– Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sat, 07 Jan 2023 13:25:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 America’s Racial Wealth Divide Mon, 09 Jan 2023 05:02:23 +0000 ( ) – By the middle of the 21st century, the United States will be a “majority minority” nation. If we hope to ensure a strong middle class, historically the backbone of the national economy, then improving the financial health of households of color will become even more urgent than it is today. Closing the persistent “wealth divide” between white households and households of color, already a matter of social justice, must become a priority for broader economic policy.


According to Survey of Consumer Finances data, the median Black family has $24,100 in wealth. This is just 12.7 percent of the $189,100 in wealth owned by the typical white family. The median Latino family, with $36,050, owns just 19.1 percent of the wealth of the median white family. The Institute for Policy Studies Racial Wealth Divide report provides more detail on this disturbing trend and proposed solutions.


Families that have zero or even “negative” wealth (meaning the value of their debts exceeds the value of their assets) live on the edge, just one minor economic setback away from tragedy. Institute for Policy Studies analysis of Federal Reserve data shows that while the racial wealth gap has improved slightly, an estimated 28 percent of Black households and 26 percent of Latinx households had zero or negative wealth in 2019, twice the level of whites.


As with total wealth, homeownership is heavily skewed towards white families, our Racial Wealth Divide report shows. In 2016, 72 percent of white families owned their home, compared to just 44 percent of Black families. Between 1983 and 2016, Latino homeownership increased by a dramatic nearly 40 percent, but it remains far below the rate for whites, at just 45 percent.


Black people also have to deal with larger student debt burdens. Black students on average have to take out larger loans to get through college than their white peers. A National Center for Education Statistics study reveals that Black Bachelor’s degree and Associate’s degree graduates face 13 percent and 26 percent more student debt, respectively, than their white peers. The challenge of paying off greater student debt is also worsened for Black graduates due to their lower average incomes. Black Bachelor’s degree and Associate’s degree holders earn 27 percent and 14 percent lower incomes, respectively, than whites with the same degree.


The Top 10 Inequality Victories of 2022 Mon, 26 Dec 2022 05:02:42 +0000 By Sarah Anderson | | –

Congratulations to everyone who worked to move the country and the world towards greater equity in 2022. Herewith are 10 of the most inspiring economic inequality victories of the year.

1. The Union Boom 

No question. The union organizing surge has been this year’s top story. Petitions for union representation jumped 53 percent over 2021. What made the surge truly historic? The explosion of activity in workplaces once considered hopeless for unionization.

Champions of a more egalitarian society made important strides, building the power of workers while reducing the power of wealthy tax dodgers and greedy pharma execs.

Warehouse workers shook the foundation of Amazon, prevailing against harsh intimidation tactics to win the first U.S. union election at the e-commerce giant and building campaigns in several other states, most recently in Minnesota.

Via Pixabay

A survey commissioned by the Institute for Policy Studies found that nearly two-thirds of local residents support the ongoing Black worker-led union drive at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama – a remarkable shift in what’s been historically a fiercely anti-union state.

Starbucks baristas busted the myth that fast food workers are impossible to organize. They voted union in at least 260 stores and inspired comrades at Chipotle and elsewhere.

Now the overpaid CEOs at Amazon and Starbucks need to negotiate fair contracts with these employees. The top execs at both companies grabbed far more than 1,000 times as much as their company’s median worker pay in 2021.

Union power can both raise worker wages – and rein in excessive wealth at the top. In the middle of the 20th century, as our Sam Pizzigati points out, unions helped “flatten grand private plutocratic fortunes.”

2. Taxing the Rich 

Remember the heady days of 2021 when the Build Back Better negotiations had a billionaire tax and other bold inequality-busting tax proposals in play, all with strong public support? When Republicans and two Democratic Senators blocked that deal, I thought we’d have to wait until 2024 before seeing any progress on the fair taxation front. But 2022 saw some important victories – at the federal, state, and municipal levels.

Via Pixabay.

