How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021

January 25, 2021 by  
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How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021 Ben Ratner Mon, 01/25/2021 – 01:00 This year, financial institutions must make a significant leap forward on climate — from pledges to progress. Even amidst a global pandemic, 2020 proved climate finance and a focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are more than passing fads, with net-zero financed emissions commitments from Morgan Stanley , JP Morgan  and a group of 30 international asset managers —  Net Zero Asset Management Initiative   — with $9 trillion in assets under management. At the start of 2021, leading investors openly recognize that climate change presents a massive systemic risk and a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity. But for the vast majority of firms, the real work of implementing climate and ESG integration is ahead. With increasing public, government and shareholder attention on climate, here are three ways sustainable finance leaders will emerge in 2021. 1. Integrate climate into core business A 2050 net-zero vision may be an inspiration, but it is not a plan. To realize its ambitions, Wall Street must integrate climate into its core business, evolving its approach to capital allocation and changing its relationships with carbon-intensive industries. Asset owners will demand no less of asset managers. This transition will require a far sharper focus on short-term, sector-specific benchmarks tied to decarbonization pathways — starting with the high-impact industries that matter most for solving the climate crisis.  For example, in the oil and gas sector, investors can assess progress and pace toward net-zero by monitoring companies’ methane emissions, flaring intensity, capital expenditures, lobbying and governance. Concentrating on five key metrics over a five-year period will allow investors to distinguish climate leaders from laggards. As with other core financial issues, monitoring metrics is just the start. To advance their climate commitments, investors should pair metrics with accountability. For asset managers, corporate climate performance should strongly inform investment stewardship, proxy voting and fund construction. For banks, climate benchmarks should influence loan eligibility, interest rates and debt covenants. Wall Street knows how to set quantitative targets and factor corporate performance and risk into financial decisions — now climate must become part of the new business as usual. 2. Align proxy voting with climate goals Advancing sustainable investing in 2021 will also necessitate a shift in proxy voting among the world’s largest asset managers. Last year, BlackRock and Vanguard voted against the vast majority of climate-related shareholder proposals filed with S&P 500 companies. BlackRock opposed 10 of 12 resolutions endorsed by the Climate Action 100+ , a coalition it joined last January, and later signaled an intention to support more climate votes in future years. There’s a better way. Both PIMCO and Legal and General Investment Management supported 100 percent of climate-related proposals filed with S&P 500 firms during last year’s proxy season, sending a powerful message to CEOs about the materiality of climate risk. As asset managers around the world unveil new ESG products and brand themselves as sustainability pioneers, proxy voting will become the litmus test for climate authenticity in finance for 2021.   3. Support regulations and policies required to decarbonize While the finance community has traditionally taken a hands-off approach to public policy advocacy, industry norms are changing . Investors understand that scaling the climate finance market depends on Paris-aligned government action, and some have proven willing to engage on issues ranging from carbon pricing to methane standards . With the incoming Biden administration prioritizing climate, investors should double down on climate-friendly advocacy , supporting both financial regulations and regulations of carbon-intensive sectors consistent with a 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario. As BlackRock CEO Larry Fink has emphasized, updated regulation of the financial system is needed to help monitor and manage economy-wide climate risks. As linchpins of capital markets, banks and asset managers have a crucial role to play in pushing federal agencies to safeguard the economy from climate-related shocks. For example, supporting rigorous mandatory climate risk disclosure from the SEC and appropriate ESG rulemaking from the Department of Labor can help investors build Paris-aligned portfolios. However, investor-led policy advocacy cannot end with financial regulation. As the Global Financial Markets Association noted , reaching net-zero by 2050 involves both financial regulation and environmental regulation of carbon-intensive sectors. The right mix of emission standards and incentives can slash pollution, drive technological innovation and improve the economics of low carbon investments. Given the rise of passive index investing, supporting government action in carbon-intensive sectors is essential, as leading financial firms favor continued investment over sector level divestment. In particular, policies and regulations to cut methane emissions and flaring, to accelerate vehicle electrification and to clean up the electric grid should be top priorities in 2021. Contributors Gabe Malek Topics Finance & Investing GreenFin Investing 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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How Wall Street can win on climate In 2021

