50 countries pledge to conserve 30% of land and water

January 12, 2021 by  
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The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People has made a pledge to protect 30% of the land and water on Earth by 2030 to slow destruction of nature and species extinctions. The pledge was made public last Monday during the One Planet Summit in Paris. HAC is a coalition of more than 50 countries that was formed in 2011 to encourage internal action on the climate crisis prior to the Paris Agreement. The coalition is currently co-chaired by three countries: France, the U.K., and Costa Rica. It was formed in Durban in 2011 and has been at the forefront of encouraging international action on the climate crisis. The coalition is promoting actions against biodiversity loss and hopes that the pledge will lead to a successful conservation agreement during the Cop15 2021 summit in China. Related: Polar bears could go extinct in 80 years if global warming persists In their pledge, the countries have agreed to reserve at least 30% of the planet’s land and water as natural habitats. While making the announcement, HAC noted that protecting 30% of the planet by the turn of the decade is necessary to prevent mass extinction of plant and animal species. On Monday, several world leaders met at the One Planet Summit in Paris to discuss the biodiversity crisis and promotion of archeology as well as to examine the relationship between human health and nature . The event was addressed by various world leaders, including UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Besides the pledge to protect 30% of the planet, several countries in the coalition also made pledges to fund nature conservation projects. The coalition has pledged to invest billions of pounds in the  Great Green Wall of Africa  project and the launch of the new  Terra Carta  by Prince Charles. The coalition’s pledges have been applauded but also met by some criticism from various environmentalists. Many emphasized that the commitment needs to be met with actual efforts and delivery. Greenpeace U.K.’s head of politics Rebecca Newsom explained that there are also concerns about the source of funds being pledged by countries such as the U.K. Newsom argued that the funds should not be cut from budgets already allocated for other environmental projects. “Increasing funds to protect and enhance nature is critical to help secure success at the global biodiversity conference in China this year,” Newsom said. “Siphoning off cash from funds already committed to tackling the climate crisis simply isn’t enough.” Via The Guardian Image via Pauline Bernfeld

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50 countries pledge to conserve 30% of land and water

Bee-killing pesticide approved for emergency use in the UK

January 12, 2021 by  
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The U.K. government is reversing a ban on a dangerous pesticide. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) and British Sugar lobbied hard to get a product containing neonicotinoid thiamethoxam sanctioned for emergency use on sugar beets. Not only is this chemical thought to kill bees, but rainwater will wash it from fields into rivers. Last we heard, fish weren’t requesting neonicotinoid thiamethoxam any more than were insects, many of which already face serious declines. Matt Shardlow, chief executive of the conservation group Buglife, was one of many environmentalists unhappy with the decision. “In addition, no action is proposed to prevent the pollution of rivers with insecticides applied to sugar beet,” Shardlow said . “Nothing has changed scientifically since the decision to ban neonics from use on sugar beet in 2018. They are still going to harm the environment .” Related: Flea treatments are poisoning England’s rivers Beet yellows virus is carried by aphids and has a ruinous effect on sugar beet crops. The U.K. has tracked this disease with national surveys since 1946, charting the effects of chemicals, farm hygiene and other factors on the changes and developments in virus yellows disease. Treating sugar beet seeds with neonicotinoid thiamethoxam is one approach used to control this disease . “Virus yellows disease is having an unprecedented impact on Britain’s sugar beet crop, with some growers experiencing yield losses of up to 80%, and this authorization is desperately needed to fight this disease,” said Michael Sly, chairman of the NFU sugar board. “It will be crucial in ensuring that Britain’s sugar beet growers continue to have viable farm businesses.” He emphasized that pesticides would be used in a limited and controlled way. In 2018, the EU decided to protect bees by banning outdoor uses of thiamethoxam. But now 11 countries, including Spain, Denmark and Belgium, have signed emergency authorizations to use this controversial chemical. Via The Guardian and Pest Management Science Image via Kurt Bouda

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Bee-killing pesticide approved for emergency use in the UK

