Climate 411

It’s time to power up, America

America has been living through particularly difficult times. As our leaders consider how to contain the coronavirus, create jobs and address environmental injustice, they have a chance to make some big changes that are long overdue.

We can power up the economy and reduce air and climate pollution by building more clean trucks, buses, cars and clean energyAll of this will move us toward a healthier and more prosperous future.

It starts with building more electric trucks, buses and cars – right here in America

  • Transitioning to a zero-emission transportation sector will put over one million people to work, save thousands of lives, build up our domestic manufacturing base and make American businesses more competitive.
  • A clean transportation system has the potential to bring good jobs as well as significant health benefits to communities of color and lower-income communities, who are more likely to live near highways and be directly exposed to harmful soot and smog pollution.
  • The goal of all new cars to be zero polluting by 2035, and all new trucks and buses to be zero polluting by 2040 is achievable: every major truck, bus and car manufacturer is already developing or investing in all-electric, zero-emission vehicles.

To achieve the scale needed to transform the transportation sector, we need Congress to: 

  • Support domestic manufacturing of electric vehicles, batteries and component parts.
  • Expand tax incentives and point-of-sale vouchers for zero-emissions cars and trucks.
  • Provide grants to school districts to purchase zero-emissions, electric school buses.
  • Fund state and local agencies developing electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
  • Ensure low-income communities, communities of color and others hit hardest by climate change and air pollution are first in line to benefit.

We must also transition to clean electric power to run our homes, farms, businesses and vehicles

  • Transitioning to clean energy will help boost our economy: Before the coronavirus recession, the sector was producing jobs 70% faster than the economy as a whole.
  • Dirty power plants are a major source of air, water and climate pollution and often located in communities of color and low-income communities. By investing in clean energy and energy efficiency we can protect these communities, clean up our air and guarantee everyone access to reliable
    and affordable energy.
  • 1 in 3 Americans are already getting service from a utility that’s moving to 100% clean electric generation, but we need smart policies to reach our nationwide goal of 100% clean electric power by 2035.

To accelerate progress, we need Congress to:

  • Extend and expand clean energy tax credits for wind, solar and energy efficiency.
  • Establish new tax credits for offshore wind and energy storage.
  • Invest in new transmission & distribution infrastructure, and grid-scale energy storage.
  • Ensure that a significant percentage of investments are directed to frontline communities and areas that are losing fossil fuel industry jobs to ensure a just transition for workers.
  • Double funding for clean energy research and development, including significant increases to the budget of ARPA-E, a government agency that helps companies commercialize promising breakthrough energy technologies.

American innovation makes these ambitious goals achievable. We have a long history of entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers tackling big challenges, and this is no different.

Let’s get to work creating healthier communities by building clean trucks, buses, cars and clean energy. It’s time to Power Up, America!

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What the next 5 years hold for the Paris Agreement

Eiffel Tower at sunset. (Source: Pixy)

Last Saturday, December 12, was the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate agreement, and countries around the world gave it a proper (virtual) fête, filled with announcements on how countries planned to step up their action to curb climate change. Although some of the announcements represented modest steps forward, the overall effect of the event was to capture the growing climate momentum of recent months rather than break new ground.

The event also got many observers thinking back to that other Saturday in Paris, five years ago, when the agreement was approved – and, inevitably, weighing what the future will bring for the accord.

As we head into 2021 and draw closer to the annual international climate negotiations in Glasgow next November (known as COP26), three issues will increasingly dominate the discussion: the need for greater ambition in setting the next round of targets; a shift from negotiations to implementation, not only at national level but also among key global sectors like aviation and shipping; and the enduring importance of the rules for monitoring and reporting emissions, known as the “enhanced transparency framework.” Read More »

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Mirando hacia la cuarta reunión del Grupo de Trabajo Facilitador de la Plataforma de Comunidades Locales y Pueblos Indígenas

Esta publicación fue corredactada por Bärbel Henneberger.