Ambitious partnerships on climate action are taking root and bearing fruit

January 25, 2021 by  
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Ambitious partnerships on climate action are taking root and bearing fruit Dominic Waughray Mon, 01/25/2021 – 00:30 Buried beneath the dour daily headlines on COVID-19 infections, lockdowns and travel bans, the latest science about our planet released during 2020 makes for tough reading. Despite the reductions in air travel and the global economic slowdown caused by the pandemic, climate change sadly has not slowed down this past year. We have only until 2030 to  get things on track  for a net-zero and nature-positive economy — this should sharpen our minds for action. Unfortunately, as the economic effects of COVID-19 cause government debts to rise sharply, there is now much less public money available for activities like climate protection or ecosystem restoration — this should sharpen our appetite for innovation. How then to make the shift to a net-zero, nature-positive economy within the decade? If there is good news, it is this: The pandemic has shown that when our backs are against the wall, incredible things are possible. The partnerships catalyzed between governments, scientists and the private sector to produce a suite of new vaccines within 12 months are a remarkable testament to our ability to innovate at scale, fast, when we feel we must. The state of the planet 2020 was, along with 2016, the joint hottest year  on record ever — closing out the warmest decade on record ever. Global average temperatures are now about 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This is getting uncomfortably close to the 1.5 degrees C cap on average warming that governments pledged to aim for when they signed the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to avoid dangerous climate change. What  scientists observed during 2020  should worry us all. In the Arctic,  temperatures  are rising at twice the global rate.  Floods  affected more than 10 million people across China, India, Nepal, Japan and Bangladesh, and there were a record 29 tropical storms in the Atlantic, with a record 12 making landfall. Unprecedented wildfires raged across  Australia  and California, with the Australia fires releasing about three-quarters of the CO2 that the country’s industry emitted in 2018-19. The key for 2021 will be to supersize the good examples of these kinds of efforts and bring them together to help shape a decade of unprecedented partnership and action to 2030. Less visibly,  more than 80 percent of the ocean in 2020 suffered marine heatwaves , providing more energy for tropical storms, as well as impacting sea life and spoiling fish harvests for the billions of people who rely on the ocean for their food and jobs. In June 2020, the United Nations warned of an impending global food crisis, the worst seen for over 50 years, noting the ” perfect storm ” playing out between these environmental changes and the impact of COVID-19, especially for poorer countries. It is no surprise then that the World Economic Forum  Global Risks Report 2021  identifies climate action failure, extreme weather and biodiversity loss, alongside infectious diseases, as the top global risks for the next decade in terms of impact and likelihood. As with COVID-19, perhaps so with climate? The climate and nature crises are now an urgent mainstream issue for many voters, especially among Generation Z. Many  institutional investors  are also seeing the risks and are shifting their money accordingly. Given these voter and investor pressures, an unprecedented level of collaboration and innovation is required among leading “real economy” players from industry, technology and finance, to work together and with government and civil society and make big things happen, fast. Promisingly, for several years, especially since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, an ecosystem of ambitious partnerships for action on climate and nature has been taking root and growing, often with the help of the World Economic Forum. We are now able to start reaping the early rewards of this harvest. For example, the  Mission Possible Partnership  gets leading heavy-industry companies, banks and governments to create investment-grade “net-zero” sector strategies in seven key areas of the global economy — aviation, shipping, trucks, chemicals, steel aluminum and cement. More than 200 companies and organizations are so far involved. This effort has the potential to tackle 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The  Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP)  gets leading consumer goods companies, waste specialists and banks to work with governments to create investment-grade plans for tackling plastic waste pollution, and then trigger the finance and projects to make it happen. Launched in 2018 with the Canadian and UK Governments, GPAP is now helping countries across ASEAN and West Africa to tackle ocean plastic waste. GPAP in Indonesia is helping the government deliver its  national target  to reduce ocean plastic waste in Indonesia 70 percent by 2025 and to be plastic waste-free by 2040. 1T.org (trillion trees)  is a partnership platform that gets leading governments, businesses, technology companies, scientists and civil society groups to work together on initiatives that will conserve, restore and grow a trillion trees by 2030. Such “nature-based solutions” like 1t.org , undertaken alongside the decarbonization of energy and industry systems, can help provide up to  one-third of the climate solution  required by 2030 to keep on track with the Paris Climate Agreement. The  1t.org United States Chapter  was launched in August 2020; so far more than 26 U.S. companies, nonprofits and governments have pledged to conserve, restore and grow more than 1 billion trees across the contiguous U.S. by 2030, and committed to supporting actions such as mapping technology and carbon finance worth billions of dollars. In October 2020 the  One Trillion Trees Interagency Council  was established to be responsible for coordinating federal government support of 1T.org in the US and internationally. These and many other examples of public-private partnerships and alliances are helping to accelerate large scale, practical action for a net-zero, nature positive economy by 2030. They connect together states, cities, provinces, civil society groups, businesses, investors, innovators and technologists. They are also connecting business leaders, technology and finance within key industrial sectors and across global supply chains, as companies work with and learn from each other. And they are spurring leadership groups such as the  Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders  to engage with politicians and decision-makers, to further raise ambition and give business confidence to governments about the pathway ahead. Leaders in this CEO group already have net-zero commitments linked to companies with at least 1.5Gt of global emissions as disclosed in 2019. In an age where transparency and authenticity are key, these partnerships and alliances work to deliver their results in line with the latest science, with the companies involved increasingly adopting disclosure and measurement systems like science-based targets and environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) metrics, such as the common  framework being developed by the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council . Coming together for impact The key for 2021 will be to supersize the good examples of these kinds of efforts and bring them together to help shape a decade of unprecedented partnership and action to 2030. Imagine if we could bring many more companies, investors and governments together into these and other “high ambition” coalitions, underpinned by the science-based targets we must meet by 2030, and designed to drive the net-zero, nature-based transition we must create: this would bring to life a real economy that works for people and nature alike and for the long term. Indeed, one of our recent  Nature Action Agenda reports , identified that such a nature positive transition could generate 395 million new jobs by 2030. That is the kind of “real economy” win-win we sorely need in our COVID recovery plan. Inspired by the incredible public-private sprints on vaccine collaboration for COVID-19 and mandated by the universally accepted United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 17 on revitalizing global partnerships for sustainable development, we must ensure that such large-scale, public-private collaboration for ambitious climate, nature and food security outcomes become mainstream during 2021. These are the partnership vehicles that can bring together industry, investors and civil society to speed and scale impact, drawing on wide networks of innovation, expertise and resources from across the real economy, at a time when public funds are scarce. To spur these efforts, official climate and biodiversity events should more deeply involve government, industry, investors, civil society leaders and other key stakeholders, and be structured as annual “accelerators” focused on scaling the system change innovation, financing, job creation and partnerships required to ensure we are on track to achieve our 2030 goals. Encouragingly, the official climate COP 26 hosted by the UK in Glasgow in November seems to be leaning in this direction. Pull Quote The key for 2021 will be to supersize the good examples of these kinds of efforts and bring them together to help shape a decade of unprecedented partnership and action to 2030. Topics Climate Change Corporate Strategy 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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Ambitious partnerships on climate action are taking root and bearing fruit

