By Jessica Corbett
In a sign that some members of Congress intend to hold President Joe Biden accountable for climate promises he made as a candidate, three lawmakers on Thursday introduced a bill directing him to declare a national climate emergency and mobilize every resource available to halt, reverse, mitigate, and prepare for this crisis.
Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) joined with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to spearhead the National Climate Emergency Act of 2021 — which builds on a climate emergency resolution demanding a national mobilization that the trio introduced in the last congressional session.
"Scientists and experts are clear, this is a climate emergency and we need to take action," Blumenauer said in a statement. "Last Congress, I worked with Oregon environmental activists to draft a climate emergency resolution that captured the urgency of this moment."
"President Biden has done an outstanding job of prioritizing climate in the first days of his administration, but after years of practiced ignorance from [former President Donald] Trump and congressional Republicans, an even larger mobilization is needed," he added. "I am glad to work with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Sanders again on this effort, which takes our original resolution even further. It's past time that a climate emergency is declared, and this bill can finally get it done."
The National Climate Emergency Act that I introduced today with @AOC and @BernieSanders is the product of years of… https://t.co/7DPUMpGh5o— Earl Blumenauer (@Earl Blumenauer)1612467851.0
Ocasio-Cortez — who also led the Green New Deal resolution with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in the last session — noted Thursday that "we've made a lot of progress since we introduced this resolution two years ago, but now we have to meet the moment. We are out of time and excuses."
The National Climate Emergency Act recognizes that 2010 to 2019 was the hottest decade on record, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other pollutants have soared since pre-industrial times and are increasing at an alarming rate, and global temperature rise "is already having dangerous impacts on human populations and the environment."
"Climate-related natural disasters have increased exponentially over the past decade," the bill notes, "costing the United States more than double the long-term average during the period of 2014 through 2018, with total costs of natural disasters during that period of approximately $100,000,000,000 per year."
"Individuals and families on the frontlines of climate change across the United States, including territories, living with income inequality and poverty, institutional racism, inequity on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, poor infrastructure, and lack of access to healthcare, housing, clean water, and food security are often in close proximity to environmental stressors or sources of pollution, particularly communities of color, Indigenous communities, and low-income communities," the bill says.
These communities, the bill continues, "are often the first exposed to the impacts of climate change; experience outsized risk because of the close proximity of the community to environmental hazards and stressors, in addition to collocation with waste and other sources of pollution; and have the fewest resources to mitigate those impacts or to relocate, which will exacerbate preexisting challenges."
New: Bill introduced by @repblumenauer, @AOC, @SenSanders directing President Biden to address the… https://t.co/EntwzZ4d5K— Dana Drugmand (@Dana Drugmand)1612456585.0
As Ocasio-Cortez put it: "Our country is in crisis and, to address it, we will have to mobilize our social and economic resources on a massive scale. If we want to want to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past — if we want to ensure that our nation has an equitable economic recovery and prevent yet another life-altering crisis — then we have to start by calling this moment what it is, a national emergency."
The congresswoman's comments echoed months of calls from campaigners across the globe for a just, green recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Bolstering those calls, a recent United Nations report shows that while the world is on track for a temperature rise beyond 3°C this century, such a recovery could cut projected greenhouse gas emissions for the next decade by about a quarter.
The new legislation requires the president to deliver a report within one year of the bill's enactment, and continue the practice annually, detailing the executive branch's actions to address the climate emergency and ensure a habitable planet for future generations. The bill urges the pursuit of major mitigation and resiliency projects, including building and infrastructure upgrades, investments in public health and regenerative agriculture, and protections for public lands.
The legislation highlights that the United States is a primary driver of climate change, underscoring its responsibility to mobilize a response not only at home but around the world — particularly in frontline communities that have contributed least to the crisis but are already dealing with its consequences.
The bill also points out that "according to climate scientists, addressing the climate emergency will require an economically just phase-out of the use of oil, gas, and coal in order to keep the carbon that is the primary constituent of fossil fuels in the ground and out of the atmosphere."
Sanders, who now chairs the Senate Budget Committee, declared that "as we face the global crisis of climate change, in addition to other crises we face, it is imperative that the United States lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy."
"What we need now is congressional leadership to stand up to the fossil fuel industry and tell them that their short-term profits are not more important than the future of the planet," Sanders added. "Climate change is a national emergency, and I am proud to be introducing this legislation with my House and Senate colleagues."
Thank you to @repblumenauer, @AOC, and @SenSanders for your continuing support for an emergency-speed, national cli… https://t.co/9rvqO1wPBA— The Climate Mobilization (@The Climate Mobilization)1612456424.0
Thanks to a pair of runoff wins in Georgia, Democrats now control both chambers of Congress along with the White House. The bill's introduction comes after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on MSNBC last month, "I think it might be a good idea for President Biden to call a climate emergency."
The legislation was lauded by a range of advocacy groups including 350.org, Center for Biological Diversity, the Climate Mobilization, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace USA, Justice Democrats, Public Citizen, and the Sunrise Movement — whose executive director, Varshini Prakash, said that "this bill is a good sign that our leaders are finally understanding what young people and climate activists have been shouting from the rooftops for years — that the fires that burned our homes to rubble, the floods that took our family and friends with them, are a climate emergency, and bold action must be done now to save our humanity and our future."
Jean Su, energy justice director and attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, explained that "by declaring a climate emergency, President Biden will be able to redirect military funds to build clean energy systems, marshal private industry for clean technology manufacturing, generate millions of high-quality jobs, and finally put an end to dangerous crude oil exports."
Given that potential, Laura Berry, research and policy director for the Climate Mobilization, said that passing the bill "is a key next step to implementing a national climate response before it's too late — by declaring climate change a national emergency, President Biden must use the powers of his office to launch the whole-of-society mobilization we need to ensure a just transition away from fossil fuels, and to build a safe and equitable future for all."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Kenny Stancil
Four congressional Democrats on Friday unveiled the BUILD GREEN Infrastructure and Jobs Act, a bill that would invest $500 billion over 10 years in state, local, and tribal projects to galvanize the transition to all electric public transportation — reducing climate-damaging greenhouse gas emissions and health-threatening air pollution while expanding clean mass transit and creating up to one million new jobs.
Modeled after the Department of Transportation's BUILD grant program, the bill to provide grant funding to green the nation's public transportation infrastructure while creating good-paying jobs in the process was introduced by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) as well as Reps. Andrew Levin (D-Mich.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
"The climate crisis is an existential threat to our planet," Warren acknowledged in a press release, "but it's also a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, create a million good new jobs, and unleash the best of American innovation."
The BUILD GREEN Act, she added, "will make the big federal investments necessary to transform our country's transportation system, confront the racial and economic inequality embedded in our fossil fuel economy, and achieve the ambitious targets for 100% clean energy in America."
That assessment was shared by Markey, who said that "we cannot build back better without building back greener." Markey called the bill "our opportunity to invest in a clean energy revolution across our country, transform our transportation sector to be climate-smart, and create millions of good-paying union jobs at the same time."
"We can work together," he added, "to leverage investment in climate action, reduce emissions, and support environmental justice communities through bold infrastructure projects, all while tackling our climate crisis."
