By Adam Houser|April 4th, 2019
“It is high, it is far, it is…GONE!”
Unfortunately, Sterling’s famous call fits more than just the Bronx Bombers’ knack for slugging home runs. It also is a great description for the Yankees’ lousy idea to sign on to the “UN Sports for Climate Action Framework.”
The Framework’s goals are high, far, and very well gone from anything close to logic or reality, and will only further hurt impoverished communities around the world.
According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, “The Yankees are the first major North American sports team to sign on to the Framework, the aim of which is to bring greenhouse emissions in line with the Paris Climate Change Agreement and inspire others to take ambitious climate action.”
While the New York Yankees organization is a private entity and is free to make whatever decisions within the law it deems are best for business, this decision will continue to drive public perception that limiting the development of affordable, reliable sources of energy such as natural gas and coal in less fortunate countries will doom the planet.
Some of the “Sustainability Initiatives” listed on the Yankees website with the UN announcement are common sense, such as how certain aspects of Yankee Stadium allow for natural air-cooling, meaning they don’t have to use air conditioning.
But other plans listed like “Offsetting Unavoidable GHG Emissions,” or greenhouse gas emissions, is a PR stunt with some very harmful unintended consequences. This will do nothing but contribute to a narrative that continues to lock Africa, Asia, Latin America, and other regions in a cycle of poverty and short life expectancies.
“Stadium energy use, team and employee travel, motors that require fossil fuel use, non-recyclable waste generation, and occasional leaks of refrigerants are all examples of GHG impacts that the Yankees carefully measure and offset through a collaboration with The South Pole Group.”
A closer look at The South Pole Group reveals an organization that has tried to pioneer projects aimed at limiting fossil fuel use and forest removal for fuel in the developing world. For example, in Africa in particular, The South Pole Group touts initiatives to provide “efficient cookstoves” so that communities are not chopping down so many trees to cook food and heat their homes.
In Uganda, The South Pole Group is very proud of their “Biolite Homestoves” which “require significantly less amount of fuel for cooking, relying on biomass sources rather than wood fuel from Uganda’s precious forests.”
And in case you were wondering, biomass includes wood, agricultural products, and dung and manure.
According to the World Bank, only 26.7% of Uganda had access to electricity in 2018. But The South Pole Group, the United Nations, and the World Bank, care less about providing electricity to those least fortunate, and much more about limiting CO₂ emissions.
Heck, they’re even fine with these communities using dung for fuel in their fancy cookstoves, as long as you don’t build a reliable coal or natural gas plant to provide electricity.
Not all development banks are missing the mark, however. According to authors Paul Driessen and David Wojick, the African Development Bank has decided to go against the decisions of the World Bank and finance projects to provide electricity to Africa’s people.
African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina says “Africa must develop its energy sector with what it has.” Going further, Akinwumi adds “The continent has the lowest electrification rate in the world…Power is the overriding African priority.”
Unfortunately, the former Obama Administration further played into the culture of trying to solve Africa’s electricity problem with emissions in mind first, and African lives second.
Driessen and Wojick explain: “The Obama program managed to facilitate financing for just 7,300 MW of electrical generating capacity (15% of what Germany generated with coal in 2016) – and most of that was from expensive, unreliable wind and solar units. Even Bloomberg said President Obama’s ‘signature initiative for Africa’ fell ‘well short’ of its goals, producing less than 5% of the new electricity it promised; and virtually all that power was intermittent, expensive wind and solar – leaving hundreds of millions of Africans ‘in the dark.’”
Thankfully, new USAID programs are encouraging the use of coal and natural gas, which is plentiful throughout the continent. Eskom, a state-owned utility in South Africa, estimates South Africa alone has 53 billion tons of coal reserves. That’s enough to meet demand for 200 years. Driessen adds, “Many [African nations] also have enormous natural gas reserves.”
If the New York Yankees really wanted to live up to its “winning tradition”, as UN Secretary-General António Guterres put it in a press release, they would take the money saved from their efficient “air-cooling” buildings and other sustainability initiatives and invest it in reliable electricity for the least fortunate around the world.
To quote the top comment from a fan on the Yankees’ Facebook post about this UN publicity stunt, “play baseball, not politics.”