State and Local Governments Can Take the Lead on Climate Policy

solar-panels-renewable-energy

(Photo: Philippe Roos / Flickr)

In March, the World Meteorological Organization released data on the state of the earth’s atmosphere in 2016. Last year, it found, was the hottest year since humanity started recording temperatures, continuing a trend of steadily rising mercury.

Inevitably, the rising temperatures led to record severe storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires, from the United States to Brazil to South Africa. Experts believe that the planet will become a much harder place to live if the temperature rise exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius, and will start becoming unlivable if it crosses 2 degrees.

The vast majority of atmospheric scientists attribute these rising temperatures, of course, to emissions from fossil fuels, among other human activities. Yet completely without irony, the Trump administration chose the week after the release of the WMO data to completely roll back even the insufficiently ambitious steps taken by the prior administration to address this looming global disaster.

This is very bad news. But the good news is that there is much ordinary people can still do to ensure that the United States continues to cut back on carbon emissions.

For one thing, we can exert popular pressure on the administration to reverse course, as the tens of thousands of people gathering in late April for the People’s Climate March in Washington are doing, along with thousands more in sister marches worldwide. And we can use the courts to challenge aspects of the administration’s attack on sound environmental policy.

But we can also push a wide range of policy changes in our states and cities to proactively advance a just clean energy agenda, regardless of what’s going on at the federal level.

In fact, states are already being the adults in the room when it comes to taking bold steps to address carbon emissions. Let’s look at just one possible policy — expanding electricity generation from renewable sources, the subject of a report I recently authored for the Institute for Policy Studies.

Transitioning our fossil-fueled electric grid to renewables would reduce emissions more than if we took every single car in the U.S. off the road, so this is a huge deal.

One adult in the room is Oregon, which legislated that coal be completely phased out of its electricity supply by 2030, and that half its electricity come from renewables by 2040.

The legislation in Oregon also enabled the formation of shared solar projects. A shared solar project is an array of solar panels typically located on the roof of a large building such as a school or church, and collectively owned by community members who cannot install solar panels on their own roof, often because they are renters. To ensure economic inclusiveness, Oregon mandated that 10 percent of the capacity of these shared solar projects be set aside for low-income residents.

Given the disproportionate prevalence of poverty among people of color, this is also a step forward for racial justice. And the idea is spreading far beyond Oregon. Shared solar projects are enabled by legislation in 14 states and the District of Columbia.

Another adult is California, which not only provides dedicated funding to install solar panels on low-income homes, but also requires that the jobs and skills training in those solar jobs be made accessible to people from underserved communities.

The states displaying these signs of maturity don’t follow predictable political lines. The South Carolina Senate has passed a bill, for example, exempting homeowners with solar panels from paying property taxes on their panels.

Expanding renewable energy helps reduce carbon pollution and makes the energy system more just. It also creates lots of jobs. Energy Department data show that solar energy accounts for 43 percent of direct electricity generating jobs — the most of any one source, even though it represents only 2 percent of generating capacity.

Even after accounting for the coal mining and oil and gas drilling jobs created by fossil fueled electricity generation, solar remains the second largest employer in the sector, with 18 percent of jobs — still ahead of natural gas, which is the single largest source by generating capacity.

If solar can create this many jobs at 2 percent of capacity, imagine what a dynamic job creation engine it would be if we aggressively expanded it. Compared to that, Trump’s fantasy of bringing back coal — which accounts for less than half as many electricity generation jobs as solar, even though its generating capacity is more than 10 times as much — doesn’t even hold a candle.

Yes, states can be grown-ups, counteracting Trump’s perspective on climate change. But it doesn’t happen by magic. It’s going to take lots of local organizing. Environmentalists will have to join hands with anti-poverty groups, civil rights organizations, small businesses, workers, clergy, and other constituencies united in demanding a clean energy economy designed to benefit historically excluded populations and to create good jobs.

So after you march, find out what your state has already accomplished in this regard. If you see room for improvement, start organizing now!

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So Fat and Salt Aren’t So Bad for Us: Why We No Longer Trust the Government’s … – Somewhat Reasonable – Heartland Institute (blog)


Somewhat Reasonable – Heartland Institute (blog)
So Fat and Salt Aren't So Bad for Us: Why We No Longer Trust the Government's
Somewhat Reasonable – Heartland Institute (blog)
It takes on more than it can chew, from sustainability to labor concerns to tax policy. The findings — compiled by a committee appointed by the USDA and Health and Human Services agency — are important because they serve as the scientific basis for

and more »

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Humanitarian and human rights agencies urge governments to resettle 5% refugees from Syria by end 2015

Humanitarian and human rights agencies urge governments to resettle 5% refugees from Syria by end 2015

Over 30 international organisations are calling on governments meeting in Geneva tomorrow to commit to offering sanctuary to at least 5 per cent of the most vulnerable refugees from Syria currently in neighbouring countries – 180,000 people – by the end of 2015.