Co-sponsors of the proposed legislation — which is supported by almost three in five Americans, according to a new poll (pdf) conducted by Data for Progress—include Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), among others.
Alluding to the recent crisis in Texas caused by the collision of a deregulated, fossil-fuel dependent energy system and a climate change-driven winter storm, Ocasio-Cortez said that "we must stop spending billions of taxpayer money on infrastructure systems only for them to fail at the most crucial moment."
"The BUILD GREEN Act," Ocasio-Cortez continued, "helps ensure that our federal dollars are being invested in infrastructure that can sustain the impact of climate change and better prepares our communities for extreme weather events."
"In most of the country," she added, "subways, buses, and other public transit are practically inaccessible or completely overburdened," meaning that "this bill would make a dramatic, material difference in the everyday lives of hundreds of millions of people."
Calling the electrification of personal vehicles and mass transit a "central pillar" of the Green New Deal resolution introduced in 2019 by Ocasio-Cortez and Markey, Levin said that "the answer to both the climate crisis and the crisis of wealth inequality is to empower working people with the sustainable investments necessary to rebuild the communities devastated by decades of pollution and corporate trade policy."
He added that the bill "will deliver the transformational change demanded by the American people while ensuring that we build the green economy of the 21st century here at home with good-paying, union jobs."
The Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development and Generating Renewable Energy to Electrify the Nation's (BUILD GREEN) Infrastructure and Jobs Act would:
- jumpstart the transition to all electric public transportation, expand clean mass transit to underserved communities, and help modernize our crumbling infrastructure by covering up to 85% of costs for eligible state, local, and tribal projects, with an option for the Secretary of Transportation to cover 100% of costs;
- reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 21.5 million metric tons of CO2 annually or the equivalent of taking 4.5 million combustion engine cars off the road;
- prevent an estimated 4,200 deaths annually by reducing significant sources of local air pollution that cause adverse health effects like asthma, and avert $100 billion annually in healthcare costs;
- start to correct decades of health disparities and environmental injustice by dedicating at least 40% of all funding to projects in frontline, vulnerable, and disadvantaged communities; and
- create up to one million good new jobs with strong labor protections.
In its evaluation of the economic and environmental impacts of the bill, which it called "a vital component of tackling the climate crisis," Data for Progress estimated that electrifying the nation's public transportation systems, installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure nationwide, and expanding associated renewable energy generation capacity would save lives and money.
The proposed legislation is endorsed by a slew of progressive advocacy groups, including Data for Progress as well as Sunrise Movement, League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, 350.org, Greenpeace, Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth, Center for Progressive Reform, GreenLatinos, Rewiring America, New Consensus, Zero Hour, and WE ACT for Environmental Justice.
Given that "transportation represents about 29% of U.S. emissions," said Natalie Mebane, U.S. policy director at 350.org, "we can make huge progress in lowering our greenhouse gas emissions by electrifying the transportation sector and ensuring that it is powered by 100% clean energy."
A recent assessment of President Joe Biden's climate plans found his transportation policies to be inadequate if the U.S. is to reach his administration's goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
Mebane added that "this bill will create close to one million jobs at a time when we need a just economic recovery immediately" in the wake of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic and corresponding economic crisis.
Robert R.M. Verchick, president of the board of directors of the Center for Progressive Reform and professor of environmental law at Loyola University, New Orleans, said that "the transportation networks we build today shape the possibilities for tomorrow."
"If we want our children and grandchildren to thrive in their schools and in their jobs, they will need ways to get there," said Verchick. "If we want neighborhoods free of smog and industrial racket, we will need clean and efficient ways of moving around. Few investments we make today will have as profound an impact on the opportunities available to future generations as our infrastructure choices."
The BUILD GREEN Act was unveiled just two weeks after Sunrise Movement launched its "Good Jobs for All" campaign to put the country on a path toward a Green New Deal; that happened not long after Pressley introduced the Federal Job Guarantee Resolution, which seeks to make "meaningful, dignified work" at a livable wage an enforceable legal right.
Earlier this week, hundreds of local officials across the nation called on the Biden administration and Congress to deliver a bold infrastructure plan that improves the health of communities across the country.
Sanders, for his part, said Thursday that if Republicans try to obstruct progress on green jobs and infrastructure, Democrats "must use our majority to get it done."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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While rooftop solar systems have become increasingly popular among U.S. homeowners, commercial solar panel installations can be even more effective at generating low-cost renewable energy. Solar energy has a great deal to offer businesses due to the scale at which they can invest, the simplicity of most installations and the high energy costs associated with running a growing organization.
Most business' buildings have wide, flat roofs that can fit a large number of solar panels. Commercial solar panel installations are eligible for two of the largest solar incentives: the federal solar tax credit and net metering programs. Plus, the more solar panels you install, the lower your cost per watt will be. Altogether, this means commercial solar owners get a great bang for their buck.
What Does a Commercial Solar Panel Installation Look Like?
Commercial solar energy systems vary much more in size and scope than their residential counterparts. Most commercial solar arrays are significantly larger, and they aren't always confined to roofs. Some organizations opt for solar carports, while others install ground-mounted solar panels. Larger commercial operations may even feature a "power tower," an array of mirrors that focus the sun's rays onto the photovoltaic panels below them.
Commercial systems are usually installed on a flat surface and must be built on racks tilted toward the sun at the best angle for the solar panels to capture the most energy during the day. Some systems even include features that synchronize the panels' angles (or azimuth) with the changing height of the sun.
Keeping the cost per panel as low as possible is key to securing the quickest return on investment (ROI) for larger commercial installations. For this reason, we recommend selecting the most efficient solar panels available. The less space, products and planning needed, the lower the aggregate costs of the installation will be. More efficient solar panels also tend to last longer, ensuring a reliable investment.
Solar offers commercial property owners a growing number of solutions to offset a large chunk, or even all, of a business's electricity bills. A commercial solar system is a sizable investment, but solar incentives, tax breaks and new technologies make it a very attractive one. The ideal way to get a good understanding of the best solar installation for your business is to consult with a local installer near you and get a quote, which you can do for free below.
Commercial Solar Costs
Given the size of commercial solar projects, customers can usually expect a larger figure than the cost of most residential systems. No two businesses are the same, and though some small organizations may find great value in a commercial system costing around $50,000, large industrial facilities or solar farms can cost over $1 million to install. The good news is that as the scale of the system increases, so does the speed at which you can recoup your investment.
Several tax credits, rebates and incentives still exist for commercial solar panel systems as they do for residential systems.
|Incentive||Benefit for Commercial Solar Panel Installations|
Federal solar tax credit
The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) allows a deduction of 26% of the cost of the system for any commercial solar installation.
Bonus depreciation through MACRS
The Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) allows a tax deduction for the depreciation of qualifying solar equipment. This solar tax incentive for commercial installations allows companies to recover their investments over an accelerated amount of time. For solar, this is five years. Bonus depreciation was introduced into MACRS after 2008 and allows you to allocate 100% of the depreciable value in just one year.
In other words, MACRS allows businesses to effectively accelerate their ROI through tax deductions.
Commercial properties generating energy via solar panels are eligible for net energy metering (NEM). In the same way that a residential customer would feed excess solar energy back to the grid, commercial installations can exchange their surplus energy for credits from their utility company. These credits can be used to pull energy from the grid overnight or during rainy weather at no cost.
