Category Archives: Partners for Change

President Obama Goes to Walmart

I never really expected to be sitting in a Walmart in Mountain View, CA listening to President Obama speak about environmental commitments, but I am excited for the momentum he is generating, particularly in the private sector, to support the EPA announcement on carbon limits on June 2nd.

So why Walmart?

The President is making a point. Walmart gets about 25 percent of its global electricity from renewables. In the United States over all, only about 2 percent of power comes from solar sources. In 2005, Walmart set a goal to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy. To date Walmart has 335 renewable energy projects underway or in development across their global portfolio. Having the president hold Walmart up as a role model is a great way to drive other industry leaders to follow suit.

Obama Walmart

This recognition is great news to EDF since we are a key NGO partner to Walmart and have been working with them on environmental solutions since 2005. (See the full EDF – Walmart partnership timeline). In 2008, EDF and Walmart announced a jointly-developed clean energy project to install and assess next generation solar technology at over 30 Walmart facilities. Today Walmart has 250 solar energy systems installed in the U.S. and has a solar energy capacity of 65,000 kW, top of the Solar Energy Industries Association rankings of U.S. companies.

Are industry leaders following suit?

The private and public sector commitments announced today represent more than 850 megawatts of solar deployed – enough to power nearly 130,000 homes – as well as energy efficiency investments that will lower bills for more than 1 billion square feet of buildings. Additionally, the President announced new executive actions that will lead to $2 billion in energy efficiency investments in Federal buildings.

We are especially excited to see companies step up for the President’s Better Buildings Challenge which will improve energy efficiency of more than 1 billion square feet of new floor space by 20 percent by 2020. New to the President’s roster are General Motors (committing 84 million square feet), MGM Resorts (78 million square feet) and Walmart (850 million square feet).

See the complete listing of private and public sector organizations making commitments today for solar deployment and energy efficiency.

Here at EDF, we believe that companies and business leaders must pave the way to a low-carbon and prosperous economy. Today Walmart committed to double the number of onsite solar energy projects at U.S. Stores, Sam’s Clubs and distribution centers by 2020. This is in addition to their goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their global supply chain by 20 million metric tons by the end of 2015.

We think President Obama’s making his announcement at Walmart today was a clear signal to the public and private sector that business needs to step up and publicly commit to ambitious environmental goals. Walmart continues to do this, and we look forward to many other industry leaders following suit.

This blog originally appeared on EDF Biz.

Also posted in Energy, Green Jobs, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs| 3 Responses, comments now closed

Why Latinos are disproportionately affected by asthma — and what we can do

(This post first appeared on EDF Voices. Para leer en Español haga clic aquí)

This post was co-authored by Rachel Shaffer  and Declan Kingland, National Health Programs Coordinator for the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

Today in the United States, Latinos are three times more likely to die from asthma than other racial or ethnic groups. Latino children are 40 percent more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino whites, and nearly 1 in 10 Latino children under the age of 18 suffer from this chronic respiratory illness. Addressing the dangerous indoor and outdoor air pollution that is linked to asthma is critical for the health of Latino communities – and for all Americans.

Socioeconomics

Latinos are one of the poorest demographics in the United States, with roughly 1 in 4 Latinos living under the poverty level. Many Latinos also face challenges due to limited English-language proficiency, and in some cases, low levels of education. These issues can lead Latinos, particularly new immigrants, to low-paying jobs, often in the fields of agriculture, construction, and service.

Too often, these jobs expose workers to serious respiratory hazards from both indoor and outdoor air pollution, yet they frequently provide no healthcare benefits. For example, the toxic chemical formaldehyde, which is linked to asthma, can be found in glues, insulation, and wood products to which construction workers are disproportionately exposed. Asthma-related toxics can also be found in paints, cleaning products, carpets, and foam cushions.

Housing

Low-paying jobs held by Latinos lead to low-income families, and these families can be at even greater risk for asthma if their housing is substandard or if their home is located near major roadways, factories, or power plants, which produce air pollutants that can exacerbate asthma. People with asthma are especially sensitive to the pollutants released from cars, buses, heavy machinery, factories, and power plants, including particulate matter (soot), ground-level ozone (smog), carbon monoxide, and more.

