Growing Returns

Building climate resilience requires a whole-of-government approach. Here’s how Louisiana is making it happen.

As communities in southwest Florida, Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean struggle to recover from the damages of an active hurricane season, efficient, proactive resilience solutions have never been more important.

Louisiana continues to be a world leader in the planning and implementation of coastal resilience. Louisiana will release the fourth iteration of its Coastal Master Plan in early 2023, which provides the most science-based and publicly informed plan in the nation. Since the first plan, $21.4 billion has been invested in flood resilience infrastructure – focused on restoration of coastal ecosystems that provide essential flood risk benefits and grey infrastructure such as levees and seawalls. Other state agencies have also invested billions in rebuilding their infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals and prisons.

flooded hospital

Flooded hospital in Louisiana after a storm.

However, flood resilience is not just about infrastructure but also the ability of government agencies to maintain programs and services their constituents rely upon, from trash collection to food assistance to healthcare. Louisiana is the first to take a step toward a whole-of-government approach to ensure communities have access to the essential services they need to rebuild and thrive in the face of future flood risks.

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Replicable revenue streams can help natural infrastructure projects receive State Revolving Fund financing

Natural infrastructure can provide protective barriers to reduce flood risk while also offering community green space and supporting green jobs. Louisiana GOHSEP, CC BY SA 2.0.

Authors: Vincent Gauthier (EDF), Tee Thomas (Quantified Ventures)

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will invest more than $44 billion in the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, or SRFs, presenting a tremendous opportunity to finance natural infrastructure solutions that can improve water quality and protect communities against flooding. While natural infrastructure can be a cost-effective way to improve water quality and reduce flood risk, these projects have historically been difficult to finance through SRFs due to a lack of consistent repayment streams.

EDF and Quantified Ventures recently published a report that identified five replicable repayment streams that communities and conservation groups can use to access SRF financing for natural infrastructure such as wetlands, floodplain restoration, and riparian buffers. These repayment streams include stormwater utility fees, source water protection fees, and environmental markets.

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Five ways U.S. agriculture can adapt to climate change

Farmers have a long history of steadily increasing crop yields through technological innovation and improvements in management practices. However, as climate change makes weather more extreme and variable than ever before, productivity progress will likely stall by 2030 — even if the U.S. maintains past rates of R&D investment and innovation. Adaptation efforts must begin now to protect food supplies and farmer livelihoods.

Adaptation options can be deployed at various scales to combat the unknown challenges ahead.

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How will climate change affect U.S. crop yields?

As the UN climate conference kicks off in Egypt, food and agriculture are central to negotiations for the first time. More severe droughts, warmer temperatures and heavier rainfall fueled by climate change are making it harder than ever for the world’s one billion farmers to grow food and fiber. While some farms and regions are more vulnerable than others, climate change will affect farmers everywhere.

Here in the U.S., where farmers have a long history of steadily increasing yields, climate change will likely cause crop productivity gains to stall — or even reverse — as soon as 2030.

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EDF Celebrates the Passing of the NY Bond Act.

In the climate policy world, states and localities are often laboratories of innovation and progress. However, with the devastating impacts of hurricanes, wildfires and heat waves, residents are already experiencing the costly impacts of climate change. To mitigate these costs, EDF supports innovative funding and financing strategies — especially in areas that are most vulnerable to climate impacts. One example of this is EDF’s work on a ballot measure in New York State.

This week, voters passed the historic Clean Water, Clean Air and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act ballot measure. This comes on the heels of the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, ushering in a variety of new flood resilience projects aimed at mitigating these risks to communities.

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New report provides a science roadmap for natural climate solutions

Natural climate solutions, such as reforestation and wetland restoration, can help slow climate change and increase resilience in the face of climate impacts we can’t avoid.

These approaches have substantial and growing support from bipartisan lawmakers, the private sector and environmental nonprofits. However, big questions remain: Where are these strategies most effective? To what extent can they meaningfully remove and reduce greenhouse gases? How will increased drought, fire and pest outbreaks impact their ability to stave off climate change?

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My perspectives on how we can inspire the next generation of Black climate leaders.

By Arianna Mackey, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Summer 2022 Intern

I became aware of my community’s lack of environmental awareness at a very young age. Growing up in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, my family and I visited the Nauticus museum often. One afternoon, after spending time in the flooding exhibit, I explained to my mom that due to increased flooding, Virginia Beach would be inhabitable in the future, with standing water reaching the front door following a storm. She brushed me off by saying it was an “over-exaggeration” and our community was fine. That encounter piqued my interest in environmentalism. Read More »

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World Food Day has come and gone, with food security still out of reach for people and planet

Every October, the global community comes together to celebrate the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization as World Food Day. Taking stock, it is plain to see just how far we still have to go to achieve the FAO’s founding mission to defeat hunger and improve nutrition and food security for the planet.

The obstacles to achieving this goal are many and complex: the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the ongoing challenges of conflict, water shortages, flooding, and rising food costs are just a few. However, they all share one thing in common: they are exacerbated by the existential threat of climate change.

With less than a month to go before the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27) in Egypt, world leaders must consider the importance of addressing food insecurity as a part of solving the climate crisis.

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Farmers see value in agriculture loans that reward stewardship

In January 2022, global farmer-to-farmer network and ag tech company Farmers Business Network®, launched a new rebate program for farm operating loans. The Regenerative Agriculture Finance Operating Line program includes a 0.5% interest rate rebate for farmers who achieve climate and water quality benchmarks established by Environmental Defense Fund. Both farmers who already meet the benchmarks, as well as farmers who improve practices to do so, are eligible.

The $25-million pilot fund filled up quickly, with 48 farmers enrolled and a growing waitlist to participate in an expanded fund. With the initial pilot underway, FBN plans to scale the fund to $500 million over the next three years and access public markets to securitize and sell these loans to investors seeking liquid, environmentally friendly investments.

Over the first year of the program, we are sharing what we are learning with others in the agriculture sector. EDF had the chance to sit down with two participating farmers about their experiences — Joel Uthe, operator of Uthe Farm in Chariton, Iowa, and David Iverson, operator of Iverson Farm in Astoria, South Dakota. Read More »

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To address climate change, U.S. makes historic investment in rural America

The U.S. is on the brink of making a historic investment in farmers, ranchers and rural communities, helping them cut emissions, prepare for climate impacts that are already here, and create good jobs along the way. The Inflation Reduction Act — which passed the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and which President Biden is expected to sign into law in the coming days — will direct about $20 billion toward agricultural conservation programs and nearly $14 billion toward clean energy for rural America.

To stabilize the climate and maintain a safe, vibrant planet, we need to transition to climate-smart agriculture and clean energy. This bill will expedite efforts already underway and jumpstart new ones.  

Here are the most impactful climate investments in rural America.  Read More »

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