A vision for a Biden-Harris sustainable business agenda

November 17, 2020 by  
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A vision for a Biden-Harris sustainable business agenda Aron Cramer Tue, 11/17/2020 – 01:30 This article originally was published in the BSR Insight . Now that the results of the United States presidential election are in, it is time to focus on what business can do to promote a policy agenda that will accelerate the transformation needed to shift to a truly just and sustainable economy.  The U.S. government has been either absent or counterproductive on sustainability issues the past four years. This will change in a Biden-Harris administration. How much it changes will depend greatly on the actions and influence of the business community. BSR exists to catalyze business leadership to achieve a just and sustainable world. We believe strongly that sustainability is a primary source of strategic business advantage. We believe that comprehensive business action calls for companies to “act, enable, and influence,” creating change both through actions in the “real economy” and also in advocating for policy solutions. With a new government coming into power, now is the time for business to use its voice and influence to call for decisive action from a more receptive administration in Washington. With this in mind, here is the agenda that BSR urges businesses to call on the Biden administration to adopt, in the spirit of the campaign’s “build back better” mantra. It is time to focus on what business can do to promote a policy agenda that will accelerate the transformation needed to shift to a truly just and sustainable economy. Employment and economic Repairing the safety net:  It is time for business to engage with government in remaking the social safety net for the 21st century. 2020 has exposed the serious holes in the safety net, not least access to health care. It is also time to develop a consensus on portable benefits for people who change jobs or who work outside traditional jobs. Innovations such as the tax-deferred “401(j)” accounts proposed by Al Gore to allow employees to save for lifelong learning also would be a good step. These steps not only would enable economic security and mobility, they also would ensure opportunities for innovation and a dynamic workforce that businesses need. Income inequality: t is long past time for Americans to reverse the deep and widening inequality that plagues our country. While there are multiple reasons for this problem, three topics deserve to be made a priority. First is the need to raise the minimum wage to a level that is a genuine living wage. This would both enable families to support themselves and also reward labor in an economy in which capital has been rewarded more than it should be. Second is executive compensation, which has continued to rise far too fast. It is time for business leaders to take voluntary steps to reduce executive pay and for boards to commit to the same. Third, income inequality strikes communities of color especially hard and all pathways to prosperity need to address the wealth gap directly. Future of work: The changing nature of work is accelerating due to the confluence of COVID-19 and automation. Contingent or non-traditional work is the fastest growing category of work. There is no consensus on the rules governing such work or universal benefits people can access regardless of how their work is classified. Dialogue between business, government and workers’ representatives is needed to establish the rules of the road. Climate and environment Net zero target for the U.S.: Returning to the Paris Agreement will happen Jan. 20 — that is only the start. The U.S. should commit to a net-zero target the way that the European Union, China, Japan, South Korea and others — including many U.S. states and cities — have. The need for renewed climate diplomacy, with the U.S. playing a crucial role along with the EU, China and Japan, could not be more important in the run-up to COP 26. Climate justice/just transition: Awareness of the disparate impacts of climate — mainly hitting communities of color and those with less formal education — means that environmental justice should come to the forefront. The shift to net-zero is a generational opportunity for progress, not only removing the most toxic elements of the existing energy system but also generating economic opportunities in the clean energy economy as a means of combatting poverty and discrimination. Business should insist that the transition to net zero include policies that prioritize the phase out of toxic impacts on communities of color, incentives for investments that ensure that the clean energy economy delivers training, and employment for people who need opportunities the most, in both rural and urban communities. Green infrastructure:  Even with divided government, investment in green infrastructure is possible as a means of generating employment at a time when it is badly needed and to reduce the operating costs of U.S. infrastructure. Business should advocate for built environment and transport systems that accelerate and prepare for the net zero economy. The long debated Green Infrastructure Bank should become a reality, not least with the rise of green and “olive” bonds. And this is also the place where serious — and badly needed — resilience objectives can be achieved. Regenerative agriculture: At long last, there is mainstream recognition of the deep intersections of climate, human health and the vibrancy of America’s agricultural economy. What’s more, the political opportunity to bring the country together through heartland interest in thriving agriculture and coastal interest in climate action is one that could help unify a country that is divided against itself on climate action. It is time for business to make clear that it wants and needs strong support for human rights, with renewed action from the White House and State Department at a minimum. Social Racial justice: The Biden campaign made clear that racial justice was one of its four priorities, along with climate action, economic opportunity and public health. In fact, these four topics are interrelated and should be addressed as such. The business community should make sure that the many statements of support for Black Lives Matter in 2020 are strengthened by a long-term commitment to ensure that decisive action is taken to end the centuries-long scourge of systemic racism. As noted above, the wealth gap that exists in communities of color is a legacy of longstanding oppression. Steps taken to address climate, strengthen the social safety net, restore public health and invest in green infrastructure offer great promise in addressing the wealth gap, and business should support this objective vocally. In