4 climate finance priorities for the Biden administration

February 17, 2021 by  
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4 climate finance priorities for the Biden administration Joe Thwaites Wed, 02/17/2021 – 00:30 Providing funding to poorer nations to undertake climate action is not only a moral and legal responsibility for developed countries, but also a strategic investment in a cleaner and more resilient world. Such support pays dividends by reducing the severity and costs of climate impacts for people, including extreme weather, ecosystem loss and societal instability both at home and abroad. Over the last four years (see our coverage from 2017 , 2018 , 2019 and 2020 ), Congress has sought to maintain U.S. finance for international climate action, in the face of repeated efforts by the Trump administration to drastically cut funding back. But while the United States has been treading water on climate finance, the rest of the world has moved ahead, and the climate crisis is only intensifying. In 2009, developed countries made a collective commitment to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries between 2020 and 2025. As the largest cumulative greenhouse gas emitter , the United States has not been doing its fair share towards this goal. It is time for the United States to not just catch up, but to lead on climate finance — for the country’s own sake as well as for others’. Climate change is a global phenomenon with significant local implications. Over the past five years, the United States has suffered $600 billion in direct losses from climate and weather-related events. Yet just $2.5 billion, or 0.07 percent of the federal budget each year, supports international efforts to address climate change. It is time for the U.S. to not just catch up, but to lead on climate finance. President Joe Biden has made climate change a top priority, and this week his special envoy for climate, John Kerry, told the international community, “We intend to make good on our climate finance pledge.” Biden’s recent executive order, ” Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad ,” charged his team to develop a climate finance plan in the next three months. There are four key areas of climate finance that the administration should prioritize to bolster U.S. influence and impact as it reengages in global climate action . International climate finance in the 2021 funding bill First, it’s important to look at what the fiscal year 2021 spending package passed by Congress in December did for international climate funding. This provides the baseline from which the Biden administration must build. $811 million in bilateral allocations for environmental programs addressing biodiversity protection, sustainable landscapes, renewable energy and adaptation: Congress directed that at least $811 million in bilateral assistance — given directly to other governments — be used for environmental objectives, a $5 million increase compared to fiscal year 2020. These amounts, which come primarily from the Development Assistance and the Economic Support Fund, are similar to the Obama administration’s spending. But whereas President Barack Obama voluntarily supported these areas, starting in fiscal year 2020 Congress enshrined renewable energy and adaptation as new mandatory lines in the spending bills (alongside existing lines for sustainable landscapes and biodiversity) to prevent the Trump administration from cutting them. $140 million for the Global Environment Facility: This international fund has financed projects that help developing countries meet commitments under a variety of global environmental agreements for 29 years, and has enjoyed long-standing bipartisan support in Congress. Despite the Trump administration’s repeated efforts to halve U.S. contributions, Congress has maintained Global Environment Facility funding over the past four years. $1.48 billion for multilateral development banks: These banks are significant sources of climate finance for developing countries, providing $46 billion in climate finance in 2019. The United States is a major shareholder in these institutions. Funding for 2021 was one area where the Trump administration and Congress were in full agreement. $32 million for the Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund: This fund helps developing countries reduce their use of ozone-depleting chemicals, which include several powerful greenhouse gases . The United States maintained funding at the same level as last year. $6.4 million for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC ) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change ( UNFCCC ): These United Nations entities support climate science and international negotiations, respectively. The United States provides around two-fifths of the IPCC’s total budget and one-fifth of the UNFCCC’s. The 2021 bill maintained funding at the same level as last year, but this amount is less than the $10 million previously provided under Obama. The US should take a fresh look at multilateral climate institutions. Media Source Shutterstock Media Authorship Cienpies Design Close Authorship Hard work by many members of Congress ensured overall U.S. climate finance did not significantly decline during the Trump administration. But as other countries have continued to scale up their funding, the U.S. has fallen down the rankings. The Biden administration must make up for lost time by rapidly scaling up climate funding and restoring the country to a leading role. Next steps on climate finance for the Biden administration U.S. reengagement on climate finance is not only a matter of how much, but also where unding is allocated. The complex landscape of climate finance has many possible channels , but some have more impact than others. Here are five top priorities for the Biden administration on international climate finance: 1. Fulfill and double the US pledge to the Green Climate Fund President Donald Trump stopped U.S. contributions to the  Green Climate Fund (GCF), which has a mandate to help countries build low-carbon, resilient economies and take ambitious action under the Paris Agreement. Biden has said he would “recommit the United States to the Green Climate Fund,” and it should be No. 1 on his list of international climate finance priorities. The fund gives developing countries an equal voice in decision-making, and it has some of the strongest policies of any financial institution promoting gender responsiveness and Indigenous peoples’ rights. It delivers funding through a diverse range of more than 100 organizations , from major U.S. investors to local businesses and nonprofits in developing countries. While the GCF has faced problems with slow decision making in the past, a new voting procedure instituted in 2019 has led to far more efficient delivery. Last year the fund approved a record $2 billion for 37 projects, more than any other international climate fund. Obama pledged $3 billion to the GCF in 2014 but only delivered $1 billion before leaving office, meaning the United States still owes $2 billion from that original pledge. In 2019, most other developed countries made a new round of pledges , with many doubling their original commitments. Resumed U.S. contributions to the GCF would deliver the most diplomatic bang for the buck. The GCF was a key part of the grand bargain that underpinned the Paris Agreement: that poorer countries would undertake more climate action but needed increased support from richer countries to do so. Developing countries, as well as the U.S. climate movement , have made clear that ambitious backing for the GCF is a key test of Biden’s recommitment to global climate leadership. The GCF has significant support in Congress: for the first time last year, the House of Representatives requested funding for the GCF. With Democrats also gaining control of the Senate, and members of the pivotal Appropriations Committee backing the Fund , the potential for GCF appropriations never has looked better. To get back up to speed, Biden should deliver the outstanding $2 billion from the country’s existing pledge and make a new, more ambitious commitment of $6 billion to match peers who already have doubled their pledges . 2. Contribute to other multilateral climate institutions The United States should become a first-time contributor to the Adaptation Fund , which helps developing countries adapt to climate impacts. Like the GCF, the Adaptation Fund has an official role in implementing the Paris Agreement . Developing countries are strong champions of the Adaptation Fund because of its track record in quickly delivering funding to small-scale projects that make tangible differences to people’s lives. The fund also has pioneered innovative ways to give developing countries more say over how climate finance is spent, including giving developing countries a majority in its board and granting funding directly to recipient country institutions . A U.S. contribution to the Adaptation Fund would signal to the world that the Biden administration will fully and actively support the Paris Agreement, and that it understands the priorities of vulnerable countries. The Adaptation Fund is much smaller than the GCF, receiving just over $1 billion in cumulative contributions over 12 years. Germany is the largest contributor, pledging around $60 million each year. A U.S. contribution on that scale would provide a massive boost to the Adaptation Fund’s important work. Similarly, the United States should make a new pledge to the Least Developed Countries Fund  — which provides adaptation funding to the poorest countries — at a similar level to the $51 million it pledged in 2015. In 2021, countries will begin negotiating the Global Environment Facility’s eighth replenishment, for 2022 to 2026. The United States should come prepared with an ambitious pledge that makes up for not increasing contributions at the last replenishment in 2018. Biden also should continue support for the Montreal Protocol Multilateral Fund, and restore full funding for the IPCC and UNFCCC. 3. Integrate climate throughout all development funding Biden promised to “fully integrate climate change into foreign policy.” To ensure a coherent approach, his administration must coordinate across the government agencies that extend development assistance to other countries, including the Departments of State and Treasury, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. The administration should work with Congress to increase bilateral funding allocated in the annual appropriations bills for climate adaptation, renewable energy and sustainable landscapes. In addition to these specific allocations, the administration also should mainstream climate across all its development spending. This does not mean cutting spending from other priorities such as healthcare, education and gender equality, but that as part of an overall increase in the development assistance budget, all spending would take into account the impacts of projects on the climate — and of climate change on projects. This includes ending overseas financing for fossil fuels as part of the administration’s commitment to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. Trump reversed previous efforts by the Obama administration to mainstream climate, so the Biden administration should work closely with Congress to ensure these reforms have longevity. 4. Push development banks to align with the Paris Agreement The multilateral development banks are major climate finance contributors . But they also have a long history of financing fossil fuels . In 2018, these banks committed to align their activities with the Paris Agreement, but they have made slow progress. The heads of both the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank are Trump appointees, so this is perhaps unsurprising. The United States is a major shareholder in most multilateral development banks. The banks’ leadership are likely to ask for increased funding from the Biden administration, which gives the United States significant influence. For example, last year House Financial Services Committee chair Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) secured important reforms to increase accountability and transparency of the World Bank’s private sector arm as part of a U.S. capital increase. The Biden administration and Congress are in a strong position to push multilateral development banks to move faster toward Paris alignment , including ending funding for fossil fuels, and ensuring their pandemic recovery funding helps countries rebuild cleaner, more resilient societies. The administration should use all the tools at its disposal, including updating the Treasury guidelines for how U.S. representatives vote in development banks. Biden’s Jan. 27 executive order provides a mandate to deliver on all four of these priorities. The administration’s forthcoming climate finance plan should set out concrete steps for how the United States will meet its responsibilities and become a leader in supporting developing countries to take ambitious action, which benefits both the United States and the world. Pull Quote It is time for the U.S. to not just catch up, but to lead on climate finance. Topics Finance & Investing Policy & Politics WRI Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The Paris Agreement is just one part of the puzzle. Shutterstock CienpiesDesign Close Authorship

