more blunt. “You can’t say that an agreement that lets a problem grow into an emergency is doing a good job,” he said. “It’s not.” Established in 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international treaty that aims to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the worst effects of climate change. Some 198 countries have ratified the convention, which has seen some significant wins.  The 1997 Kyoto Protocol marked the first major breakthrough, and helped propel international action toward reducing emissions—though only some of the commitments are binding, and the United States is notably absent from the list signatories. The 2015 Paris Agreement laid out an even more robust roadmap for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with a target of holding global temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, and “pursuing efforts” to limit the increase to 1.5 C (2.7 F).  “Honestly, I would prefer 90,000 people stay at home and do their job.” Although the path to that future is narrowing, it is still within reach, according to the International Energy Agency. But, some experts say, relying primarily on once-a-year COP meetings to get there may no longer be the best approach. “Multilateral engagement is not the issue anymore,” Christiana Figueres said at a conference earlier this year. She was the executive secretary of the Convention when the Paris agreement was reached, and said that while important issues that need to be ironed out on the international level—especially for developing countries—the hardest work must now be done domestically.  “We have to redesign the COPs…. Multilateral attention, frankly, is distracting governments from doing their homework at home,” she said. At another conference a month later, she added, “Honestly, I would prefer 90,000 people stay at home and do their job.” Kyte agrees and thinks it’s time to take at least a step back from festival-like gatherings and toward more focused, year-round, work on the crisis at hand. “The UN has to find a way to break us into working groups to get things done,” she said. “And then work us back together into less of a jamboree and more of a somber working event.” The list of potential topics for working groups to tackle is long, from ensuring a just transition to reigning in the use of coal. But one area that Zaelke points to as a possible exemplar for a sectoral approach is reducing emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas with more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere. “Methane is the blow torch that’s pushing us from global warming to global boiling,” he said. “It’s the single biggest and fastest way to turn down the heat.” “The amount of time we spend negotiating each and every paragraph, line, comma, semicolon is just…a colossal waste of time.” To tackle the methane problem, Zaelke points to another international agreement as a model: the Montreal Protocol. Adopted in 1987, that treaty was aimed at regulating chemicals that deplete the atmosphere’s ozone layer, and it has been a resounding success. The pollutants have been almost completely phased out and the ozone layer is on track to recover by the middle of the century. The compact was expanded in 2016 to include another class of chemicals, hydrochlorofluorocarbons. “It’s an under-appreciated treaty, and it’s an under-appreciated model,” said Zaelke, noting that it included legally binding measures that the Paris agreement does not. “You could easily come to the conclusion we need another sectoral agreement for methane.” Zaelke could see this tactic applying to other sectors as well, such as shipping and agriculture. Some advocates — including at least eight governments and the World Health Organisation—have also called for a “Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty”, said Harjeet Singh, the global engagement director for the initiative. Like Zaelke, Kyte, and others, he envisions such sectoral pushes as running complementary to the main convention process—a framework that, while flawed, he believes can continue to play an important role. “The amount of time we spend negotiating each and every paragraph, line, comma, semicolon is just unimaginable and a colossal waste of time,” he said of the annual events. But he adds the forum is still crucial, in part because every country enjoys an equal amount of voting power, no matter its size or clout. “I don’t see any other space which is as powerful as this to deliver climate justice,” he said. “We need more tools and more processes, but we cannot lose the space.”