addition, business also should make clear its support for criminal legal system reform, starting with policing, but also including access to the court system and incarceration rates. Finally, business should call for mandatory disclosure of employee demographic information, which leverages transparency in support of greater equity. Technology and human rights/privacy: It is well understood that policy moves more slowly than technology. At a high level, the U.S. government should establish the principle that new technologies should adhere to international human rights standards in their design, development and use. In addition, the U.S. government can introduce a federal privacy law along similar lines to the GDPR, ensure that any revisions to Section 230 of the Telecommunications Decency Act of 1996 are consistent with the protection of human rights, and introduce sector-based approaches to regulating disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and biometric technologies. Companies from all industries should advocate for a technology policy and regulatory context that protects interdependent rights such as freedom of expression, privacy, security, freedom of assembly, non-discrimination, public health and access to remedy. Restoring support for human rights and democracy: The U.S. government has provided implicit and explicit support for some of the governments most responsible for the worst human rights abuses over the past few years. The business community shied away from calling this out the way they challenged the Trump administration’s approach to climate. It is time for business to make clear that it wants and needs strong support for human rights, with renewed action from the White House and State Department at a minimum. Human migration and refugee policies: The xenophobia unleashed in the first days of the Trump years must be relegated to the past. Business consistently has called for immigration policies that enable the U.S. to welcome the breadth of human capacity that comes from literally every corner of the world. This is needed both for humanitarian reasons, which speak for themselves, but also because of the positive impact open societies have on economic vitality and innovation. What’s more, this will also help to restore America’s soft power around the world, something that benefits U.S. businesses and which has been seriously damaged since 2016. Governance Corporate governance reforms and listing requirements: It is time for boards to reflect more fully the world in which business actually operates. This means diversifying board composition. It also requires that so-called “non-financial” considerations be embedded in corporate governance and listing requirements. A good first step towards integration of ESG into corporate governance would be business advocacy for making the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) mandatory. This then can be extended to other steps including mandatory human rights diligence, executive compensation and workplace diversity. All these steps will strengthen the resilience of business and bring America’s trading rules in sync with advances in Europe and elsewhere. Restoring democracy: 2020 has made clear, yet again, of significant structural flaws in American democracy. Business associations stepped up to call publicly for democratic processes to be honored — and have continued to call for this post-election. This remains important as many have chosen not to honor the clear outcome of the election. Despite this, American democracy appears poised to survive in the wake of this unusual election, but issues remain. Business should use its voice to call for reforms that address voter suppression, campaign finance, gerrymandering and a judicial system infected by hyper-partisanship. This is an issue that many CEOs will seek to avoid for fear of appearing to pick sides, and that is understandable. But the reforms called for here should not be seen that way, as they are necessary for our system to function, for all people to have their voices heard and for faith in the system be restored. 2020 has made clear, yet again, that there are significant structural flaws in American democracy. Rules-based trading system with multilateral agreements: The U.S. was the primary architect of the rules-based trading system in the wake of World War II and the primary protector of that system over the past 75 years. While this system certainly needs significant reforms, the past four years have taken a scorched-earth approach that leaves us no hope of managing an interdependent world well and fairly. Business could not have more of a stake in restoring support for the concept of multilateralism and more of a need to make sure it is fit for purpose in the 21st century. Procurement: Finally, business should call on government to partner more aggressively on procurement policies. The U.S. government has immense purchasing power and it is not being used as fully as it could be to promote the creation and efficiency of markets for sustainable products and services. This is also a uniquely valuable way to address the wealth gap, with government partnering with BIPOC-owned businesses as suppliers. There will be a time to get more specific on policy solutions. For now, however, it is essential to define the areas where progress is necessary. Much of what is advocated here is also found in BSR’s call for business action to promote a 21st century social contract . The temptation to “go back to business as usual” will be strong for many, but that would be a mistake. Building a just and sustainable world never has been about opposing any single political leader. It always has been about building a future in which we can all thrive. It is about what we are for, not what we are against. After four years when the U.S. government failed to embrace — and often thwarted — the achievement of sustainable business, the business voice remains a powerful tool in creating an economy that works for all. Pull Quote It is time to focus on what business can do to promote a policy agenda that will accelerate the transformation needed to shift to a truly just and sustainable economy. It is time for business to make clear that it wants and needs strong support for human rights, with renewed action from the White House and State Department at a minimum. 2020 has made clear, yet again, that there are significant structural flaws in American democracy. Topics Policy & Politics Policy & Politics Paris Agreement Climate Justice Resilience Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off President-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris on stage at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware during the 2020 election campaign. Photo by  Stratos Brilakis  on Shutterstock.