In a piece for CNN, Rebekah Entralgo and I run down the tax wins in the Inflation Reduction Act, the Democrats’ $700 billion climate and social spending bill. The law’s biggest revenue-raiser: a 15 percent minimum tax on big corporations that will help curb rampant tax dodging.

The new law will also boost IRS enforcement so the ultra-rich pay what they owe instead of getting away with hiding their wealth through complex accounting tricks. Republicans have over recent years squeezed the agency’s funding to the point where today the IRS actually has fewer expert staff to audit the complex tax returns of the wealthy and big corporations than the agency had in the 1950s.

Fair tax advocates also notched big wins this year through ballot initiatives. In Massachusetts, voters approved an income surtax of 4 percent on annual individual income above $1 million, with revenue going mostly towards public education and transportation. Can we get similar campaigns going in other Democratic trifecta states?

Two California cities passed ballot measure taxes to fund affordable housing. San Franciscans approved a groundbreaking tax on vacant buildings and Los Angeles voters backed a “mansion tax.”

3. Cracking Down on a CEO Pay Scam

As consumers have struggled with rising costs, corporate CEOs have splurged on stock buyback sprees. This legal form of stock manipulation artificially inflates the value of executive stock-based pay – while doing nothing for workers.

Get this: We calculated that Lowe’s could’ve given every one of its 325,000 employees a $40,000 raise with the $13 billion they blew on buybacks in 2021. Instead, the company’s median worker pay fell 7.6 percent to $22,697. The Lowe’s CEO, meanwhile, pocketed $17.9 million.

In 2022, we started to see some blowback against buybacks. The Inflation Reduction Act introduced a 1 percent excise tax on such share repurchases. Biden officials have also started wielding the power of the public purse against this CEO pay inflation scam. The administration is giving a leg up in the awarding of new semiconductor manufacturing subsidies to companies that agree to forego buybacks.

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We Can’t Afford NOT to Have a Wealth Tax Sat, 03 Dec 2022 05:06:49 +0000 By Jack Metzgar | –

( – Every time I hear that we as a nation cannot afford something — whether that might be assuring non-toxic water in Jackson and Flint or universal pre-K or an industrial policy with teeth — I have wondered how many dollars a national wealth tax might yield. So I looked the numbers up.

Just a small annual levy on America’s grandest fortunes could finance a better future for all of America’s kids and families

Wealth turns out to run way bigger than income. Our total U.S. wealth in 2021 sat at $150 trillion. Total income, combining personal income and company profits, amounted to about $25 trillion. A small wealth tax would clearly produce much more government revenue than a much larger income tax.

Like income, wealth in the United States remains highly concentrated. The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans hold about one-third of that $150 trillion in U.S. wealth. That comes to $50 trillion, twice the total annual income of all Americans, everyone from the millions of workers making less than $15 an hour to the corporate executives making multiple millions. Again, you don’t need an algorithm to figure out that even a tiny wealth tax on the top 1 percent could produce as much — or more — than a large income tax on everybody.

A modest national wealth tax could solve a lot of problems and fund a lot of common good, even if that tax only somewhat reduced our savage economic inequality.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have offered pioneering proposals to introduce national wealth taxes to the United States. Critics have raised various objections to these proposals. Collecting a wealth tax would prove impractical, some charge. Others say that taxing wealth at the federal level would be unconstitutional. Senator Warren has convincingly addressed these objections, but I’d just like to add one point: Taxing wealth would provide a nearly inexhaustible source of government revenue. Collecting that revenue may well hit some administrative or political obstacles. But overcoming those obstacles would be well worth the effort.

Via Pixabay

Let’s look at what a 1 percent wealth tax on our top 1 percent could buy and then see how much pain and suffering that levy would impose on those who would pay the tax. A 1 percent wealth tax on the top 1 percent would produce $500 billion a year in revenue, or $5 trillion over the 10-year budget calculation demanded of federal legislation.

That $500 billion could buy something like a revolution in child-rearing. President Biden’s original Build Back Better proposal had elements of such a revolution, but never won full funding because implementing family-friendly policies will always be so damned expensive. With a 1 percent tax on the top 1 percent, we could meet that expense.