Statewide and local incentives
We encourage our readers to research statewide incentives or local incentives that may be available in their area. Depending on the area, a commercial solar installation could be eligible for solar rebates, renewable energy credits or zero-interest solar loans.
Benefits of Commercial Solar Installations
Commercial solar installations provide all the same benefits that residential solar installations do, only at a much larger scale. As most commercial solar installations can be well over 50 kW (the average residential is between 5 to 10 kW), some commercial solar installations can have over 10 times the environmental and economic impact of your average residential installation.
Environmental Benefits of Commercial Solar Panels
Commercial solar installations have the potential to offset hundreds, if not thousands, of the metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted by conventional energy generation. For example, a 50-kW commercial system will produce an estimated 65,000 kWh of clean energy per year. This would lower a business's carbon footprint by 1,000 metric tons over the course of a commercial solar power system's lifetime (the equivalent of not burning just over 1 million pounds of coal).
As a growing number of consumers are choosing to support businesses with responsible environmental practices, solar presents businesses with a golden opportunity to reflect their commitment to sustainability while still turning a profit.
Financial Benefits of Commercial Solar Panels
Energy costs are routinely one of the highest costs to businesses. Energy Star reports that the nation's small businesses spend over $60 billion on energy per year, and utility rates are only projected to increase over time.
Utility rates also fluctuate with frequent supply disruptions, so investing in solar allows businesses to offset their energy costs in a predictable, fixed manner. The average lifetime of a solar panel is around 25 years, so with the right warranty, a business can reliably budget its energy costs decades in advance. By offsetting the majority (or sometimes all) of their energy costs, businesses can reinvest huge sums of money back into their organizations, raising their bottom line.
FAQ: Commercial Solar Panel Installations
Are commercial solar panel installations worth it?
Installing solar panels is one of the best financial investments a business can make. Assuming they have the proper space and climate for solar panels, businesses can offset huge chunks of their energy costs while fostering an ethical image. With a good number of soon-to-expire commercial incentives on the market today, there has never been a better time for businesses to invest in solar.
How long does it take to install commercial solar panels?
Commercial solar installations are typically much larger than residential installations, so they can have a more intensive install process. Depending on the size of the system, commercial solar panel installations can take anywhere from weeks to months to complete. The best way to learn how long an installation would take for your business is to connect with a local solar installer near you.
How many solar panels do I need for a commercial installation?
The number of solar panels necessary for an installation will depend mainly on the goals of the installation and how much space is available for panels. Though some commercial solar operations like solar farms exist to generate and sell energy for profit, most businesses only aim to offset their own energy costs. That means they won't need to buy as many panels as they can fit, but only the amount necessary to meet their energy needs. The best method to determine exactly how many panels you'd need to meet your energy needs is to contact a local solar installer for a free proposal.
Can solar panels be used for commercial and industrial purposes?
Absolutely. Commercial and industrial solar installations can sometimes offer even more value than residential solar panels. Due to the scale of most commercial installations, price-per-watt is cheaper, giving customers much more bang for their buck. Commercial installations still maintain eligibility for the solar tax credit, net metering and certain tax deductions, making it a savvy investment for business owners.
By Andrea Germanos
President Joe Biden is being called on to back newly reintroduced legislation that seeks to remedy the nation's drinking water injustices with boosts to infrastructure and the creation of a water trust fund.
"From the plague of water shutoffs due to unaffordable bills during a pandemic, to the recent heartbreaking scenes across the South of frozen pipes leaving millions without water, it has become desperately clear that our country is in a water crisis," said Food & Water Action executive director Wenonah Hauter in a statement Thursday.
"Grave crises require robust solutions, and this is just what the WATER Act provides," said Hauter.
The WATER Act — the acronym for the Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity, and Reliability Act of 2021 — was reintroduced Thursday by Democratic Reps. Brenda L. Lawrence (Mich.) and Ro Khanna (Calif.). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced the companion legislation in the Senate.
Supporting the measure is a diverse collection of over 500 organizations including Corporate Accountability, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Food & Water Watch, and the NAACP. Seventy-four lawmakers in the House and Senate are co-sponsors.
It’s no coincidence the communities with the highest rates of coronavirus infections are the same ones with dirty w… https://t.co/LFSqgPaSN8— Rep. Ro Khanna (@Rep. Ro Khanna)1614274075.0
Echoing Hauter, Lawrence said in a statement that we "have a water crisis in the United States that affects every corner of our country." And waiting to act on the issue, she added, is simply not an option.
"Access to clean and safe drinking water is a basic human right," said Lawrence.
According to a summary from the Michigan Democrat's office, the WATER Act:
- Provides $34.85 billion a year to drinking water and wastewater improvements;
- Creates a water trust fund;
- Creates up to nearly one million jobs across the economy and protect American workers;
- Prioritizes disadvantaged communities with grants and additional support;
- Expands funding for technical assistance to small, rural, and Indigenous communities;
- Funds projects to address water contamination from PFAS;
- Requires U.S. EPA to study water affordability, shutoffs, discrimination, and civil rights violations by water providers;
- Upgrades household wells and septic systems;
- Helps homeowners replace lead service lines; and
- Provides more than $1 billion a year to update water infrastructure in public schools.
Assets for the trust fund would be created by "rolling back a small portion of the Trump administration's corporate tax cuts by increasing the corporate income tax rate by 3.5 percentage points."
Affordability has long been a drinking water-related concern in communities across the U.S. — as have other issues including the presence of a class of chemicals known as PFAS and privatization woes. The Flint, Michigan water crisis also punctuated concerns about the management of water systems and drinking water safety.
Events over the past year have only underscored the need for public investment in the nation's water systems, WATER Act supporters say.
"The crisis in Texas illuminated how vital access to running water is for human survival. And the Covid-19 pandemic has put on display the unjust reality of America's water affordability, reliability, and equity crisis," said Brittany Alston, deputy research director of Action Center on Race & the Economy (ARCE).
Alston said that the WATER Act represented "a real solution" to those problems. She added, "The only way to combat America's water crisis is with this type of bold, reparative change that both challenges corporate power and addresses water affordability, accessibility, and quality across the entire country, especially in low-income and BIPOC communities."
In a June op-ed at The Guardian, Sanders and Lawrence — who also teamed up last year to introduce the WATER Act — detailed the nation's water crisis, writing, in part:
Unbelievably, when it comes to water infrastructure, America's challenges resemble those of a developing country. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives our drinking water infrastructure a "D" grade and our wastewater infrastructure a "D+." The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that raw sewage overflows at least 23,000 times each year. Up to 1.7 million Americans lack access to basic plumbing facilities such as a toilet, tub, shower, or basic running water. Almost 200,000 households have absolutely no wastewater system. Up to 10 [million] homes across America get water through lead pipes. Six years since the start of its water crisis, Flint still does not have clean water. Meanwhile, in Denmark, South Carolina, families are forced to travel 20 miles each month in order to collect clean drinking water.