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A vision for a Biden-Harris sustainable business agenda

Biden-Harris: The work begins

November 7, 2020 by  
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Biden-Harris: The work begins Joel Makower Sat, 11/07/2020 – 10:39 Whatever your political leanings, the election of Joe Biden as President of the United States increases the odds of bringing America back into the community of nations addressing the climate crisis. “Increases the odds” is the key phrase in the above sentence. There’s a lot of work to do, and not just by our elected representatives, to regain our footing on this issue — and to regain our standing on the global stage. Now, the hard work begins. There is public policy to enact and implement. There are new commitments to be made. There are fractured alliances to mend. But more important, there is leadership to project. Not just by the new president or Congress, but by us all. The new administration will need to know that we have their backs. If America is to be seen as the climate leader so many of us desperately want it to be, we’ll need to stand with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on climate (and environmental protection in general). We’ll need our voices to be loud and clear. We’ll need to push and prod them toward increasingly more ambitious action. The new administration will need to know that we have their backs. This is easier said than done. Most companies have been woefully silent on climate policy. Despite the explosion of net-zero commitments across the economy, there’s been relatively little hue and cry by business for national leadership on climate issues. Quite the opposite: Most companies have stood by as the current administration dismantled existing climate policies, which must now be pieced back together. It won’t be easy or quick, but nothing less will do. And getting back to where we were in 2016 is only the beginning. Elections are easy; governing is hard, particularly in this fractured age. But it’s heartening that president-elect’s campaign website has a page dedicated to “a clean energy revolution and environmental justice.” It speaks to how addressing the climate crisis will lead to “a stronger, more resilient nation” as we take on “this grave threat.” It promises that “the development of solutions is an inclusive, community-driven process.” These are words, not deeds, but they nonetheless represent a welcome turnaround from current policy. All of us will need to hold the new administration to account on those lofty aspirations. There will be lots of obstacles overcome, by all of us. More to come on this. For now, it’s time to exhale, relax, savor the moment. But only for a moment. It’s a new day. This is when the hard work actually begins. Pull Quote The new administration will need to know that we have their backs. Topics Policy & Politics Climate Change Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off JoeBiden.com

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If offered Biden’s lead EPA role, Mary Nichols would say yes