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4 climate finance priorities for the Biden administration

Local communities want Trump’s border wall torn down

January 29, 2021 by  
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On his first day in office, President Joe Biden ordered construction to halt on Trump’s infamous border wall. But environmentalists and communities living along the border want him to go much further, tearing it down and reversing the wall’s damage. Donald Trump set aside $15 billion for his “big beautiful wall” between the southern border of the U.S. and Mexico. About 455 miles had been constructed out of a planned 738 miles by the time Trump left office. The former president got his hands on the money by declaring a national emergency in 2019 and diverting tax dollars that would have otherwise gone to defense or counter-drug programs. But he didn’t spend a lot of time assessing the environmental and cultural impact. Hundreds of miles of land have been blasted and bulldozed, including protected public land and sites sacred to Native Americans. Related: Trump administration disregards border wall’s environmental impact “It’s a disaster, a mess, the suspended laws must be put back on the books to give border communities equal protection, and every section looked at carefully so that it can be torn down in a coordinated and responsible way, and the damage addressed immediately,” said Dan Mills, the Sierra Club’s borderlands program manager, as reported by The Guardian . Community leaders are asking Biden to cancel outstanding wall-building contracts, send experts to assess damage, tear down the wall whenever possible and clean up all the metal, barbed wire and concrete. They also urge the president to rescind waivers suspending 84 federal laws pertaining to public lands, endangered species , clean air and water and Native American rights. They’ve asked him to withdraw lawsuits against private landowners lodged to seize their land by declaring eminent domain. “It was a complete waste of money and poorly thought out, and is a constant unsightly reminder of Trump’s ugly approach to Latin America,” said retired professor Sylvia Ramirez. “The wall should never have gone up, we tried to fight it, and now it will be very difficult to undo.” Ramirez has relatives buried in historic cemeteries which are now cut off between the international border and Trump’s 30-foot wall. Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case brought by the ACLU, Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Commission about the legality of diverting billions from the Department of Defense without Congress’ okay. Via The Guardian Image via White House Archive