Doc Antle is the latest Tiger King star to be indicted

October 13, 2020 by  
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In the latest “Tiger King” criminal news, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle has been indicted on charges of wildlife trafficking and animal cruelty. Antle owns Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina and appeared on the “Tiger King” series as a wild animal trainer. After investigating for several months, Attorney General Mark Herring announced last Friday that Antle had trafficked lion cubs between Virginia and South Carolina. Herring scrutinized Antle’s relationship with Keith Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Virginia, and determined that both zoo owners trafficked lion cubs between the two states. A grand jury in Frederick County indicted Wilson and his nephew on 46 counts of animal cruelty in November 2019. Related: USDA closes Tiger King zoo for animal welfare violations In December 2019, Herring’s investigation led to a search of Antle’s property. Antle and two of his daughters, Tawny Antle and Tilakam Watterson, faced misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and violating the Endangered Species Act . Antle has denied all charges against himself and his daughters. “I have spent my entire professional life promoting the welfare and conservation of big cats and other species. I have deep regard and feelings for the animals in my care and would never hurt or abuse them in any way,” he told CNN . “I look forward to being able to answer these charges and to be able to clear my good name.” Netflix released “Tiger King”, a true crime documentary miniseries, in late March 2020. The series delves into the complicated relationships between big cat conservationists and collectors. The show focuses on Joe Exotic, former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, who last year was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison for murder-for-hire and wildlife violations. While the show became wildly popular amidst the pandemic, it’s done less for its stars, several of whom are now making their way through the legal system. “The show ‘Tiger King’ made a number of false statements about my personal life that I just let slide off my back,” Antle told CNN. “But what the State of Virginia has done, to falsely attack my treatment of animals, to attempt to slander my reputation and my life’s work, solely to appease animal rights activists that have influence over the elected officials that have brought these charges is far different and it’s very personal to me.” We’ll find out more when Antle has his day in court. Via HuffPost and CNN Images via Pixabay and Zoo Friend

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Doc Antle is the latest Tiger King star to be indicted

Will a Biden administration be able to reverse Trump’s climate damage?