October 30, 2020 by  
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If offered Biden’s lead EPA role, Mary Nichols would say yes Katie Fehrenbacher Fri, 10/30/2020 – 03:00 The Presidential election looming next week could change everything for the future of the environment, clean air and the markets contributing to the clean economy. And if Vice President Joe Biden wins, there’s a chance it could change everything for California’s clean air chief Mary Nichols, too.  Bloomberg recently reported that Nichols, the retiring chair of the California Air Resources Board,  was on a shortlist to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if Biden wins the election next week. Others on the list for EPA head, or other environmental roles, include Mississippi environmentalist and former regional EPA administrator Heather McTeer Toney, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Connecticut regulator Dan Esty, according to the report.  During an interview at the VERGE 20 conference on Thursday , Nichols responded to a question about the report, by saying this: I am one of the people who worked at the EPA once upon a time who has been shocked and distressed by the treatment they have received over the last four years. In particular, it’s a much smaller, a much weaker agency than it was supposed to have been. And if the President wants my help, in whatever capacity, to help turn that around, I’m going to say yes.  If Nichols took on the lead role with the EPA, it would be an abrupt 180 for the agency under President Donald Trump. Current EPA head Andrew Wheeler, working with the Trump administration, has rapidly moved to dismantle many environmental, clean water and clean air protections in an attempt to remove red tape for industry. These are the types of regulations that Nichols has spent her 50-year career — including a stint at the EPA during the Clinton administration — helping implement.  In particular, Nichols and CARB have clashed with the Trump administration, and Wheeler, over issues including California’s ability to set stricter auto emissions standards. Last year, the administration revoked the state’s waiver to set stricter auto standards, and California, followed by 22 other states, sued the Trump administration. Of course, the outcome of the election is uncertain, and Nichols is reportedly just one of the names on Biden’s shortlist. The CARB chair told the VERGE audience that she is only planning to step down from CARB at the end of this year because she has some other projects she has her eye on.  My decision to step down from the Air Resources Board and turn over the leadership of this wonderful organization to someone else isn’t really based on a desire to retire. I have been doing this job for a very long time. Longer than anyone else has or maybe ever will. I want to do some other things. I have some ideas and projects in mind, which I’m not ready to make any announcements about. But it’s not a question of retiring.  Regardless of whether the EPA role is in Nichols’ future, we’re clearly looking forward to seeing what she does next.  Topics Transportation & Mobility Policy & Politics VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Kathryn Cooper, GreenBiz Close Authorship

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If offered Biden’s lead EPA role, Mary Nichols would say yes