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Local communities want Trump’s border wall torn down

Le Littoral is a modern retreat tucked into an idyllic region of Quebec

January 29, 2021 by  
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Located in a region of Quebec known for its rolling hills and stunning views, this modern, minimalist retreat overlooks the area where the ocean meets the St. Lawrence River. The residence is known as Le Littoral and was designed by Architecture49, a firm based in Western Canada that specializes in creating wooden structures with off-center volumes. The clients are a couple who wanted to create a home with a contemporary style that complements the natural setting of rural Charlevoix. They wanted it to be used as both as a vacation residence and a luxury rental for visitors to the popular area. Architecture49 brought that vision to life by taking inspiration from the region’s historic architecture and farm buildings, then adding modern elements. Related: A lakeside, prefab home in Quebec aims for LEED Gold With sustainability in mind, the architects were sure to take highlights such as woodcutting and landscaping into account to minimize the impact of construction on the natural surroundings. To address the sloping nature of the setting, the home was elevated, and a lack of a basement eliminated the need for excavation. The building’s layout minimizes energy consumption while still taking advantage of lakeside views in the front and a private forest in the back. La Littoral features a swimming pool , sauna, fireplace and a spa, with a kitchen inside the cantilevered upper volume. As avid foodies, the clients requested a fully functional kitchen with amenities that would allow professional chefs and amateur cooks alike to take advantage of Charlevoix’s abundance of local ingredients. In addition to turning to local businesses and artisans, the architects relied on locally sourced FSC -certified cedar and pine for the structure’s skeleton. The kitchen features Quebec granite countertops, and the roof is made of sheet metal. The home’s automation systems are produced by local companies as well. + Architecture49 Photography by Stéphane Brügger via v2com

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Le Littoral is a modern retreat tucked into an idyllic region of Quebec

Agrodomes are individual greenhouses for budding crops

January 29, 2021 by  
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Farmers and backyard gardeners often find themselves rolling the dice in regards to when to safely transport seedlings from the greenhouse to the ground. It can be a crucial decision, as plants are vulnerable to heavy rain, hail or dry conditions. To facilitate healthy plant growth, Agrodome is a solution that eliminates the need for a greenhouse altogether. Designed by Agustin Otegui of NOS Design Consulting in collaboration with Jorge Álvarez, Agrodome is a modular dome for outdoor crops. With its transparent design, it allows farmers to germinate seeds directly in the field rather than growing them in a greenhouse only to transplant them into the field later. In essence, these domes act as individual greenhouses by protecting the plants from harsh weather and providing a temperature-controlled growing environment. Related: Sead Pod offers grassroots solution to air pollution and global warming Agrodomes are made from natural polymers and recycled PET , so they are fully recyclable at the end of their useful product life. Each dome measures 3 square feet, and the height is easily adjusted by simply pulling it up or pushing it deeper into the soil. The translucent upper part of the dome is ventilated to allow oxygen exchange for controlling humidity and temperature. A narrowed center portion works as a funnel, diverting water directly underground so it doesn’t flood the budding plants and allows the soil to achieve better absorption. The bottom portion of the funnel features holes that further disperse the water beneath the surface of the soil. Agrodome is designed to be lightweight yet strong. This allows farmers to easily stack, store and transport it. It also makes it easy to move the domes from one section of the field to another as different sections of the field are ready to plant or as plants are ready to thrive without the Agrodome. The modular aspect means it can be used for a variety of crops in different parts of the field at the same time, taking advantage of natural light and catering to the needs of each plant. + NOS Design Consulting Images via NOS Design Consulting

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Agrodomes are individual greenhouses for budding crops