Not only do Americans have to deal with poor-quality and often toxic drinking water, we have the "privilege" of paying an arm and a leg for it. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, nearly 14 [million] households were unable to afford their water bills, whose prices increased more than 40% since 2010. At this rate, more than a third of American households may not be able to afford their water bills five years from now. Furthermore, due to the economic meltdown caused by the coronavirus, millions of Americans who don't know where their next paycheck will come from are now at risk of losing their water service. As public health officials warn that this deadly disease will be with us for quite some time, how are families supposed to wash their hands regularly when their utility company is shutting off their water?
According to Food & Water Watch's Hauter, the need for swift action is clear.
"The time for Congress and the Biden administration to make this critical legislation a priority has very clearly come," she said. "Our country can't wait any longer for a functional, safe, and affordable water system for every community."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Emails Reveal: U.S. Officials Sided With Agrochemical Giant Bayer to Overturn Mexico's Glyphosate Ban
By Kenny Stancil
While Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has given farmers in the country a 2024 deadline to stop using glyphosate, The Guardian reported Tuesday that agrochemical company Bayer, industry lobbyist CropLife America, and U.S. officials have been pressuring Mexico's government to drop its proposed ban on the carcinogenic pesticide.
The corporate and U.S.-backed attempt to coerce Mexico into maintaining its glyphosate imports past 2024 has unfolded, as journalist Carey Gillam detailed in the newspaper, "over the last 18 months, a period in which Bayer was negotiating an $11 billion settlement of legal claims brought by people in the U.S. who say they developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma due to exposure" to glyphosate-based products, such as Roundup.
Roundup, one of the world's mostly widely-used herbicides, was created by Monsanto which was acquired by Bayer in 2018.
According to The Guardian, which obtained internal documents via a Freedom of Information Act request by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), "The pressure on Mexico is similar to actions Bayer and chemical industry lobbyists took to kill a glyphosate ban planned by Thailand in 2019. Thailand officials had also cited concerns for public health in seeking to ban the weed killer, but reversed course after U.S. threats about trade disruption."
In addition to instructing Mexico's farmers to stop using glyphosate by 2024, the López Obrador administration on Dec. 31, 2020 issued a "final decree" calling for "a phase-out of the planting and consumption of genetically engineered corn, which farmers often spray with glyphosate, a practice that often leaves residues of the pesticide in finished food products," the news outlet noted.
The Mexican government has characterized the restrictions as an effort to improve the nation's "food security and sovereignty" and to protect its wealth of biological as well as cultural diversity and farming communities.
Mexico's promotion of human and environmental health, however, "has triggered fear in the United States for the health of agricultural exports, especially Bayer's glyphosate products," Gillam wrote.
But Mexico’s concern for the health of its citizens has triggered fear in the United States for the health of agric… https://t.co/d81tuhqYcl— carey gillam (@carey gillam)1613482743.0
Based on its analysis of government emails from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and other U.S. agencies from 2019 and 2020, The Guardian explained how the U.S., frustrated by the positions that Mexico has taken, is trying to use the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — the Trump-led free trade deal that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) dubbed NAFTA 2.0 — to force Mexico to abandon its plans to ban glyphosate and phase out GMO corn.
According to The Guardian, Mexico each year imports roughly $3 billion in corn from the U.S., where 90% of corn production relies on GMO seeds.
As the newspaper reported:
One email makes a reference to staff within López Obrador's administration as "vocal anti-biotechnology activists," and another email states that Mexico's health agency (COFEPRIS) is "becoming a big time problem."
Internal USTR communications lay out how the agrochemical industry is "pushing" for the US to "fold this issue" into the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal that went into effect 1 July. The records then show the USTR does exactly that, telling Mexico its actions on glyphosate and genetically engineered crops raise concerns "regarding compliance" with USMCA.
Citing discussions with CropLife, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined in the effort, discussing in an inter-agency email "how we could use USMCA to work through these issues."
Nathan Donley, a biologist at CBD, told The Guardian that "we're seeing more and more how the pesticide industry uses the U.S. government to aggressively push its agenda on the international stage and quash any attempt by people in other countries to take control of their food supply."
Corporate executives in the agrochemical industry reportedly became alarmed about the López Obrador administration's position on pesticides in late 2019 when Mexican officials explained their decision to refuse imports of glyphosate from China by referring to the "precautionary principle."
Detailing a series of emails between U.S. government officials and industry executives, Gillam described how the latter told the former "that they feared restricting glyphosate would lead to limits on other pesticides and could set a precedent for other countries to do the same."
The emails also indicated worries that "Mexico may also reduce the levels of pesticide residues allowed in food," a development that industry executives warned would undermine U.S. exports of corn and soybeans to Mexico.
As Gillam wrote, CropLife president Chris Novak told U.S. officials that "'if Mexico extends the precautionary principle' to pesticide residue levels in food, '$20 billion in U.S. annual agricultural exports to Mexico will be jeopardized.'"
According to The Guardian, "It is unclear if the efforts to push Mexico to change its policy position are still underway within the new Biden administration."
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a progressive think tank working to build fair and sustainable food, farm, and trade systems, tweeted Tuesday that the USTR has a choice.
"Will they continue the pattern of doing the bidding of global biotech/seed firms like Monsanto?" asked IATP. "Or, will the USTR respect other countries' rights to protect the environment and indigenous crops? Will they recalibrate U.S. trade policy to be more transparent?"
IATP, for its part, has recommended that Katherine Tai, President Joe Biden's pick to lead the USTR office, "break with the corporate free trade model" supported by previous administrations from both major parties.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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His announcement, made Wednesday morning during a conference call with his entire staff, means the more moderate former Vice President Joe Biden will face off against President Donald Trump in November, POLITICO reported. In a speech livestreamed to supporters, Sanders said his campaign had won the "ideological battle" on issues ranging from universal health care to climate action, but that he could see no clear way to secure the nomination.
"Together we have transformed American consciousness as to what kind of nation we can become, and have taken this country a major step forward in the never-ending struggle for economic justice, social justice, racial justice and environmental justice," he told his supporters, according to a transcript provided by The New York Times.
Today I am suspending my campaign. But while the campaign ends, the struggle for justice continues on. https://t.co/MYc7kt2b16— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders)1586360720.0
When Sanders first entered the race in February of 2019, he promised to release his own version of the Green New Deal, an ambitious plan to transition the U.S. from fossil fuels to renewable energy while providing jobs and addressing inequality.
At $16.3 trillion spent over 15 years, Sanders' climate deal is by far the priciest of all the Democratic candidates left in the primary race. It's also arguably the most progressive — pushing for the US to have a carbon-free economy by 2050. The senator from Vermont also set a 2030 benchmark goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy in the country's two most carbon-intensive industries, transportation and the power sector, by investing in solar, wind, and geothermal power. Sanders' plan would also declare climate change a national emergency, bring the US back on board with the Paris climate agreement, and commit $200 billion in funding to help developing nations cut their emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.
But after early primary victories in New Hampshire and Nevada, Sanders began to falter beside the more moderate Biden, who won in South Carolina, and then in 10 out of 14 Super Tuesday states after other more moderate contenders threw their support behind him, POLITICO explained. Biden continued to do well throughout March, and now has 1,127 delegates compared to Sanders' 914, according to the most recent delegate count from The New York Times.