Waste: an environmental justice issue we should be talking about

January 6, 2021 by  
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Waste: an environmental justice issue we should be talking about Deonna Anderson Wed, 01/06/2021 – 01:30 Remember when Flint, Michigan garnered international attention because water in the city was making people sick ? Well, there are communities like that around the country and the world. And while Flint gained attention because of its failing infrastructure, there are places where water and sewage infrastructure is absent. “Too many Americans live without any affordable means of cleanly disposing of the waste from their toilets, and must live with the resulting filth,” writes Catherine Coleman Flowers, an environmental health advocate, in her book “Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret,” published by The New Press in November. (Read an excerpt here .) “They lack what most Americans take for granted: the right to flush and forget,” Flowers continues. For nearly two decades, Flowers, a recent awardee of the MacArthur Foundation “genius grant ,” has been bringing attention to failing water and waste sanitation infrastructure in rural areas. I spoke with Flowers in mid-December over Skype. Below is a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for clarity. Deonna Anderson: You are the woman mentioned in the title of your book, which chronicles your life and also your work as an environmental justice champion. For those who have not read the book, can you give an overview of what the “dirty secret” is in the title? Catherine Coleman Flowers: The dirty secret is that there are many Americans living with waste that comes from their toilets, whether it is through straight piping , in which [waste from] the toilets comes straight out on top of the ground or into a pit, or whether it is through a failing septic system, which means that when it fails, there’s sewage from their homes, usually from their toilets, of course. I just want to be graphic because that’s what it is.  And it ends up either out on top of the ground or comes back into the home, sometimes into their bathtubs. Or they’re part of these community systems that are supposed to be managed but were built in a way in which they were not sustainable. And consequently, people have sewage coming back into their homes or into their yards. Anderson: Throughout “Waste,” you write about the tours that you take people on to see all the waste and the lack of infrastructure in Lowndes County, Alabama. And that’s where you grew up. First, how many people have you taken on these tours over the years? Flowers: That’s a good question… In some cases, it would be one or two people and in other cases, there may be groups. So I would say on the small number, maybe close to 100 people, at least, that I’ve actually taken around to see this firsthand over the years, because I’ve been doing this since 2002. Catherine Coleman Flowers guides Senator Cory Booker through Lowndes County, Alabama, as part of his 2017 environmental justice tour.  Photo courtesy of Catherine Coleman Flowers.   Anderson: What has been the tangible impact of people going to see what happens in Lowndes County? Flowers: Well, first of all, this is not on a lot of people’s radar. When I wanted to talk about this before, I couldn’t get media interest. I was told that this was not sexy, nobody would be interested in it. But since that time, I’ve had the opportunity to speak before Congress, active members of Congress, the Senate, who’ve actually come to Lowndes County to see for themselves and have been working on policies to try to address this issue in rural communities. I had the opportunity to visit Geneva, because the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty came to Lowndes County and made it a major global issue. The first real coverage we get from it from a newspaper actually came from The Guardian . So now there are other people that are interested as well. And the fact that I can even write a book about it. … I’m thankful to The New Press for giving me an opportunity to tell this story. I’m excited that we have seen and have heard from people from around the country that are indeed interested in knowing about this, and also people that are interested in what the potential solutions are. Anderson: That’s actually a really good segue to my next question. Towards the end of the book, you talk about how solutions haven’t really come fast enough. And I’m curious if there’s anything that you hope happens in the next year or so, to address the sanitation issue in rural communities all over the country? Flowers: I think the first thing that should happen within the next year is to find out how many people are impacted, because we’re not going to have any real solutions until we really know how many people are impacted by this. Because I think for some people, a solution is to go to a place like Lowndes County, put in a few septic systems and say, “Problem solved.” The problem is not solved. And whatever systems are put in place have to be monitored — because of climate change, a lot of them simply are not working. And then we’re going to see what we’ve already seen: the failing septic systems, which exist around U.S. It’s not just in in Lowndes County. We could develop a vaccine for the coronavirus in less than a year. Just imagine what we could do if we put that same type of know-how and ingenuity behind coming up with some real wastewater solutions. The first thing is trying to quantify how many people are impacted by this and where they’re located. So when we talk about solutions, we’re talking about getting solutions to all the people that are impacted by it. Then the second thing that I’d like to see within the next year, is to actually to have the work on the type of innovation that’s needed to have long-term solutions to this problem, because obviously, it doesn’t exist. If it existed, everybody would have it, or they could go buy it and it’s not available. So we need to find something that’s sustainable, that takes into account climate change, and also is affordable so that we can that people could maintain it if they have to. What I envision is within the next five years coming up with a system that treats wastewater to drinking water quality that can be done on a household level. Because we’re going to have to talk about how we rebuild differently, and how we build differently. And as people have to move away from the coasts, and they move into these unincorporated areas, or they move into these areas where they don’t have big pipe systems, or have systems that are failing, we have to have something to be able to address that. And I think in terms of being forward thinking, we have to start working on that technology now. And I believe that it’s possible because we could develop a vaccine for the coronavirus in less than a year. Just imagine what we could do if we put that same type of know-how and ingenuity behind coming up with some real wastewater solutions that reuse and reclaim. Anderson: A few weeks ago, you were in conversation with Khaliah Ali Wertheimer . During your conversation, you mentioned how you would love for more rural communities to be included in conversations related to the Green New Deal. And I’m curious if you can share why it’s an important thing to include rural communities in these conversations? Flowers: I think oftentimes what we do — and it’s unintentional — is we frame our solutions or our conversations with an urban perspective that inadvertently is biased against rural communities. It leaves them out, when in fact, people in rural communities probably saw climate change before the people in the cities did, and may also have some type of knowledge about the solutions, and especially if we’re going to talk about agricultural solutions, solutions around soil. People in rural communities, especially [those] living in these agricultural communities that are very close to the soil, have some understanding that a lot of people don’t have because they have to pay attention to the natural