Author Archives: Lucía Oliva Hennelly

Defending Our Future: Fighting Climate Change in South Florida

Speakers at the Defend Our Future/Voto Latino event: (back row) Alexis Calatayud, FIU Student Body President; Eric Chappell, Climate Corp alum; Edwin Luevanos, Citizen Energy; Mustafa Santiago Ali, EPA; (front row) Enrique Acevedo, Univision; Karina Castillo, CLEO Institute/MCAF

Speakers at the Defend Our Future/Voto Latino event: (back row) Alexis Calatayud, FIU Student Body President; Eric Chappell, Climate Corp alum; Edwin Luevanos, Citizen Energy; Mustafa Santiago Ali, EPA; (front row) Enrique Acevedo, Univision; Karina Castillo, CLEO Institute/MCAF

On Tuesday night Defend Our Future, EDF’s initiative to empower young people to fight climate change, partnered with Voto Latino, an organization that empowers Latino Millennials to claim a better future for themselves and their community, to bring a Power Summit “Pop Up” to Florida International University (FIU). We brought together 100 area youth leaders to engage in an evening of conversation focused on how young Latinos can fight climate change in South Florida. In Miami, in particular, addressing climate change is a critical part of this equation, and seeing a room full of rising leaders ready to take action was inspiring.

To kick off the conversation, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Senior Advisor on Environmental Justice, Mustafa Santiago Ali, reminded the crowd:

We need to be laser-focused on climate change.

He shared his story about growing up near a power plant in West Virginia, and reminded us about the importance of protecting our communities from the interconnected threats of air pollution and climate change. This is especially true, Ali said, for Latinos and African-Americans because climate change can compound other serious threats to our health and well-being.

Our panelists shared this perspective, including our moderator — Univision’s Enrique Acevedo, anchor of Noticiero Univision and Emmy nominee. Enrique began the panel conversation with FIU Student Body President Alexis Calatayud who spoke about the sense of urgency she feels addressing climate change in South Florida:

To me, Miami is my place. And if I don’t take care of my place, who is going to?

For Calatayud, her ‘Aha!’ moment on climate came earlier this year, when Alexis joined Defend Our Future in Washington, D.C. for the White House Youth Climate Conference.

Our guests made clear that there are countless ways in which young people can make a difference on climate change — from taking a challenge with Defend Our Future (like reducing your carbon footprint by committing to a reusable water bottle), to supporting Florida access to solar power, to weaving environmental responsibility into our careers.

But most impressive was the work young Latinos at the event were already engaged in within their communities. Karina Castillo knew from an early age that she wanted to study meteorology, but she didn’t know her work would to lead her to the Climate Leadership Engagement Opportunities (CLEO) Institute and to activism with Moms Clean Air Force. Edwin Luevanos shared his trajectory from Mexico to founding Citizen Energy, a consultancy for community-driven energy efficiency. And former EDF Climate Corp alum Eric Chappell shared his path from becoming an environmentalist to learning about sustainability in business school and beyond.

At this event and elsewhere, young people have made it clear they’re already acting on climate and want to do more – a great sign that we’re on the right track. No matter where you are, you can join us by taking action now and staying engaged. Join Defend Our Future’s #IWillNotWait campaign, take the challenge, and join the thousands of young people across the country who are becoming leaders in their own communities. You can also register to vote with Voto Latino In 2016.

Miami can’t wait for us to take action on climate change and honestly, neither can we.

This post was co-authored by Maria Urbina, VP of Politics & Campaigns for Voto Latino

Posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Partners for Change, Science| Comments are closed

How the Clean Power Plan Can Benefit Latino Communities

rp_CPP-Latinos-Final-300x300.jpgEarlier this month, the United States announced a major step forward in addressing air quality concerns and climate change threats to Latinos.  I’m talking about the Clean Power Plan, which establishes the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from powerplants and places us on a path to heed Pope Francis’s call to protect our planet.

Unfortunately, critics began attacking the plan even before it was final.  Some of these attacks have targeted the Latino community in particular, arguing that the Clean Power Plan will disproportionately and negatively harm Latinos.  These are baseless claims and arguments that have been debunked by experts.

When the Clean Power Plan takes full effect, Latinos will be among the many Americans who will share in the benefits of a cleaner, healthier future that also affords us good jobs and energy savings.