One key to moving the Biden agenda: Bring all three sectors to the table

January 20, 2021 by  
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One key to moving the Biden agenda: Bring all three sectors to the table Laura Deaton Wed, 01/20/2021 – 01:30 The incoming Biden administration unquestionably will bring new focus to sustainable development goals at home and abroad. Joe Biden has produced plans in an array of key areas — environmental protection, clean energy and racial equity among them — and has promised action in his first 100 days as president. His administration will be playing catch-up in all these key areas, and the best way to make rapid progress is one that doesn’t get talked about enough: building three-sector collaboration into every major initiative. Government partnerships are nothing new, but they’re usually binary: Government agencies work with nonprofits or with businesses or gather feedback separately from each. Collaborations across all three sectors are less typical, but they generate more deeply informed, comprehensive solutions and yield wider support. The clearest way to illustrate the value of cross-sector collaboration is to contrast what happens when one sector isn’t at the table with what’s possible when all sectors are present. The following examples of initiatives related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals show the consequences of leaving out or engaging key stakeholders — and point to how the Biden administration can do better. When the nonprofit sector isn’t at the table: the lost opportunity in Opportunity Zones The Trump administration’s Opportunity Zones were a good idea on paper but were more effective at creating massive tax benefits for already wealthy investors than at creating new jobs and economic opportunities in disinvested communities. That’s largely because communities were left out of program design and implementation, which resulted in capital flowing into projects that didn’t target community needs and sometimes usurped preferred community uses. Working alongside government and corporate actors, community-based nonprofits could have ensured that the investments promoted equitable opportunity and contributed rather than extracted value from communities. A couple of successes show what’s possible: The Economic Equity Network, a pop-up Multiplier project, created a network of more than 300 people committed to equitable community transformation and wealth building and brought them high-impact investment opportunities in three cities. The project helped broaden female and minority investor and entrepreneur networks, and promoted the use of Opportunity Zone funds not only for real-estate investments, but also to scale up minority- and women-led businesses. The clearest way to illustrate the value of cross-sector collaboration is to contrast what happens when one sector isn’t at the table with what’s possible when all sectors are present. Moving into 2021, national community development organization LISC is collaborating  with local investment platform Blueprint Local on projects across the Southeast that will align small businesses loans, federal programs and community plans to build community wealth. The Biden administration has indicated support for Opportunity Zones, as well as acknowledged the need for fixes. The first action should be to look at these models and restructure the program with a new priority: bringing community-rooted organizations together with investors committed to creating public as well as private returns. When the for-profit sector isn’t at the table: The sidelining of sustainable fishing Environmental NGOs have been lobbying for the 30×30 initiative to conserve 30 percent of the world’s ocean habitat by 2030, and the Biden administration is embracing that goal. Sounds great, right? The problem is, the  legislation on deck was created without meaningful input from the small-scale fishermen who have helped make U.S. fisheries the most sustainable in the world. This proposal would ban commercial fishing in at least 30 percent of U.S. marine areas, overturning the successful fisheries management system, harming coastal communities and cutting off consumer access to sustainable local seafood. The end result could be to increase long-distance imports from far less sustainable sources. Contrast that with an example of what can happen when all three sectors work together: The nonprofit program Catch Together partners with fishing communities to create and launch community-owned permit banks, which purchase fishing quota (rights to a certain percentage of the catch in a fishery) and then lease that quota to local fishing businesses at affordable rates. The centerpiece of the program is a foundation-supported revolving loan fund that capitalizes the permit banks and allows communities to invest in tradable quota. That makes it easier for small-scale fishing businesses to access capital and compete against larger players for the ability to fish in their own local waters. So far, the Catch Together team has helped fund quota acquisitions and leasing in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and New England. The goal is to build a nationwide network of next-generation fishermen who are strong advocates for sustainable fisheries and ocean stewardship. This network and other local fishermen — especially Indigenous fishing communities — deserve a seat at the table to explain how their sustainable fishing techniques contribute to climate resilience and conservation. By insisting on collaborative approaches such as the Catch Together model, the Biden administration could ensure that the effort to mitigate the harm caused by large-scale fishing doesn’t undermine responsible small fishermen. It is possible to reach the 30×30 goals by working with fishing communities — in fact, that may be the only way it will happen. When government hides under the table: A power player blocks renewable energy Pacific Northwest residents and wildlife are caught in the grip of a self-funding federal power marketing entity holding fast to an antiquated model that forces consumers to buy more expensive, less environmentally friendly energy. The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) produces supposedly clean hydroelectric energy from the dams it owns — but its high-maintenance, high-cost infrastructure damages salmon habitat and produces pricier power than solar and wind installations. BPA has maintained the status quo despite these deficits by pacifying environmental NGOs with funding to develop environmental solutions (which have no chance of working unless the dams come down) and using its control of the grid to keep cheaper, greener renewable energy out of the market. Another thread runs through the success stories: science, scientists and diverse perspectives. In this case, a public agency essentially has gone rogue, using its monopoly power to privilege its own perceived interests. Collaboration with the nonprofit and for-profit sectors could create solutions that serve the public interest, but neither the Department of Energy (the BPA’s overseer) nor Congress has come to the table to demand it. Columbia Rediviva , a network of citizen activists, is working to change that by engaging Congress members in a plan to reimagine the Pacific Northwest power grid and bring salmon back to the Columbia River. One focus is freeing NGOs to be independent voices by shifting control of conservation funds to a different government agency (so that the BPA is not funding their operations). Another is building support for newer, better clean energy supplies by sharing research that shows taking down dams would deliver both cheaper energy and more jobs. The Biden administration can promote progress in the Pacific Northwest and on clean energy goals nationally by putting government on the side of innovation and aligning the players’ incentives with the public good. When everyone is at the table: The emergence of the first carbon-neutral U.S. city Menlo Park, California, is on its way to becoming the first carbon-neutral city in the U.S., thanks to Menlo Spark ’s work to activate stakeholders in pursuit of that vision. The nonprofit program has collaborated with local government, businesses, residents and experts to institute proven sustainability measures designed to not only reduce the Silicon Valley hub’s carbon emissions but also increase the prosperity of the entire community. Menlo Spark created community buy-in to the carbon-neutral initiative by outlining how it would allow Menlo Park to continue to thrive economically. This support brought the corporate and government sectors on board as well. The city adopted groundbreaking codes requiring that all new buildings operate entirely on electricity, and the Menlo Spark coalition spurred other Silicon Valley cities to do the same, creating a regional effect. The coalition also catalyzed 20 cities to commit to pursuing 100 percent carbon-free power for all customers by 2021. Solar installations for low-income families, improved transit tools and stops, an infrastructure initiative that paves the way for apartment dwellers to own electric vehicles, the Menlo Green Challenge for households, and educational tools all contribute to progress.  This example illustrates a key advantage of bringing all sectors into the conversation: the nonprofit sector is highly skilled at taking the pulse of a community and figuring out effective ways to gain support from all sectors for innovative ideas. Biden’s climate agenda will require all-sector support to succeed, and the administration should center the nonprofit sector as a valuable partner in building community support. The upshot: We need bigger tables As the examples above illustrate, three-sector engagement is crucial. And another thread runs through the success stories: science, scientists and diverse perspectives. Biden already has taken steps on the crucial task of bringing scientific assessments and ongoing research back into policymaking, but there’s a lot of catching up to do in this area. At the same time, we need to be sure we’re involving a true cross-section of the community in initiatives that affect us all. The National Science Policy Network is addressing both needs: this network catalyzes early-career scientists to take an active role in policymaking at all levels of government. It also focuses on racial justice and diversity in science, with initiatives to promote women and people of color and model inclusive and successful science communication. Having all the right people at the table is the essential first step in creating lasting solutions to our long-running environmental and social challenges. That means involving all three sectors, a cross-section of our communities and scientific advisers who themselves represent diverse perspectives and are committed to translating science into policy. In short, we need bigger tables where everyone gets a seat. The Biden administration would be wise to incorporate this principle throughout its policy agenda. That is how it will truly achieve Biden’s goal of uniting America. Pull Quote The clearest way to illustrate the value of cross-sector collaboration is to contrast what happens when one sector isn’t at the table with what’s possible when all sectors are present. Another thread runs through the success stories: science, scientists and diverse perspectives. Topics Innovation Policy & Politics Corporate Strategy Public-Private Partnerships Environmental Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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One key to moving the Biden agenda: Bring all three sectors to the table