Here’s what a plan concentrated on helping children and making parenting more manageable could do with a 1-percent-on-the-1-percent tax:

From “Build Back Better” Annual Cost 10-Year Cost
Expanded child tax credit $160 billion $1.6 trillion
Childcare subsidies and universal Pre-K $125 billion $1.25 trillion
Paid family leave $20 billion $200 billion
Expanded earned income tax credit $13 billion $130 billion
My add-on
Baby Bonds proposed by Sen. Corey Booker $60 billion $600 billion
TOTALS $378 billion $3.78 trillion
Remaining revenue from 1-percent-
on-the-1-percent tax of $500 billion
$122 billion $1.22 trillion

Sources: Congressional Budget Office, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, CNBC.

This package would provide $3,000 per child for virtually all parents, save an average of $11,000 for those now using day care for pre-schoolers, and open up employment opportunities for those parents with pre-schoolers who cannot now afford day care. This would all be great for children’s academic, psychological, and social development — and would transform the economics of parenting, most especially for low- and moderate-income families.

Senator Booker’s Baby Bonds would create and seed a savings account of $1,000 at the birth of every child in the United States and then add up to $2,000 each year depending on household income. The funds would earn income that would not be available for the children until they reach 18. At that point, they could use the money for education, to buy a home, start a business, or continue as a retirement account.

Taken as a whole, this package would cut child poverty by more than half, greatly improve general educational levels over time, and immediately provide substantial support for families during their most challenging years for managing both time and money. A modest wealth tax could provide all this benefit, with money left over to do still more common good. But at what cost? How much harm would a wealth tax do to those elite few who would have to pay the tax?

As illustrated below, the amount individuals would pay in wealth taxes would indeed be very hefty, often running into the millions, even billions of dollars. But in most years and on average, America’s top 1 percent would continue to get wealthier even with this wealth tax in effect. Given that the S&P 500’s annual average stock market return since 1957 has topped 11 percent, a mere 1 percent tax on wealth would amount to little more than a rounding error for anyone in the top 1 percent.

The impact of a 1% wealth tax on the top 1%


Wealth tax
Assuming 11% annual income from investments Increase in annual wealth with a wealth tax in effect
$10 million $100,000 $1.1 million $1 million
$50 million $500,000 $5.5 million $5 million
$1 billion $10 million $110 million $100 million
$190 billion $1.9 billion $20.9 billion $19 billion

Once established, a wealth tax could easily expand in small increments to a perhaps more reasonable 4 percent, producing $2 trillion a year in revenues, based on current levels of wealth. Or we could tax higher levels of wealth at higher percentages, as Senator Warren proposes, with tax rates on billionaires reaching 6 percent. Even at those higher rates, the wealthy would go on getting wealthier. But taxing the wealth of these wealthy would open a cornucopia of public capital to invest in addressing our multitude of problems and in bettering working people’s lives.

By not taxing wealth we are failing to tap by far the largest source of our potential public revenues. And because the wealth of the wealthy confers both economic and political power, we cannot adequately defend democracy if we go on allowing our economic oligarchy a completely free lunch.

A clear majority of Americans support most of the family-friendly policies listed above. Even larger majorities support the notion of a wealth tax, with nearly two-thirds of Americans favoring a tax on grand fortune. Imagine that. The polls are showing higher support for taxing the rich than for the beneficial programs that taxing the rich could finance. Makes you wonder why our elected representatives, especially Democrats, are not standing in line to support such a combination of policy and pay-fors.

Next time you hear a politician say “we” can’t afford something that clearly needs doing, just stop a moment and think — about what a wealth tax on a very small proportion of Americans could accomplish.

Jack Metzgar, a retired adult educator from Roosevelt University in Chicago, is the author of Bridging the Divide: Working-Class Culture in a Middle-Class Society (Cornell 2021).