Biden's climate policies are more moderate than Sanders' as of now. His plan has a much lower price tag of $1.7 trillion dollars and a score of 72 out of 100 from Greenpeace. The organization applauded his commitment to achieving climate neutrality by 2050, investing in clean energy and restoring international climate leadership, but faulted him for not promising to ban all oil and gas drilling on public lands and to end all federal permits for fossil fuel infrastructure.
There is a chance Biden will ultimately run on a more ambitious plan, however. Sanders said he would keep his name on the ballot in the remaining primaries to boost his delegate count in order to have more influence over the party platform.
The Biden campaign is also working to bring in Sanders' supporters by incorporating some of his policies, The New York Times reported. In a virtual fundraiser Wednesday, Biden hinted he would add some more progressive ideas to his climate plan, and POLITICO reports he is in talks with the Sunrise Movement.
The Sunrise Movement is also one of a coalition of youth-led groups that sent a letter to Biden urging him to endorse certain policies including a Green New Deal.
"If Joe Biden is going to be the nominee on the Democratic side, we are going to champion Joe Biden and put all muscle behind" his election, Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash told The New York Times. But then she addressed Biden directly, suggesting he also had work to do. "You haven't earned our vote yet," she said.
By Anne-Sophie Brändlin
Facebook has started tackling dangerous climate change myths and anti-environment propaganda that circulates among the platform's almost 3 billion monthly users.
In a new trial that was launched in the UK in late February, posts about climate change will now automatically be labelled with an information banner that directs people to accurate climate science data at the company's Climate Science Information Center.
"We do recognize that we have a bigger role to play when it comes to informing people accurately about climate change," Alexandru Voica from Facebook's tech communication team told DW.
"This will make users more aware of what information they share," he said.
Debunking Climate Myths
The Climate Science Information Center, which uses research that has been vetted by leading scientific organizations, also has a climate-myth-busting unit that actively debunks false information circulating online.
It explains, for instance, that the decline of polar bear populations is actually caused by rising temperatures, that global warming is not just part of a natural cycle of temperature fluctuation and that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere harms Earth's plant life.
Misinformation about climate change is not new, but experts believe it has been greatly amplified in the new digital world, where the topic is increasingly polarizing.
"Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are the most relevant infrastructure for information these days," Markus Beckedahl, editor in chief of Netzpolitik, a German platform advocating the digital right to freedom, told DW.
"These companies have a monopoly and dominate the market when it comes to how people get informed, communicate and debate society. That's why they carry a huge responsibility."
Fighting Climate Change Starts With Fighting Misinformation Around It
Research has shown that the best way to counteract the politicization of science is to convey the high-level consensus among experts about the reality of human‐caused climate change.
That's why Facebook's UK-based trial is putting short, corrective messages into posts containing climate-change misinformation. These messages include information like the fact that 97% of the world's scientific community agree that global warming is real and caused by humans.
Behavior and communication experts from George Mason University, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the University of Cambridge helped advise Facebook on how best to debunk such climate myths in a way that is tailored to the psychology of misinformation. Dr. Sander van der Linden is one of the experts behind the UK trial.
"One common error that we often see media outlets make, for instance, is to prominently repeat the myth in an attempt to debunk it. But that tends to strengthen people's mental associations with the myths and people kind of forget about the correction," van der Linden, who is a professor of social psychology at the University of Cambridge, told DW.
So instead of repeating the myths, they start by stating the facts.
The next step "is not to argue with people over the specifics, but to actually show what's misleading about the presentation of a particular argument and what the underlying technique is."
Social Media Business Model a 'Catalyst for Misinformation'
The Climate Science Information Center was launched in the US, Germany, the UK, and France last year and was just expanded to Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Nigeria, South Africa, Spain, India, Indonesia and Taiwan. If the UK trial goes well, these countries could see climate information banners and corrective message next, says Voica.
"We'll need to see the results from the UK tests first before we either expand the test or we make it into a real feature."
But for Markus Beckedahl, the climate misinformation trial comes years too late. He believes social media giants haven't done enough in the past years to combat misinformation. On the contrary, he says, they have actually promoted it through their own business model of collecting data and selling ads to keep people on the site.
"And the easiest way to do that is by showing content that creates emotions and anger. That's why disinformation and conspiracy theories have been shared and promoted massively on these sites in past years," he said.
Opinion Loophole Makes Fact-Checking Even Harder
Facebook has been coming under increasing pressure in recent years for failing to weed out false information, including myths about the climate crisis.
"The future of our planet is at stake, and there should be no company too big, too powerful, and too opaque to be held accountable for its role in the climate crisis. Facebook is no exception," U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and her colleagues wrote in a statement last year.
One way the company tried to combat this problem is by outsourcing fact-checking to more than 80 independent organizations, including journalists who review and rate public Facebook and Instagram posts.
"Fact-checking posts is often very complex. There are some parts that are true, others that are not. So there is a need for explanation; this is why we need the expertise of journalists to do this work," Basak Tezcan, who leads Facebook's sustainability team in Germany, told DW.
Content that has been rated false or altered will be labelled and will be limited in its distribution. It won't be deleted, though, unless it contributes to "the risk of imminent violence or physical harm," according to Facebook's Community Guidelines.
Here's the catch, though: "The fact-checking program is not meant to interfere with individual expression or debate," which means that opinion and speech from politicians, for example, isn't necessarily subjected to a fact check.
This has led to a backlash from climate activists, saying the policy is a huge loophole for climate change deniers.
Pre-Bunking Instead of Debunking
Considering the risk to society of climate misinformation, Van der Linden believes Facebook's climate misinformation trial is at least a small step in the right direction.
In the future, van der Linden hopes Facebook will work not just on debunking, but also "pre-bunking." In his previous research he has found that facts about scientific consensus can also be used to "pre-bunk" – pre-emptively debunk – the public against climate misinformation.
"Once people are exposed to a falsehood already, it's so much more difficult to undo the damage. So the better thing is a pre-bunk."
Another question is whether, as Beckedahl sees it, tech giants will agree to give independent scientists and government agencies access to their internal data so they can better understand how misinformation and climate myths spread exactly and what impact this has on society and our planet.
"Right now, it's a big black box, and the only ones who know what's really going on are the tech giants themselves — and they won't share their information. And that's a huge and dangerous asymmetry of power."
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
By Brett Wilkins
The United States will most likely experience a "post-seasonal" spike in coronavirus infections largely due to holiday travel and gatherings, current and former U.S. health officials said on Sunday.
"We very well might see a post-seasonal — in the sense of Christmas, New Year's — surge ... a surge upon a surge," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an incoming chief medical adviser to President-elect Joe Biden, on CNN's State of the Union.
"We're really at a very critical point," he warned.
"I share the concern of President-elect Biden that, as we get into the next few weeks, it might actually get worse," Fauci added, referring to Biden's prediction earlier this week that "our darkest days in the battle against COVID-19 are ahead of us, not behind us."
Dr. Anthony Fauci says he believes the worst is still yet to come in the coronavirus pandemic following the holiday… https://t.co/gPU86rjiQO— State of the Union (@State of the Union)1609079415.0
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams also said that a post-holiday infection surge was likely.
"But what the important thing for people to understand is that even if you traveled, it doesn't mean you just throw your hands up in the air and say, oh well," he said on ABC's This Week.