** Este es el segundo blog de nuestra serie que explora los desafíos para la participación efectiva de los Pueblos Indígenas en foros internacionales de política climática.

La tercera reunión del Grupo de Trabajo Facilitador (FWG-por sus siglas en inglés), que fue la primera reunión oficial en el año 2020 de la Plataforma de Comunidades Locales y Pueblos Indígenas (LCIPP) de la Convención Marco de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático, tuvo lugar virtualmente entre el 5 y el 8 de octubre.

En nuestro blog anterior, presentamos un resumen de las preocupaciones planteadas por Estebancio Castro, Representante para la Región Sociocultural Indígena de la ONU: Centro y Sudamérica y el Caribe, ante la CMNUCC LCIPP, sobre las reuniones virtuales y la participación efectiva de los Pueblos Indígenas. Sus preocupaciones eran muy válidas, ya que durante la reciente reunión del FWG, la participación de los Pueblos Indígenas, especialmente de las regiones con conexión a internet inestable, fue bastante difícil. En este blog, discutiremos estas barreras clave para la participación virtual, así como también cubriremos algunos de los avances que el FWG pudo hacer, los próximos pasos y las lecciones aprendidas.

Captura de pantalla de la reunión virtual de LCIPP de octubre, con la presencia de Patricia Espinosa, Secretaria Ejecutiva de la CMNUCC. Foto de Bärbel Henneberger.

Participación efectiva: virtual vs presencial

El poco tiempo para las presentaciones y los debates (4 días, 3 horas al día) dificultaba la participación en intercambios más profundos. Generalmente, algunos participantes tenían mala conectividad a internet que falló repetidamente durante la reunión. Otros participantes no pudieron participar en absoluto porque no tenían acceso a internet. Además, se necesita una conexión a internet estable para acceder a los materiales de la reunión antes del inicio de la reunión. A medida que el trabajo del FWG se vuelve más técnico, los participantes deben tener acceso a estos documentos y más tiempo para analizarlos. Debido en parte a estos problemas, el FWG acordó reprogramar las reuniones regionales de los poseedores de conocimientos indígenas hasta que COVID-19 esté bajo suficiente control para permitir las reuniones cara a cara, reconociendo que los protocolos indígenas, como las ceremonias de apertura y las bendiciones de los participantes mayores, necesitan ser respetados. Sin embargo, otras actividades continuarán virtualmente, incluso si esto significa que para algunos, la participación efectiva no está garantizada.

Está claro que, hasta ahora, la pandemia de COVID-19 ha hecho que sea muy difícil para el FWG completar las tareas definidas en el plan de trabajo de dos años de la LCIPP. Algunas actividades han tenido que posponerse hasta que las reuniones presenciales sean posibles de realizarse. Read More »

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Energy justice is racial justice

Guest blog by Reverend Michael Malcom 

I was born into a working-class family in Decatur, Georgia. My mother and father were both in the home and worked full time jobs. I can remember times going without water, gas, or lights. I can recall a time when I was out with friends and one of them joked on my nails being dirty.

I was ashamed to say that we were without gas at that time and I could barely boil enough water on a hot plate to wash up. It was not that my parents were not working. It was that the utility bill was more than their family could afford. They were making the hard decision of ensuring we had a meal or if we had gas. That month, they decided on the latter.

Many years later, I found myself still unable to escape that same vicious cycle. Like my parents, my wife and I both work, yet we still make brutal decisions between adequately feeding our family and paying utility bills that are typically over $500 per month.

Our story is all too common: Energy insecurity is among the most persistent injustices impacting Black and brown people.

According to a recent report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), 25% of Americans pay more than 6% of their income on energy bills even before COVID-19 hit. Of those people, 13% pay more than 10% of their income on their energy bills. Nationally, 67% of low-income households face a high energy burden. And of those households, 60% have severe energy burdens. Read More »

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Looking ahead to the 4th Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform Facilitative Working Group meeting

This post was coauthored by Bärbel Henneberger.

