I helped America cover up its damage to our planet for years. It’s time it comes clean (1)

Analysis and opinion by Mathew Carr (CarrZee)

Nov. 7-8, 2022 (LONDON) — It’s a terrible feeling when you realise you were probably used.

Used for greenwashing — for years — when you thought you were whistleblowing about climate inaction.

A country boy from rural Australia, I couldn’t believe my luck when Bloomberg LP, the global financial news and data giant based in New York, headhunted me from the daily newspaper the Australian Financial Review in Sydney.

That was in 2000. Then, two years later, it agreed to transfer me to London, England, to cover energy markets.

I’m updating you on my situation because, after almost 20 years with Bloomberg News, I was fired in May 2020 and have been involved in stressful unfair dismissal / climate-whistleblowing litigation ever since.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal, a fortnight ago finally published its rationale for its decision in December last year to strike out my 38 pages of alleged whistleblowing where I tried to improve Bloomberg’s bad, biased climate coverage.

The energy and climate news published by Bloomberg wasn’t awful compared with the flawed coverage in most media companies, but the news and analysis were still very weak relative to what it knew it should be publishing, especially when it was doing so as the self-professed world’s “most influential” news outfit.

Bloomberg stopped claiming this as the world turned sour in the past decade or so.

Earlier this year, the court has ordered me to pay £10,000 of Bloomberg’s massive litigation costs, 75% less than my former employer wanted.

Their scorched earth strategy to snuff out any legal claims against them had worked. I contend their methods were deployed to deter further scrutiny of the situation and the news room’s bullying culture.

That worked. Mainstream media has all-but ignored my story.

To understand how I unknowingly covered up America’s nefarious corporate behavior, you need to know a little of my story.

Initially, my beat in London was focussed largely on Britain’s natural gas market, which was booming after former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher painfully and controversially scaled back the country’s coal industry.

She was before her time. In 1988, she had said:

“The problem of global climate change is one that affects us all and action will only be effective if it is taken at the international level. It is no good squabbling over who is responsible or who should pay,” she said, according to The Independent newspaper.

These statements are devastatingly important, though the comment about squabbling highlights a key problem — the rich world’s patronizing attitude to the 7 billion poorer people who are now paying the deadly price for the heat-trapping greenhouse gas produced mainly by a few hundred million relatively wealthy people.

I soon began reporting on a European Union plan to begin a carbon market a few years later, in 2005.

Newsroom management initially supported Co2 market news – when it boosted sales

I pushed to cover the development of that program, and I was supported by management to do it.

That market – which placed a price on production of heat-trapping gas produced by utilities and industry – would spur even more demand for natural gas across Europe, because coal produces roughly twice the carbon dioxide per unit of electricity, when combusted, compared with cleaner-burning natgas.

This is something I kept telling my readers, over and over. Gas is good. Coal is bad. Gas is the bridge to a cleaner world.

This is one way I accidently underplayed natgas’s devastating impact on the climate, though gas still has a legitimate role in the transition because gas generation can ramp up and down quickly as the wind stops blowing windmills and the sun stops shining on solar panels.

We need fossil fuels for a while… it’s a transition.

Channel 4 news gets the COP27 voices including billionaire owner of my former employer Mr Michael Bloomberg at the end of this short video:

Back in the 2000s, the natural gas market kept booming (and so did the carbon market, for a while).

Bloomberg LP sold hundreds of “Bloomberg terminals” to natural gas, coal, power and carbon-trader customers around Europe at about £20,000 each per year – let’s say that’s about $20,000.

The markets were so attractive, U.S. traders started to trade them from the later time zone and they continue to do so.

My wider team, and I, were stars.

(See the maths — 1,000 terminals at £20,000 per year is 20 million quid of recurring revenue, per year. Bloomberg won’t tell me how much it makes from fossil fuels in total globally, but the data provider in thousands of markets around the world makes at least $1 billion a year, I estimate, from the polluting fuels [and Bloomberg has not rejected this]. Its total yearly revenue is a lot more than $10 billion, so that’s probably a tenth of its money.)

I’m positive the majority owner of the firm Mr Bloomberg loved us, and indeed he reportedly became a sizable investor in natural gas.

Natural Gas – Bad for the Climate

What I didn’t cover that much around 2005 was “fracking,” which at the time was a newish natgas extraction method that was taking off in the U.S.