Panama's High Court Declares Mining Contract Unconstitutional. Here Is What Happens Next

In a historic ruling, Panama’s Supreme Court declared that legislation granting a mining concession to a subsidiary of Canadian mining company First Quantum Mineral was unconstitutional

Panama (AP) — In a historic ruling, Panama’s Supreme Court this week declared that legislation granting a Canadian copper mine a 20-year concession was unconstitutional, a decision celebrated by thousands of Panamanians activists who had argued the project would damage a forested coastal area and threaten water supplies.The mine, which is now in the process of shutting down, has been an important economic engine for the country, employing thousands. But it also triggered massive protests that paralyzed the Central American nation for over a month, mobilizing a broad swath of Panamanian society, including Indigenous communities, who said the mine was destroying key ecosystems they depend on.In its decision, the high court highlighted those environmental and human rights concerns, and ruled the contract violated 25 articles of Panama’s constitution. Those include the right to live in a pollution-free environment, the obligation of the state to protect the health of minors and its commitment to promote the economic and political engagement of Indigenous and rural communities.WHAT IS THE FALLOUT OF THE COURT’S RULING?The ruling would lead to the closure of Minera Panama, the local subsidiary of Canada’s First Quantum Minerals and the largest open-pit copper mine in Central America, according to jurists and environmental activists.The court said the government should no longer recognize the existence of the mine's concession and Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo said “the transition process for an orderly and safe closure of the mine will begin.”Analysts say it appears highly unlikely that Panama's government and the mining company will pursue a new agreement based on the resounding rejection by Panamanians.“There are sectors in the country that would like a new contract, but the population itself does not want more open-pit mining, the message was clear,” said Rolando Gordón, dean of the economics faculty at the state-run University of Panama. “What remains now is to reach an agreement to close the mine.”COULD PANAMA BE THE SUBJECT OF INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION?Analysts say the mining company is free to pursue international arbitration to seek compensation for the closure based on commercial treaties signed between Panama and Canada. Before the ruling, the company said it had the right to take steps to protect its investment.With the ruling, the Panamanian government and the mining company are headed for arbitration at the World Bank’s international center for arbitration of investment disputes, in Washington D.C., said Rodrigo Noriega, a Panamanian jurist.Marta Cornejo, one of the plaintiffs, said “we are not afraid of any arbitration claim" and that they are “capable of proving that the corrupt tried to sell our nation and that a transnational company went ahead, knowing that it violated all constitutional norms.”In a statement after the verdict, the mining company said it had “operated consistently with transparency and strict adherence to Panamanian legislation.” It emphasized that the contract was the result of “a long and transparent negotiation process, with the objective of promoting mutual economic benefits, guaranteeing the protection of the environment.”WHAT WILL HAPPEN WITH THE THOUSANDS OF JOBS CREATED BY THE MINE?President Cortizo, who had defended the contract arguing it would keep 9,387 direct jobs, more than what the mine reports, said that the closing of the mine must take place in a “responsible and participative” manner due to the impact it would have.The company has said the mine generates 40,000 jobs, including 7,000 direct jobs, and that it contributes the equivalent of 5% of Panama’s GDP.The court verdict and the eventual closure of the mine prompted more protests, this time by mine workers.“We will not allow our jobs, which are the livelihood of our families, to be put at risk,” the Union of Panamanian Mining Workers said in a statement.WHAT WILL BE THE ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES OF THE EVENTUAL MINE CLOSURE?Panama two weeks ago received a first payment of $567 million from First Quantum, as stipulated in their contract. Due to the legal dispute, the amount went directly to a restricted account.The contract also stipulated that Panama would receive at least $375 million annually from the mining company, an amount that critics considered meager.Minera Panama published a scathing statement on Wednesday saying the Supreme Court decision will likely have a negative economic impact and warned that lack of maintenance of drainage systems in the mines could have “catastrophic consequences.” The move, the company said, “puts at risk” all of Panama’s other business contracts.What seems to be clear is that the closure will negatively impact the country's public coffers, said Gordón of University of Panama.The government “had hoped that with that contract it would plug some holes in the nation’s budget, which it will not be able to do now,” Gordón said. “The situation of public finances is still reeling from five weeks of semi-paralysis in the country due to the protests”.Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Young Activists Who Won Montana Climate Case Want to Stop Power Plant on Yellowstone River