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While We March for the Climate, Governments Meet with Polluters

Climate change protest

(Photo: lewishamdreamer/Flickr)

I’m going to guess you’ve heard of the People’s Climate March by now. It’s been all over Facebook, the blogosphere, buses, and subway cars—it’s even shown up on network news, which has been something of a black hole for climate activism.

But in case you’re just getting back from vacation (or a cave), here’s the deal: on Sunday, September 21st, tens of thousands of people are expected to flood the streets of New York City to call on global leaders to take action on climate change.

What’s been somewhat forgotten in the truly herculean effort to make this the biggest climate mobilization ever is what global leaders are doing in town in the first place.

The truth is, they’ve been called to New York by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to meet in an unofficial capacity, because formal negotiations for a global treaty to stabilize the climate aren’t going so well.

Circular Debates

In fact, little more than a year out from the December 2015 deadline for signing a deal, countries can’t even agree on a fundamental approach to curbing heat-trapping greenhouse emissions.

One option is a binding treaty that mandates a clear target for reducing overall emissions and assigns each country a fair share of the work. The second option is a nonbinding “pledge and review” process by which each nation records what pollution cuts it thinks it can make. According to this plan, we’d add up those pledges, hope they’re enough to avoid climate chaos, and come back in a few years to see how governments have done.

The United States is the primary proponent of the latter option, for the record.

But emissions cuts are not the only hang-up.

If there’s frighteningly little political will to take common-sense action in the face of devastating ecological disruption—i.e., to stop burning fossil fuels and put clean renewable energy in place as fast as possible—there is even less appetite to pay for it.

At the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009, industrialized countries promised to create a “Green Climate Fund” to channel money to poorer countries to support their shift to clean energy and climate-resilient development. Since the global North made much of its wealth polluting the planet, it seemed only fair that it would pick up part of the tab to help the South grapple with the result.

But five years later, the fund lies conspicuously empty.

Rich countries say that in order to muster political support for climate finance, they need to see developing countries going out of their way to earn it. Poor countries wonder how they’re supposed to act first when many of them are on the front lines of climate chaos largely caused by pollution from rich countries.

Making Space for Polluters

These debates are nothing new. They’re repeated every year at the UN climate convention.

What’s different about the upcoming New York climate summit is its unofficial nature, which is meant to provide a “neutral” space where heads of state can have a more productive conversation. But by holding the summit outside of official negotiations, the secretary general has set a table where corporations and banks are on equal footing with governments. Literally.

The one-day climate summit will feature a high-level private sector luncheon where businesses will share actions they are taking “to demonstrate leadership on climate change and measures that governments can take to enable the private sector to develop long-term climate change solutions.”

The guest list includes global oil and gas company Royal Dutch Shell, international coal financier Barclays Bank, and South Africa’s power utility Eskom, which is currently building one of the world’s largest coal-fired power plants with funding from the World Bank. They’ll be joined by more than 130 other companies and banks.

That means our leaders aren’t just dithering at the edges while the planet burns—they’re actively inviting the very companies that are causing this crisis to help fix it.

The Bottom Line

“So what?” you might wonder. “Don’t companies have a role to play?”

Of course they do. But there’s no solution to climate change that doesn’t threaten the bottom line of companies that currently profit from dirty energy. That doesn’t mean that their interests never line up with what’s good for the climate. But when they don’t, it’s tough luck for people and the planet.

Unfortunately, governments have been abetting this “tough luck” for years. Look no further than the Green Climate Fund.

At the behest of governments—mainly from developed countries, where most multinational corporations are headquartered—the private sector has played a central role in the institution from the beginning. There is a special facility specifically to support the private sector, a private sector advisory group that makes policy recommendations on all aspects of the fund, and two private sector observers that comment on the proceedings of the fund’s board.

Ironically enough, one of these observer seats is filled by Bank of America, whose shareholders have pushed back against its financing of the coal industry.

Unsurprisingly, corporate influence is threatening the very purpose of the fund. The rules governing investment and what institutions can receive funding are being written with the express purpose of making the Green Climate Fund as attractive as possible to financial investors.