The problem was and is, though: it too is highly damaging to the climate as it leaks and is burned, sometimes trapping heat in the world’s atmosphere at a much greater potency than CO2.

So our reporting on carbon and Europe’s climate fight apparently provided some cover for the U.S. to ramp up fossil-fuel output, it now appears to me.

Instead of following the real leadership in Europe, the US took advantage of it — because of greed and recklessness.

North American natgas production jumped 59% from 2005 to 2021, according to data from BP Plc. It rose to a record 1,136 billion cubic meters. Global production surged 46% to 4,037 billion in that period.

Back in 2005, I thought coal was toast, finished. Indeed, I thought fossil fuels were largely in runoff mode.

After all, the world agreed in the early 1990s to tackle the climate problem — as Thatcher had flagged — in a global way via the UN.

The problem was, global coal production also rose. By 34% to a near record 8,173 million metric tons, in the same period.

So global emissions from energy production jumped, especially as economic production recovered after the pandemic, which has still not ended more than two years later.

The coal-to-natgas switch became simply coal plus natgas plus plus plus.

One senior industrial source familiar with the global situation said that it’s almost as if there’s some type of grand bargain which has allowed some emerging nations (and weirdly the U.S.) to take a bigger (or an even bigger) share of the atmosphere’s limited ability to deal with the heat-trapping gas.

If that’s the case, it’s deeply sinister, given the death, poverty, hardship and destruction that have resulted.

See this chart below from the UN emissions gap report released last month. You can see China and India emissions surge during the past three decades.

Yet, on a per-capita basis, the U.S. is still the most damaging and is more damaging than China. (Still, it’s noteworthy that India remains the rock star of per-person GHG).

Grand Bargain?

Source here.

Back around 2010 — two thirds of the way through the charts, I knew something was going wrong.

Bloomberg had planned to hire six new carbon-market reporters. It never happened.

The EU, pretty much going alone on climate protection, was struggling to keep its carbon market buoyant.

UN climate talks kept failing.

What my manager said in 2010 in my performance evaluation:

“In short, we have a higher expectation of Mathew’s performance than his nearest peers and rely on him to provide guidance to other reporters and editors alike …He sees the bigger picture of striving to make Bloomberg the go-to place for carbon traders, and this is noticeable in his daily work.”

But, I had no real power, internally.

The chart’s light-blue lines show that the EU carbon market was already cutting emissions, five years into its existence.

Even though I was appreciated by some within Bloomberg, I was beginning to be unhappy about how the newsroom was writing about climate protection and how its news had a lack of global focus.

It preferred to package things into little silos, especially if they were Teslas or Liquefied Natural Gas tankers.

I told my managers I wanted to shift away from the EU market and focus on the UN climate markets. I was already helping build climate-related coverage in Asia and the U.S.

I didn’t even know Thatcher had said it two decades before, but I knew the only way to save the climate was to get a global, or near global, policy framework.

Otherwise, countries will continue to behave as they like — feel justified in that because others are more to blame. And everyone is right about that, sorta, except the US.

Source: Carbon Brief. Link below.

By 2012, I was blatantly asking my managers: “When are we getting another editor?” By 2013, I was complaining that the editor who was brought in to cover carbon was spending much of his time on fossil fuels, especially LNG.

By 2014, my managers were basically telling me to stop writing so many stories on long-term energy market structure (even though that is what pension funds were asking for, because they wanted to know how the climate transition would transpire.)

“Shift your focus towards more immediate market trends and breaking news and spend less resources on longer-term policy stories,” they said in my performance evaluation. The section in that evaluation titled “development action areas” was left blank, indicating they had no substantial advice for me about how to improve my performance.

This was weird.

Because the reason Mr Bloomberg started his company back in the 1980s was to give BETTER information to pension funds (the buy side of the financial markets).

Mr Bloomberg realised back then most of the news, data and market-moving information resided with the stockbrokers and investment banks (the sell side).

So by creating Bloomberg LP he was levelling the playing field.

Yet, something seems to have happened to that vision.

In 2015, I helped break news about the most important element of the Paris climate deal — Article 6 (global climate collaboration including by using carbon markets), even though I wasn’t sent to cover the UN event.

Once that deal was struck, my bosses got even weirder.