Young environmental activists who won a landmark climate change case are trying to persuade the Montana Supreme Court to stop a natural gas power plant being built on the banks of the Yellowstone River

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Fresh off a legal victory earlier this year in a landmark climate change case, a group of young environmental activists is trying to persuade the Montana Supreme Court to stop a natural gas power plant that's being built on the banks of the Yellowstone River.The 16 activists said in a court brief filed Tuesday that the air quality permit for the plant near Laurel in south-central Montana should be declared invalid or at least suspended until the state's appeal of their climate change case is decided. The brief was in support of two environmental groups that are challenging the permit.The activists prevailed in August in their yearslong lawsuit against the state for not doing enough to protect them from climate change. They claimed severe wildfires, flooding, drought and other problems spurred by warming temperatures violated their rights under the state constitution to a clean and healthful environment.A state policy, which the judge in the case declared unconstitutional, did not require officials to consider the effect of greenhouse gas emissions when approving fossil fuel projects.In the brief, their attorneys said the young activists have “a unique and significant interest" in making sure new fossil fuel projects like the power plant don't proceed "given the significant harms resulting from additional (greenhouse gas) pollution in Montana.”The state has filed a notice of appeal of the August climate ruling to the Montana Supreme Court but has not submitted its arguments in the case.The young plaintiffs said the justices should not wait for their case to be resolved before taking action on the power plant permit. Their attorney also asked that any constitutional climate and environmental issues should be addressed through the climate lawsuit, which was heard at trial, and not the power plant permit case.The plant is being built to provide energy during times of high demand when prices are high on the open market, NorthWestern Energy said. The company did not oppose the activists' attorneys filing a brief in the case.“We respect the views of other parties, however, NorthWestern Energy’s obligation is to provide reliable energy service at the most affordable rates possible for our Montana customers,” spokesperson Jo Dee Black said in a statement. “Reliable energy service, especially during the winter, is critical for our customers’ lives.”District Court Judge Michael Moses in Billings ruled in April that the Montana Department of Environmental Quality illegally granted the permit for the Yellowstone County Generating Station in 2021 because it did not consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions. In response, the state Legislature updated its Montana Environmental Policy Act to say the agency did not have to consider greenhouse gas emissions unless the federal government began regulating those emissions.In June, Moses vacated his order that invalidated the air quality permit, partly in response to the new legislation. Construction on the $250 million power plant resumed.Roger Sullivan, one of the attorneys for the young plaintiffs, said the court's August decision was binding on the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and other agencies when considering fossil fuel-related permits. “We are hopeful that the Court will find our amicus brief helpful," Sullivan said.Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

We Aren't Going Anywhere': How Panama Fishing Boats Brought First Quantum to Its Knees

By Valentine Hilaire and Divya RajagopalPANAMA CITY/TORONTO (Reuters) - For more than a month, a group of 16 fishing boats has been blocking a key...