Via (

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COP27 Climate Summit sparks Action Against Investment Treaties Favoring Fossil Fuel Corporations Over People and Planet Tue, 22 Nov 2022 05:06:55 +0000 By Manuel Pérez-Rocha | –

( ) – Regarding the global climate negotiations in Egypt, several countries announced important actions to curb the power of the fossil fuel industry.

Climate activists are demanding total elimination of the anti-democratic investor-state dispute settlement system.

For decades now, a global web of international investment agreements has given corporations excessive powers to block government policies they don’t like. Through “investor-state dispute settlement” mechanisms, these agreements grant corporations the right to sue governments in unaccountable supranational tribunals, demanding huge payouts in retaliation for actions that might reduce the value of their investments. Corporations are able to file such lawsuits over a wide array of government actions — including actions designed to protect people and the planet.

Poland, Italy, France, the Netherlands, and Spain have now announced they will withdraw from one of these anti-democratic agreements: the Energy Charter Treaty, a 1991 pact signed by about 50 countries. The ECT offers special protections to oil, gas, and mining corporations and energy companies, undermining governments’ abilities to address climate change.

These countries’ rejection of the Energy Charter Treaty is welcome, but much more needs to be done. The United States is not a member of the ECT, but the U.S. government has been a major driver of the investor-state system, insisting on including such corporate powers in dozens of trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties and only partially rolling back some of these rules in recent years.

Via Pixabay.

Altogether, the nearly 3,000 free trade and investment treaties across the globe that include ISDS clauses have led corporations to file lawsuits against governments totaling many billions of dollars. And that’s just the cases we know about. Many of these suits remain secret.

With climate negotiators meeting in Egypt, more than 350 organizations in more than 60 countries have issued a joint letter calling on governments to get rid of the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system altogether.

As the letter explains, the key risks posed by the ISDS system are: 1. Increased costs for governments to act on climate if corporations are able to claim exorbitant amounts of taxpayer money through an opaque lawsuit system of supranational courts, and 2. “regulatory chill,” which may cause governments, out of fear of being sued, to delay or refrain from taking necessary climate action, a phenomenon seen in the past.

“Communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis are often at the heart of ISDS claims through struggles against destructive mining and other extractive projects,” the statement points out. “The evidence of years of damage to the environment, land, health and self-determination of peoples all around the world is stark, and the renewed urgency of the climate imperative is beyond doubt.”

The statement notes that a significant number of governments have already rejected the ISDS system. “Countries such as South Africa, India, New Zealand, Bolivia, Tanzania, Canada, and the US have all taken steps toward getting rid of ISDS.” (Canada and the United States eliminated investor-state provisions between each other in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement while that NAFTA replacement deal left key elements of the system intact with Mexico.)

Communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis are often at the heart of ISDS claims through struggles against destructive mining and other extractive projects.

The civil society statement urges governments to stop negotiating, signing, ratifying, or joining agreements that include ISDS clauses, such as the Energy Charter Treaty or the euphemistically titled Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (better known as TPP). Mexico is a party to TPP, which can actually be used by Canada to allow its mining companies to file claims against Mexico.

There are plenty of alternatives to this anti-democratic system. Governments could resolve investment issues between themselves, through state-to-state dispute settlement, rather than allowing private corporations to bring cases against governments to supranational tribunals. An alternative system could also include investment risk insurance, international cooperation to strengthen national legal systems, and regional and international human rights mechanisms.

But will the recent withdrawal of some European countries from the Energy Charter be a turning point? These actions clearly demonstrate how the European Union’s strategy as the main promoter of that treaty has backfired, leading to its own member countries being sued for billions of dollars over CO2 emission control policies.

A report by Lucia Barcena of the Transnational Institute documents how Spain stands at the top of the list of countries facing the most suits, with 50 claims (as of October 2021). But while Spain and some other European countries decided the ECT did not meet their required environmental standards, the EU is aiming to impose these exact same standards in other agreements, for instance through the “modernization” of its free trade agreements with Mexico and Chile.

