Those very willing to challenge fossil orthodoxy

Our monthly selection of carefully selected topics and articles on the environment and the climate crisis, in partnership with Display Europe. This month's topics include a tribute to the late climate scientist Saleemul Haq and one of his colleagues who lost his job for trying to minimise the carbon footprint of his travel, and Scientists in Rebellion.

Published on 1 November 2023 at 11:30

This second instalment of our press review on environment and climate comes after the death of the director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), Saleemul Huq, on 29 October. Huq was a professor in Bangladesh, one of the world's most vulnerable countries, and literally fought for poor nations and affected communities until his last breath. He did this by attending all 27 UN climate conferences.

The next COP, in less than a month, will be the first without him, as well as many other friends we have lost along the way – but who have left a huge legacy. In a recent conversation with scientists from the Climate Crisis Advisory Group, Huq said "We need to take action together and empower young people not just to be advocates but to be doers." I hope the following stories will bring you closer and more like the young people who had the chance to learn from Huq. Next time we'll look at what happens at the COP negotiations, so keep up the good work!

Outstanding stories

A recent survey, commissioned by environmental group "Pour un réveil écologique”, found that 70% of young French people aged 18 to 30 are willing to turn down a job offer if the employer does not prioritise environmental issues, marking a 5% increase from the previous survey in March 2022, writes French media Reporterre. Additionally, one in six young people is willing to quit their job if their employer does not prioritise ecology. This trend reflects Huq's message, I think, and, indeed, a group called "Vous n’êtes pas seuls" launched a campaign advocating for internal sabotage within companies involved in the Eacop mega oil project in Eastern Africa. They encourage employees to either desert these companies or act as infiltrators, compromising the big oil’s operations. Still in France, Olivier Monod reports (paywall) for Libération that a court hearing for the "Scientifiques en rébellion" (Scientists in Rebellion) group, scheduled for 5 October, has been postponed to 30 November due to a procedural issue. The prosecution forgot to notify the plaintiff, the head of the palaeontology gallery at the Museum of Natural History in Paris, who filed a complaint regarding an activist action in April last year. That’s why several members of the Scientists in Rebellion collective were present at the Paris court but were not allowed to hold banners reading "Scientists on trial to say the truth" and “climate inaction, apocalyptic future” due to police intervention. During their previous protest in the gallery, about 30 scientists had stayed inside after closing hours, displaying a banner that read, "Dire la vérité n’est pas un crime" (Telling the truth is not a crime), and giving speeches on biodiversity.

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In British newspaper The Guardian, Gianluca Grimalda tells the story of how the Institute for Worldwide Economy in Kiel (Germany) fired him because he refused to fly back to Germany from Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Grimalda had been in Bougainville for six months, studying the impacts of climate change. He had pledged to minimise his carbon emissions for the return journey but was given a short notice to return by air. Grimalda, who has not flown for over a decade, said no and eventually lost his job. The reason was his moral concerns about emitting 4.5 tonnes of CO2 for the flight. The research institute defended its policy and insisted it is committed to climate-friendly travel. 

Our picks 

Open letter from environmentalists and the social sector to the democratic opposition

Krytyka Polityczna | 23 October | PL

After the liberal opposition won enough votes to form a coalition government in Polish elections on 15 October, over 165 environmental organisations and social movements have signed an open letter to the coalition. This unprecedented initiative expresses hope and high expectations for the future government, emphasising the need for cooperation and specific environmental demands. The letter calls for the protection of natural resources and biodiversity to prevent a climate catastrophe. It urges political leaders to prioritise environmental concerns in the upcoming government and ensure that the head of the environmental protection ministry is empathetic, unbiased, and committed to nature's well-being. The letter rejects individuals with ties to forestry, hunting, or hydrotechnical lobbies.

Ski World Cup in Zermatt: environmentalists demand to see permits

Boris Busslinger | Le Temps | 20 October | FR

Following a partial ban on work on the Théodule Glacier, in Switzerland, world ski cup’s organisers claimed to be in compliance and were ready to start work again. However, unconvinced green NGOs like WWF, Pro Natura, and Mountain Wilderness Schweiz submitted a new request to the Construction Commission to obtain evidence. These environmental groups are challenging the organisers' assertions on the construction work for the Gran Becca slope and pledged to remain vigilant on any future development.

PSOE-Sumar agreement to reduce domestic flights: what we know and what we don't know

Maldita | 24 October | ES

In Spain, an agreement between political parties includes a measure to “reduce” flights with a rail alternative of less than two and a half hours. It would affect, in principle, the air routes between Madrid and Barcelona, Valencia and Alicante, according to online train and flight trackers. The proposal includes an exception, for cases of connection with hub airports that link with international routes.

Long-awaited report: Denmark will not reach marine environment targets for 2027

Jørgen Steen Nielsen | Information | 30 October | DA

In 2021, Venstre and the Agriculture & Food industry in Denmark requested an international second opinion on the scientific basis of the country's water and environmental plans. An expert panel has now reported back, affirming the high quality of the Danish researchers' work. This challenges earlier doubts about the scientific foundation and is significant for agriculture and environmental policy.

Värðufell: A village water source or a wind farm battery?

Sunna Ósk Logadóttir | Heimildin | 11 October | IS

In Iceland, energy and utility company Orkuveita Reykjavík (OR) cancelled a briefing on a planned power plant in Vörðufell due to opposition from the local community. "We are not interested in doing this other than in harmony and good cooperation with society," said Hera Grímsdóttir, executive director at OR. "For us, water is more important than cheap electricity that would even go to an electric coin mine or heavy industry," a landowner added.

Discarded oil and gas platforms pollute the North Sea and no one can clean them up in time

Margaux Tjoeng and Birte Schohaus | Follow the money | 31 August | EN

The North Sea faces a crisis in dealing with the scrap from the oil and gas industry, as there's a shortage of capacity at dismantling yards. These platforms must be removed due to pollution risks from materials like mercury, asbestos, and radioactive substances. Despite the urgency, there are insufficient large ships to transport these platforms, and specialised dismantling yards have limited capacity. This issue isn't exclusive to one country; it's a problem across North Sea nations. Without enough capacity to handle these platforms, they'll linger in the sea, increasing costs and environmental risks.

In partnership with Display Europe, cofunded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the Directorate‑General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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