Climate 411

Emissions are down and cap-and-trade revenue is up, but California’s Scoping Plan must accelerate climate ambition

Downtown Los Angles at sunset. Chad Ehlers / Alamy

Downtown Los Angles at sunset. Chad Ehlers / Alamy

Recent California climate news is about the past, present, and future of climate policy. Last month the state released their 2018 emissions inventory, showing a decline in transportation emissions. Today, results of the most recent Western Climate Initiative cap-and-trade auction were released and show a rebound in demand for allowances despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and an increase in revenue for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. But as the California Air Resources Board previews priorities for the Climate Change Scoping Plan updated, set to begin in early 2021, it is clear that the state needs to ramp up its emission reductions.

Let’s start with today’s auction news.

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Posted in California, Carbon Markets, Cars and Pollution / Leave a comment

Farmers and environmentalists team up to push Congress to act on climate

By Callie Eideberg

This blog was originally posted on EDF’s Growing Returns.

America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners are on the frontlines of the climate change. Planting windows and growing seasons are shifting, and droughts and floods are more likely to occur. At the same time, these working lands hold enormous potential to help slow climate change and increase resilience to its effects. Photo credit: Iowa NRCS.

Agricultural and environmental advocates have joined forces to push Congress to act on climate change. The new Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance developed more than 40 joint policy recommendations for making farms, ranches and forests more climate resilient, harnessing the power of natural climate solutions.

Environmental Defense Fund, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and National Farmers Union co-chair the alliance, and membership has expanded to include FMI-The Food Industry Association, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and The Nature Conservancy. Read More »

Posted in Agriculture, Climate Change Legislation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy / Leave a comment

The lame-duck Trump EPA is rushing to finish its health-harming agenda. Here’s what’s in danger.

On Election Day, Americans rejected the Trump administration and its relentless assault on our health and environment. But now Trump’s EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, is rushing to finish a flurry of rules before Inauguration Day – rules that are a threat to the health of the American people, and rules that EDF is prepared to fight in court.

Wheeler is resuming his playbook from earlier this year, when EPA unleashed a barrage of health-harming policies just as Covid-19 was first spreading across the nation. As Americans grappled with sudden and unprecedented health, financial, and childcare challenges, Wheeler exploited the chaos by advancing a series of policies that put the health of our communities in even greater danger. Some of Wheeler’s anticipated moves now would finalize policies that were proposed during the first Covid-19 surge last spring, meaning that both ends of the rulemaking process will face reduced public scrutiny. That would hardly be surprising considering that secrecy and a disregard for public accountability have been hallmarks of the Trump administration’s health and environmental policy.

As EDF and others have repeatedly emphasized, EPA’s actions will cause the greatest harm in low-income communities and communities of color — areas that have long suffered from a disproportionate and unjust share of health-harming pollution. Many of the same communities have suffered the highest rates of Covid-19 impacts, and have struggled against voter suppression in this election season.

At EDF, we are not letting our guard down just because the Trump administration’s days are numbered. We have repeatedly prevailed in court against Wheeler’s attacks on our health and environment, and we are prepared to fight against dangerous policies that the administration finalizes during its waning weeks.

Here are a few of Wheeler’s threats to the nation’s climate and air quality that we are tracking:

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Posted in Clean Air Act, EPA litgation, Health, News, Policy, Smog / 3 Responses

New Mexico election results and state report point to strong path forward on climate

New Mexico state capitol in Santa Fe, NM.

New Mexico state capitol in Santa Fe, NM.

This has been a busy election season in New Mexico with a ballot that included every seat in the state legislature, an important constitutional amendment and a critical presidential contest.

On top of that, the state released its second annual interim climate report, with the key findings highlighting the need for further emissions-cutting action to achieve Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s climate goals.

All in all, it’s a lot to process.

Here are the key takeaways from this busy season that will shape the climate and environmental agenda in the months to come, including a new legislative session.

New Mexicans reward climate champions at the ballot box

The state legislature just got friendlier on critical issues like reducing pollution and protecting the health of local communities. New Mexicans understand how climate change has the state in its crosshairs with increased droughts and wildfires becoming a too common occurrence.

An August 2019 poll found that two-thirds of New Mexico voters want strong limits on statewide carbon emissions, zeroing out such pollution by 2050. This cycle, polling in key, targeted legislative districts found that voters strongly support by a two to one margin action to place limits on carbon emissions and are willing to support candidates that will address climate change through a limit on carbon pollution that declines over time. Voters in these districts delivered, sending key new conservation allies like Katy Duhigg, Carrie Hamblen and Brenda McKenna to the State Senate and Kristina Ortez to the House while protecting champs like Representatives Melanie Stansbury and Matthew McQueen as well.

In all, more than 80% of candidates for the state legislature endorsed by Conservation Voters New Mexico won, which is great news for Governor Lujan Grisham and legislative leadership as they look to go big on codifying climate limits in the next session beginning in January.