I thought I blew the whistle even louder in the ensuing years, but, evidently, I’m a bad whistleblower. That’s certainly the view of the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Meanwhile, billionaire Mr Bloomberg himself was reportedly investing in natgas, as I said earlier. See this from 2018.

“While coal is a dirty fossil fuel that needs to be stopped, Bloomberg presents a false binary where we must choose natural gas or coal. By using his power and influence to frame this as ‘the choice’ within mainstream discussion, he sidelines another option: rejecting new fossil fuel use and choosing renewable energy sources. Bloomberg’s framing of fracking as the practical, common sense option is a big obstacle to more far-reaching measures needed to curb carbon emissions now.”

Of course, Bloomberg LP certainly does not reject renewables. It makes loads of money out of them, too, and that’s certainly no bad thing.

Natural Gas Focus

Back around 2010, I wanted to write on carbon markets, after eight years on natgas. Bloomberg managers pushed me back onto the fossil fuel, as bigoil was downplaying to the world and to policy makers about the damage they were causing and about the climate-devastating investments they planned.

Continuing cowardly policy in 2022 under geriatric leaders means record profit for their matey-mate oil companies. See this from CBS about the quarter ended September:

Exxon Mobil broke records with its profits in the third quarter, raking in $19.7 billion in net income, a nearly $2 billion increase from its second quarter. The Irving, Texas, company said Friday that it booked $112 billion in quarterly revenue, more than double what it brought in during the year-ago period. In August, President Joe Biden said “Exxon made more money than God this year.” The president’s rebuke came a month before Exxon Mobil booked what was then an unprecedented $17.8 billion profit in the second quarter. 

My question to Mr Biden is, why not put a price on carbon? Isn’t that what God would want you to do? To protect His creation? Polluters should pay.

[I should say that many of the oil companies making billions of dollars in profit right now are also buying back their shares (from pension funds), so that money is ending up in investment houses, who are now ready to invest in the transition in a very big way.]

But polluters still don’t pay for emitting heat-trapping gas, so clean investments will be at risk when fossil-fuel prices crash back down at the end of the Ukraine war.

Environmental lobby groups want to be involved, criticising the measures where polluters would pay because they don’t trust markets. They even became transfixed themselves by the money.

The Sierra Club, one of the world’s most influential environment groups, had received more than $26 million from individuals or subsidiaries of Chesapeake Energy, one of the US’s largest natural gas companies (and one of the biggest frackers), beginning in the early 2000s.

The club changed its policy to stop receiving the cash.

In 2017 during President Donald Trump’s oversight, Mr Bloomberg “pledged $64 million to a coalition of environmental groups (including the Sierra Club) dedicated to transitioning the United States away from coal energy. The announcement is a direct challenge to the Trump administration’s stated intent to bolster the ailing coal industry,” the club said.

“Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign will receive the bulk of the funding. The former New York City mayor (Mr Bloomberg) has already invested over $100 million in the Beyond Coal campaign to date,” the club said.

Despite his support for natgas and fossil-fuel money, Mr Bloomberg is still a UN climate envoy.

There are numerous instances of Mr Bloomberg’s conflicts of interests, yet because Mr Transparency (he helps lead a key global corporate climate transparency program) is so secretive, I’m still not sure whether he is speeding or slowing climate action.

Initiatives That Help

Certainly, some of his many initiatives are helping.

See this, for example, with Goldman Sachs and the Asia Development Bank, from Nov. 7, 2022.

Now, Mr Bloomberg is part of a group looking for climate-transition metals in Greenland with fellow billionaires Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.

And here is why I’m still puzzling.

Even though the Greenland initiative does not seem to be focussing on the metal lead, the Bloomberg Commodity Index has now started to incorporate that commodity, used in rechargable batteries, into its index.

The inclusion of battery metal lead into the index for the first time next year will boost the profile of the metal among fund managers and traders, Reuters reported. It’s price surged 8% on Oct. 28 alone because of this, the news service said.

I’m not accusing Mr Bloomberg of doing anything wrong, but there is definitely the perception that he’s in the position to do something wrong.

Potentially this: Invest in things then help set conditions in which those investments pay off. (I’m not saying the Greenland investment is focussing on lead, indeed it’s other metals.)

If there are guardrails against this type of conflict of interest, who is responsible for making them strong enough?