Supporting democracy becomes the measure of leadership

January 18, 2021 by  
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Supporting democracy becomes the measure of leadership Terry F. Yosie Mon, 01/18/2021 – 02:00 The aftershocks of the Jan. 6 insurrection to block Congressional certification of the U.S. Presidential election will reverberate for many years. In the short run, there may be additional efforts to violently disrupt President-elect Biden’s inauguration Jan. 20, in addition to domestic terrorism activities aimed at state and local governments and other institutions. Such concerns have re-focused public expectations that leadership across all major institutions, public and private, must take sustained actions to support democracy. The Jan. 6 insurrection has transformed the nation’s political conversation and moved the support for democratic values to the top tier of advocacy. It has subsumed and reset the context for other key national priorities such as responding to the pandemic, climate change, economic renewal and social justice. At the very core of democracy are the values of transparency, due process and good governance, respect for human rights and the ability to participate freely in the political system. At the very core of democracy are the values of transparency, due process and good governance, respect for human rights and the ability to participate freely in the political system. Not coincidentally, these same values enable enactment of core elements of the sustainability agenda for environmental protection, economic development and social responsibility. The accelerating debate over how best to protect and strengthen democracy bears close watching as a major barometer for the success of policies to advance sustainability. Political donations that undermine democracy Companies that make political donations, and institutions and individuals that receive them, are presently engaged in a frantic scramble to identify whether these funds are connected to groups associated with white nationalism, violence and sedition, or disruption of the election process. Numerous embarrassing examples already have emerged from leading U.S. institutions. They include: Comcast, JP Morgan Chase, Microsoft and PepsiCo made contributions to the Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF), the fundraising arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which raised about $18 million in 2020. The RLDF actively participated in attempting to prevent the certification of the U.S. Presidential election, including the use of robocalls encouraging people across the country to assemble in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 to march on the Capitol. The RAGA executive director subsequently has resigned. A large number of U.S. corporations provided political donations to two-thirds of the Republican caucus in the House of Representations that sought to block certification of the Presidential election. Individual companies are belatedly recognizing that individuals on the rapidly expanding “sedition” list prepared by law enforcement authorities received their donations. Carnegie Mellon University, which for many years has accepted funds from the Richard Mellon Scaife Foundation (a major funding source for many anti-environmental and right-wing political causes), established a fellow position at its Institute for Politics and Strategy for Richard Grenell, a senior Trump Administration official, who aggressively and publicly lobbied to overturn the U.S. election results. Good governance in donation practices In the midst of this political firestorm, a growing number of organizations, chiefly corporations, are examining whether their donations support anti-democratic politicians. Their practices include: Suspending immediately all corporate and employee contributions to any member of Congress who voted in objection to the certification of the Presidential election. Leading companies such as healthcare provider Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Commerce Bank, Dow Chemical and Marriott International have publicly announced this decision. Dow has further committed to suspending its political donations for the next election cycle (two years for a member of the House, six years for a senator). Reviewing the bylaws and governing policies of political action committees (the unit within a company that is legally authorized to collect and distribute political donations) to evaluate their consistency with a firm’s values and determine the criteria under which currently suspended political contributions can be reinstated or permanently revoked. This outcome will depend, in part, upon whether suspended political recipients re-affirm or reverse their position on electoral certification. Determining whether any recipients of political donations are identified on a law enforcement “seditionist list” subject to potential criminal or other penalties. To their chagrin, some American-based companies have determined a match between their donation recipients (as compiled by the U.S. Federal Election Commission that tracks political contributions) and individuals placed on the federal government’s sedition list. In the short run, these decisions will financially disadvantage Republican elected officials, as 139 members of Congress and eight senators from their party voted against certifying the presidential election results — even after the insurrection had occurred. Beyond these financial decisions are public statements by a limited number of business leaders who have called for the resignation of President Donald Trump. Most prominent has been Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers. The insurrection “was a clear and present danger to our democracy … and we couldn’t stand for that,” he said. No other prominent business association has echoed Timmons’ declaration. Longer-term reforms Conventional behavior for financing the U.S. political system will await the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president and assume that momentous policy debates in the U.S. Congress over curbing the COVID-19 pandemic, reviving the economy, investing in infrastructure that decarbonizes the economy and reforming immigration practices will slide the public’s current focus on political donations to the periphery. Several initiatives to manage the advocacy process can be implemented to raise the bar in support of democracy. They include: Redefining the criteria for advocacy donations so they are aligned with a company’s central values and promote pro-democratic policy objectives. Such criteria should be approved by the board of directors and should apply to both direct company contributions and allocations provided through a foundation. Expanding the transparency of political donations so they are approved through the corporate governance process and are included as part of the annual financial audit. The list of external recipients should be made accessible through a public website. Identifying and publicizing universities, think tanks and individuals that receive funding to generate studies, organize seminars or establish fellowships to research and publish on issues related to democracy, labor, regulatory or sustainability issues. Integrating the pro-climate change and sustainability efforts of asset managers, investors and non-governmental organizations directly with pro-democracy advocacy. Organizations such as Climate Action 100+ are well-positioned to add support of democracy to their current suite of environment, social and governance (ESG) priorities. Mobilizing a coalition of lawyers, thought leaders and political representatives to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. This 2010 edict opened the floodgates for a dramatic expansion of money to influence political campaigns and regulatory policy decisions by prohibiting government from restricting independent expenditures for political communication and enabling donors to shield their identities. The adverse consequences of this decision continue through the ever-increasing amount of contributions to candidates and causes, much of it unaccounted for, anti-environmental and anti-democratic. Offsetting the discouraging news of political insurrection and the corruption of democracy is the hopeful indicator of expanded voter participation. Most Americans have a growing recognition of the fragile state of their country and are committed to a course of peaceful collaboration to address a growing list of problems. This is reflected in higher rates of voter participation in both the 2018 mid-term and 2020 Presidential elections. While encouraging, two election cycles do not represent a longer-term trend. Expanding pro-democracy advocacy can provide a rising tide for a number of economic, environmental and social justice proposals that lead to a more equitable and just society. Such is the means to grow a continuing pro-democracy majority while marginalizing extremist points of view. Pull Quote At the very core of democracy are the values of transparency, due process and good governance, respect for human rights and the ability to participate freely in the political system. Topics Policy & Politics Featured Column Values Proposition Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Supporting democracy becomes the measure of leadership