September 30, 2020 by  
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Will a Biden administration be able to reverse Trump’s climate damage? Hannah Murphy Wed, 09/30/2020 – 01:00 This story originally appeared in Rolling Stone  and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration to strengthen coverage of the climate story. When he talks about the Trump administration, David Doniger likes to say: “Imagine where we’d be if they knew what they were doing.” The climate lawyer and senior adviser to the NRDC Action Fund spends his days defending the environment from the U.S. government, and for the past 3.5 years, that’s meant a front-row seat to the Trump administration’s relentless attacks on any regulation that’s meant to slow the  climate crisis .  But it’s also been a window into the hasty, sloppy and legally dubious ways that it’s gone about it. “One of the hallmarks of this administration is how incompetently they’re doing this,” says Doniger. “It shows up in how slowly they’ve been able to work, and how flimsy their legal rationales are.” Almost all of Trump’s attempts at deregulation — some 100 rules that he’s tried to eliminate or weaken — are being challenged in court, and environmentalists are steadily winning. According to the  Institute for Policy Integrity  at New York University, the Trump administration has lost 69 of the 83 legal challenges it’s faced in its deregulatory blitz.  “We were saved by their incompetence,”” says Andrew Wetzler of the NRDC Action Fund, mainly by its failure to follow basic rule-making procedures. It rushed through the process, often shortening or entirely skipping over the required 60 days for public comment, which provided a clear opening for its rule changes to be challenged in court. The administration’s ineptitude has given environmentalists hope that if Trump loses the election, the policy impact of his unrelenting pro-fossil fuel agenda ultimately could be short-lived. “If he’s a one-term wonder,” says Doniger, “the biggest consequence of the Trump administration may just turn out to be lost time.” But time, at this hour of the climate fight, might be our most precious resource. As we stumble ever closer to the  collapse of ice sheets, oceans and forests , the range of meaningful action we could take narrows. There is now believed to be more carbon dioxide in the air than any time in the last 3 million years. Our oceans are on track by the end of this century to become more acidic than they’ve been in some 15 million years — when they were enduring a major extinction event. Those oceans are also rising steadily enough to threaten the homes of 150 million people in the next three decades. “We lost years at a critical time,” says Wetzler. “We’re on the precipice of a number of climate and biological tipping points.” And, he says, we won’t fully understand the impact of that loss for years.  If he’s a one-term wonder, the biggest consequence of the Trump administration may just turn out to be lost time. If Joe Biden wins in November, environmentalists say, his administration would have a slim window of opportunity to get our agencies back on track to meet the enormity of the climate crisis. “It means being aggressive from day one,” says Brett Hartl of the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund. “And not futzing around — knowing what you’re going to do and implementing it immediately.”  Making up for the lost time won’t be easy. Despite his slap-dash approach, Trump still managed to scramble the trajectory of American climate policy, creating a tangle of legal fights that will have to be cleared up for U.S. climate policy to move forward. And he left almost no part of our environmental regulatory structure untouched —  greenlighting fossil fuel infrastructure such as the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, setting us back on emission-reduction goals by reversing the Clean Power Plan and higher fuel-efficiency standards, and gutting the federal agencies that should be at the helm of our climate response.  So how difficult will it be to unscramble this mess? It would have to happen in three parts, environmentalists say, and all three would have to start on day one. First, Biden would have a powerful arsenal of executive tools available to him — if he chooses to use them. A  coalition of over 500 environmental  groups already has assembled a plan for how he could effectively jumpstart our fight against the climate crisis using executive powers, which would avoid both going through Congress and the lengthy federal rule-making process. Using executive power, Biden could declare a national climate emergency. It wouldn’t just send an important message to Americans — and the rest of the world — that we’re taking the climate crisis seriously; it also would give the administration the power to mobilize the government on a massive scale, like ordering the Secretary of Defense to redirect military spending toward the rapid development of clean energy.  Biden also could immediately order federal agencies to reverse the climate rollbacks Trump introduced through executive order — such as allowing oil and gas companies to side-step state approval — and start issuing his own. Most urgent, Biden would have the power to keep more fossil fuels in the ground: He could direct the Secretary of the Interior to halt oil-and-gas leasing and fracking on federal lands, reinstitute the ban on exporting crude oil, and order all federal agencies to deny permits for new fossil fuel infrastructure, such as pipelines, storage facilities and refineries.    He’d also be able to change the ways that money moves through the energy sector. He could prohibit the U.S. government from financing fossil fuel programs overseas and end all Department of Energy loans for fossil fuels stateside, while also requiring the Federal Reserve to manage climate risks — forcing it to acknowledge the current and future impact of  climate change  on our economy.  Many of these tools already were available in the Obama era, but the administration chose not to use them. For example, “the Clean Air Act is actually quite clear that you have the authority to set national ambient air quality standards,” says Hartl. “It would have been incredibly bold, and it actually wouldn’t have had the problems that the Clean Power Plan had. They could have really moved the needle on greenhouse gases in a very, very powerful way.” But, Hartl says, the Obama administration shied away from these kinds of actions for fear of political consequences. At the beginning of this year, two-thirds of American adults said that protecting the environment should be a top priority of the federal government, up from only 30 percent at the beginning of Obama’s first term. Biden would face a very different national landscape. At the beginning of this year,  two-thirds of American adults said that protecting the environment should be a top priority of the federal government , up from only 30 percent at the beginning of Obama’s first term.  In a poll last week , likely Democratic voters ranked climate change as the most important issue to them in this election, and Data for Progress, a progressive think tank, has found that talking about climate change actually could help persuade voters on the fence to vote for a Democrat. All of this is to say, a Biden administration could have an unprecedented political mandate to take action on the climate crisis.  In addition to issuing executive orders, beginning on day one Biden also would need to start the process of unwinding the deregulation efforts that Trump carried out through the federal rule-making process — such as  rollbacks on the Endangered Species Act  and fuel-emissions standards — and writing new ones to take their place. Environmentalists are confident that a new administration systematically could undo each rollback, but that process could take two years, according to Hartl.  