Split Bloomberg?

I’ve argued before Bloomberg should be split up and I maintain regulators should consider that.

The fact that global corporate behavior needs worldwide regulation — preferably at UN level — is not some wacky globalist agenda. It’s simply what is needed if the human society wants to balance the financial muscle of huge businesses.

These super-powerful businesses have been allowed to emerge by nations, especially the US.

That emergence has eroded competition in markets needed by mums and dads all over the world, and their kids. The horse has bolted. We have no choice but to set proper guardrails.

Yet, the world is moving in the opposite direction.

The U.S. government seems fine with billionaire Elon Musk buying Twitter.

Is the UN’s next move going to be to make him a UN climate envoy, too?

So ..back to my failed (alleged) whistleblowing and the EAT’s decision linked above (and available for download below), I must be careful what I say because I’m fighting the cost order.

Or, perhaps I should just pay it.

To balance against the EAT’s view of my whistleblowing, I will publish below some parts of my request for that appeal court to review its decision, which it ultimately dismissed.

I blew the whistle within Bloomberg for about seven years leading up to my dismissal, as you can see from the documents.

During that time, my performance improved, yet it was hindered by poor management and “performance management.” I had some great editors, by the way. And even the “bad” ones were sometimes great. That’s how life is.

But (as I said above)

I knew and Bloomberg LP knew that we could have done a lot better covering the climate story.

I wanted to collaborate with Bloomberg LP to improve the news coverage.

Has Bloomberg News ever published the chart below by Carbon Brief showing how the US, with only 4% of the world’s population, is responsible for so much of the accumulated heat-trapping gas that’s right now causing so much devastation all around the world?

I’ve never seen it, and even if i had, I decided to publish it a few words in this one story, to balance the mainstream outlook.

Source: Carbon Brief – see notes for link.

Bloomberg is U.S. state media, a Chinese climate negotiator told me to my face, many years ago, at climate talks. That shocked me at the time, yet he may have been making an important point.

Coming back to my whistleblowing, note that Bloomberg hired one of Britain’s top employment barristers. I’m mostly self litigating.

Note also that I didn’t have access to the written decision, at the time when I needed to request the review.

The written version only appeared on the EAT’s website two weeks ago, after I hustled the EAT for it to go there. I did have a “Take Note” transcript provided by Bloomberg, which I knew contained errors.

I knew there were errors, but because I didn’t know where all the mistakes were, it was especially difficult for a self litigant to respond.

The topics in my request for review are not stale, I contend, even after almost a year.

They need to be addressed by many media companies, generally.

The administration of President Joe Biden should show leadership and educate U.S. voters about the need to decarbonise and provide loss-and-damage funding BEFORE midterm elections tomorrow, so they know what they are voting for. Republicans should too.

That means they should say, today, how they plan to respond to the global crisis.

Climate envoys at climate talks the next two weeks need do a deal that changes markets forever to work for climate protection — that is, by placing a price on carbon to prevent the stupid profiting from bad behavior.

The Paris climate deal remains unfinished, until emissions dramatically fall. This can happen if the U.S. (and its “state media”) properly come clean.

Happy reading. Comments, criticism to mathew@carrzee.net


Opinion: How the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) messed up my whistleblowing case

The EAT argued my whistleblowing wasn’t precise enough and didn’t contain enough information of the right kind. I’m still analysing the flawed document myself, while looking after a sick relative and trying to publish news and analysis as the climate talks begin. I’m also seeking advice.

Indeed, Justice Jennifer Jane Eady, president of the EAT, is now looking into how my case was handled, according to an email from her office on Nov. 4.

The EAT said last December to take “one obvious example”, the hurdle to demonstrate legitimate environmental whistleblowing “is more likely to be satisfied by a specific communication about a company dumping toxic waste in a river than it is a general observation that the polar ice caps are melting.”

I say this is a mischaracterization of my whistleblowing.

Had the EAT analysed correctly, it would have seen that my whistleblowing was actually similar to the toxic-waste-in-a-river example that it mentions.

I said to the EAT that Bloomberg was being paid by society (banks, governments, energy companies, industry) as a news organisation. Therefore, those payments meant it had a duty of care.

It should have been better alerting its readers to the multiple “users of the river” (in my case users of the atmosphere – ie everyone) and about the danger of the waste in that river (heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere).