Plugging into Amazon’s fleet electrification strategy

October 30, 2020 by  
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Plugging into Amazon’s fleet electrification strategy Mike De Socio Fri, 10/30/2020 – 00:30 When Ross Rachey set out to electrify Amazon’s fleet of last-mile delivery vehicles a few years ago, he thought it would be a matter of matching the company’s needs to the right vehicle on the market. It was not that simple. “We were a little underwhelmed at the vehicles that were available to us when we looked across the industry. It’s not for lack of trying, lots of really smart companies working hard, but we couldn’t find a vehicle that suited our need,” said Rachey, director of global fleet and product logistics for Amazon. The existing models didn’t live up to Amazon’s range and payload demands. And if the company’s fleet team did find something they liked, they couldn’t purchase it in the quantities they needed. “We realized we needed to take an active role in accelerating the products and the technology,” Rachey said. The reality is that charging infrastructure, electricity and utility connections — it’s the longest lead, probably the most challenging part of this equation. So Amazon finds itself, through a partnership with Rivian , designing its own delivery vehicles and playing a large role in scaling up the electric vehicle market. “We’re at the point now where we’re really comfortable placing big, bold bets. We’re comfortable being a first mover. And I think we’ve gotten to a point where we’re really comfortable taking risks,” Rachey said. Amazon’s Rachey spoke this week with GreenBiz Senior Writer Katie Fehrenbacher during a session VERGE 20. Here are a few takeaways on what we need to rapidly scale EVs. We need big players to take the lead There aren’t many motivators as large as a 100,000-unit order for electric vehicles. But that’s the challenge facing Amazon’s partner Rivian right now, and it’s pushing the industry to think a lot bigger. For scale, Amazon’s order is 100 times larger than similar orders from FedEx or UPS. And Rachey said more large-scale moves such as that could ignite this nascent industry. “We as corporations and fleet purchasers and auto manufacturers — we have the ability to make it easier for consumers to adopt electric vehicles. We do that by advancing the technology on more aggressive timelines. We do that by building great products so that people can purchase more products,” Rachey said. More fleet operators are likely to start moving in the same direction, but Rachey says the private sector should pick up the pace before government mandates make it non-negotiable. “I’m in favor of any policy that makes consumer adoption easier, but we can’t sit around and wait for that. We as the corporate customers, manufacturers, battery suppliers, we need to move this curve faster,” Rachey said. Brake lights surround the backend of Amazon’s custom electric van. Courtesy of Amazon We need to design (and retrofit) infrastructure with EVs in mind Rachey’s goal is to make Amazon’s electric fleet as easy to drive and fuel as the gas fleet. That means building out a robust charging infrastructure at Amazon facilities long before it will be needed. “The reality is that charging infrastructure, electricity and utility connections — it’s the longest lead, probably the most challenging part of this equation,” Rachey said. The first thing Amazon has done is design all new buildings with the ability to handle multiple types of fueling, with stronger energy connections to the grid and space onsite for eventual energy storage needs. “Make sure that when you build a site, you haven’t created a one-way door that is going to be painful later to electrify,” he said. For existing sites, Amazon is figuring out how to retrofit and already has started the work at thousands of locations across Europe and North America. We need to develop strong relationships with utilities Rachey says Amazon — and all early movers in this space — have an obligation to be good partners to regional utility companies. The earlier these private companies communicate their infrastructure needs, the sooner utilities can try to meet them. “We are both an exciting customer, because we’re going to have very large energy demands, but it’s not lost on us that we’re a challenging customer, given the scale and the timelines,” Rachey said. It’s likely that Amazon’s demands will outpace the utilities — Rivian is aiming to put the new delivery EVs on the road by the end of 2021 — but Rachey says the company is being as transparent as possible with its plans. He’s encouraged by the fact that everyone at the table, including policymakers, utilities, corporations and auto manufacturers, has the same goal: decarbonization. “Our goals are all aligned, and that’s a really powerful jumping-off point,” Rachey said. Pull Quote The reality is that charging infrastructure, electricity and utility connections — it’s the longest lead, probably the most challenging part of this equation. Topics Transportation & Mobility Clean Fleets VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The interior of an Amazon Rivian van. Courtesy of Amazon

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Plugging into Amazon’s fleet electrification strategy

DNC reverses pledge to end fossil fuel subsidies

August 20, 2020 by  
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The Democratic presidential and vice-presidential candidates were barely announced before the DNC removed campaign pledges to end fossil fuel subsidies. In the final draft of the Manager’s Mark, the ledger of party demands, that promise was quietly omitted. The July 27 version of the Manager’s Mark included the statement, “Democrats support eliminating tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuels, and will fight to defend and extend tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy .” Related: Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan: create millions of jobs, reverse climate change So what happened? According to a DNC spokesperson, the amendment regarding fossil fuels was “incorrectly included in the Manager’s Mark” and removed “after the error was discovered.” But activists say the amendment didn’t make the platform’s final draft because an anti-fossil fuel stance could lose voters in oil- and coal -producing states like Texas and Pennsylvania. “This is ridiculous,” said Collin Rees , a campaigner for the nonprofit Oil Change U.S. “This is a commonsense position held by both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. … The DNC should immediately include it in the platform.” The exact amount of U.S. government subsidies to the oil and gas business is unknown. Some estimates show a low of $20 billion per year. But last year, the International Monetary Fund concluded the figure was closer to $649 billion in 2015 alone. According to the journal Nature Energy , even before the recent plunges in oil prices, about half of U.S. oil reserves were subsidized so that companies could generate profits. Environmentally minded voters are feeling frustrated by the Democratic Party’s backpedaling. “This platform is a step backwards, and we deserve better,” said Charlie Jiang, a campaigner at Greenpeace. Via Huffington Post Image via Jwigley