By Valentine Hilaire and Divya RajagopalPANAMA CITY/TORONTO (Reuters) - For more than a month, a group of 16 fishing boats has been blocking a key port in Panama, choking off coal and essential supplies destined for First Quantum Minerals' giant copper mine there, eventually forcing it to halt operations at the company's biggest revenue source.The fishing flotilla has provided a fresh jolt of marine backing to the thousands of Panamanians who have been marching daily to demand the annulment of the Canadian miner's contract, arguing its presence violates Panama's sovereignty and threatens its environment.The fishermen are angry that the company has appropriated resources, land and water, and worry about the mine's environmental consequences. Cobre Panama has said it is committed to growing more new forest than is impacted by its mine.Panama's top court on Tuesday declared First Quantum's contract unconstitutional and its president announced an orderly shutdown of the mine, but the vigils on land and sea are set to continue as protesters insist that authorities take concrete steps to close the site."We aren't going anywhere," Sabino Ayarza, a representative of the protesting fishermen, told Reuters on Tuesday from his boat.A complete shuttering of the mine, which accounts for about 1% of global copper output and 5% of Panama's GDP, would signal a David vs. Goliath victory for Panamanian protesters.Their grassroots movement, nearly unheard of in business-friendly Panama, has wiped C$11 billion ($7.4 billion) off First Quantum's market value and raised global copper prices on supply worries. Copper is a crucial metal in electrification as the world moves to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.The protesters' victory in Panama is emblematic of the outsized and sometimes unexpected influence local communities are having on mining companies worldwide. In Portugal, for instance, Europe's biggest producer of lithium, some local activists are determined to halt mine developments. Canada's First Nation groups have also mounted fierce opposition against mining on their lands.Those hoping to halt the mine's operations have seen false dawns before. Panama's top court struck down First Quantum's previous contract in 2017, but the company was allowed to mine while a new contract was approved. So protesters aren't taking any chances this time."If this goes on for a year, we will stay a year, there is no end-date," Ayarza said.Cobre Panama accounted for about 46% of First Quantum's overall revenue in the third quarter, according to company data. The company was "reasonably confident" last week in ships carrying supplies reaching the port soon, but failed to circumvent the fishermen's blockade, said a person familiar with the mine's developments who asked not to be named.First Quantum, said it would respect the court's ruling and on Tuesday announced the mine has suspended commercial production due to the blockades.A Scotiabank report forecasts Cobre Panama's copper output in 2024 to represent about 1.6% of global supply and warned an indefinite shutdown increases risks of First Quantum potentially defaulting by the third quarter of 2024, and threaten its liquidity by early 2025.First Quantum did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the question about possible default.Together with dwindling supply from Peru, the world's No. 2 copper producer after Chile, the Panama shutdown threatens to wipe out what had been seen as global surplus in 2024, according to Macquarie.In Chile, the copper outlook for 2023 went from 5.9% growth in May to 1% in July, as state-owned miner Codelco, the world's largest producer, lowered production amid operational difficulties, though it is expected to recover in 2024.The fishermen have added muscle to a movement which blocked roads, causing daily losses of more than $90 million to businesses, according to experts, and food shortages nationwide. Protesters also hurled rocks at a bus transporting workers to the mine on one occasion, injuring eight workers.The court verdict leaves three possible outcomes: Panama could close the mine indefinitely, nationalize it, or agree to settle its differences in international arbitration by negotiating a constitutionally correct contract with First Quantum alongside a new joint-venture partner."We believe it may be time for FM to consider bringing in a major mining partner to share the future risk of operating in Panama," Scotiabank said in a note on Tuesday.However, protesters are pushing firmly towards a ban on all kinds of mining despite warnings of economic consequences.The protesting fishermen have been posting their bank account details on social media for people to donate food and fuel. Ayarza did not detail how much they have received, but said he was confident they can outlast the mining giant."We know our sea. We know the area in which we are waging war," said Ayarza. "We use ropes to make them back down and, well, threaten them so they have to go back."($1 = 1.3579 Canadian dollars)(Reporting by Valentine Hilaire in Mexico City and Divya Rajagopal in Toronto; Additional reporting by Fabian Cambero in Santiago; Editing by Christian Plumb, Denny Thomas and Nick Zieminski)Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

Vox Releases Second Annual Future Perfect 50 List Honoring Visionary Change Agents