House passes Big Cat Public Safety Act

December 9, 2020 by  
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The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a landmark legislation that will see big cats protected from human mistreatment. The Big Cat Public Safety Act (BCPSA) prohibits individuals from owning big cats in their homes or in roadside zoos. The act was passed by 272 votes, compared to 114 members who voted against the legislation. The bill, which was introduced by Michael Quigley and Brian Fitzpatrick in 2012, has been in the pipeline for a long time. Due to public outcry, the legislation has now been passed, prohibiting exploitation of big cats such as lions, leopards, and tigers . “After months of the public loudly and clearly calling for Congress to end private big cat ownership, I am extremely pleased that the House has now passed the Big Cat Public Safety Act,” Quigley said. “Big cats are wild animals that simply do not belong in private homes, backyards, or shoddy roadside zoos.” Related: ‘Tiger King’ drama overshadows abuse of captive tigers in U.S. The success in passing this legislation in the House has been attributed to the exposure of animal exploitation on the Netflix series “Tiger King.” Following the show’s popularity, in April 2020, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released footage showing the abuse that tigers and other big cats suffer at the hands of Joe Exotic, one of the leading personalities in “Tiger King.” The footage of Joe Exotic and other zoo workers routinely abusing big cats lead to public outrage, which resulted in varying levels of discipline for several people featured in the show. Joe Exotic himself is currently in prison for wildlife violations. The case of Joe Exotic’s mistreatment of wildlife is but one among many. Due to such incidences, multiple states have been implementing rules to control human-wildlife interactions. Currently, only five states, Nevada, Alabama, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, have no laws protecting big cats. As such, it has become necessary to have a federally recognized law to protect these animals. Keeping big cats in roadside zoos and homes also poses a public health threat. Since 1990, over 400 dangerous incidences, including 24 deaths, have been reported in 46 states and Washington, D.C. According to HSUS CEO Kitty Block and Sara Admunsen, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the only way to end these incidences is by introducing federal legislation. “But to wipe this problem out for good, we need strong federal laws that will prevent unscrupulous people from forcing wild animals to spend their entire lives in abject misery while creating a public safety nightmare,” they said in a joint statement.  The Big Cat Public Safety Act now moves to the Senate floor for voting. Via VegNews Image via Sherri Burgan

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A new policy platform is thinking big on forests and climate