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DNC reverses pledge to end fossil fuel subsidies

Canada to ban single-use plastics by 2021

June 11, 2019 by  
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Canada is the latest country to follow the European Union’s ambitious ban of single-use plastics, which will go into effect by 2021. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the upcoming ban, which still has details to iron out, in an attempt to address the marine litter crisis. The announcement also comes months before the election this fall, during which political experts expect climate change to take center stage. Less than 10 percent of all plastics in Canada are recycled, with 300 million tons thrown out every year. This recycling rate is similar in the United States, the largest plastic consumer in the world, where about 9 percent of plastics are recycled. In every corner of the globe, plastic waste is reaching the ocean and wreaking havoc on marine species from sea turtles to fish and whales. Related: Have your plastic and eat it too – average American ingests 50,000 microplastic particles a year To put it into perspective for citizens, Prime Minister Trudeau explained, “As parents, we’re at a point when we take our kids to the beach and we have to search out a patch of sand that isn’t littered with straws, Styrofoam or bottles. That’s a problem, one that we have to do something about.” Legislators have yet to announce exactly which single-use plastics will be banned, but the list could include cutlery, straws, plates, stir sticks and bags. Throughout the European Union, plastic bags, cutlery, cotton balls, stir sticks and balloon sticks will be outlawed in 2021, with a reduction in plastic cups and other food-related plastics also going into effect. The ban legislation is also expected to detail regulations for companies that produce significant plastic waste . The policy will hold companies accountable and mandate they develop targets and responsible waste management plans. Prime Minister Trudeau’s environmental policy may help his chances for re-election this fall, as voters are increasingly concerned about the environment and climate change . Via The BBC Image via Fotoblend

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Polls show climate change is a determining issue for 2020 elections

May 20, 2019 by  
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Recent polls indicate that climate change will be a central issue for voters in the upcoming 2020 presidential elections. According to the George Mason University poll , 38 percent of participants indicated that the topic is “very important” for their decision, while the lead researcher, Anthony Leiserowitz said, “This is truly a top-tier issue for the Democratic base.” The poll, released in early May, only sampled 1,000 people, but the results are consistent with similar polls by Manmouth University and CNN, which showed that climate change ranks as the second most important topic, right below healthcare. According to CNN , 82 percent of Democrats say it is “very important” that candidates take aggressive action to combat the climate crisis. The increased interest is likely due to a surge in both public awareness as well as extreme weather events ranging from wildfires to hurricanes. Related: Climate activists will turn up the heat at presidential debate “With the salience of wildfires in the West, sea-level rise in the Gulf Coast and Florida and the way that weather affects farmers, people are beginning to see the effects of climate change,” said Sean Hecht of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. In 2018, an alarming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  report upped the urgency of climate change and massive protests broke out across the globe. In 2016, no candidate had a specific climate platform, but reports indicate that this year, candidates will need to detail specific action plans if they hope to be taken seriously. With protests already planned for the first Democratic debate, it is almost certain that journalists will ask candidates tough questions about their positions on the environment and the fossil fuel industry. According to Bill McKibbens from 350.org , voters will be looking for more than broad support. Many progressive democrats are demanding candidates formally endorse the Green New Deal , while others expect candidates to refuse campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry — a long standing tradition with presidential hopefuls. Currently, only Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Kirsten Gillibrand and Jay Inslee have specific climate change platforms. Via Reuters Image via Molly Adams

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A quick guide to the environmental issues you’ll find on the ballot