elements in order to be successful in those environments. And I think, also, there are some common sense solutions that can come from rural communities. When we talk about green infrastructure, of course, we talk rightfully so about transportation systems that will move large amounts of people from one place to the other. And we talk about the grid and how the grid could connect cities. What I envision is within the next 5 years coming up with a system that treats wastewater to drinking water quality that can be done on a household level. But we need to connect those places in between as well, because even right now, a lot of people don’t have access to broadband and internet services. There are some parts of the country, especially in rural communities, where people’s cell phones might not work, because there aren’t cell towers nearby. So all of these kinds of things that we just assume that everybody has is not true. That’s why I believe that people from rural communities should be part of any discussion that we have about a Green New Deal and green infrastructure. They can also inform that conversation and how we get [resources] to those areas that have been left behind from what we currently have. We don’t need to keep skipping over these communities. Anderson: I’m curious if there has been any legislation over the years that has really helped improve the lives of rural communities that you can think of. And can you paint the picture of what the ideal would be when it comes to making sure that rural communities are thought about in conversations about climate change? Flowers: I haven’t really done a deep dive search but with the legislation that I have seen, I haven’t seen what I think is the model yet. I think in order to have a model, it would involve going into these communities and having people that are experiencing these problems sitting at the table and helping to draft the legislation because oftentimes, people are well intentioned and want to do it, and I applaud them for that, but you can’t do that by just visiting for a day and thinking you have the answer.  It’s unintentional — we frame our solutions or we frame our conversations with an urban perspective that inadvertently is biased against rural communities. Using the principles of environmental justice, that means having the people in the community sitting at the table — not having a top-down approach. The top-down approaches, as we know, have failed. That’s why we have this problem. That’s why we’re having this discussion. The model includes using the principles of environmental justice — and letting the people in the community be part of designing the policy to address these issues — because sometimes even the language in the policies get in the way — for example, language such as “town,” when a lot of these areas are unincorporated. There are no towns. Or putting in a limit or a minimum of 500 or more people. What does that do? Exclude the smaller towns or the smaller communities who may not be part of the town. And I think that’s one of the reasons that we have the problem that we have.  It’s something that I call a rural lexicon and what the rural lexicon is is understanding the language of rural communities, so that when we write policy, it is not always written from an urban perspective. I’m not saying that urban communities should not have access to services. They should, but we should all have access to services, whether rural or urban. Anderson: When I was listening to you talk, it reminded me that when solutions to issues are dreamed up and implemented, the people doing the work need to be deeply embedded with the communities in which they’re working in order to really understand and make sure that everyone is included. With that in mind and because the GreenBiz audience is mostly corporate sustainability people, I’m curious about how companies can help rural communities and support organizations like yours. Flowers: Companies come with expertise that we don’t have and they can also help expand our capacity — and they can contribute to organizations like ours, so that we can do the work. Some of them can serve as board members; some can serve as advisers. They can host seminars to educate their staff about these issues. Some of them could also visit as well, when it’s feasible to visit again. And certainly there are services that they offer that people in rural communities want as well.  In some cases, some of these smaller areas cannot have sustainability offices. Wouldn’t it be great if some of these companies will partner with communities that don’t have that? They can actually go in and help them develop more sustainable practices in those communities. There are lots of things that can be done and I’m sure if you talk to somebody else from a rural community, that they would have other ideas. I used to teach social studies so I remember teaching state and local government and history, and we know that there are three branches of government. We know that there are some other unofficial branches of government like the media, but I think the business community plays a key role as well. And the business community can be very helpful in states and pushing for the state governments to not leave out rural communities and to make sure that there’s infrastructure in place for these rural communities. Companies come with expertise that we don’t have and they can also help expand our capacity — and they can contribute to organizations like ours, so that we can do the work. When I was an economic development coordinator, I couldn’t recruit a lot of businesses to Lowndes County because they require certain things that we did not have in terms of just basic infrastructure. By pushing for those things to happen, and pushing for states to provide the infrastructure, not just in the places that already have it but also in places that need it, that can go a long way. Anderson: Now that your book is out in the world, what is the life you hope the book has? What do you hope the people who read the book take away from it and put to action? Flowers: The first thing I want them to do is to read the book. And then the second thing I want them to do is not just look at Lowndes County. Look in their own communities, look in their own states. Throughout the United States, there’s this problem — United States and U.S. territories. So look at those areas and help us to identify where those areas are and what those problems are so together we can come up with a solution.  That’s what I’m asking people to do because a lot of people want to come to Lowndes County. You’re passing by situations in your own state and that’s not helpful. What we need to do is make sure that everybody gets help, and that people are not left behind. I ultimately hope that what will come of this book, or at least writing and telling the story, is that we’ll be able to look back and say this was the impetus to end this problem in the United States of America, and potentially globally. Pull Quote We could develop a vaccine for the coronavirus in less than a year. Just imagine what we could do if we put that same type of know-how and ingenuity behind coming up with some real wastewater solutions. What I envision is within the next 5 years coming up with a system that treats wastewater to drinking water quality that can be done on a household level. It’s unintentional — we frame our solutions or we frame our conversations with an urban perspective that inadvertently is biased against rural communities. Companies come with expertise that we don’t have and they can also help expand our capacity — and they can contribute to organizations like ours, so that we can do the work. What we need to do is make sure that everybody gets help, and that people are not left behind. Topics Social Justice Environmental Justice Waste Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Catherine Coleman Flowers, author of “Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret,” speaks at a Fire Drill Friday protest in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of Catherine Coleman Flowers.