Other users in that “obvious example” case could include fisherman, drinking-water companies, food makers using the water, farmers using the water for irrigation, kids swimming in the water.

In my case the users were everything that breathes, everywhere, all the time.

In my case the ‘toxic waste’ was instead greenhouse gas emissions being dumped into everyone’s atmosphere by Bloomberg’s clients and those funding them, rather than into a single river.

So my whistleblowing was BETTER than the “obvious” one, I contend. Not worse.

As I said, Bloomberg purported at least periodically to be one the most influential organisations on earth, so I argued to the EAT it had a responsibility to alert people about substantial risks to markets, including climate change — that is: its clients and — to the extent of its website reach — most people on earth.

My whistleblowing was directed with appropriate precision I contend because Bloomberg LP was in a position to flag the “toxic waste” to its investor customers when publishing news about fossil fuels.

Investors turn to Bloomberg LP first when deciding where to invest. They don’t turn to environmental regulators or
even to financial conduct regulators.

The conclusion by the EAT should have been that my case is indeed very similar to the EAT’s “one obvious example”.

The following shows how both the lower and upper tribunals incorrectly overlooked the specificity in my 38 pages of whistleblowing.

That mistake clearly is a misapplication of the facts in this case to the statute and case law.

For instance, limiting stories on carbon markets restricts Bloomberg customers’ ability to prepare for climate policy that will reduce damage to the environment.

Any proper application of the whistleblowing tests should have demonstrated to the EAT that the alleged whistleblowing was legitimate and I as whistleblower should have been protected.

Even a superficial application of the tests would have argued against striking out my whistleblowing because of the face-value specificity, which I detail below, as I told the EAT in January this year (I’ve removed legalistic jargon):

What I realised and Bloomberg and tribunal system has so far apparently failed to grasp (or has chosen to ignore or I have not argued clearly enough) is this: to ensure people retiring in 30 years will retire into a liveable world, investment flows need to change immediately today. That’s why I blew the whistle.

In my case, I contend my disclosures did provide specific-enough information to Bloomberg LP so that my employer should have known how it could help limit damage to the environment that was already being done and would be done in the future, should investment flows continue as they are.

The information question — whether there was enough info in my whistleblowing — is also linked to the questions of my beliefs and the reasonableness of those beliefs.

It’s telling that the four judges in the Tribunal system have spent hardly any time asking me about those beliefs in the hearings and even the full merits hearings I (a self litigant) was essentially given only one hour at the end to put my case.

I set out how my whistleblowing from 2016-2019 was specific enough below, underpinning arguments already made to the EAT, but apparently ignored or not given adequate weight, which is a misapplication of law.

I contend the EAT didn’t apply both the statute itself (the UK Public Interest Disclosure Act) AND the case law correctly to my circumstances. Whistleblowing case law requires that the information being disclosed is specific enough, for instance.

These are a few of the many snips of what I said to the EAT. It still then dismissed my request for a review of its decision:

Snip 1

2016:

Snip 2

Snip 3

Snip 4

In a 2017 email to Bloomberg’s head of news John Fraher:

Snip 5

[I will add some snips over the next few days]

Legal Tricks

The lower Tribunal judges did effectively and erroneously undertake a mini trial before they should have, failing to place enough weight on the factual dispute over why I was dismissed.

I was contending it was about my whistleblowing.

The lower Tribunal and the EAT assumed Bloomberg’s reason (lack of capability) was correct without properly testing it, as required. So the EAT misapplied the “Twist v Armes” case-law rules.

Bloomberg deliberately created flimsy legal terrain by insisting that I put my 38 pages of whistleblowing into a small spreadsheet. Bloomberg then repeatedly mischaracterised what “I relied on.”

That assertion was a demonstrable falsehood, repeatedly made.

It was a legal trick. It mislead the tribunal.

Bloomberg argued I was to blame for that fragility — the summary of the 38 pages of A4 paper into the spreadsheet format.

This was a classic — and ultimately successful — litigation tactic that the EAT should have seen through (and it turned me the fired whistleblowing victim into the villain of this story).

The lower-tribunal judges, followed by the Justice Heather Williams of the EAT, simply ignored much of the substance in my whistleblowing.

(Updated with context about the need for global regulation on Nov. 8.)

NOTES


Source: Carbon Brief


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