And so we’re seeing rich countries move away from investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms while intending to keep imposing this system on developing countries. And many developing country governments seem willing to allow themselves to be dragged along. Indeed, several countries in Asia, Africa, and even Latin America are waiting to join the ECT (and other FTAs). For example, Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, and Chile are queuing up.

We can hope that the progressive governments of Gustavo Petro in Colombia and Gabriel Boric in Chile will both distance themselves from this system, but it is disconcerting to see Boric already supporting the ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Chile. And the AMLO government in Mexico is also upholding its support for free trade and investment protection treaties.

This neoliberal investor-state system is a threat to the future of democracy and the future of our planet. It must end.

Original in Spanish available in La Jornada.

Manuel Pérez-Rocha is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Twitter: @ManuelPerezIPS


Auto Workers, Climate Groups Team Up to Demand Union-Made, Electric Postal Vehicles Sun, 24 Apr 2022 04:06:31 +0000 By Brian Wakamo | –

( ) – After nearly 30 years in the labor movement, Cindy Estrada is well familiar with the corporate playbook. “As soon as wages and benefits are decent, they want to move that work somewhere else.” That’s what happened, the United Autoworkers Vice President explained at a recent rally, after Oshkosh Defense secured a huge contract to build postal vehicles.

The United Auto Workers and climate groups join together to push the USPS to buy electric postal vehicles to replace their old, gas-guzzling fleet.

“The ink was still drying,” Estrada said, “when they announced they were moving the work to South Carolina.”

UAW members had fully expected to build the postal trucks in the existing Oshkosh Defense facility in Wisconsin. After all, the company had won the contract on the basis of their quality work. Instead, Oshkosh Defense plans to convert a vacant former Rite-Aid warehouse in notoriously anti-union South Carolina to fulfill the postal contract, circumventing the unionized workforce in Wisconsin.

Estrada and other UAW officials joined environmental groups and political leaders outside U.S. Postal Service headquarters in Washington, D.C. on April 6 to deliver 150,000 petitions demanding that the new postal vehicles be built with union labor.

Article continues after bonus IC video
News 9: “USPS Doubles Order Of Electric Cars”

“We have nothing against South Carolina workers,” Estrada said. “We believe every worker should have democracy in their workplace.”

She was joined by Bob Lynk, president of UAW Local 578, which represents the Oshkosh Defense plant.

UAW Local 578 President Bob Lynk speaks, as UAW VP Cindy Estrada, Sierra Club President Ramón Cruz, and President and CEO of the Hip-Hop Caucus Reverend Lennox Yearwood watch on.

“The new USPS delivery vehicle can be a great opportunity to invest in both a cleaner future and good paying union jobs,” Lynk said. “The company says it values its employees — we are the employees. Invest in us and reward us.”

Fellow activists from the Blue-Green Alliance and the Sierra Club stressed that labor and climate groups need to work together to make a green transition as just and strong as possible and this joint fight over electric postal vehicles is just the beginning.

The UAW has embraced their demands for green postal trucks — not gas guzzlers. Despite urging from the EPA and climate activists, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has refused to commit to having e-vehicles make up more than 10 percent of the new fleet, claiming the Postal Service can’t afford to buy more.

Environmentalists question that claim, pointing out that USPS cost-benefit calculations were based on gas prices staying around $2 per gallon, a deeply flawed assumption given current prices at the pump.

Rep. Gerry Connelly (D-VA) speaks at rally outside USPS headquarters, Washington, D.C.

One sign of hope: Congressman Gerry Connolly has introduced a bill that would provide extra funding for electric postal trucks and mandate that the entire fleet be electrified. In the meantime, environmental and labor groups are committed to keeping up the pressure on Oshkosh Defense and postal leaders to do the right thing.

“We can redefine what it means to be an environmentalist,” UAW VP Estrada said. “Caring about the environment, it means we care about the air and the water we breathe. It means we care about the communities and the community members that live there, what they’re breathing and what they’re drinking. And it means that we have good sustainable jobs.”

Brian Wakamo is an Inequality Research Analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies and a co-editor of Find him on Twitter @brian_wakamo.