Cleaner energy, less cost

Let’s start with the question on everyone’s mind: Will the Clean Power Plan make my electric bill more expensive?

According to analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Power Plan will reduce electric bills by about $7 per month by 2030.  (It will also provide up to $54 billion dollars in public health and climate benefits.)  Latinos are likely to feel these positive impacts directly because the benefits of clean energy, which replace polluting energy sources like coal, can reach us through health, environmental, and economic avenues – and sometimes all of these at once.

Take solar power, for example.  The price of solar has fallen 80 percent since 2008, and rooftop solar is now being deployed in middle class neighborhoods in places like Arizona and California where the median income ranges from $40,000 to $90,000.

Technologies like solar keep our air clean and our kids healthy.  This is key for the Latinos who work outdoors as roughly 1 in 4 workers in the construction and agriculture industries, and for the 14 percent of Latino children who have ever been diagnosed with asthma.

Solar power can also save us money on our bills.  This is especially true when they are coupled with incentives like net metering, which allows solar customers to receive a credit on their bill for sending excess energy they don’t use back to the grid.  Solar power is also becoming increasingly accessible to all Americans. Thanks to new financing models like solar leasing programs (if you do not want to pay a large up-front cost) and community solar programs (if your rooftop is not suitable for solar panels or you rent your home), you don’t have to be rich to get in on the clean energy revolution.

More jobs

The Clean Power Plan will also help Latinos by creating tens of thousands of good, new jobs in the clean energy sector by 2040.  This is part of a broader trend: In 2014, the solar industry added jobs nearly 20 times faster than the national average and is poised to add another 36,000 jobs in 2015.

According to a 2013 report by National Council of La Raza, many of the jobs in this sector are highly accessible to Latinos, and Latinos are already engaging in the growing clean energy economy in locations across the country.  In some places, like McAllen, Texas, Latinos are overrepresented in some of the top clean economy occupations; in others, like Albuquerque, New Mexico, Latinos could benefit from higher wages by transitioning to jobs in the clean economy.  Most “green jobs” pay higher median wages than traditional Latino occupations, and this wage advantage holds true even outside of these traditional jobs.

Prioritizing low-income communities

What about the most disadvantaged communities, those who are most in need of cost savings, cleaner energy, and protections from climate change?  The Clean Power Plan aims to prioritize the deployment of energy efficiency improvements in low-income communities through the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP).  By providing a mechanism to award states extra compliance credit for efficiency programs that provide energy savings to low-income communities, the CEIP is designed to help lower electricity bills and bring jobs to people in these communities.

A report by Environmental Defense Fund demonstrates that savings to families could be significantly greater with more widespread deployment of energy efficiency—securing a 15 percent improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 and generating annual average household savings of $157.  Measures like the CEIP, along with strong stakeholder engagement requirements and other measures, will help ensure the Clean Power Plan benefits all Latinos – and all Americans – in transitioning to a clean energy economy.

Setting the record straight

Claims that the Clean Power Plan will hurt Latinos, drive up energy bills, and disadvantage low-income communities are simply false.  Rather, these are the very claims that spread harmful misinformation to our communities and create the most serious barriers to accessing clean air, affordable energy, and good paying jobs.

At the same time, as with any ambitious challenge, our work is not done.  States must finalize and deliver implementation plans to meet their pollution-reduction goals.  This is where the rubber hits the road, and the states that get out of the gate quickly to achieve these goals will more swiftly capture the benefits.

We must be engaged in this process, urging states to accelerate the transition to cleaner energy for all communities. First, we must tell our decision makers in Washington to support the Clean Power Plan.  Then, Latino communities must demand a place at the table and advocate for states to act now – as should everyone who wants to ensure the benefits of America’s Clean Power Plan are shared by all.

This post originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Green Jobs, Policy| Comments are closed

Urgency and Opportunity for Latino Leadership on Climate

Las Vegas -- Wikimedia Commons

Las Vegas — Wikimedia Commons

When I landed in Las Vegas last week, the weather was a broiling 108 degrees. Ouch.

I braved the Las Vegas heat for one of the most inspiring convenings of Latino leaders in the country, the Annual Conference of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO). We had a chance to hear from established and rising Latino leaders, as well as from Presidential candidates, about the challenges facing Latino communities and the many paths forward for creating a brighter future.