Future Perfect 50 Recognizes Visionaries Who Have Made an Impact in Their Fields to Improve Lives Now and In The Future Today, Vox announced its second annual Future Perfect 50 list. For the second year, Vox is highlighting 50 visionaries who are making a difference today and working to improve lives tomorrow. The list honors change agents — the thinkers whose moral imagination pushes the boundaries of what is possible; the activists making the world a better, healthier place; the technologists reimagining the future; the ethicists ensuring it doesn’t go awry. Future Perfect is animated by ideas that can effectively change the world for the better — and the people who can make those ideas a reality. Most of these changemakers aren’t household names; instead, they’re striving to push novel, often utopian ideas into the mainstream. “For this year’s Future Perfect 50 list, we consulted our writers, our sources, and our audience to come up with a collection of the people who exemplify the principles and work we are most excited about,” says Vox editorial director and Future Perfect editor Bryan Walsh. “From researchers grappling with AI risks and activists fighting for animal welfare to the thinkers pushing the boundaries of progress and the climate advocates protecting the planet, the Future Perfect 50 is a cast of true world-changers. At a moment of global darkness, they are the points of light.” The 2023 Future Perfect 50 list includes Genesis Butler, a teen environmental and animal rights activist who is drawing attention to the intertwined connections between animal rights and the climate crisis; Gul Dolen, a leading Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist and psychedelic researcher, who is investigating whether psychedelics might be the key unlocking new cures for health ailments like strokes; Meredith Whittaker, the CEO of Signal, the secure messaging app — who is staunchly opposed to encroaching on privacy online, and all the ways AI poses to upend digital life; Lant Pritchett, an economist who helped co-launch Labor Mobility Partnerships, an organization dedicated to helping rich countries allow more temporary work programs that people in poor countries can use; Priya Donti, the executive director of Climate Change AI, who is using AI and machine learning to tackle climate change through her global nonprofit; and Ashley Muteti, CEO of the Zuri Nzilani Foundation, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to creating awareness on maternal health, preeclampsia, premature births, and infant loss; among many others. The Future Perfect 50 list has been divided into categories that highlight Future Perfect’s focus areas. The full list of honorees is below. Advancing Human Progress: Azeem Azhar, author of the Exponential View newsletter Jerry Chow, quantum computer engineer Gebisa Ejeta, food scientist Hannah Ritchie, data scientist Caleb Watney and Alec Stapp, co-CEOs at the Institute for Progress Heidi Williams, economist and progress studies pro Tamara Winter, Stripe Press commissioning editor Expanding Animal Rights: Genesis Butler, teen animal rights activist Christopher “Soul” Eubanks, APEX Advocacy founder Crystal Heath, veterinarian battling Big Meat David Kaplan, food tech professor Mahi Klosterhalfen, chicken industry transformer Catalina Lopez, fish farming opponent Jon Lovvorn, chief counsel at the Humane Society of the US Justin Marceau, animal rights lawyer Kristie Sullivan, anti-animal tester Imagining the Future: Robin Carhart-Harris, psychedelics savant Gul Dolen, neurologist and psychedelics researcher Christopher Fuchs, quantum physics pioneer Paul Niehaus, economist and social scientist Christine Parthemore, CEO at the Council on Strategic Risks Tatsuyoshi Saijo, design thinker and economist Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò, philosophy professor Nikki Teran, biosecurity specialist Aligning on Artificial Intelligence: Yoshua Bengio, deep learning master Paul Christiano and Beth Barnes, AI alignment advocates Katja Grace, lead researcher at AI Impacts Jan Leike, super alignment champion Meredith Whittaker, CEO of Signal Fighting Global Poverty and Health Threats: Seye Abimbola, editor of BMJ Global Health Sasha Gallant, foreign aid innovator Moitshepi Matsheng and Noam Angrist, co-founders of Youth Impact Ashley Muteti, maternal health maven Aisha Nyandoro, guaranteed income torchbearer Scott O’Neill, CEO of World Mosquito Program Lant Pritchett, immigration advocate Joey Savoie and Karolina Sarek, co-founders of Charity Entrepreneurship Varsha Venugopal and Fiona Conlon, co-founders of Suvita Combating Climate Change: Zahra Biabani, Climate Optimism author Priya Donti, executive director of Climate Change AI Jane Flegal, climate researcher Jesse Jenkins, decarbonization buff Ticora Jones, development-scientist-turned-climate champion Robinson Meyer, Heatmap News co-founder Maisa Rojas, environmental politician

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