And the Biden administration would need to learn from Trump’s mistakes. Legal challenges from the industries that these regulations impact — the American Petroleum Institute, the National Mining Association — are inevitable, “so you have to go in and be prepared to defend it the first time,” says Hartl. That means following the process to the letter: establishing rules with legal backing from legislation such as the Clean Air and Clean Water acts; opening the rule up to public comment; and then presenting a final rule that can stand up in court. Unlike Trump’s deregulation efforts, which were fighting against decades of environmental legislation, the law would be on Biden’s side. “The reality is that when Congress passed these laws,” says Hartl, “they were designed to make the environment better.” Finally, Biden would have to start hiring like mad. Over the past four years, Trump’s EPA and Interior Department have hemorrhaged talent. The Bureau of Land Management moved the majority of its staff out of Washington, D.C., leading some 70 percent of that staff to resign, and the EPA is nearly as small as it was during the Nixon era, when the EPA was founded. “That pattern, in the most extreme way, is mirrored throughout the environmental agencies,” says Wetzler. “There’s been a real brain drain of people who can’t stand in an agency and support the agenda under the Trump administration, and we’ll have to put back the pieces of very demoralized, and in some cases broken, agencies.” But from those ashes, Biden could build a coalition of climate advocates across his cabinet. His transition team, and the 4,000 people they appoint,  are arguably more influential than any campaign promises he could make . “Personnel is policy,” says Jamal Raad, co-founder and campaign director for Evergreen Action, founded by former staffers of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign. “We need to choose regulators that have a climate lens,” and that lens doesn’t end at the EPA — it can reach the Department of Agriculture, where we have to reimagine our food production to work with our changing climate, or the Treasury, where regulators could interpret the Dodd-Frank consumer protection act to include climate risks. And within the White House, Raad says, Biden could create a National Climate Council that’s equivalent to the National Economic Council. “There needs to be a plan to reorient the federal government so that climate is a lens in all decision making.” Heading into the general election, pressure from the left wing of the party shaped Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan, “a green new deal in all but name,”  wrote activist and journalist Julian Brave NoiseCat . “It’s the most progressive, forward-leaning environmental plan that any candidate for president has ever released,” says Wetzler of the NRDC Action Fund. “It would represent incredible progress.” And while the Biden campaign hasn’t laid out a timetable for the plan, “the Biden team has been signaling their prioritization of climate by making it central to their economic recovery plans,” says Raad. “I think that folks should be cautiously optimistic — but vigilant — on the prospect of climate being a priority early in the first term.” Of course, this all hinges on what happens in November. And if Trump is re-elected, his administration would have the chance to establish a legacy of more than just incompetence and squandered time. Four more years of Trump being in charge of the environment could permanently alter the American landscape. If you think about where the United States was at the beginning of the Trump administration — and where the world was, in terms of taking climate change seriously — it’s a huge, squandered opportunity. In some cases, it would give the Trump administration time to fight back against the legal challenges they face, leaning on courts that they’ve stacked with anti-environmental judges. And damage could be done that will be near impossible to undo — rules can be changed, but mines can’t be unmined. The Trump administration has pursued the largest rollback of federally protected land in U.S. history. Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, for example, which Trump shrunk by 85 percent in 2017, is in the crosshairs of uranium developers. Trump’s move has been mired in lawsuits, but a second term could give them the time to untangle them and hand the land over to the uranium lobbyists.  Likewise, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was just approved in August, leaving little time for leasing, let alone actual development, before Inauguration Day. But if Trump wins, those leases are likely to move forward, as will the roads, pipelines and oil rigs that come with them, doing permanent damage to a vital and fragile ecosystem. “Over time you’re looking at millions and millions of acres of fossil fuel leasing,” says Hartl from the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund. “And eventually, once you get to the point where they’re actually putting drills in the ground, it’s very hard to undo that. You’re locking in a tremendous amount of fossil fuel infrastructure.” Trump’s influence on the Supreme Court looms heavily for the environment as well. With Trump already raring to appoint a new justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a second term is likely to offer him a fourth Supreme Court appointment, which would mean the highest court would house   seven Republican-appointed justices. When you’re suing over environmental issues, the court’s make-up can be the difference between having your day in court and not. “For example, there’s a general judicial doctrine called ‘standing,’ or your ability to go to court to pursue your aggrieved interests,” explains Hartl. “Conservative judges want to narrow who has standing as much as possible, because that limits access to the courts. When you’re fighting for the environment, and your interest is protecting an endangered species or the atmosphere or the water, they’ve already made it hard for us to go to court, to have standing. And they can narrow it even further so that we don’t even have recourse. Our ability to just fight for the environment is at stake.” The climate movement has never been more clear on what it is fighting for and what it needs to do, and finally has a presidential candidate who is signaling some willingness to do it. The prescription is fairly simple: Stop burning fossil fuels so we can begin drawing down the carbon in the atmosphere that’s overheating our planet and disrupting the systems that have supported life on Earth as we know it. The president has a lot of power to take that action, and we have no time to lose. “It’s true that we have 30 years [before an irreversible climate collapse], but when you act on that 30-year scale really affects how radically you have to act,” says Wetzler. “If you think about where the United States was at the beginning of the Trump administration — and where the world was, in terms of taking climate change seriously — it’s a huge, squandered opportunity.” This November, we can choose to act, and set ourselves back on course. “If this is a one-time, Black Swan event, we’re probably going to recover as a nation,” says Doniger. “This is the project of the century.” Andy Kroll contributed reporting to this story. Pull Quote If he’s a one-term wonder, the biggest consequence of the Trump administration may just turn out to be lost time. At the beginning of this year, two-thirds of American adults said that protecting the environment should be a top priority of the federal government, up from only 30 percent at the beginning of Obama’s first term. If you think about where the United States was at the beginning of the Trump administration — and where the world was, in terms of taking climate change seriously — it’s a huge, squandered opportunity. Topics Climate Change Policy & Politics Oil & Gas Policy & Politics Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, which Trump shrunk by 85 percent in 2017, is in the crosshairs of uranium developers. Photo by Krista Hardin/Shutterstock.