November 2, 2018 by  
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The general election for 2018 features many interesting issues related to environmental improvements. But with these environmental proposals competing with other issues on the ballot, it is easy for them to get lost in the shuffle. From funding eco-friendly projects to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, here is a quick guide to some of the environmental issues on the 2018 ballots around the U.S. Alaska Salmon Initiative The first measure on Alaska’s ballot is an initiative that would force the state’s Department of Fish and Game to hand out permits for projects and activities that might harm fish . The measure also focuses on improving habitats for anadromous fish, like salmon, by looking at water quality, stream flow and temperature. If passed, the measure will create a system for processing permits, which includes allowing public input on major permits. The fish and game department will still have the authority to deny permits if the project or activity harms fish or habitats. Any existing projects would be exempt from the new permit system. Arizona Proposition 127 In a push for clean energy, this proposal would mandate that 50 percent of electric utilities come from renewable sources by 2030, and the percent required would steadily increase each year. The acceptable renewable energy sources would include solar , wind and biomass as well as certain hydropower, geothermal and landfill gas energies. California Proposition 3 There are a number of propositions on California’s ballot related to environmental issues, but Proposition 3 is one of the most significant. This initiative will give the green light for close to $8 billion in funds for surface and groundwater storage, watershed protection (habitat restoration) and water infrastructure. The measure outlines where all of the money will be dispersed and how much funding each project will receive. Colorado Proposition 112 This proposition on Colorado’s ballot would limit the areas available for oil and gas development, including fracking , in an effort to maintain public health and safety. If passed, oil and gas developments would have to maintain a distance of 2,500 feet from occupied structures and vulnerable areas, including homes, schools, hospitals, parks, lakes, rivers, sporting fields and more. Florida Constitutional Revision 4 Florida is taking a major step against offshore drilling this election. Constitutional Revision 4 could ban offshore drilling, putting an end to oil and gas mining on lands under state waters. Lumped into this revision is a ban that will prevent individuals from vaping inside closed workplaces. The ban includes any electronic device that generates vapor, such as electronic cigarettes. The ban would only be enforced in indoor workplaces. Georgia Amendment 1 This amendment would allow up to 80 percent of the revenue from sales and use taxes of outdoor recreation and sporting goods retailers to go to the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund for land conservation, including protecting water quality, conserving forests and wildlife habitats and improving state and local parks. Montana Ballot Issue #14 I-186 This initiative will help regulate new rock mines in the state. If passed, new mines would be required to have plans for reclamation, restoration or rehabilitation to receive permits. More specifically, the new mines would be required to have adequate plans to avoid water pollution. Water contaminated by acid mine drainage often results in perpetual treatment to make the water safe for consumption. The measure also gives the Department of Environmental Quality the right to reject permits that do not have a reclamation plan in place. Nevada Question 6 Nevada’s environmental initiative this year will put the state on track for renewable energy by 2030. Question 6 on the Nevada ballot proposes that all utility companies invest in renewable energy over the next 12 years. If passed, the measure would require electric companies to transform half of their electrical output to renewable sources by the projected date. The current law requires utility companies to use 25 percent of renewable electricity by 2025. Rhode Island Question 3 This measure would authorize $47.3 million in funds for various environmental projects throughout the state. The measure outlines where the money will be allocated and the different types of projects that will be funded. The projects include coastal resiliency and access, clean water and treatment, dam infrastructure, bikeway initiatives, farmland access and local recreation. The largest project on the ballot is related to improving water quality and would receive $7.9 million. Washington Initiative 1631 Initiative 1631 in Washington targets greenhouse gas pollutants and rewards companies that promote clean energy. If voted in, the law would impose fees on carbon emissions. The price of the fee starts out at $15 for every metric ton of carbon, increasing every year by $2. The money generated from the fees will go right back into the environment. The revenue would help improve air quality, raise awareness about clean energy and examine environmental issues in various communities. Companies that comply with environmental standards could also receive credits from the added revenue. The measure also requires that Native American tribes have their voices heard on projects that affect their land. All of the money dispersed from the carbon fee will have to be approved by a public board first. Via Vote Smart , Ballotpedia and NCSL Image via Element5 Digital