"There are measures that you can take," said Adams, including getting tested, self-quarantining, and avoiding vulnerable people such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.
Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, appearing on CBS' Face the Nation," predicted "a grim month."
"We have a very difficult month ahead of us," he said, identifying California, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey as places "where cases are still building."
When asked how long it will be until the nation sees results from the two vaccines which have been administered to some 1.9 million Americans and counting, Gottlieb said that while vaccinations are "going to take about three weeks to get through all the nursing homes," there will be "some indication" that mass inoculation is "probably having an effect maybe as early as this week."
More than 4.4 million Covid vaccines have been provided across the world (that we know of). That includes, in dos… https://t.co/sPNxiSCORk— Kristine Servando (@Kristine Servando)1609130059.0
Fauci told CNN that in order to achieve "herd immunity" — the effective neutralization of the virus following the infection or vaccination of enough people — 70% to 85% of the public would likely need to be inoculated.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 179,104 new coronavirus infections and 1,309 new daily deaths on Sunday, for a total of 18.9 million U.S. infections and 330,901 COVID-19 deaths during the nine-month pandemic.
The health experts' warnings came the morning after Trump refused to sign a $900 billion pandemic relief bill, allowing unemployment coverage for millions of Americans to expire and threatening millions more with eviction as a federal moratorium was set to expire at the end of the year.
Trump acquiesced to bipartisan pressure and later on Sunday signed a $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief and spending bill that will provide vaccine distribution, unemployment, small business, and airline company assistance, and fund the U.S. government through September 2021.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Jessica Corbett
Octogenarian actor and activist Jane Fonda declared ahead of a climate action protest in California Friday that the U.S. needs a "climate president" and she is now backing Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is leading a grassroots movement challenging the Democratic Party establishment coalescing around former Vice President Joe Biden.
"We have to get a climate president in office, and there's only one right now, and that's Bernie Sanders," Fonda told USA TODAY prior to the Los Angeles rally. "So, I'm indirectly saying I believe you have to support the climate candidate."
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) is technically still in the Democratic presidential primary race, but Super Tuesday effectively made it a two-person contest between Biden and Sanders (I-Vt.). USA Today noted that Fonda previously donated to Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who have since ended their campaigns.
Sanders' Green New Deal proposal to tackle the global climate crisis and ensure a just transition to renewable energy has been hailed by climate advocates as a "game-changer." The plan, unveiled in August 2019, calls for "100% renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030 and complete decarbonization by at least 2050."
Fonda's comments about supporting Sanders came ahead of the second Fire Drill Friday event in California. In October 2019, Fonda launched Fire Drill Fridays as a weekly civil disobedience campaign in Washington, DC that aimed to pressure U.S. policymakers to ambitiously address the human-caused climate crisis.
After a few months and five arrests, Fonda returned to California to resume filming her Netflix show Grace and Frankie. She also partnered with Greenpeace USA to bring Fire Drill Fridays to the West Coast. The first monthly rally was held on Feb. 7 at City Hall in Los Angeles. The second event was Friday, in the Los Angeles Harbor area, and focused on environmental racism.
Oil sites in communities like Wilmington are not a coincidence. There's a reason we don't see them in wealthier, pr… https://t.co/mTosOnzBvi— Greenpeace USA (@Greenpeace USA)1583540179.0
With the Fire Drill Friday demonstrations, "we're protesting an existential threat that could determine the future of human life on the planet, basically," Fonda explained to USA Today.
Fonda's attorneys struck a deal with a DC judge that the 82-year-old won't face penalties or court dates for her arrests as long as she isn't arrested in Los Angeles for three months. Although she won't be risking arrest for a while, Fonda continues to demand climate action — specifically, cutting emissions by 50 percent over the next decade and phasing out fossil fuels by 2050.
"This is going to be very, very, very hard, and it requires millions and millions of people to do more than just be concerned, but to actually become activists and become willing to put their bodies on the line," Fonda said. "That's why we're doing Fire Drill Fridays."
Fonda was joined Friday by her Grace and Frankie co-stars Lily Tomlin and Sam Waterston as well as other celebrities and national and community organizers. After rallying at offices of Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino, a group of actors and activists visited fossil fuel impact zones in the area before blockading the entrance of a Warren E&P oil extraction site. There were no arrests.
"While we're in the midst of a massive communicable health crisis across the globe, a much quieter health crisis is worsening in communities like Wilmington, California where hundreds of residents, activists, and celebrities joined me today," Fonda said in a statement Friday. "We heard powerful stories from community members who have become seriously ill simply by living in their own homes where drilling is occurring in their backyards, without their permission."
"We will be watching California leadership, specifically Councilmember Joe Busciano, who has allowed his district to become a sacrifice zone for the fossil fuel industry, and demanding they do better," Fonda promised. "We will not quiet down until our leadership decides to protect the people and our climate."
An amazing display of action and solidarity today at #FireDrillFriday — and we're not stopping! Thank you to all th… https://t.co/Jz1jQLkewm— Greenpeace USA (@Greenpeace USA)1583541303.0
Fonda's vow to hold California leadership accountable was echoed by other climate activists. Annie Leonard of Greenpeace USA called Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to "do something for the health and and safety of communities like Wilmington, and begin a just transition away from fossil fuels for the industry's workers."
Newsom, Leonard said, "must stop issuing new permits for oil and gas projects, drop existing fossil fuel production, and roll out setback limits by creating a 2,500-foot public health and safety buffer zone between fossil fuel infrastructure like the Warren E&P sites and homes, schools, and other sensitive sites in neighborhoods like Wilmington."
As Wilmington community organizer Alicia Riveria explained:
Oil operations happen right next to our homes and schools and parks in Wilmington. People are suffering while politicians are sitting on their hands. Just last week a fire broke out at one of the refineries in our community and we had to advise residents to stay indoors and close their windows to try to mitigate toxic fumes from coming into their homes. There is environmental racism at play for frontline communities across California, and it's unacceptable.
Dr. Saba Malik of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles and the STAND-LA Coalition said, "It's public health common sense — based on a mountain of scientific evidence — that oil production does not belong anywhere near homes, schools, or other sensitive land uses."
"So why do they remain in communities like Wilmington and South Los Angeles?" Malik added. "Because these communities are comprised overwhelmingly of people of color, lower income people with less access to adequate healthcare, resulting in an even greater risk of chronic disease and increased vulnerability to the effects of these environmental insults."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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With their podiums placed six feet apart as a precaution against the coronavirus, the two leading Democratic presidential primary candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden faced off on public health and the climate crisis at the 11th Democratic debate.
Sunday's debate came two days after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to combat the new disease known as COVID-19, which has so far sickened nearly 165,000 people in 146 countries and led to 6,470 deaths. To help stop the spread of the virus, debate organizers CNN, Univision, the Democratic National Committee and the campaigns moved the venue from Phoenix, Arizona to CNN's studio in Washington, DC and broadcast the debate without an audience, as moderator Ilia Calderón of Univision explained in a debate transcript provided by Rev.
But the unusual set-up led to one of the most in-depth climate discussions to date, as Grist's Shannon Osaka pointed out.