December 1, 2020 by  
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A new policy platform is thinking big on forests and climate Kylie Clay Tue, 12/01/2020 – 00:30 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has sent a clear message : to keep catastrophic climate change impacts at bay, we need to keep our warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and the land sector must play a central role in achieving that. We need to stop emissions from deforestation and forest degradation while simultaneously bolstering the carbon sequestration capacity of healthy, growing forests. Following the recent U.S. presidential election, the Forest-Climate Working Group (FCWG) released an ambitious federal policy platform , endorsed by 43 CEOs and organizations representing all dimensions of U.S. forests, intended to help Congress leverage forests for climate change action. The platform includes five detailed proposals that guide policymakers on how to help private forest owners and public land managers overcome existing financial and technical obstacles, enabling them to grow powerful climate solutions in America’s forests and forest product sectors while delivering myriad environmental and economic benefits. Together, the proposals advance the four FCWG goals for climate change mitigation : Maintain and expand forest cover. Improve forest practices for carbon, adaptation and resilience. Advance markets for forest carbon, forest products and skilled labor. Enhance climate data and applied science. Changing priorities Our newly elected leadership is on board with climate action. A crucial component of any carbon-neutral or net-zero plan is offsetting any continued emissions with additional sequestration from natural and working lands, including forests. The threat climate change presents to our well-being is becoming increasingly undeniable, and the need and desire to take impactful action is within reach. In her vice-presidential debate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris recognized climate change as an “existential threat” and stated that, under a Biden administration, the U.S. would be ” carbon-neutral by 2035 .” President-elect Joe Biden’s official campaign climate plan highlights the next step: achieving ” net-zero emissions no later than 2050 .” To ensure these targets are within reach, FCWG proposals address the following challenges:   Non-industrial family landowners own 36 percent of U.S. forests (with an average parcel size of 67.2 acres ). Due to their small size, the vast majority are unable to benefit from existing carbon markets and face increasing financial pressure to convert forestland into cropland or development. U.S. forests are understocked . Research and funding for increased reforestation are needed to optimize forest sequestration without exacerbating potential for catastrophic fire. The construction sector makes up 8.6 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions. While technology such as cross-laminated timber could dramatically reduce sector emissions if sustainably deployed at scale, it faces upfront informational and perceived cost barriers for architects, builders and developers. Ideas into action With the following specific proposals, the FCWG aims to address the aforementioned challenges and, in so doing, increase the climate change mitigation potential from forests and forest products: Create a new forest conservation easement program. Conservation easements are an important voluntary option for forest landowners to keep their forests as forests. This proposal would meet growing demand for easements by creating a new funding source. Create a landowner tax credit for private forest carbon actions. This policy would create opportunities for private landowners to gain financial incentive for activities that increase carbon sequestration via a transferrable tax credit. Remove the cap on the Reforestation Trust Fund. The outdated cap has left a reforestation backlog of millions of acres, particularly in areas affected by large-scale disturbance from pests or fire. Removing the outdated cap will provide the U.S. Forest Service with increased annual funding to improve national forest health and assure these lands can quickly restart carbon sequestration. Create a low carbon footprint building tax credit. Wood products store carbon and require less energy to manufacture than other materials, reducing the carbon footprint of the built environment. Providing a tax incentive to build with low carbon footprint materials will create incentives to reduce the carbon footprint of the built environment while creating market demand that helps landowners keep forests as forests. Expand Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program funding. More frequent and consistent forest measurement data coupled with better analysis capabilities will deepen our understanding of forest carbon. Expanding the U.S. Forest Service’s FIA Program, already a globally recognized source of forest carbon data, will provide more comprehensive and granular data. These proposals are necessary steps toward meaningfully combatting climate change. Richard Kobe, Michigan State University Forestry Department chair, says of the platform:   “The FCWG policy platform is right on target by supporting investments in our forests, landowners and research capacity. These elements are critical to ensure our forests are effective carbon sinks and are resilient to climate change, which in turn supports economic vitality of rural communities, clean water, wildlife and the many other benefits that forests provide.” Uptake and implementation The FCWG policy platform lays out a roadmap of tangible steps to ensure that our forests are part of the climate solution. As the 117th U.S. Congress prepares to undertake a range of legislation, climate inevitably will play a dominant role. The threat climate change presents to our well-being is becoming increasingly undeniable, and the need and desire to take impactful action is within reach. A host of recent bipartisan bills (such as the Growing Climate Solutions Act and Rural Forests Market Act proposals) highlight that being proactive about the environmental and economic potential of our natural and working lands, including forestry and agriculture, is of great interest on both sides of the aisle. The MSU Forest Carbon and Climate Program (FCCP) aims to increase understanding and implementation of climate-smart forest management, which inextricably links climate change mitigation and adaptation. The program focuses on activities that advance best practice implementation, promote robust and inter-disciplinary understanding of forest benefits and co-benefits, and develop and nurture balanced perspectives that include working forests and forest products as a part of the climate change solution. These objectives are achieved through working with strategic partners to better communicate and bring attention to key topics, create educational content and programming, and bridge dialogue gaps on carbon and climate topics related to forests and forested lands. Pull Quote The threat climate change presents to our well-being is becoming increasingly undeniable, and the need and desire to take impactful action is within reach. Contributors Lauren Cooper Topics Forestry Policy & Politics Climate Change Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Here’s how Joe Biden could cultivate a more sustainable food system