**This is the second blog of our series exploring the challenges to effective participation of Indigenous Peoples in international climate policy forums.

The third meeting of the Facilitative Working Group (FWG), which was the first official 2020 meeting of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, took place virtually between October 5 and 8.

In our previous blog, we presented an overview of the concerns raised by Estebancio Castro, Representative for the UN Indigenous Sociocultural Region: Central and South America and the Caribbean, to the UNFCCC LCIPP, on virtual meetings and the effective participation of Indigenous Peoples. His concerns were very valid, as during the recent FWG meeting, participation of Indigenous Peoples, especially from regions with unstable internet connection, was quite difficult. In this blog, we will discuss these key barriers to virtual participation, as well as cover some of the progress that the FWG was able to make, next steps, and lessons learned.

Screenshot of October’s virtual LCIPP meeting featuring Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC. Photo by Bärbel Henneberger.

Effective participation: Virtual vs face-to-face

The short time for presentations and discussions (4 days, 3 hours per day) made it difficult to engage in deeper exchanges. Generally, some participants had poor internet connectivity that repeatedly failed throughout the meeting. Other participants were not able to participate at all because they did not have access to internet. Moreover, a stable internet connection is needed to access meeting materials prior to the start of meeting. As the FWG work gets more technical, participants need to have access to these documents, and more time to analyze them. Due in part to these issues, the FWG agreed to reschedule regional meetings of Indigenous knowledge holders until COVID-19 is under enough control to allow for face-to-face convenings, recognizing that Indigenous protocols, such as opening ceremonies and blessings by elder participants, need to be respected. Other activities, however, will continue virtually, even if this means that for some, effective participation is not guaranteed.

It is clear that, thus far, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it very challenging for the FWG to complete the tasks defined in the LCIPP’s two year work plan. Some activities have had to be postponed until face-to-face meetings are possible. Read More »

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Aviation on the Cusp: From COVID-19 to the Climate Crisis

This post was co-authored by Brad Schallert, World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US), and John Holler, WWF-US.

If you fly, you may know that flying is likely the largest part of your personal carbon footprint. What you may not know is that if aviation were its own country, it would be a top-ten carbon polluter. Plus, scientists now know that aircraft burning fuel in the upper atmosphere more than doubles the global warming impact of the carbon dioxide emissions alone– think of the heat-trapping contrails streaking across the sky that jets form high up in the atmosphere.

Aviation’s social license to operate depends on its ability to get on a flight path to net zero climate impact by 2050.

That’s a tall order, for two reasons.

First, the physics of aviation make it one of the hardest sectors in which to cut carbon – there are huge technological and economic barriers. The jets in service today are expensive, long-lived capital assets designed to fly on liquid fuel. While short-distance electric aircraft may take off in the next decade and a half, fully electric airplanes are unlikely to take over long-haul jet travel. Designing, testing, certifying and manufacturing more fuel-efficient jets and advanced non-fossil-based fuels is an urgent undertaking that will require not only significant dedication from the aviation industry, but also bold federal policy.

Second, the industry is focused on its own economic survival, not on the climate challenge. The pandemic has put tens of thousands of aviation jobs in jeopardy and walloped airlines and many of the businesses they serve. But if the Biden-Harris Administration doesn’t put dealing with the climate crisis at the core of aviation’s recovery, all the taxpayer funds spent on bailing out airlines won’t put the industry on a path to a sustainable future.

Aviation has reached an inflection point. Going back to the pre-COVID status quo is not a wise flightpath if the sector wants to be part of the solution to addressing the climate crisis. At the center of its recovery, it could, as President-elect Biden has urged, Build Back Better. The choice could not be starker.

That’s why the Biden-Harris Administration should start by establishing targets for the emissions of all US flights – domestic and international, passenger and cargo – that set our aviation sector on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050, with a waypoint of at least a 35% reduction from 2019 levels by 2035. Legislation would help, but existing statutes already give the relevant agencies broad authority: Read More »

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