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Climate crisis round-up: Democrats Manchin and Schumer...

Our Burning Planet

CLIMATE CRISIS ROUND-UP

Democrats Manchin and Schumer strike a deal on tax, energy and climate bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer participates in a news conference with Senate Democrats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 18 May 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Michael Reynolds) / Democratic Senator from West Virginia Joe Manchin in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, USA, 26 April 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Jim Scalzo)

The climate crisis is being felt and dealt with in various ways worldwide. In these daily climate briefs, we aim to give a round-up of the latest developments and news from across the globe.

Senator Joe Manchin and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have struck a deal on a tax, energy and climate bill, breaking a deadlock on the Democrats’ long-sought legislation to enact major parts of President Joe Biden’s agenda.

The plan, announced by the two Democrats on Wednesday evening, would generate an estimated $739-billion (R6.2-trillion) in revenue, spend $433-billion and reduce deficits by $300-billion over a decade. That’s still much smaller than the Biden administration’s plans before encountering Manchin’s repeated opposition.

Revenue would come from a 15% corporate minimum tax, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug-price cuts, and from boosting tax enforcement by increasing the Internal Revenue Service budget. The package would raise $14-billion from taxing carried interest, or profits made by some investment managers, at a higher rate.

The surprise agreement hit just hours after the Federal Reserve announced another 75 basis point hike in interest rates, furthering its campaign to rein in the fastest inflation in four decades. 

Schumer and Manchin billed their plan as aimed at stabilising prices, though economists have said smaller-scale fiscal measures are unlikely to have much impact.

The two legislators said in a joint statement that the Senate would vote on the legislation next week.

The package is a substantial reduction from the $3.5-trillion Build Back Better agenda that congressional Democrats discussed a year ago, which was whittled down to a House-passed $2.2-trillion bill.

Still, just weeks ago, plans to salvage some parts of Biden’s agenda were at a standstill. The current deal represents a partial reversal of Manchin’s position earlier this month, when he told Schumer he couldn’t support a package of climate change measures and tax increases because of rising consumer prices after inflation hit 9.1%, and wanted to wait until September to act.

The agreement would provide $369-billion for “energy and climate change” according to a one-page summary. On the traditional-energy side, Manchin said Biden, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had agreed to advance permitting reforms that could benefit fossil fuel producers. On the other, the deal would include electric vehicle tax credits sought by automakers like Tesla and Toyota, including a credit for used vehicles for the first time. – Bloomberg

Trudeau spars with farmers on climate plan

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s push to accelerate the fight against climate change is sparking a showdown with the nation’s farmers, who say it’s threatening food supplies — and their profits. 

The government is proposing to cut emissions from fertiliser by 30% by 2030 as part of a plan to get to net zero in the next three decades. But growers are saying that to achieve that, they may have to shrink grain output significantly at a time when the world is scrambling for more supplies. 

Also at stake is the estimated C$10.4-billion (R132-billion) that farmers could lose this decade from the reduced output.

The tension comes as efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions related to energy are lagging, so policymakers are increasingly looking to other sectors, including agriculture. Climate targets on nitrogen in the Netherlands, for example, spurred protests from farmers worried they’d be forced out of business. Cattle and fertiliser are key sources of nitrogen emissions. Angry Dutch farmers brought cows to Parliament, threatened to slaughter them and blockaded food distribution centres serving major supermarkets.

Agriculture emissions have soared in recent decades as farmers apply more fertiliser to increase output. Emissions from crop soils rose 87% to about 7.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide over three decades through 2020, according to the latest data from Environment and Climate Change Canada. By comparison, emissions from oil and gas extraction more than tripled by 69 tonnes of carbon dioxide in the same period.

Farm groups say the additional fertiliser is resulting in more food. Spring wheat yields rose more than 40% in the last decade through 2020, compared with the 1990s, Statistics Canada data show. Similarly, canola yields rose 56% over the same period. – Bloomberg

Pope Francis to get a climate change close-up in Canada

Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Canada’s Arctic territory of Nunavut draws attention to a focal point for global climate change, with sea ice disappearing fast and permafrost thawing.

Francis, who arrives in the capital Iqaluit of predominantly indigenous Nunavut on Friday, is in Canada to apologise in person for the Catholic Church’s role in abuses that residential schools inflicted on indigenous children.

The pope, who has made protection of the environment a cornerstone of his pontificate, last week called on world leaders to heed the Earth’s “chorus of cries of anguish” stemming from climate change, extreme weather and loss of biodiversity.

“Talking about climate change and the north – ground zero is a good way to put it,” said Brian Burke, executive director of the Nunavut Fisheries Association. “Any profile he can bring to it [would help] in terms of the needs we have of investment and science and being able to adapt.”

Northern Canada has warmed at nearly three times the global average, rising 2.3°C from 1948 to 2016, according to a Canadian government report.

The pope might address climate change in Iqaluit, given the region is particularly vulnerable, said Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni.

Climate change has affected Nunavut’s fisheries industry, which mainly catches turbot and shrimp for export to Asia, both for better and worse.

The offshore fishing season has grown by six to eight weeks over the past decade due to less ice cover, said Burke, whose non-profit organisation represents four Inuit companies that hold Nunavut fishing quotas.

The longer season has helped fishers fill their quotas, but more frequent storms have resulted in more days in season when they can’t fish, Burke said. Meanwhile, hunting and fishing closer to shore has suffered because winter ice roads are less reliable, limiting fishers’ ability to get around.

The spring hunt for young seals, a delicacy in Nunavut, has become more difficult, said Jack Anawak, a hunter and former Member of Parliament.

Ice near Naujaat, where Anawak hunts, retreats earlier most springs than it did a decade ago, and returns later in fall. With less access to ice, hunters have fewer opportunities to ride snowmobiles to holes in the ice where they can hunt seals, he said.

“Climate change is really occurring very fast,” he said. – Reuters

Elephants, buffaloes travel Zimbabwe’s length as populations surge

Four hundred elephants and a herd of buffaloes are among more than 2,000 animals that will traverse the length of Zimbabwe in the country’s second-biggest translocation of wildlife.

This is a testament to the success of conservation programmes on both public and private land in the south of the country, and at the same time highlights the need to thin out elephant numbers in areas where they grow too numerous, killing trees by stripping off their bark and in the process reducing biodiversity. Zimbabwe has about 80,000 elephants, second only to Botswana.

The animals will be moved by truck after being darted with tranquilisers from the privately owned Save Valley Conservancy and the government’s Gonarezhou National Park to wildlife areas near the country’s northern border, according to Tinashe Farawo, a spokesperson for Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management.

“We are trying to depopulate the area,” Farawo said in an interview. “There is now a loss of habitat and in the process we want to repopulate parks in the northern parts of the country which have fewer animals.”

Gonarezhou, a 5,000 square kilometre stretch of wilderness – the name of which means “the place of the elephant” – has a population of 12,000 elephants, when its ecosystem can only support 5,000, Farawo said.

In addition 2,000 impalas and 50 elands, 70 giraffes, 10 lions and 10 African wild dogs will be moved. 

The programme rivals Operation Noah, a six-year rescue of animals from the rising waters of Lake Kariba as the world’s largest human-made reservoir filled up on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Over 6,000 animals, ranging from leopards to snakes, were moved to higher ground between 1958 and 1964. – Bloomberg

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