In a board discussion about whether to exclude oil, coal, and gas projects from receiving money from the green fund, for example, one private sector observer argued that “ruling out technologies” would tie the hands of governments trying to address climate change.

But wasn’t financing a transition away from these “technologies” the point of the fund to begin with?

Outflanked

At this point the small group of social movements and non-profit organizations trying to keep corporate influence in check at the fund are severely outflanked.

So while turning out in big numbers in the Big Apple is critical, it will take more than marching to compel governments to stop supporting the fossil fuel industry and start regulating and reducing climate pollution.

Imagine the collective power we could bring to bear if the 1,400-plus organizations endorsing the climate march—representing the labor movement, people of faith, youth, immigrant rights activists, and of course, environmentalists—pulled out all the stops and poured their resources into an uncompromising, coordinated “no more dirty energy” campaign: one that forces governments to cut taxpayer subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, puts our bodies in the way of fossil fuel extraction and transport, and moves money quickly to community-centered renewable technologies that already exist.

In the meantime, we can and should keep flexing our political muscle. One way is to “flood Wall Street,” as activists staying on in New York are planning to do after the climate march.

Kicking corporations and big banks—and their government enablers—out of the Green Climate Fund is another.

The post While We March for the Climate, Governments Meet with Polluters appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

Janet Redman directs the Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Oxfam calls on Western governments to offer haven as number of registered Syrian refugees reaches 3 million

Oxfam calls on Western governments to offer haven as number of registered Syrian refugees reaches 3 million

Western and other rich countries should step up their efforts to resettle Syrian refugees, Oxfam said today after the number registered with UNHCR reached three million.

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State governments and stakeholders invited to an online dialogue on employment of workers with disabilities hosted by DOL

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy invites state governments and other interested stakeholders to participate in an online dialogue from Monday. Aug. 4, to Monday, Aug. 18, on hiring, retaining and advancing workers with disabilities. |||||||http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/odep/odep20141440.htm

What can Governments do at the UN climate talks in wake of Philippines Typhoon Haiyan

Speaking on the second day of the United Nations Climate Change talks in Warsaw Kelly Dent, Oxfam’s spokesperson said;

“Oxfam and other agencies are right now working hard to get aid such as clean water and sanitation to communities in the Philippines that have been devastated by the typhoon.

“Governments are also providing much needed assistance to the relief efforts but this does not absolve them from their responsibilities to work just as urgently here at the Climate Change talks in Warsaw to take appropriate action.

“They must agree an international mechanism on loss and damage which addresses the impacts of climate change such as loss of life or nations. Rich countries must also spell out how they plan to deliver the promised $ 100 billion a year by 2020 for climate finance and right here, right now commit money to help poor countries cope with the impacts of climate change.  

“It is totally unacceptable for governments to ignore this tragic wake-up call – without such urgency and concrete action to drive down emissions and provide climate finance more countries like the Philippines will face the devastating consequences of extreme weather events in the years to come.”

Images

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Tobacco excise one of the taxes considered as part of Government’s economic … – Herald Sun

Tobacco excise one of the taxes considered as part of Government's economic
Herald Sun
baby number two · Rebecca Judd. CARLTON football star Chris Judd and his Channel 9 weather presenter wife, Rebecca have announced they are expecting their second child. Today it was warned it could risk angering the Labor base and adding

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Oxfam response to UK Government’s decision to launch legal challenge to plans for a European Financial Transaction Tax

Responding to the UK Government’s decision to launch a legal challenge to plans for a European Financial Transaction Tax, Nicolas Mombrial, Oxfam EU policy adviser, said:

“The UK government has lost the moral argument; they’ve lost the political argument; so now they are resorting to lawyers.

“The fact is that people across Europe want the financial sector to pay more to repair the damage they caused. An FTT offers a real opportunity to help people at home and in poor countries who have been hit by the economic crisis.

“The UK is guilty of rank hypocrisy – its own stamp duty on shares applies to trades involving European Banks even if they take place in Europe.”

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Oxfam response to UK Government’s decision to launch legal challenge to plans for a European Financial Transaction Tax

Responding to the UK Government’s decision to launch a legal challenge to plans for a European Financial Transaction Tax, Nicolas Mombrial, Oxfam EU policy adviser, said:

“The UK government has lost the moral argument; they’ve lost the political argument; so now they are resorting to lawyers.

“The fact is that people across Europe want the financial sector to pay more to repair the damage they caused. An FTT offers a real opportunity to help people at home and in poor countries who have been hit by the economic crisis.

“The UK is guilty of rank hypocrisy – its own stamp duty on shares applies to trades involving European Banks even if they take place in Europe.”

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