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Will a Biden administration be able to reverse Trump’s climate damage?

Sustainability and the never-ending battle against burnout

July 20, 2020 by  
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Sustainability and the never-ending battle against burnout Chris Gaither Mon, 07/20/2020 – 01:04 I felt sure I’d put burnout in the past. I’d quit my high-stress job at Apple, started my own executive-coaching business and found balance in my life. Then, with shame burning my face, I had to cancel a GreenBiz workshop I was leading about how to take care of yourself. Why? Because I hadn’t taken care of myself. That’s the thing about burnout: It creeps back in as soon as you stop paying attention. I began discussing burnout with GreenBiz leaders in early 2019. Yes, my own, which came at the end of four years helping Apple become a model of environmental sustainability. But also the debilitating exhaustion of so many sustainability professionals who wear themselves down in service of this crucial work. “Sustainability is a challenging field,” an attendee of the GreenBiz 19 forum wrote in a post-event survey. “Many think we’re crazy, the news about the environment is typically negative, and all major ecosystems are still in decline. It can be depressing and sticking with the fight can be hard. How can we keep ourselves energized?” I eagerly agreed to lead a session called ‘Human Sustainability: Maintain Your Energy to Pursue What Matters.’ I’d failed to do that plenty of times in my life. I eagerly agreed to lead a session about this at GreenBiz 20 in Phoenix. We called it, “Human Sustainability: Maintain Your Energy to Pursue What Matters.” I’d failed to do that plenty of times in my life. As I recounted in the first article in this series, my 20-year career had left me with a desperate case of burnout. My tank was empty. Depression, fatigue and physical pain overtook me. So, I took a mid-career break to recuperate. I slept. Underwent chronic-pain counseling. Got in shape. Drove my son’s soccer carpools. Volunteered at my local food bank and in underserved schools. Read more than 120 books. Took creative writing classes. Walked in the woods. Reflected. Slowly, I began to diagnose what had gone wrong. My life was badly misaligned. Don’t get me wrong. Of course I was proud of being a director on Apple’s Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives team (and very grateful for the Apple shares that accompanied the title). I loved learning from my incredible boss, Lisa Jackson, leading huge projects with talented colleagues and championing our environmental stewardship. I’d gotten what I thought I wanted. But I realized that, in my early 40s, my values were coming into much sharper focus. Family, community, health, creativity — those are the things that light me up, give me meaning. When I examined where I actually focused my time, attention and physical energy, though, there was a huge disconnect. I was working nonstop, missing important family moments. I commuted three to four hours a day between my Oakland home and One Infinite Loop in Cupertino, Apple’s headquarters. I made little time for exercise or personal creative projects. And as I moved up the corporate ladder, I delegated much of the hands-on work that had brought me joy. In the huge gap between my values and my activities, pain and misery grew like a weed. My body and spirit were trying so hard to tell me that I was off the rails. I vowed to find alignment. I trained as a coach and started my own leadership practice. I’ve landed clients at big companies including Google, Apple, Facebook, Levi Strauss, Airbnb and Mars, as well as startups and nonprofits. I help them lead with purpose while not sacrificing their own human sustainability. The work lights me up with meaning, joy and energy, and constantly reminds me to rejuvenate myself. I was excited to help GreenBiz 20 attendees explore how they, too, could maintain their own sustainability. I’d booked my flight. I’d thought hard about the impact I wanted to have: to help these sustainability professionals avoid, or recognize and repair, the kind of burnout I’d faced. I’d spent weeks designing the workshop. Then I got overwhelmed. And sick. I overlooked the signs that I was out of alignment again. It began with a mild cold, just before Christmas. It stuck around and flared up hard after I made a 24-hour work trip, between San Francisco and Orlando, to please a new corporate partner. I felt awful. Hard coughing. Nasal congestion. Achy sinuses, ears and muscles. This was before COVID-19 swept the globe, so I tried to ignore my symptoms. I kept moving ahead: negotiating the legal aspects of my divorce, co-parenting our adolescent son, running leadership development workshops, coaching almost 20 clients. My symptoms, especially my cough, got worse. In late January, just a few days before GreenBiz 20, I found myself in radiology. The chest X-ray came back clean for pneumonia, but my doctor diagnosed me with a respiratory infection. What will help me make the long-term difference I want to bring to the world? It became crystal clear: I would honor my health. I told him I needed to travel to Phoenix to run a workshop. Environmentalists struggling with burnout were counting on me. He gave me antibiotics. They didn’t help. The Phoenix trip was drawing closer and closer. I couldn’t imagine suffering through a flight and energizing a roomful of people while feeling so crummy. I also couldn’t imagine canceling. I’d have to admit — to the organizers, to myself — that I’d failed to live up to the rejuvenation message I planned to deliver. I’d taken on too much, plowed past the warning signs my body was trying to send me and put the needs of other people above my own wellbeing. I panicked. I fretted. I asked friends for advice, hoping someone would decide for me. Then, I slowed down and coached myself. I asked, What’s most important right now? How do I want to be? What will help me make the long-term difference I want to bring to the world? And it became crystal clear: I would honor my health. To authentically deliver this message of human sustainability, I needed to live it. I had to take care of myself so I could take care of others. I canceled my session, stayed home and replenished the energy I need to do the work I love. GreenBiz 20 went just fine without me. The relapse was a painful and important reminder that finding balance isn’t something you do once. You do it each day, by aligning your values with your activities. And when you get it wrong, like I did, your body and spirit will tell you, unequivocally. Pull Quote I eagerly agreed to lead a session called ‘Human Sustainability: Maintain Your Energy to Pursue What Matters.’ I’d failed to do that plenty of times in my life. What will help me make the long-term difference I want to bring to the world? It became crystal clear: I would honor my health. Topics Leadership 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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Sustainability and the never-ending battle against burnout