Nearly 1 in 2 Latinos in the U.S. live in counties that frequently violate ground-level ozone standards.  Latinos are also 165% more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of particulate matter pollution than non-Latino whites, and nearly 2 in 5 Latinos lives within 30 miles of a power plant. Asthma triggers can also be found inside the home – from ethanolamines found in cleaning products, to bisphenol-A (BPA), a toxic chemical found in plastic products and food can linings.  Some asthma-linked toxic chemicals are even found in personal creams and lotions.

Healthcare

Statistics show that Latinos face disproportionate exposures to asthma-exacerbating indoor and outdoor air pollution. At the same time, Latinos face added challenges when seeking adequate healthcare. This is due in part to the language, educational, and economic barriers mentioned previously, which can limit access to or awareness of available health care resources that may be available. In fact, nearly 1 in 3 Latinos lacks health insurance.

These barriers to health care access can have significant consequences:

  • Compared to non-Latino whites, Latinos with asthma are less likely to be prescribed appropriate asthma medications and less likely to have access to asthma specialists.
  • Latinos who have an asthma emergency that sends them to the ER or hospital are also less likely to receive follow-up care or an asthma action plan.

Combined, these serious issues can make an otherwise manageable disease life-threatening.

What we can do

While these challenges are daunting, we have an opportunity to address part of the problem by demanding that our leaders take action to reduce asthma hazards – for Latinos, and for the nation as a whole. This is why EDF and League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) have come together this year to help raise awareness among and empower Latinos in the U.S. to better combat this often preventable illness by strengthening the air pollution and chemicals laws that protect us.

We at EDF and at LULAC encourage you to ask your Congressman to:

Nationwide, Latinos are among the 25 million people – including 7 million children – affected by asthma.  We can help address the immediate problem through other avenues – like improving health care coverage or worker protections.  But ultimately, we need to address the root of the problem. We need to get rid of the air pollution and toxins that are linked to asthma.  All of us, including our Latino communities, should act now to get rid of the underlying causes of the disease. Until we do, we are all at risk.

Also posted in Health| 2 Responses, comments now closed

New Report: Ambition Is the Key to Reaching Climate Goals

Ambition matters.

We all know this, because America is a nation of strivers — innovative, creative people who understand that ambition and drive can make the difference between success and failure. It's true in business. It's true in life.  And it's true in environmental protection.

Today the World Resources Institute (WRI) released a report that shows how crucial national ambition is when it comes to charting an effective pathway for climate action.

The report — Can the U.S. Get There From Here?is a searching examination of the potential for reducing carbon pollution under existing federal laws and with state leadership.

It finds that, with ambitious action by the federal government and the states to curb carbon pollution, the United States can cut its emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

That hopeful news comes not a moment too soon, because the bad news about climate change is all around us.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently announced that 2012 was the tenth warmest year on record for the planet, continuing the trend of rising global temperatures in which each decade has been hotter than the one before.

In the continental United States, 2012 was the warmest year on record, with the second most extreme weather — record-breaking high temperatures, the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, widespread drought, rising corn prices, and grim wildfires. Eleven weather disasters in 2012 carried a greater than $1 billion price tag, with the recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy expected to top $60 billion. And while our cities are flooding, crops are dying, and forests are burning, Congress is fiddling.

So let's look more closely at WRI’s hopeful news about what we can achieve under existing laws.

The new report finds that progress in four key areas will be essential:

  1. Implementing rigorous federal carbon pollution standards for new and existing power plants, transitioning the power sector towards a cleaner, more modern, and more resilient electricity generation system
  2. Eliminating use and emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, extremely potent heat-trapping gases
  3. Developing comprehensive federal emission standards to stop the methane leaks in oil and gas extraction and transport processes
  4. Improving the energy efficiency of our economy

Leadership by states to cut emissions and invest in clean energy and efficiency will be needed to compliment and amplify action at the federal level.