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Waste: an environmental justice issue we should be talking about

Indigenous land defender Flix Vsquez murdered in Honduras

December 31, 2020 by  
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Honduran environmental hero Félix Vásquez was murdered on December 26 for his brave work defending the land. Vásquez, 60, a long-time leader of the  indigenous  Lenca people, was shot at his home in front of his family. He lived in the rural community of Santiago de Puringla in western Honduras. Four assailants also beat his adult children who were present, but they survived. Vásquez had defended indigenous land rights since the 1980s. He was known nationally for his work opposing megaprojects such as environmentally destructive  mines , logging, wind farms and hydroelectric dams. He also worked on reclaiming ancestral titles for dispossessed communities. Related: Environmental activist Berta Cáceres found murdered in her home It takes a lot of courage to be an environmentalist in  Honduras . A 2009 military coup ousted President Manuel Zelaya and used harsh measures, including beatings and media blackouts, to set a new tone of controlling the people. For the last 11 years, the Honduran government has been better known for electoral fraud, corruption and drug trafficking connections than for eco-friendliness. Hundreds of environmental defenders have disappeared and/or been murdered, and others are locked up on contrived criminal charges. In 2020, the Honduran government stepped up persecution of land defenders. In July, armed assailants wearing police uniforms disappeared a group of Black indigenous environmental defenders. Eight  water  activists from the Guapinol community have been detained this year for protesting against an iron oxide mine. On December 29, just days after Vásquez’s murder, indigenous farmer  Adán Mejía  was murdered on his way home from tending his corn.  “Every single community leader is threatened, without exception, as part of the intimidation campaign to silence us and stop our resistance to projects to exploit natural resources imposed on our territory without consultation,” said Marlen Corea, a leader of indigenous and campesino environmental groups in La Paz. Corea worked closely with Vásquez. “That’s why Félix was killed, but our struggle is just.” Via The Guardian and NPR Image via Trocaire