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Why Are We Torching Our Best Tool to End Child Poverty? Mon, 21 Feb 2022 05:02:57 +0000 By Clara Moore | –

My daughter and I were on the verge of homelessness before the Child Tax Credit. What’s going to happen to vulnerable families now?

( – I’ve just picked her up from the homeschool co-op that supplements the first-grade lessons we’ve been doing at home, and we’re hanging out at the park. This is my favorite time of the week, watching her play with other kids.

But I’m also remembering my own childhood — cold Missouri winters without boots, hats, or mittens. The grind of poverty was tough on my family, and that trauma pursued me into adulthood.

I would do anything to keep my child from that fate, but we’ve had our close calls.

We were nearly homeless when the pandemic struck. I’d tried to pull myself out of poverty so many times by then — I’d even just finished graduate school. But trying to enter the job market as Covid-19 shut down the economy proved difficult. There wasn’t going to be enough money for rent.

Fortunately, the Covid-19 relief programs Congress passed — like the stimulus checks and those monthly Child Tax Credit payments — helped me keep our apartment.

With this help, I could look for work while homeschooling my daughter. I was even able to put a few dollars into a savings account for the first time in my life, which was a huge relief. My family wasn’t just surviving — we were on our way to thriving.

That’s exactly what a safety net is for. But now what’s going to happen?

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The credit expired last December because Republicans, plus Democrat Joe Manchin, have stalled efforts to extend this tax relief to working families. Millions of families like mine missed our check in January — and we won’t get another unless they’re renewed.

Those monthly Child Tax Credits allowed Ada Mae to attend her beloved homeschool co-op, so necessary for her social well-being. They provided financial stability that helped me be more present with her, when I wasn’t worrying about how the next bill would be paid. And they gave me space to look for — and get — better-paying work in the field in which I’m now qualified.

There are lots of stories like ours. A Columbia study found that the December payments alone kept 3.7 million children out of poverty, reducing the monthly child poverty rate by about 30 percent.

But in the first month without payments, Columbia experts project that the monthly child poverty rate may rise from the current 12 percent to over 17 percent — the highest it’s been in over a year.

As these numbers show, parents weren’t squandering these payments on luxuries. They used them to live less precariously.

A quarter of parents used the credit on child care so they could return to work. A third of the payments went to essential school expenses. And at least 90 percent of families were using the credits on necessities for their families.

Perhaps most dramatically, new research has found that cash payments to low-income families significantly improve infant brain development and learning later in life.

This is the sort of lifeline that changes children’s lives. So why are we taking a torch to it? Why would we lift children out of poverty only to slam them back into it a few months later?

The failure to renew the expanded Child Tax Credit isn’t just cruel and short-sighted — it’s economically unsound. For the economy to fully recover, workers and families must be able to survive inflation and other pandemic-related hardships. The enhanced Child Tax Credit was arguably our best tool for that.

It certainly was for me and my beautiful, confident Ada Mae

All of our children deserve the best chance in life, free from the brutal precariousness of poverty. The enhanced Child Tax Credit is that best chance. Let’s not miss it.

Clara Moore is a researcher and mom who lives in Newark, New Jersey. She shares her experiences in poverty as an advocate with RESULTS Educational Fund. This op-ed was distributed by


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The Year in Inequality in 10 Charts: Our Economic and Racial Divides grew Wider in 2021 Tue, 21 Dec 2021 05:06:02 +0000 Blogging Our Great Divide

by Sarah Anderson Brian Wakamo | –

Why We Can’t Trust the World Bank to Stand Up to Powerful Fossil Fuel Companies Sun, 21 Nov 2021 05:08:45 +0000

While the divestment movement is working to hold fossil fuel companies accountable, the World Bank is protecting and financing them.

By Manuel Pérez-Rocha | –

( – At the international climate change negotiations in Scotland, the World Bank tried to position itself as a global champion in alleviating the climate crisis. In reality, this multilateral financial institution has been promoting and defending extractive and fossil fuel industries.