Drinking water for 170 million Americans tainted by radiation

January 12, 2018 by  
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Up to 170 million Americans in all fifty states may be exposed to radiation-tainted drinking water . Using data from 50,000 public water systems, the Environmental Working Group found that more than 22,000 utilities reported the presence of radium in treated drinking water between 2010 and 2015. Although only a small number of these systems had radium levels that exceeded the legal limits put in place by the EPA in 1976, these guidelines are in need of an update to ensure the public is aware of potential risks — which should be minimized. Perhaps unsurprisingly, President Trump ‘s nominee to be the White House environmental czar, Kathleen Hartnett White, does not even believe in the science behind the EPA’s current, insufficient standard for radium monitoring. Although the amount of radiation in the drinking water is minimal, there is a risk to public health, particularly if standards and policy are not based on the latest science. “Most radioactive elements in tap water come from natural sources, but that doesn’t take away the need to protect people through stronger standards and better water treatment,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., EWG’s senior science advisor for children’s environmental health. “Millions of Americans are drinking water with potentially harmful levels of radioactive elements, but the outdated federal standards mean many people don’t know about the risk they face when they turn on the tap.” In Texas, about 80 percent of the water tested contained detectable levels of two radium isotopes. While Trump nominee Kathleen Hartnett White was the Lone Star State’s top environmental regulator, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality would alter the numbers to make it seem that tap water in Texas met federal standards. Related: “Raw water” craze draws concern from health professionals During an 2011 investigation, Hartnett White admitted that she did not believe in the science that supported the EPA guidelines. When asked by a reporter what would come if Harnett White was wrong and the EPA was right, she simply said that “it would be regrettable.” After Harnett White admitted to the United States Senate that Texas did indeed alter data, her nomination was rejected. Nonetheless, the Trump White House decided to renominate her in hopes that senators would let her negligence slide. “Putting someone in charge of CEQ who deliberately falsified data to get around federal regulations is outrageous, and the fact that her deception left people at serious risk of cancer is even more alarming,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s vice president of government affairs. “The Senate should reject this radioactive nominee.” Via EWG Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Drinking water for 170 million Americans tainted by radiation

Rundown 1970s A-frame cabin transformed into light-filled modern getaway

January 12, 2018 by  
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Proving that a little sweat and ingenuity makes for great design, this formerly outdated A-frame cabin in Big Bear, California underwent a major transformation at the hands of its owner. Courtney Poulos loved her 880-square-foot cabin – but not its 1970s look – so she gave the space a modern makeover the preserves its rustic charm. Reforming the 1973 wood cabin would not be an easy task, principally because of budget and time restraints. Working with $40,000 and five weeks time, the rehabilitation of the space was even more complicated thanks to the fact that all of the materials had to be hauled up the mountainside. Related: Renovated 1960s A-frame cabin proves that clever design triumphs over square footage With a little interior design help from Nicole Palczynski of Vein Design , Poulos began the project with a few key focus points to guide the design theme, “We wanted to create a handsome space full of butterscotch and whiskey undertones, dark woods, and light accents,” she remembers. Starting in the interior, the ceiling’s high wood beams were painted a dark ebony that made the other features such as the light wooden paneling on the walls and the hearth’s brick base stand out. The kitchen also has a new look thanks adding a fresh coat of paint to the existing solid wood cabinets. A fun, bohemian theme was used to update the bedrooms using patterned textiles and saturated colors. The renovation also focused on bringing as much natural light to the interior as possible. After the project was finished, Poulos was amazed at how much she could do on a limited budget, “You don’t necessarily need to limit your creativity to a conventional cabin design,” she says. “It was a treat to maintain the balance between the vintage architectural space and the modern finishes for a covetable end result.” + Courtney Poulos Via Dwell Images via Courtney Poulos

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Rundown 1970s A-frame cabin transformed into light-filled modern getaway