"It only took 10 debates, a worldwide pandemic, and the winnowing of the Democratic field down to two men in their late 70s — but on Sunday night, for about 12 minutes, the American public finally got to hear a substantive debate about climate change," Osaka wrote.
But first the candidates were asked how they would respond to the new disease. Biden called for more testing and hospital beds to be made ready, and also spoke of the need to assist people impacted by the economic cost of the pandemic, such as providing interest-free loans to small businesses.
Sanders emphasized the need to ensure that no one would have to pay for treatment if they fell ill, called for more ventilators in hospitals and also spoke of the need for economic relief.
Sanders also criticized Trump for his misleading statements about the coronavirus, such as stating that Americans with the illness would be well enough to go to work.
"Well, first thing we have got to do, whether or not I'm president, is to shut this president up right now, because he is undermining the doctors and the scientists who are trying to help the American people," he said.
The first climate question came nearly 14 minutes into the second half of the debate. CNN's Jake Tapper asked the candidates how their climate plans would address the fact that the climate crisis is also a "health crisis" that could lead to the spread of infectious diseases, as the World Health Organization has warned.
However, neither candidate directly answered the question. Instead, both spoke in more general terms about the seriousness of the climate crisis and the need to act immediately, though Biden did mention that the crisis already had health costs.
"[T]here's an awful lot of people today who are in fact getting ill because of the changes in the environment," he said.
The debate then shifted to whose plan would tackle the crisis most effectively,
Tapper noticed the price-tag gap between Sanders' $16.3 trillion plan and Biden's $1.7 trillion plan.
"Is your plan ambitious enough to tackle this crisis?" Tapper asked.
Biden insisted it was, saying he would reinstate the environmental regulations rolled back under Trump, install 500,000 new electric vehicle charging stations, rejoin the Paris agreement and work with other world leaders to provide $20 billion to Brazil to help protect the Amazon rainforest.
Sanders countered that Biden's plan was "nowhere near enough." He likened climate change to the threat posed by the coronavirus.
"[W]e started this debate talking about a warlike situation in terms of the coronavirus and we said, 'We have to act accordingly.' You said it. I think you're right. I said it. We have to act dramatically, boldly, if we're going to save lives in this country and around the world," Sanders said. "I look at climate change in exactly the same way."
Sanders emphasized the need to end subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, stop all oil and gas drilling and push for international action that goes beyond the Paris agreement.
Biden defended himself based on his experience of tackling the climate crisis, pointing to the fact that he wrote the first climate change bill introduced to the Senate in 1986.
"I've been way ahead of this curve," he said. "This idea that all of a sudden Bernie found this out is amazing to me."Voters in Illinois, Florida, Arizona and Ohio will have a chance to decide which candidate's approach they prefer when they vote in their states' primaries Tuesday. So far, Biden is leading Sanders in the delegate count 880 to 706, according to NBC News. A candidate needs 1,991 of 3,979 total delegates to secure the nomination.
Kerry's appointment was announced alongside other key foreign policy and national security roles and signals that the Biden administration plans to make fighting the climate crisis an integral part of its foreign policy.
"This marks the first time that the NSC will include an official dedicated to climate change, reflecting the president-elect's commitment to addressing climate change as an urgent national security issue," the transition team said in a statement.
Today, I’m announcing the first members of my national security and foreign policy team. They will rally the world… https://t.co/bAisIQk5P6— Joe Biden (@Joe Biden)1606162380.0
Kerry has a long history of engaging in climate diplomacy, The Washington Post reported. He has represented the U.S. at every major climate conference for the past 30 years and, as Secretary of State under President Barack Obama, played a key role in negotiating the 2015 Paris agreement. More recently, he started the organization World War Zero to unite people from all political persuasions and walks of life around the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Kerry also co-chaired the Biden campaign's climate task force with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), which was designed to make policy suggestions and bridge the gap between party moderates and supporters of Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
"The work we began with the Paris Agreement is far from done," Kerry tweeted in response to his appointment. "I'm returning to government to get America back on track to address the biggest challenge of this generation and those that will follow. The climate crisis demands nothing less than all hands on deck."
Biden's choice of Kerry won wide approval from environmental groups.
"The big question has been, 'How serious is the new administration about climate change?'" senior Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) vice president Nathaniel Keohane told Grist. "This is a tremendously important signal. It says that the Biden administration is committed to making climate change front and center in terms of how we engage with the world."
While Kerry is seen as a moderate, according to The Guardian, his role on the campaign's climate task force has earned him the respect of the more progressive wing of the climate movement.
"He was quite the diplomat in terms of trying to make sure that all sides were represented and that we could reach compromises that we could all live with," Alabama environmental activist and panel member Catherine Coleman Flowers told The Washington Post. "He had a good understanding of the climate crisis."
Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash also spoke favorably of Kerry's role on the panel.
"I served with Sec. Kerry this summer on the Biden-Sanders taskforce and one thing is clear: he really does care about stopping climate change. That's something we can work with," she tweeted. "An encouraging move from the Biden team — now I'm keeping my eyes peeled for a domestic equivalent!"
Biden is expected to name a White House climate policy coordinator in December who will focus on domestic climate policy, The New York Times reported.
However, the effectiveness of both roles may depend on whether Republicans retain control of the Senate after the Georgia runoff elections in January. Kerry's position does not require Senate confirmation, but he may have a harder time convincing other countries to take more aggressive action if the U.S. does not seem to be pulling its weight. Diplomatically, he faces a challenge no matter what, given President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement Kerry helped negotiate. While Biden intends to rejoin the agreement immediately upon taking office, the U.S. departure still burned the international community.
"Kerry's challenge is 'fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me,'" Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, told The New York Times.
Correction: A previous version of the headline stated that John Kerry is the first-ever climate envoy. That is incorrect, as the Obama administration also had a climate envoy. Kerry is the first full-time climate official to sit on the National Security Council.
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By Julia Conley
With Democrats anxious about the probability that President-elect Joe Biden will be forced to grapple with a Republican-led Senate after taking office in January, a coalition of more than a dozen climate action groups are calling on Biden to take every possible step he can to help solve the planetary emergency without the approval of Congress.
Even in the face of a Senate controlled by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the Republican Party, Biden can and must still be a "Climate President," say the groups, which include the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and Friends of the Earth.
The organizations originally released the Climate President plan nearly a year ago during the Democratic primary, and are now calling on Biden to take "ten steps in [his] first ten days in office" to help "form the necessary foundation for the country's true transformation to a safer, healthier, and more equitable world for everyone."
"If the world is to have any reasonable chance of staying below 1.5°C and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, the next president of the United States must demonstrate national and global leadership and take immediate and decisive action to launch a rapid and just transition off of fossil fuels economy-wide," reads the website set up by the coalition, ClimatePresident.org. "Recognizing the steps that the next president can take without any additional action from Congress is critical because these are the 'no excuses' actions that can be taken immediately to set the nation on a course to zero emissions."
Proponents of the Climate President action plan on social media emphasized that Biden is capable of taking major "game-changing" steps to begin mitigating the planetary emergency."
"Let him know you expect no less," tweeted author and activist Naomi Klein.