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A quick guide to the environmental issues you’ll find on the ballot

Iceland elects 41-year-old environmentalist as prime minister

December 5, 2017 by  
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Katrin Jakobsdottir, the 41-year-old chairwoman of the Left-Green Movement, has been elected Prime Minister of Iceland . One of the most well-liked politicians in Iceland, Jakobsdottir, a former education minister and avowed environmentalist, has pledged to set Iceland on the path to carbon neutrality by 2040. As Iceland’s fourth prime minister in only two years, Jakobsdottir will take office at a time when national politics have been tainted by public distrust and scandal. A democratic socialist, Jakobsdottir is viewed as a bridge-building leader that may lead the country towards positive, incremental change. “She is the party leader who can best unite voters from the left and right,” said Eva H. Onnudottir, a political scientist at the University of Iceland, according to the New York Times. “Because this coalition includes parties from the left to the right, their work will be more about managing the system instead of making ‘revolutionary’ changes.” Since forming its governing coalition, Jakobsdottir’s Left-Green party has already taken bold steps to assert its environmentalism . Rather than appointing a party member of parliament, the Left-Greens have picked Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson , environmental activist and CEO of Landvernd, the largest nature conservation and environmental NGO in Iceland, to serve as Minister of the Environment. The government’s new coalition is expected to continue the work to address climate change began under previous administrations. Related: Iceland’s “Thor” volcano power plant can generate 10X more energy than oil or gas wells While climate change has proven to be somewhat of a boost for Iceland’s tourism industry , which welcomed approximately 2.2 million visitors in 2017, the nation of just over 300,000 recognizes the importance of shifting to a clean energy economy and preparing for disruptive changes in the coming decades. Iceland’s climate change action plan involves shifting to clean energy in transportation by improving infrastructure for electric cars , planting more trees, and sourcing all energy for public institutions from renewable sources. Via The New York Times Images via Wikimedia and Depositphotos

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Iceland elects 41-year-old environmentalist as prime minister

This Swedish electric car comes with 5 years of free electricity

December 5, 2017 by  
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Uniti is on a mission to create an intelligent, small electric car designed for easy urban transportation . And they just partnered with energy company E.ON to ensure the source of electricity is clean, offering Swedish customers five years of free solar energy for charging . Uniti is just a couple days away from their worldwide debut of the vehicle. Sustainability drives Uniti, and they wanted to go a step further than manufacturing an electric car, considering that vehicle’s source of electricity as well. Uniti says on their website they aim to consider “the entire value chain and the entire life cycle of the vehicle.” Their partnership with E.ON means E.ON customers who buy a Uniti car in Sweden get a sweet perk: five years of free power guaranteed to be sourced via solar energy. Related: Uniti Sweden unveils super high-tech tiny EV for urbanites Uniti’s Innovation Manager Tobias Ekman said in a statement, “This is also a new approach. We know that most of the charging, especially for these types of cars, will take place at home. These kinds of solution are therefore particularly sustainable.” Uniti’s electric car is comprised of a recyclable carbon fiber body, with an organic composite interior. The company has worked to digitize the driving experience in many ways, describing their vehicle as the smartphone car. Inside there’s a heads-up display with navigation and safety features, and human drivers interact with the car more like they would with their phones using digitized interaction points. Electronic steering is designed to make driving more fun while increasing safety. The company plans to sell the car somewhat like a smartphone might be sold as well: either directly online for delivery to a customer’s home, or in consumer electronics retail environments. The worldwide debut will be December 7 in Landskrona, Sweden, and Uniti will be live streaming here . They’ve already received almost 1,000 pre-orders, and are still taking orders on their website . They expect to deliver in 2019. + Uniti Images courtesy of Uniti

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This Swedish electric car comes with 5 years of free electricity

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