The analysis also demonstrates that no matter how rigorous our nation is in carrying out existing laws to cut carbon pollution, we will need new legislation to achieve the deeper emission reductions climate science demands by mid-century.

In the meantime, there is much that we can do. Now. And with these actions, we can start to transform our aging energy infrastructure and forge a prosperous clean energy, low-carbon future.

This is my favorite sentence of the report:

[T]he single most important factor influencing emissions reductions is political and policy ambition.

Ambition matters. So let’s be ambitious here, where it matters so very much to our future, our children’s futures, and our planet’s future.

Also posted in Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy, What Others are Saying| 1 Response, comments now closed

Our Newest Clean Air Ally – Actress Julianne Moore

Those of us following the debate over clean air regulations are used to hearing frequent comments from key players – power plant executives, politicians, environmentalists, doctors.

But every once in a while, we get a truly original point of view. 

Like today – in this animated video from actress Julianne Moore.

Moore taped the video for Moms Clean Air Force (MCAF), a nonpartisan group of moms (and dads, and grandparents, and others) who want cleaner and healthier air for their kids.  

Moore is a well-known actress, children’s book author, and activist for a variety of children’s causes. She narrates the new video with the help of the cartoon-character stars of her Freckleface Strawberry books.

In a blog post on the MCAF website, Moore writes:

Sometimes being a good mom means being an active citizen. That’s why I joined Moms Clean Air Force. Moms are banding together. We are making our voices stronger. We are fighting for our children. Together, we are telling politicians to protect our right to clean air.

Moms Clean Air Force was launched last summer and now has almost 50,000 members. (EDF has worked with them from the beginning).

Since the launch, MCAF has gotten other celebrities – including Blythe Danner, Laila Ali, and Jessica Capshaw – to join. Danner and actresses Maya Rudolph and Christina Applegate have also taped video for the group.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, News| Comments closed

In Defense of Unlikely Partnerships

Jigar Shah's blog post about The Climate War made me sad. Not because he missed the point of my book or had unkind things to say about people I admire — the man is entitled to his opinion. The piece saddened me because it gave voice to an incredibly damaging green stereotype: the notion that we enviros are ideological purists more interested in being right than being successful, and that we can’t work with anyone who doesn’t meet our high standards.

I'd thought Shah knew better. After all, he runs an NGO that works with industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions–and he and I have even discussed the need to reach out to corporations if we're going to turn the carbon tide. (I call it the Willie Sutton rule: If you want to cut pollution, you have to talk to polluters.) That's certainly the approach of Environmental Defense Fund, which Shah disparages in his post. EDF has always embraced the power of unlikely partnerships, including the one with Duke Energy that so annoys Shah.

Shah criticizes EDF and its president, Fred Krupp, for working with Duke CEO Jim Rogers in the fight to pass climate legislation, and "for not holding Rogers to a high enough standard before giving him a seal of approval." Shah writes that Krupp was "charmed" by Rogers and blind to Duke's environmental record. To make that demonstrably inaccurate argument, Shah ignores all of the times EDF has gone into battle against Duke. Here are just a few:

  • EDF sued Duke Energy to force it to install pollution scrubbers on old power plants when it refurbished them. EDF took the case all the way to the Supreme Court and won in a 9-0 ruling handed down in 2007. The case, Environmental Defense, et al. v. Duke Energy Corp, is a landmark of environmental law. Shah doesn't mention it.
  • When Duke proposed to build two massive new coal units in North Carolina, EDF and its partners challenged the need for the plants before the North Carolina Utilities Commission pointing to cleaner and more cost-effective alternatives. We secured a landmark decision in which the Commission denied Duke's request for one of the two units.
  • EDF and its allies sued Duke again over its plan to build the Cliffside Unit 6 power plant, the remaining coal unit, without first determining whether the plant would meet Clean Air Act standards. EDF won again, and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld this victory.
  • When Duke sued to block federal clean air standards requiring far-reaching pollution reductions from eastern coal plants, EDF stepped in. And we successfully reversed the court decision halting the implementation of these vital clean air protections while EPA took corrective action.
  • Shah writes that Duke fought a proposed renewable portfolio standard in North Carolina and backed off “under heavy pressure.” He doesn’t mention that much of that pressure came from EDF, which was a leader in passing the renewable standard.