In a courageous column in the Guardian, one of the World Bank’s own researchers, Jake Hess, criticizes his employer for having spent more than $12 billion to fund fossil fuel projects since the Paris climate agreement in 2015.

“Sadly, I have little confidence that my employer will become a climate leader any time soon,” Hess wrote.

This is hardly surprising, given that Donald Trump picked current World Bank President David Malpass. Like the former U.S. president, Malpass has denied that human-produced carbon emissions cause global warming and climate change.

While the World Bank has continued to fund fossil fuel projects, many other institutions have pulled their money out.

A new report, “Invest-Divest 2021: A Decade of Progress Towards a Just Climate Future,” reveals that there are now 1,485 institutions in 71 countries publicly committed to fossil fuel divestment. The report is co-published by the C40, the Wallace Global Fund, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and Stand.Earth and disseminated by the Dutch NGO Both Ends. The divesting institutions represent $39.2 trillion of assets under management.

“That’s as if the two biggest economies in the world, the United States and China, combined, chose to divest from fossil fuels,” the report notes.

Global inequality

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The C40 coalition was founded in 2005 by the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingston, to build a collaborative network of mayors to deliver the urgent action needed to confront the climate crisis. Nearly 100 major cities now participate, including 14 in the United States, two in Mexico, and three in Canada.

This divest movement also includes grassroots environmental organizations, such as and Rainforest Action, and faith-based groups, including the World Council of Churches. In addition to the Wallace Global Fund, Ford, MacArthur, and other philanthropic foundations are also supportive.

This movement’s efforts to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the true cost of their greenhouse gas emissions and in reducing their political power stands in stark contrast to the World Bank’s activities. Beyond their financial assistance for the fossil fuel projects, the Bank also house the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a tribunal where transnational corporations can file lawsuits against governments over actions — including environmental regulations — that reduce the value of their investments.

In another article, I argue that allowing corporations to keep filing these multi-million dollar lawsuits will potentially undermine the agreement reached in Glasgow.

Claims by extractive industries have increased exponentially during the last two decades. These companies were awarded at least $73 billion since 1995, according to my own calculations based on data available from ICSID and UNCTAD (and there are many other cases for which ICSID and other tribunals do not disclose any information).

Extractive companies are the most frequent users of the investor-state dispute settlement system (ISDS), making up 29 percent of all ICSID claims in fiscal year 2021. They also obtain the largest awards. Of the 14 known rulings for more than $1 billion, 11 relate to the oil, gas and mining industries.

At least 82 lawsuits filed by extractive industries are still pending, among which 42 were filed by companies asking a total amount of $99 billion in compensation, according to the information available ($71 billion from mining companies and $28 billion from oil and gas companies).

It is worth noting that the amounts claimed for the other 40 pending lawsuits are not publicly available, therefore the above figures are merely illustrative of the magnitude of the problem. Notwithstanding the lack of information, it is possible to determine that at least 14 pending cases are demanding over $1 billion, including outrageous claims for $27 billion against Congo and $16.5 billion against Colombia.

Another case involves TransCanada against the United States. The Canadian company is demanding $16 billion in compensation for the Biden administration’s cancellation of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Of course, Mexico is part of the list, facing a $3.5 billion lawsuit by the U.S. company Odyssey Marine Exploration for the denial of a mining permit in marine sub-soils of the Sea of Cortez.

To effectively combat climate change, every government needs room for maneuver to be able to implement sound policies and climate actions without being blackmailed by costly corporate lawsuits. The investor-state lawsuit system must not stand in the way when it comes to addressing climate change and the civilizational threat it poses to the world.

By housing and supporting ICSID, the World Bank further tarnishes its credibility on climate change. But national governments are also at fault. They put the future of the planet at risk by turning a blind eye at climate summits to trade and investment rules (including the US-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement) that reward polluting activities and protect the interests of extractive industries.

For now, the solution certainly lies in continuing to divest from planet-devastating extractive corporations.