What we did not hear about was a vision for places like Las Vegas, where summer temperatures are bound to get hotter and water will become even more scarce in the face of climate change. In fact, there was no formal conversation about what climate change means for the U.S., and specifically for Latinos.

Here’s the short version of the missing conversation on climate: climate change presents challenges to everyone but it is having, and will continue to have, a disproportionate impact on Latinos in the United States.

To illustrate, let’s look at the three states that house more than half the Latinos in the US:

  • California, and the state’s majority Latino population, is facing its fourth year in historic drought that’s been exacerbated by climate change.
  • This summer, Texas experienced unprecedented flooding, nearly canceling out the state’s prior state of drought, in a demonstration of the kind of extreme weather linked to climate change.
  • Florida’s real estate and freshwater is already threatened by initial increases in sea-level rise, which are also eroding the state’s beaches.

There are more than 28 million Latinos facing climate threats in these three states alone. That does not count the millions of other Latinos nationwide who will face extreme heat and longer wildfire seasons in the Southwest this summer. It does not account for all 49 percent of Latinos nationally who live in coastal communities and will face more frequent and intense hurricanes and flooding. It also does not account for the full 14 percent of Latino kids diagnosed with asthma, who will face greater challenges to managing this condition due to more days with unhealthy levels of smog.

That was the bad news. It points to the fact that our leaders should not ignore the impacts of climate change on the Latino community. As climate impacts the air we breathe, threatens water we use for drinking, swimming, farming, and fishing, and even endangers our health, leaders at all levels need to take a proactive stance to protect our communities by addressing climate change.

Here’s the good news — the support is already there to act on climate. National polling has shown that 63 percent of Latinos think the federal government should act broadly to address global warming, while 8 in 10 Latinos want the President to curb the carbon pollution that causes climate change.

There are also some great opportunities hidden among the challenges. For example, today’s clean energy economy is creating more jobs than the fossil fuel economy. Jobs in the clean energy economy also offer higher wages to a wide range of workers, relative to the broader economy.

Which brings me back to Vegas. While there was no formal climate change discussion on the program, Latino environmental leaders from around the country were sparking conversations in the halls about conservation, climate change, and la comunidad. Advocates from New Mexico's Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and Outdoors talked with conference guests about the importance of protecting our public lands. Colorado's Nuestro Rio shared their work protecting the Colorado River and our bond to this precious resource.

EDF also played a role, teaming up with GreenLatinos, Green 2.0, and Nuestro Rio to host a reception and highlight the importance of addressing climate change at a national level. Nearly everyone we spoke with about our work was interested in hearing about solutions and how to do more.

As we participated in conference events last week, Pope Francis reminded us that we “have the duty to protect the earth and ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations.” Latino communities, and our leaders, are no exception. We have a duty to address climate change — protecting our families, our children, and our climate is something we cannot afford to gamble on.

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Extreme Weather, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs, News, Partners for Change, Science| Comments are closed

Top policies to help Americans breathe easier, and what you can do

Source: Flickr/Kate Gardiner

A year ago, we joined our partners at the League of United Latin American Citizens on Twitter to ask U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy about the impacts of air pollution on our health.

Many of the questions participants raised focused on the connection between air quality and asthma.

In a follow-up to the event, McCarthy reminded us that while there’s no known cure for asthma, “understanding how indoor and outdoor air pollutants can trigger an asthma attack or episode is an important step in managing this condition.”

Fortunately, decision-makers are now considering several new policies that would decrease the number of asthma attacks and the severity of symptoms.

Cutting climate and air pollution

As global temperatures rise, more ground-level ozone, a key component of smog, builds up. This, in turn, leads to more frequent and intense asthma attacks.

To address these problems, the EPA is working on several measures to limit the pollution that causes climate change, worsens air quality and threatens our health. The agency is:

  • finalizing a rule to reduce emissions from power plants, the largest source of climate pollution in the United States.
  • working on a rule to limit climate pollution from oil and gas production. It would also reduce toxic chemical releases during the energy extraction process.
  • proposing a stronger ozone standard to reduce smog pollution and restore healthy air.
Reducing the threat of toxic chemicals

Many chemicals found indoors are also known or suspected “asthmagens,” environmental agents that cause or exacerbate asthma. These chemicals can affect us in our homes – or in any of the indoor areas where Americans spend about 90 percent of their time.