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Posted in Cities and states, Greenhouse Gas Emissions / Comments are closed

How public benefits programs can help protect fossil fuel workers and communities in transition

This third report in a joint research series by Environmental Defense Fund and Resources for the Future examines public benefits programs designed to protect individual and community economic security and health as the U.S. transitions to a clean economy. Jake Higdon of EDF and Molly Robertson of RFF co-authored the report described in this blog post. All views expressed here are EDF’s.

Coal miner in Jenkins, Kentucky.

Coal miner in Jenkins, Kentucky.

In hundreds of communities around the U.S., coal miners are paying a tragic price for the extended time they spent breathing in coal dust underground: They suffer from Black Lung Disease, which robs patients of their ability to breathe without assistance. Tragically, there is no cure — only treatments that ease the symptoms.

Harvey Hess of southwest Virginia is one of those retired miners. He began working in coal mines on his 17th birthday and continued working in them for 37 years. Now, like many with Black Lung Disease, he receives disability benefits from a federal trust fund. These crucial funds allow Harvey and others to afford essential medical support, like the oxygen tank he relies on to breathe 24/7.

However, Black Lung Disease is not the only chronic issue facing coal workers and coal communities, and it is also not the only instance where public benefits can help support workers’ health and financial security. Besides Black Lung Disease benefits, the U.S. government has also stepped in to support union pensions and health care as coal companies dodge their promises to employees through bankruptcy hearings. And the spillover effects from the decline in production of coal and other fossil fuels can leave millions of Americans in fossil fuel regions — beyond just the energy workers themselves — in need of immediate assistance to soften the economic downturn, maintain economic stability and preserve community health.

The role of public benefits programs

Policies that distribute resources to support general wellness, buffer communities from economic shock, and ensure individuals’ ability to meet their basic needs are sometimes referred to as “public benefits.” For example, they provide retirees with pensions, displaced and disabled workers with financial relief, and low-income families with health care and nutritional assistance.

National public benefits are often referred to as the social safety net because they serve as the first line of defense in times of crisis. The current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of expanded social safety net programs, like unemployment insurance, in insulating families and communities from the most severe economic shocks. However, compared to peer nations, the U.S. spends a relatively small percentage of its GDP on social safety net programs for workers and has virtually no safety net for local governments, which often experience fiscal crises during economic downturns, rendering them unable to provide essential services — often at a time when more people need them.

As we explore in other reports in this series, fossil fuel communities are likely to need targeted federal policies in economic development, workforce development, infrastructure, environmental remediation, and more as the U.S. transitions to a clean economy. Although it is clear that broad public benefits cannot ensure fairness for workers and communities alone, they can play a complementary role to these more targeted approaches. 

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Posted in Energy, Jobs / Read 1 Response

New program pays landowners to protect forests on their farms in Brazil

Join us during London Climate Action Week for the webinar Demonstrating on-the-ground incentives to protect forests in Mato Grosso, Brazil on November 16th, 11:30 am EST where we’ll be discussing this issue and more.

By Breno Pietracci, Ph.D., economist at Environmental Defense Fund

Many Brazilian farmers have large tracts of Amazon rainforest and Cerrado tropical savanna on their properties. According to the 2012 Brazilian Forest Code, landowners in the Amazon must maintain at least 80% of their farms as standing forests while those in the Cerrado must keep no less than 35%. Farmers have the right to clear all vegetation above these legal thresholds.

But what if over-compliant farmers were financially rewarded to keep those forests they can legally deforest alive? That’s the aim of CONSERV, a novel and groundbreaking forest protection program recently launched in Brazil, with international debut scheduled for the London Climate Action Week. CONSERV is a systemic, scalable initiative that constitutes part of a set of strategies that can reduce deforestation at a jurisdictional (national or state-level) scale.

Brazil has successfully reduced deforestation by deploying an arsenal of command-and-control forest conservation policies over the last decades. From 2004 to 2012, deforestation in the Legal Amazon fell by more than 80% with a combination of increased law enforcement, expansion of protected areas – indigenous territories and conservation units, rural credit reforms and supply chain initiatives. Such remarkable achievement has mainly relied upon using “sticks” (penalties) and only limited “carrots” (incentives).

Over those years, some multilateral programs have attempted to use incentive-based payments for performance in reducing deforestation at large scales, namely the Amazon Fund and the REDD+ Early Movers program in the states of Acre and Mato Grosso. However, these have not yet been deployed at a scale to significantly change the behavior of rural producers.

As few positive incentives have materialized in the effort to reduce Amazon deforestation in Brazil, since 2013 the gains in preventing deforestation have stalled and are now under threat with weakened command-and-control and law enforcement. CONSERV is a first step in providing the missing positive incentive piece of the equation.

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Posted in Brazil, Forest protection, International, REDD+ / Comments are closed