EDF, in other words, is more than willing to stand up to polluters–but it will also sit down with them if there's a chance to make progress on key goals. That's why, in the middle of these courtroom battles, Krupp and Rogers began working together to pass comprehensive climate legislation. Duke joined EDF in a coalition called the United States Climate Action Partnership, or USCAP. In The Climate War, I describe their uneasy alliance–squaring off during tough negotiations over the contours of the bill, collaborating on ad campaigns and opinion pieces, jawboning senators and congressmen in a multi-year effort to cap carbon. Along the way, Duke even resigned from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity and the National Association of Manufacturers because those two groups were devoted to killing climate legislation.

Shah doesn't acknowledge that Rogers' support was crucial to passing climate legislation in the House, and he never mentions the real opponents of the bill or the myriad social and political forces that were allied against us. He claims that Rogers was “only involved in climate legislation efforts to make sure that new laws enrich his shareholders."

That's a simplistic view of a complicated figure. And if Shah is waiting for power bosses like Rogers to support legislation out of the goodness of their hearts, he's going to be waiting a long time. Altruism is not going to get this done. The whole point of climate legislation is to give polluters a reason to clean up — to create incentives for doing the right thing instead of the wrong thing. Fred Krupp never held any illusions that Rogers or other the members of USCAP were trying for sainthood. These companies fought for climate legislation because they saw it as vital to their long-term economic well-being. That’s the point.

Of course Duke's environmental record is mixed. My book lays out those facts in great detail. For Shah, that’s reason enough to shun Rogers. The title of his piece asks whether enviros should work with their “enemies”– and since Duke is not always on our side, he believes that makes it an enemy. That approach –“you’re either with us or you’re against us”– has failed us too often. It’s time we retired it for good. Environmentalists should not be an elite fraternity that refuses to consort with those who are less enlightened.

The people at EDF understand that. They deal with the world as it is, not as they wish it to be. That's why, when I decided to leave journalism and join the environmental movement, EDF is where I chose to hang my hat. I've been here less than a month, and in that time we've launched tough actions against American Electric Power, which is trying to delay new air pollution standards, and United and Continental airlines, which have been greenwashing while opposing common sense rules to reduce pollution. We're calling out corporations who delay progress while cooperating with those willing to clean up. We're interested in working with anyone who wants to march down the path to a clean energy future. But we never have, and never will, demand that they march in lockstep.

Also posted in Climate Change Legislation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy| Comments closed

Hall of Fame Goalie Mike Richter Calls for Action on Climate Change

A new voice has joined the chorus demanding action on climate change — one that will be familiar to any winter sports fans reading this.

Hockey legend Mike Richter says he worries that future generations of children won't be able to skate on frozen ponds the way he did when he was young.

The Hall of Fame goalie, who led the New York Rangers to a Stanley Cup victory in 1994 and helped the U.S. Olympic team win a silver medal in Salt Lake City in 2002, just wrote an op ed about climate change that ran in the Buffalo News, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review and the Juneau Empire, among other papers.

In it, he says:

I wish we could turn back the clock. I want my boy's generation to enjoy the same rich opportunities as I had. I worry for the future of the game that I love. I worry for the future of our economy, our national security and our planet.

Richter, who has spoken out about other environmental issues in the past, has also talked about climate change in radio interviews he did during this year's Winter Olympics. You can hear some of his comments on Philadelphia's WPEN radio.

Richter was also a guest speaker at a recent Business Advocacy Day, when 200 small business leaders from around the country came to Washington to lobby for a strong clean energy and climate bill. Check out this picture of Richter talking to the audience of business pioneers (and EDF staffers who worked on the event).

Also posted in What Others are Saying| Comments closed
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    Megan CeronskyMegan Ceronsky
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