Dubai’s new self-sufficient floating villas can withstand rising seas

January 12, 2018 by  
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Millions of people will be displaced by rising sea levels – but these floating homes are designed to weather the storm. Waterstudio is building a community of 33 villas to float on top of the water so that they won’t be inundated by sea rise. Construction of the community – dubbed Amillarah – starts this month with developer Dutch Docklands off the coast of Dubai. Sea levels could rise 3 feet by 2100, which could flood a good portion of the United Arab Emirates. These buoyed homes are designed to float on top of the water, and they wouldn’t lack the luxuries of your typical villa. Each one will feature a swimming pool complete with patio, trees, and landscaping. Each artificial island will vary from 150,000 square feet to 450,000 square feet. Related: INHABITAT INTERVIEW: Koen Olthuis of WaterStudio.nl talks about design for a Water World Leave your car on land, because the only way to reach these homes is via seaplane or boat. If you want to take advantage of ocean-front property without the flooding risk, you’d better start saving your pennies, because they start at 23 million dollars each. Waterstudio says the concrete base of each villa is built to last 100 years and the bases can help create an underwater habitat for sea life. Buyers can design their own island, and each one is self-sufficient. Waterstudio is well-known for their floating architecture , which includes a floating neighborhood in Amsterdam and

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Dubai’s new self-sufficient floating villas can withstand rising seas

EPA cancels plan to clean up polluting Texas coal plants

October 6, 2017 by  
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Big Brown, a coal -fired Texas power plant, spews out sulfur dioxide at rates as much as 50 times higher than coal plants fitted with newer technology. Under President Barack Obama , the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aimed to clean up Big Brown and six other Texas plants in three to five years. But President Donald Trump’s EPA, headed by Scott Pruitt , just released a final rule that will enable these polluting plants to keep on pumping lung irritants into the air. Big Brown and the other six plants together generate more sulfur dioxide pollution than power stations from over 25 states combined, according to Sierra Club senior attorney Elena Saxonhouse. She wrote the former EPA had slated the stations for cleanup, “setting emission limits for sulfur dioxide consistent with modern scrubbers,” equipment that can yank out sulfur dioxide before it billows out of a plant’s smokestacks. The two boilers at Big Brown and nine other coal-fired boilers don’t have scrubbers at all. Four other boilers also part of the proposal do have scrubbers, but they’re from the 1970’s and don’t work as well as modern technology. Related: Trump administration halts study on health risks of living near coal mining sites But it seems Pruitt doesn’t care about harmful pollutants. He tossed out the proposed rule for a final rule Sierra Club described as a do-nothing plan, where Big Brown and the other plants can go on polluting as normal. Saxonhouse wrote in an article for Sierra Club, “Pruitt’s decision to scrap the proposed clean air protections fits a pattern of backward-looking decisions in this Administration , which has tied itself in knots trying to prop up the coal industry .” The cleanup plan would have implemented the Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze program. The proposed upgrades would have removed over 180,000 tons of sulfur dioxide pollution a year. One analysis found the proposal could have saved over 600 lives every single year. But the final rule means the coal plants can keep polluting, potentially leading to harmful health impacts for humans. According to Saxonhouse, “In making this about-face, EPA had to shove aside reams of technical and scientific data prepared by the previous administration, and ignore the legal framework of the Regional Haze program. And EPA failed to take any public comment on the new plan, despite the fact that thousands of citizens had written in to support the strong proposal.” Via Sierra Club Images via Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia Commons and Roy Luck on Flickr

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EPA cancels plan to clean up polluting Texas coal plants

The U.S. government temporarily blocks the Dakota Access Pipeline

September 10, 2016 by  
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A decision by the Obama administration to temporarily block construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline this Friday gave the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and hundreds of other protesters cause for celebration. Just minutes after a federal judge rejected the tribe’s request for an injunction, the surprise announcement was released and the project has been halted – for now. Earlier this week, the Tribe had requested a temporary restraining order to halt the construction of the pipeline. Judge James Boasberg of the D.C. district court acknowledged the “indignities visited upon the Tribe over the last centuries” in his ruling. Despite these considerations, the decision stated “the Court must nonetheless conclude that the Tribe has not demonstrated that an injunction is warranted here.” Despair turned almost immediately into delight when, according to The Atlantic , a joint statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Army indicated the government had stepped into override the court’s decision. “Construction of the pipeline on Army Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe will not go forward at this time,” said the statement. “We request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahe.” Related: Oil company sics attack dogs on Native American protestors in North Dakota The Army will also “reconsider any of its previous decisions” concerning the federal legality of the pipeline, including its regard for the National Environmental Policy Act. This July, the Army Corps of Engineers approved the pipeline, followed by a lawsuit from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The biggest concerns are the destruction of historical and cultural sites and the potential risk to the community’s drinking water , should the pipeline leak or break. A statement on the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Facebook account reads, “This federal statement is a game changer for the Tribe and we are acting immediately on our legal options, including filing an appeal and a temporary injunction to force DAPL to stop construction.” The move comes just days after privately contracted workers released vicious dogs and used pepper spray on the unarmed protestors. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfVCKXnZu58 Via The Atlantic Images via Joe Brusky ,  Flickr , Facebook

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The U.S. government temporarily blocks the Dakota Access Pipeline

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