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Opinion: Different Summit, Same Story for the Polluters, Politicians, Privileged and Poor at Global Climate Meeting

So far, Glasgow has heard a lot of talk. President Biden and other world leaders touted two ‘major’ agreements earlier this week. One commits to ending deforestation by 2030, and the other to cut planet-heating methane emissions by 30%. But these aren’t binding. They are promises, an invitation to take leaders at their word. Many of these leaders promised to halve deforestation by 2020 back at a New York summit in 2014, a promise that was quietly broken.

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Despite the looming catastrophe, a tour of the COP26 premises makes it very clear that at these talks, nothing has changed.
Despite the looming catastrophe, a tour of the COP26 premises makes it very clear that at these talks, nothing has changed.

By Louis Wilson, Special to California Black Media Partners

Global negotiations kicked off this week in Glasgow, Scotland, in what John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, described as our ‘last best chance’ to avoid environmental disaster.

These talks matter to California – so much so that a delegation of elected and government officials led by Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis made the 5,000-mile trip.

The goal is simple: agree to a plan to reduce the emissions that cause dangerous heating. To do that, governments need to end our reliance on fossil fuels, and support less-wealthy nations and communities in their decarbonization process.

We’ve been here 25 times before. The 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference COP26 is a gathering of over 100 nations in search of a solution to the climate crisis. Sadly, since the first meeting in Berlin in 1995, global emissions have increased. By almost every measure, the climate crisis is getting worse. That’s visible to Californians in the record wildfires, drought, and extreme weather that has intensified in the past two years.

The science is clear – something needs to change right now, otherwise the climate will change it for us. The current business-as-usual trajectory is set to make the world somewhere between 4.5 degrees F to 5.4 degrees F hotter than it was before we started burning fossil fuels. That would mean more droughts, fire, hurricanes, famines, climate refugees, and the list goes on.

So far, Glasgow has heard a lot of talk. President Biden and other world leaders touted two ‘major’ agreements earlier this week. One commits to ending deforestation by 2030, and the other to cut planet-heating methane emissions by 30%. But these aren’t binding. They are promises, an invitation to take leaders at their word. Many of these leaders promised to halve deforestation by 2020 back at a New York summit in 2014, a promise that was quietly broken.

Despite the looming catastrophe, a tour of the COP26 premises makes it very clear that at these talks, nothing has changed. The same old faces are here – the politicians, the polluters, the big companies, and people representing privileged and largely white interests.

Companies sponsoring the talks for a seat at the center of the action include one of the world’s largest plastic polluters (Unilever), a bank (NatWest) that has financed billions of dollars’ worth of fossil fuel projects since 2015, and a consumer goods company (Reckitt) whose suppliers included, until very recently, companies tearing down one of the world’s last remaining tropical rainforests in Papua New Guinea.

One of these sponsors, SSE, is currently building a new fossil gas plant, even while hosting a friendly stall touting unproven future technologies that might eventually help reduce emissions. Reckitt, meanwhile, is organizing an official side-event titled ‘Changing Consumer Behaviour,’ which appears aimed at deflecting responsibility onto individuals.

Presumably, the main recommendation will be to steer clear of their products until they can remove deforestation from their supply chain.

While companies that have had a hand in causing the crisis are overrepresented, notably underrepresented are BIPOC communities, or representatives from the worst affected countries. It is, as many have called it, the richest, Whitest COP ever.

That’s a problem ethically, but it’s also a big problem because clearly, ‘business as usual’ hasn’t worked. If we want to prevent the worst of what is to come, we need to focus on the interests of people on the frontlines: those who lost their homes in wildfires this year, or who were forced off their land by agribusinesses, or whose air is being polluted by mining projects. We can no longer prioritize the narrow interests of a very noisy but destructive business community.

This matters for California – the state which has long been a leader in the U.S. on climate action but is suffering the most immediate impacts of the climate crisis right now. If Californians want this state to be liveable for future generations, we need to see through ambitious action at home – but we also need these global negotiations to be a success.

Right now, we’re on track for more warm words, more bold, unmet promises, and more degrees of global heating. Unless this COP and all future climate summits put the worst affected, most vulnerable communities first, we will continue on this disastrous path which will see California and many other parts of the globe become inhospitable for our descendants within generations.

Louis Wilson is a senior communications advisor with Global Witness, a climate advocacy group.

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Bay Area

IRS Extends Filing Dates in Counties Under Federal Emergency Declarations

The announcement affects residents in Alameda, Marin, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Monterey, Napa, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma counties, the IRS said.

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Eligible taxpayers will also have until May 15 to make 2022 contributions to their IRAs and health savings accounts.
Eligible taxpayers will also have until May 15 to make 2022 contributions to their IRAs and health savings accounts.

By Katy St. Clair, Bay City News Foundation

The Internal Revenue Service has extended its annual tax return due date by a month for people who live in areas impacted by the recent storms, the IRS announced on Tuesday.

California storm victims now have until May 15 to file their individual or business taxes if their area was declared an emergency by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The announcement affects residents in Alameda, Marin, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Monterey, Napa, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma counties, the IRS said. A full list of counties can be found at https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-relief-in-disaster-situations.