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Indigenous land defender Flix Vsquez murdered in Honduras

EPA finalizes rule to make efforts against climate change more difficult

December 14, 2020 by  
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Like an evil troll throwing a curse over its shoulder before being banished from the kingdom, President Donald Trump’s EPA finalized a rule that could make it harder for Biden to address pollution and climate change. EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, announced the new rule. “Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, we are ensuring that future rulemakings under the Clean Air Act are transparent, fair, and consistent with EPA governing statutes,” said Wheeler, as reported by CNN . But critics say the change ensures that the EPA will continue to put the economy over environmental and public health interests. It allows the agency to disregard positive side effects of decisions, such as saving lives from being lost to air pollution, while fully weighing the economic impact. Related: Exxon’s leaked documents reveal devastating pollution plan During Trump’s four years in office, his administration managed to roll back more than 100 public health and environmental rules, putting the welfare of corporate polluters over that of the people. “For four years, this administration has waged war on public health by kowtowing to polluters,” said Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group, as reported by Common Dreams . “Now, on the way out the door, this amounts to sabotaging the efforts of the incoming administration to protect Americans from dirty air.” Poor air quality is especially troubling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. A study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found an association between air pollution and increased mortality from COVID-19 infection. Individual-level COVID-19 data isn’t publicly available, so the study couldn’t state a definite cause and effect, but the implication is clear. Yet this new EPA rule was proposed in June and passed at a time when COVID-19 deaths are at a high and still rising. New Jersey Representative Frank Pallone tweeted his disgust: “This rule will distort @EPA analysis by discounting the health benefits of air pollution standards & prioritizing the financial costs to polluters above health costs to the public. It’s a betrayal both of the #CleanAirAct and of EPA’s mission to protect human health .” Via Common Dreams and CNN Image via Johannes Plenio

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EPA finalizes rule to make efforts against climate change more difficult

What is the role of gas efficiency in the time of building electrification?