Don't let anyone tell you that Biden's hands are tied on climate action without the Senate. Here is a list of game-… https://t.co/LyOyaXD6vl— Naomi Klein (@Naomi Klein)1604941732.0
What can a new #ClimatePresident Biden do without Congress to tackle the climate emergency? He can move progress… https://t.co/LOjvxRXqlp— Jean Su (@Jean Su)1604944626.0
The organizations list 10 action items which would help the Biden White House single-handedly put the U.S. on the path to meaningfully fighting the climate crisis:
- Declare a national climate emergency under the National Emergencies Act, which would "unlock specific statutory powers to help accomplish the necessary response." Biden would be able to direct federal agencies to reverse all of President Donald Trump's regulatory rollbacks.
- Keep fossil fuels in the ground, halting fossil fuel permits and lease sales, banning fracking on federal lands, and issuing stringent pollution rules for oil and gas companies.
- Stop fossil fuel exports and infrastructure approvals through executive orders.
- Shift financial flows from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources through an executive order that would promote new investments and phase out old ones.
- Using the Clean Air Act, set a science-based national pollution cap.
- Power the electricity sector with 100% clean and renewable energy by 2030. Pursuant to the National Emergencies Act, Biden could direct the secretary of defense to redirect a portion of military spending to carry out a rapid construction program of renewable energy projects to meet a significant portion of the nation's power needs. The president-elect could also provide loan guarantees to clean energy developers and utilities that use renewable energy.
- Issue an executive order creating an inter-agency just transition task force to implement a national program guaranteeing support for communities and workers affected by the halting of fossil fuel extraction.
- Direct federal agencies assess and mitigate environmental harms that disproportionately impact Indigenous, Black, brown, and low-income communities.
- Investigate and prosecute fossil fuel polluters and commit to vetoing all legislation that grants legal immunity to big polluters.
- Rejoin the Paris climate agreement and increase the United States' emissions reduction commitment to slash greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by at least 70% by 2030 and reduce them to near zero by 2040.
The president-elect has said he plans to immediately reenter the Paris agreement upon taking office. After the Democratic presidential primary, his campaign team worked closely with advisers from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's and Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I-Vt.) campaigns to hammer out a plan which called for the elimination of carbon emissions from the electricity sector by 2035 and pledged $2 trillion over four years to increase and incentivize the use of renewables to power cars, homes, and businesses. Biden's original climate plan during the primary had pledged $1.7 trillion and aimed to make the U.S. carbon neutral by 2050.
"The first steps that would put us clearly on a path to a regenerative and inclusive society can be launched immediately by the next president," said the Climate President coalition. "These ten actions form the necessary foundation for the country's true transformation to a safer, healthier, and more equitable world for everyone."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Julia Conley
Weeks after the Sunrise Movement launched a swing state mobilization campaign with a plan to reach more than 1.5 million voters before Election Day, climate campaigners are showing no sign of slowing down their Get Out the Vote efforts — sending the message to young Americans that voting President Donald Trump out of office is the crucial first step in a greater effort to "build our political power in Washington."
In a 12-minute ad released online Monday by the Sunrise Movement, former Bernie Sanders surrogate and climate activist Xiuhtexcatl Martinez begins by rejecting common tactics used for decades by political strategists and politicians to encourage young people to vote — from attempts to "make voting seem cool" through humor and celebrity endorsements, to efforts to shame them into going to the polls by accusing them of being "lazy and unengaged."
"While youth turnout has always been low, the stereotype that young people don't care about politics isn't true," says Martinez, one of 21 plaintiffs in Juliana vs. United States, in which teenagers and children sued the federal government for not protecting them from the climate crisis.
While young people are keenly aware of the issues facing their generation and are supportive of legislation to mitigate the planetary emergency, Martinez argues, their attempts to get involved in politics are often thwarted by a system rife with voter suppression and mass disenfranchisement.
"In the United States, the reality is that voting is not cool," Martinez says. "Cool would be a country that empowers its citizens to vote ... Cool would be a country where the candidate who gets the most votes wins the election. Cool would be a country where unpopular politicians couldn't dismantle basic voter protections just because they know they can't stay in office without disenfranchising young voters and people of color."
"Regardless, if enough young people vote, the odds dramatically shift," he adds.
Instead of imploring young voters to unquestioningly take part in a system in which those in power have frequently ignored their demands, Martinez and the Sunrise Movement frame the general election and the choice between President Donald Trump — who openly denies the existence of the climate crisis — and Democratic candidate Joe Biden as the "one-time choice that allows us to make more meaningful choices down the line."
"Young people have the power to crush Trump, and he knows it," the Sunrise Movement tweeted on Monday. "Once he's out, and we're still in the streets, our movement can set the tone for the next four years, just like movements past."
Young people have the power to crush Trump, and he knows it. That’s why he’s trying to steal the election, but we’r… https://t.co/hkOfXLCiJK— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅)1601917393.0
Martinez notes that Biden, who has angered climate action advocates in recent weeks by insisting that he has no intention of banning fracking and failing to fully embrace the call for a Green New Deal, has nevertheless shown signs of understanding that young voters and their priorities, including the climate, are not to be dismissed. In the ad, Sunrise Movement co-founder Varshini Prakash explains how the task force set up by supporters of Biden and Sanders successfully pushed the Democratic candidate to adopt a more ambitious plan for decarbonization.
The ad compares Biden to former President Lyndon Johnson, who signed the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act into law after decades of voting against civil rights in Congress.
"Relentless activist movement" was behind the legislation Johnson signed in the 1960s, Martinez says. Facing civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis, he adds, "The narrative shifted and Johnson was forced to meet the moment. So while we do not approve of Biden's record or even some aspects of his platform, we must elect him and work tirelessly towards hearing him sing the songs of our movement."
"We have reached our most defining moment in electoral politics," Martinez says. "Our ability to push forward the agendas of our generation will be determined not only by how we vote going into November but how we mobilize the morning after the election."
The ad was released as 350.org launched its own GOTV effort in states including Colorado, California, Minnesota, and Washington. Thousands of staffers and volunteers with the organization's local chapters are working to make 350,000 calls to voters before Election Day, as well as text banking and sending postcards.
"We're ramping up our get out the vote efforts because we know that to effectively address the climate crisis, we need solutions across sectors that prioritize those most impacted — Black, Indigenous, communities of color, workers and low income communities," said Dominique Thomas, New York and Mid-Atlantic organizer for 350.org. "Climate justice and action cannot exist in a silo — we need leaders who see the interconnectedness of lowering emissions and cutting pollution with housing rights, economic justice, racial justice, and healthcare. This November, we're rising up to make sure our demands are heard."
Members of 350 Colorado aim to reach 130,000 voters in their state, while in California, 350 Bay Area Action is working with five partner organizations to target voters in Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Alaska, Arizona, and Colorado. The group has so far conducted 37 virtual phone banks in which 800 volunteers made 50,000 calls.
"Our volunteers know that the stakes in this election could not be higher. Our country will go one way or another in November. It is essential that we secure leadership that will protect the environment and the climate. There is simply no more time," said Marti Roach, lead organizer for the 350 Bay Area Action "Go Green, Vote Blue" phone bank campaign.
In the Sunrise ad, Martinez urged voters to "join our movement and get to work right away to send Trump and the Republicans a simple message: Get out of the way. We've got work to do."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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