Originally in Spanish in La Jornada


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To Tackle Climate Change, Hold Fossil Fuel Conglomerates Accountable Sun, 14 Nov 2021 05:06:39 +0000

Movements are using this once-in-a-lifetime political moment to mobilize communities against climate change and corporate greed.

By Samantha Garcia | –

( – Since the Industrial Revolution, the United States has single-handedly accounted for a quarter of all CO2 emissions produced. As Congress negotiates the details of a historic budget reconciliation package, lawmakers have an opportunity to reverse course, but large fossil fuel corporations are conspiring with politicians through corporate influence to halt transformative investments in our climate.

And Americans are starting to take notice.

Hundreds of Indigenous leaders and frontline community organizers from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C. to hold President Biden and his administration accountable for the climate promises made during the presidential campaign.

Build Back Fossil Free, an environmental justice network composed of national, state, and local organizations, mobilized to convene a People vs Fossil Fuels week of action which commenced on Indigenous Peoples’ Day and lasted from October 11 to October 15.

Water protectors, who risk their lives by using their bodies to block pipelines and stand up to big corporate polluters in their communities, found themselves on the frontlines of the White House, getting arrested for the same purpose — to protect our water. The president and his administration had a choice that week: Meet with us and take executive action to reduce carbon emissions and delay upcoming cataclysmic climate disasters, or arrest people. It chose the latter. On the first day of action, 135 water protectors were arrested for civil disobedience. In total, 655 people were arrested that week.

The organizers, leaders, and protectors who came to D.C. for this event returned to their communities at the week’s end knowing that their local fights — whether it be trying to stop a pipeline in Minnesota, shut down petrochemical facilities in Louisiana, oil drilling in the southwest, or terminating liquified natural gas export terminals in the Gulf Coast — are all interconnected. These regional battles play a key role in the collective war against global warming.

“It is no exaggeration to say that climate chaos is now reality,” said Maya K. van Rossum, the leader of Delaware Riverkeeper network, in a statement. “While politicians are finally starting to acknowledge that the floods, fires, droughts, and catastrophic storms sweeping the nation are a present-day manifestation of climate change, it is of little value if it is not accompanied by meaningful action to end the era of fossil fuels.”

Western droughts in states like Arizona are intensifying while West Virginians and its coal mining communities are dying at alarming rates due to asthma, pulmonary diseases, cancer, and other similar detrimental illnesses caused by polluting industries. But despite this reality, elected officials like Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have stonewalled progressive action on climate change.

Manchin, who owns stock in a coal brokerage company, continues to argue that the cost of the Biden administration’s Build Back Back better agenda is too high and poses a threat to coal industry jobs in his state. Sinema, meanwhile, hasn’t provided any substantial reasoning for her opposition. Her avoidance in the face of questions from reporters and constituents could be linked to the fact that she, along with five other Democrats including Manchin, received $333,000 from Exxon lobbyists.

Progressive Democrats support President Biden’s ambitious goal of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent, while simultaneously incentivizing clean energy usage that would have the U.S. relying on 80 percent clean electricity by 2030 with the Clean Electricity Payment Program. This $150 billion clean energy program would compensate utilities in their energy source transitioning and penalize utilities that don’t. But moderates, Sinema and Manchin are not on board with this foundational component of the President’s climate agenda, with Manchin putting the final nail in the coffin on this climate proposal.

We can no longer afford to allow the power of corporate polluters to go unchecked. Tackling and addressing climatic conditions isn’t just an ethical, moral, or public health concern — it is a global issue that concerns us all and touches every facet of our lives. If we’re going to preserve life, understanding the depth and seriousness of this is eminent. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report: “This is code red for humanity”

None of us are alone in the fight against climate change. The People vs Fossil Fuels actions successfully connected local, placed-based environmental justice struggles to the overall national movement. From ravaging Western fires to wrecking Eastern floods, climate change will only continue to gradually and severely impact people in the United States. We still have time to recognize, develop, and mobilize communities against climate change and corporate greed.

Sam Garcia is a New Mexico fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.


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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

DW Planet A: “Why fossil fuel companies should be lawyering up”