December 10, 2020 by  
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What is the role of gas efficiency in the time of building electrification? Alejandra Mejia Thu, 12/10/2020 – 00:30 Transitioning most of our energy uses to clean electricity in an equitable manner is necessary to meet our 2050 climate goals. But what is the role of gas energy efficiency programs as we move to electrify America’s buildings? The short answer is there are still plenty of economic, climate and energy benefits to pursue as long as utilities and their regulators adhere to a few simple guidelines: Prioritize improving the efficiency of building “envelopes”; addressing the pressing needs of under-resourced (low-income) communities and communities of color; and eliminating incentives for building new homes that use gas.  For years, energy efficiency has been one of the energy sector’s silver bullets . Investing in efficiency improvements has held America’s energy use constant over the last 15 years despite a 33 percent increase in GDP, saved households an average of $500 each year on utility bills and created 2.4 million U.S. jobs. As we reduce the use of fossil fuels directly in our homes and buildings by installing appliances that can run on 100 percent clean electricity, efficiency still will be an important tool for avoiding unnecessary electric system costs in the future. Efficiency’s role in equitable building electrification To stabilize our climate and successfully transition to a thriving clean energy economy, we need to eliminate virtually all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the buildings where we live and work. This likely means replacing nearly every fossil fuel-burning appliance with one that can run on electricity generated from clean sources such as wind and power. Given the magnitude of this challenge , we must ensure that none of our energy investments are at cross-purposes to this goal. For efficiency funding that is not tied to a specific fuel — programs that don’t care whether a home uses gas or electricity — this means focusing on and fully funding the transition to efficient, all-electric technologies that are key to meeting our climate goals. It also means prioritizing the smooth, equitable transition of under-resourced and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPoC) communities that have disproportionately higher energy burdens off the fossil fuel system. If we do not prioritize the people who are least able to afford new all-electric equipment in this transition, we risk leaving them holding the bag on a system with a decreasing customer base and increasing costs. As more people transition to all-electric buildings, the costs of maintaining the gas system will rise for those still dependent on it. If we do not prioritize the people who are least able to afford new all-electric equipment in this transition, we risk leaving them holding the bag on a system with a decreasing customer base and increasing costs.   Focus on building efficiency for long-term success Gas efficiency programs are funded by gas utility customers. They commonly offer rebates for new efficient gas appliances and fund weatherization and other building efficiency upgrades. A recent American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) report makes several helpful recommendations for improving the efficacy and cost-benefit of those programs. In particular, we agree that “going forward, building shell improvements in existing buildings will be particularly important to reduce costs and emissions,” and that increased partnerships and cost-sharing between gas and electric utilities is necessary to fully realize the benefits of such an investment. However, the report does not suggest how to balance the short-term benefits of some efficient gas appliances with the reality that those appliances will operate — and produced GHG emissions — for 10 to 20 years. One way to strike this balance is to focus gas programs on improving the efficiency of the buildings, rather than on the appliances within them. That includes insulating buildings, reducing air infiltrations, improving ventilation and upgrading windows. Envelope efficiency helps homes and businesses stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, and improve indoor air quality while reducing energy costs, regardless of the type of energy. Envelope upgrades improve the quality of life of residents, especially those living in housing that is in disrepair due to historic underinvestment, and make it easier and cheaper to switch those buildings and residents to 100 percent clean electricity when the time is right. Because continuing to install long-lived gas appliances is incompatible with meeting our climate and equity goals, gas efficiency funds no longer should go toward any fossil gas equipment unless there is a clear social, health or equity concern or crisis that cannot be effectively addressed with efficient all-electric solutions. All-electric equipment should be the preferred solution and all available efforts (including envelope efficiency) should be leveraged to make those clean electric options work for residents. How to avoid locking people into a polluting gas system Gas efficiency programs, like all clean energy initiatives, should prioritize the BIPoC and low-income communities that historically have been underserved . With regards to appliance rebates, this means first and foremost doing everything possible to help these residents move off the fossil gas system while saving money. However, in some cases, largely depending on local weather and electricity costs, providing immediate relief from disproportionate energy burdens and unhealthy living conditions may involve installing new, highly efficient gas appliances. The decision to install gas or electric appliances should be weighed carefully and be based on the following three key factors: The short-term cost to residents of electrifying home energy uses in areas with high utility rates.  A full accounting of the long-term costs of maintaining a safe and reliable gas delivery system. The risk that a new gas appliance will lead to higher energy costs in the future for the customer receiving that appliance.  Continuing to install gas equipment at the same time we’re working to reduce our dependence on all fossil fuels risks leaving the most vulnerable customers to pay the rising costs of an underused gas system. To prevent this, California consumer advocates recently asked regulators to investigate when efficiency programs reserved for low-income customers should sunset their gas appliance incentives in favor of clean electric options. We should be asking these questions about every energy efficiency program in every state and ensuring that BIPoC leaders are helping set and adopt the solutions for their own communities. Building clean from the start is more important every day Finally, we should not be investing any more of our energy efficiency funds on helping new buildings pipe for and install gas appliances. Most buildings that will house us in 2050 already have been built — which is why how we operate and upgrade those buildings today is so important to securing a stable climate future. But we will continue to build new homes and offices in the meantime, and it is vital that those buildings do not continue to further our dependence on polluting fossil fuels. Building efficient, healthy, all-electric buildings will mean lower energy costs from the start . This will be particularly important for affordable housing for under-resourced households as it ensures their energy costs are minimized from the get-go and that they are insulated from having to finance the rising costs of the gas system as electrification of existing buildings takes hold. Pull Quote If we do not prioritize the people who are least able to afford new all-electric equipment in this transition, we risk leaving them holding the bag on a system with a decreasing customer base and increasing costs. Topics Energy & Climate Electrification Energy Efficiency NRDC Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Gas programs should focus on improving the efficiency of the buildings, rather than on the appliances within them. That includes insulating buildings, reducing air infiltrations and more. Photo by  Lisa-S  on Shutterstock.