Today, we’re exposed to chemicals in everyday household products in large part because of a 40-year old chemical safety law that has failed to protect us. The law is so weak, in fact, that EPA can’t even regulate chemicals known to cause cancer.

Congress is therefore considering reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act. If a new bill passes, we will have better safeguards against many asthmagens.

Get involved

Asthma affects nearly 26 million people in the U.S., including 1 in 10 Latino children who currently suffer from asthma. An even higher proportion of Latino kids, 14 percent, have been diagnosed with asthma at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, this illness presents a particular concern for Latinos in our country.

Studies have also shown that Latino-Americans are less likely than non-Latino whites to be diagnosed with asthma, have an asthma management plan, or use a controller medication. As a result, Latino children are 40 percent more likely than non-Latino white children to die from this condition.

If you’d like to hear more about these topics, you can join us for our Latino Health and the Environment Twitter Town Hall Series.

First up is an Earth Day Twitter Town Hall, where McCarthy will be answering questions about environmental issues and human health, why the Latino community is disproportionately affected by climate change, and what we can all do to protect ourselves.

Then stay tuned in May for our second Twitter Town Hall, which will focus on the health impacts of toxic chemicals.

This post originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog.

Posted in Health, News, Policy| Comments are closed

What Cap and Trade Means for Latinos in the Golden State

rp_DSC_0012-Version-3-200x300111.jpgOn January 15, Environmental Defense Fund released the second report in a series that explores how one of California’s signature climate and clean energy policies – our cap-and-trade program – is working. Today, EDF is making this information available in Spanish – you can find the Executive Summary here along with our press release. The report has generated a large amount of interest, given the increased urgency of the issue, and the growing number of states and regions looking at initiating more robust climate policies. So, what do we mean when we say the cap-and-trade program is “working,” and what does this mean for Latinos in the Golden State?

Here’s how EDF looked at whether the program is working. For starters, the report examines the data on the critical goal of reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. These are the emissions that drive climate change, pollute our air, and exacerbate extreme weather patterns. But there are other important goals in the mix, too. One is allowing the state to maintain healthy economic growth while implementing a system of policies that curbs climate change by limiting carbon pollution. And what about making sure the cap-and-trade program benefits all communities, including those already suffering the worst effects of climate change?

Good news on all fronts. The report concludes that after two years of operation, emissions capped by the program are going down. At the same time, the state’s economic progress continues to march forward, especially when it comes to the growth of green jobs. Read More »

Posted in News| Comments are closed

Qué significa topes y comercio de emisiones para los hispanohablantes en California

rp_DSC_0012-Version-3-200x300111.jpgEl 15 de enero, el Fondo de Defensa Ambiental (EDF por sus siglas en inglés) publicó el segundo informe en una serie que explora cómo una de las políticas climáticas y de energía limpia de California – nuestro programa de topes y comercio de emisiones – está funcionando. Hoy, el EDF proporciona esta información en español – puede encontrar el Resumen de los expertos y nuestro comunicado de prensa. El informe ha generado gran interés, dada la creciente urgencia del problema y el aumento en el número de estados y regiones interesadas en iniciar políticas climáticas más enérgicas. ¿Qué queremos decir con que el programa de topes y comercio está “funcionando” y qué significa esto para los latinos en nuestro estado?

Así es cómo el EDF analizó si el programa está funcionando. Para empezar, el informe examina la información del objetivo crítico de reducir emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero dañinas. Estas son las emisiones que conducen al cambio climático, contaminan nuestro aire y empeoran los patrones de clima extremos. Pero también hay otros objetivos importantes. Uno es permitir que el estado mantenga un crecimiento económico sólido mientras se implementa un sistema de políticas que frene el cambio climático al limitar la contaminación del carbono. ¿Y cómo asegurar que el programa de topes y comercio de emisiones beneficie a todas las comunidades, incluso aquellas que ya sufren de los peores efectos del cambio climático?

Hay buenas noticias en todos los frentes. El informe concluye que después de dos años de funcionamiento, las emisiones limitadas por el programa están bajando. Al mismo tiempo, el progreso económico del estado también sigue marcha adelante, especialmente cuando se trata del crecimiento de empleos verdes. Read More »

Posted in News| Comments are closed
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