November 13, 2020 by  
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Here’s how Joe Biden could cultivate a more sustainable food system Jim Giles Fri, 11/13/2020 – 00:14 Let’s do a quick thought experiment. Imagine stepping into an elevator and realizing that the man next to you is President-elect Joe Biden. You have 30 seconds to urge him to focus on a particular issue. What would it be? Earlier this week, I invited leaders from food and agriculture to play that game. Specifically, I asked them what Biden’s administration should do to accelerate progress toward a more sustainable food system. I got more responses than I can share in a single newsletter, so I’ll be rolling out answers weekly until the end of the year. Here are three — spanning farm spending, technical support and farmers of color — to get the conversation started. No need to wait for Congress One of the most encouraging responses emphasized that there’s a lot Biden can do without additional support from Congress.  “The U.S. Department of Agriculture can take advantage of tools and money it already has to help farmers transition to more climate-friendly practices that can also lead to improved farm economic resilience in the long term,” said Chris Adamo, vice president of federal and industry affairs at Danone North America. “Via the Farm Bill, the department spends approximately $6 billion annually on conservation practices. As part of its conservation funding, the USDA could prioritize soil health through cover crops, crop diversification and other regenerative practices, and partner with the private sector to leverage resources.” Adamo added: “The current administration has also spent over $30 billion compensating farmers for COVID and trade-related losses. However, many farmers may not be in a better situation in the short term. If we’re going to continue to pay for market losses, it may be better to invest with diversity, equity and climate in mind.” Boots on the ground The federal government also can help support ongoing private sector projects in food and ag, where many companies are already working to cut greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and to regenerate farmland and waterways.  “To support this transition, the USDA should boost farmer and rancher program service delivery through more boots-on-the-ground technical assistance,” said Debbie Reed, executive director of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium . “There continues to be a real need for technical assistance to transfer knowledge, outcomes and benefits to working farmers and ranchers.” If we’re going to continue to pay for market losses, it may be better to invest with diversity, equity and climate in mind. Particularly when it comes to conservation programs, this support needs to recognize that different farmers have different needs, Reed added. In practice, this means it needs to be place-based and flexible enough to allow farmers and ranchers to improve environmental impacts without incurring excessive risk. One way to deliver this, suggested Reed, would be to rebuild the ranks of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, which have fallen dramatically over the past two decades. Protect farmers of color Black farmers sometimes refer to the USDA as “the last plantation” due to the agency’s long history of discriminating against farmers of color. The results of this lack of support have been devastating. A century ago, there were a million Black farmers in the United States. Now just 45,000 remain, each earning, on average, one-fifth of what white farmers do.  That history is why Leah Penniman, co-director and manager of Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York, is urging Biden to enact protections and support for farmers of color. These include expanded access to credit, crop insurance and technical assistance; independent review of farmland foreclosures; and debt forgiveness programs where discrimination has been proven. (If you’re interested in learning more about this issue, Penniman helped create Elizabeth Warren’s policy proposals in this area , which remain some of the most ambitious.) What would you say to Biden during your shared elevator ride? Let me know at jg@greenbiz.com . I’ll include as many responses as possible in Food Weekly during the transition period. This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote If we’re going to continue to pay for market losses, it may be better to invest with diversity, equity and climate in mind. Topics Food & Agriculture Policy & Politics Social Justice Regenerative Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Biden-Harris supporters gather at a farm market in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for a “get out the vote” event on the eve of the 2020 presidential election. Shutterstock Ben Von Klemperer Close Authorship

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Here’s how Joe Biden could cultivate a more sustainable food system

Key phase of Everglades restoration project starts in November

September 21, 2020 by  
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Federal and Florida state authorities are working together to complete the Tamiami Trail Next Steps Project, an important part of restoring the Everglades. The state was just awarded a $200 million contract, meaning the last step of this plan, which Congress approved in 2009, will finally begin in November. “Phase 2 of the project will focus on raising and reconstructing the remaining 6.7 miles of the eastern Tamiami Trail with features to further improve water conveyance, roadway safety, and stormwater treatment,” according to an official statement. “Construction on Phase 2 is scheduled to begin in November 2020.” Related: Can Florida save its prized Everglades from climate change destruction? The Tamiami Trail is the 275 miles of U.S. Highway 41 that join Tampa and Miami. Politicians in Tallahassee came up with the idea to link Florida’s west and east coasts with this route in 1915. But in the last 105 years, traffic has increased more than anybody could have foreseen, straining local ecosystems . Before the highway and other human interference, more than 450 billion gallons of water per year easily flowed southward into what is now Everglades National Park. By 2000, that figure was only about 260 billion gallons of water per year, resulting in a deteriorating ecosystem. That year, Congress authorized the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which aimed to “restore, preserve, and protect the south Florida ecosystem while providing for other water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood protection.” With a 35-plus-year timeline and a $10.5 billion budget, this was the largest hydrologic restoration project in the country’s history. The restoration project is important for both wildlife and the state’s economy. Routing more freshwater to the Everglades will keep salt water at bay, providing drinking water for humans and animals and helping to restore wetlands for wading birds. A better water flow will also boost recreational activities and agriculture and help maintain real estate values. Everybody from the Florida panther to the alligator to the Midwestern tourist will benefit from this investment in the Everglades ecosystem. “The granting of this award is an exciting milestone in the completion of such a critical project for Everglades restoration,” said Margaret Everson, acting director of the National Park Service, according to CBS Miami . “This step is a wonderful example of how collaboration and coordination with our partners sets the stage for long-term restoration efforts.” + National Park Service Via CBS Miami Image via Pixabay

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