Eligible taxpayers will also have until May 15 to make 2022 contributions to their IRAs and health savings accounts.

Taxpayers will not have to do anything to initiate the extension, the IRS said, and do not have to contact the agency to get this relief.

Some other extensions are being granted to farmers, those who pay quarterly estimated payments, and those who pay quarterly payroll and excise taxes. To learn more, go to irs.gov.

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Bay Area

City Fails to Win $182 Million Federal Grant for Oakland A’s Howard Terminal Project

Opponents said the lack of a recommendation by the U.S. Department of Transportation “shows the lack of credibility — likely based on concerns over safety, economic viability, disruptions to port traffic and supply chains, echoed by maritime stakeholders — for the future of the project with key public transportation and political stakeholders that should prompt an overall re-evaluation.”

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A city document suggests $600 million will be needed for offsite infrastructure.
A city document suggests $600 million will be needed for offsite infrastructure.

By Keith Burbank | Bay City News

Oakland may miss out on millions of dollars in grant money that could advance the Oakland A’s proposed ballpark at the city’s port.

The U.S. Department of Transportation failed to recommend that Oakland get $182.9 million in the initial round of funding for the city’s Waterfront Mobility Project. Oakland has not received official word that it was denied the grant money.

The city has been securing dollars for the offsite infrastructure needed to support a new ballpark at the Charles P. Howard Terminal.

“While we are disappointed to have not been selected in the first round, we believe we put forward a strong application and are well positioned to secure other funding sources,” said Fred Kelley, director of the Oakland Department of Transportation. “We will continue to pursue other funding sources to ensure our projects have the resources they need.”

Oakland applied for grant money through the Mega Grant Program, which funds “large, complex projects that are difficult to fund by other means and likely to generate national or regional economic, mobility, or safety benefits.”

The ballpark proposed by the Oakland A’s would seat about 35,000 people, and the development overall consists of new housing, parkland, an entertainment venue and commercial space.

Not everyone wants the A’s to build a new park at the Port of Oakland. Groups have come together in opposition, hoping to have the A’s build a new park in East Oakland at the current Oakland Coliseum site.

Groups led by the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association sued to stop Oakland from issuing a required environmental impact report for the proposed ballpark.

The opponents said the lack of a recommendation by the U.S. Department of Transportation “shows the lack of credibility — likely based on concerns over safety, economic viability, disruptions to port traffic and supply chains, echoed by maritime stakeholders — for the future of the project with key public transportation and political stakeholders that should prompt an overall re-evaluation.”

A city document suggests $600 million will be needed for offsite infrastructure. The city has secured or is in the process of securing more than $320 million of that money, according to city documents published in December.

Former Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf was a strong supporter of the project.

New Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao said at her inauguration Monday that she will work with the Oakland A’s on a deal to keep the team in Oakland while protecting Oakland values.

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Activism

California Family Whose Beachfront Properties were Seized 100 years ago, Sells Land Back to County for $20 Million

In the 1920s, the beach resort was extremely popular with African American tourists. At that time, Black people were not permitted on white beaches. The site became famously known as “Bruce’s Beach.” The children and grandchildren of Charles and Willa Bruce fought for decades to get back the land.

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Supervisors Janice Hahn and Holly Mitchell commemorate the signing of State legislation to return the land to the closest living heirs of the Charles and Willa Bruce. Credit / County of Los Angeles.
Supervisors Janice Hahn and Holly Mitchell commemorate the signing of State legislation to return the land to the closest living heirs of the Charles and Willa Bruce. Credit / County of Los Angeles.

By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire

The great-grandchildren of the African American couple Willa and Charles Bruce, whose land in Southern California was taken in 1924 and returned to the family last year, have opted to sell it back to the local government for $20 million.

In the 1920s, the beach resort was extremely popular with African American tourists. At that time, Black people were not permitted on white beaches.

The site became famously known as “Bruce’s Beach.”

The children and grandchildren of Charles and Willa Bruce fought for decades to get back the land.

Chief Duane Yellow Feather Shepard, a family historian and spokesman for the Bruce family, stated in a 2021 interview, “It was a very significant location because there was nowhere else along the California coast where African Americans could go to enjoy the water.”

The Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists often threatened the Bruce family, but they kept the resort open and took care of the land.

In 1924, the municipal council used eminent domain to take the land to build a park.

But, according to a TV show called “The Insider,” the area wasn’t used for many years.

Willa and Charles Bruce fought back in court, but their compensation was only $14,000. In recent years, local officials have estimated the property’s value to be as high as $75 million.

The area contains two coastal properties and is currently used for lifeguard training.

Janice Hahn, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, revealed that the family would sell the property back to the local government.

Hahn stated that the price was set through an appraisal.

Hahn stated, “This is what reparations look like, and it is a model I hope governments around the country would adopt.”

The statement made by Hahn may or may not be exactly what the Bruce family desired in addition to the restitution of their land.

In 2021, Anthony Bruce, the great-great-grandson of Willa and Charles Bruce, told The New York Times, “An apology would be the least they could do.”

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