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Earth911 Inspiration: Harmony of People and the World

November 13, 2020 by  
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Today’s inspiration is from French philosopher and author Albert Camus: … The post Earth911 Inspiration: Harmony of People and the World appeared first on Earth 911.

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7 roles to create sustainable success

October 2, 2020 by  
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7 roles to create sustainable success Ellen Weinreb Fri, 10/02/2020 – 00:30 There is a lot of talk right now about systems change, and for good reason: With so many people experiencing the effects of several major crises — the pandemic, the recession, racism and the ongoing climate crisis — we have a narrow window of opportunity for change. As they say, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. As someone who works at the intersection of human resources and sustainability, I’m fascinated by the question of who is leading this change, and how they can do so effectively. That’s why I was pleased to read Carola Wijdoogen’s new book, ” 7 Roles to Create Sustainable Success: A Practical Guide for Sustainability and CSR Professionals ,” which launches Oct. 6. Wijdoogen spent several years as chief sustainability officer at the Dutch passenger train operator NS, leaving in 2019 to start Sustainability University Foundation, a platform she co-founded to empower sustainability professionals through peer-to-peer learning and research. In the foreword, Peter Bakker, president and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, described right now as “a pivotal moment for business to lead the way in achieving a world where more than 9 billion people have a decent quality of life within the boundaries of our planet by 2050.” We have the blueprints to make this happen, from the Paris Agreement to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, but we need people who can get us there. That’s where Wijdoogen’s book comes in. Wijdoogen points out that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to sustainability, but every sustainability team deploys seven common roles at some point: 1. The Networker:  Wijdoogen describes two types of networking roles: Stakeholder engagement and peer networks. Both serve to enhance and focus a company’s sustainability program, and both support learning. Networkers also can help companies identify opportunity and risk early on. 2. The Strategist:  This role is all about creating the sustainability vision and mission by defining the organization’s “why” when it comes to sustainability, whether that’s about growing profits, reducing risk, enhancing reputation, accelerating innovation, crystalizing the firm’s growth plan or something else. 3. The Coordinator and Initiator:  These roles support and spur implementation across the organization, so the people in this role must deeply understand the CSR mission, strategy and plan and how the organization works so they can “anchor sustainability in the structure, system and processes” of the company. 4. The Stimulator and Connector:  If the coordinator sets up the system to make taking action easier, the stimulator makes others want to take action. They’re the ambassadors for sustainability who influence organizational culture and make desired behaviors stick. 5. The Mentor:  Put simply, mentors empower others. In this chapter, Wijdoogen describes how to make sustainability relevant to different teams and how to encourage individuals to understand its relevance to their own role and career growth. Those in the mentor role also could heed the advice of Imperative’s Workforce Purpose Index on how to improve employee fulfillment, which I wrote about in 2019 . 6. The Innovator:  Wijdoogen breaks down how sustainability can be used toward innovation in different areas — from new products and services to the design process to new business models. She writes that part of the innovator’s role is to help the company understand how sustainability can be a growth opportunity — something that’s about expanding, not limiting, potential. 7. The Monitor: The people who do measurement, reporting and analysis — the wonks of sustainability — help their companies learn from successes and failures. As I have written recently , there’s a proliferation of sustainability frameworks, and the monitor can help their companies understand and use these frameworks for greater impact. While the roles Wijdoogen describes are nothing new, the way she presents them is invaluable. She boils down each role to its essence — defining it, explaining its purpose and sharing examples to illustrate what they look like in practice. She also provides a toolbox of tips at the end of each chapter. Applying this framework In the past, I have written about different frameworks on sustainability roles and competencies , and Wijdoogen’s book should sit alongside these articles. They are great resources to review if you’re reflecting on the people side of sustainability, particularly if you’re in one of the following situations: Changing your team:  When you have a new team or a new leader, the book can help everyone understand different roles, who holds special skills and how to deploy them effectively. Starting out in sustainability: ­ The book also would be useful to people about to start in sustainability, whether it’s their first job or they are switching careers; the book can provide a primer on different roles you might play and how to play them effectively. Hiring:  Hiring managers can use the book to understand what roles are missing and which competencies are important to hire for. Starting a new strategy:  Finally, I can imagine people flipping through this book when starting a new strategy or initiative: What will you need to really make this new thing stick? Who will play those roles? For many of us in sustainability, this year has given us pause for reflection on the work we’re doing and how we’re doing it. This makes Wijdoogen’s book well-timed as we consider how collectively these seven roles can feed the systems change we desperately need. To learn more, the book launch is taking place at 10 a.m. EDT Oct. 6 via Zoom and open to the public. Registration is at this link. Topics Careers Featured Column Talent Show 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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RBG left these 4 lessons for the climate fight

September 29, 2020 by  
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RBG left these 4 lessons for the climate fight Rushad Nanavatty Tue, 09/29/2020 – 01:30 Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a hero. The obituaries have focused on her legacy as a feminist icon, her singular determination, her deep humanity, and her profound common sense. These traits were exemplified by her famous dissents — equal parts restrained and biting — against a series of regressive Supreme Court majority decisions. We don’t immediately think of RBG as an environmental activist or climate champion ( Greta Thunberg fandom  notwithstanding). However, her life and career offer plenty of inspiration for our work at RMI — and for anyone concerned with preserving a livable planet. When I think about RBG, these are the lessons I take for the climate fight. 1. Climate action honors RBG’s legacy on equality RBG did more to advance the cause of equality than any justice since Thurgood Marshall. Her life and career were defined by it. As a schoolgirl in Brooklyn, she objected to the fact that the boys went to woodshop while the girls sewed. As co-founder of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, she convinced the Supreme Court to rule, for the first time, that gender discrimination was unconstitutional (despite being led by a Chief Justice who had  threatened to resign  if a woman were appointed to the court). As a member of the that court, she fought for voters’ rights (Shelby County v. Holder), comprehensive healthcare coverage (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby), and federalism (Bush v. Gore). She did it patiently and incisively, referring to her role in her ACLU cases as “a kind of a kindergarten teacher… because the judges didn’t think sex discrimination existed.” Showing how discrimination hurt men was often the tactic she used to generate empathy and understanding among the male judges she was dealing with. Climate action honors that legacy — because climate change is as stark an inequality issue as it gets and requires every bit as much doggedness to address. Climate action honors that legacy — because climate change is as stark an inequality issue as it gets and requires every bit as much doggedness to address. The impacts of global warming are deeply regressive, disproportionately hurting our poorest and most vulnerable communities. Black and Hispanic Americans are exposed to  63 percent and 56 percent  more pollution than they create. Our history of redlining has left low-income and minority communities  dangerously exposed to extreme heat . Americans are  far more vulnerable to climate disasters  if they are poor, elderly, disabled, don’t own a car, or can’t speak English. And during and after these events, the rich tend to leave and the poor tend to stay;  poverty rates can climb by a full percentage point  in areas hit by climate disasters. We’re seeing this starkly with our western wildfires — to which Native Americans are six times  more vulnerable  and Black and Hispanic Americans are 50 percent more vulnerable than Whites. And as Bill McKibben  points out , inaction on climate amounts to “generational aggression: it consigns the planet’s young people (and all future generations) to an ever-grimmer planet.” If anyone is inspired by RBG lifelong crusade as the “ Great Equalizer ,” then the climate fight is where it’s at. 2. If you fight well, a big loss can eventually turn into an even bigger win In 2007, Lily Ledbetter sued her employer, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, for years-long gender-based pay discrimination. A 5–4 court decision went in favor of Goodyear on procedural grounds (i.e., that Ledbetter hadn’t filed the charge early enough). RBG delivered her  dissent  from the bench — a rare open rebuke to her all-male colleagues’ “cramped” interpretation of the law: “The Court’s insistence on immediate contest overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination, [which] often occur, as they did in Ledbetter’s case, in small increments… Small initial discrepancies may not be seen as meet for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment, is averse to making waves… Pay disparities, of the kind Ledbetter experienced, have a closer kinship to hostile work environment claims than to charges of a single episode of discrimination. Ledbetter’s claim… rested not on one particular paycheck, but on ‘the cumulative effect of individual acts.’” Because the court got it wrong, Congress was inspired to step up and get it right. The  Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act  of 2009 was the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Obama. The clarity and conviction of RBGs’ effort in a losing cause was key to achieving the much bigger legislative win. Ledbetter credited RBG’s dissent for giving her “ the dignity to go on ” as she testified before Congress multiple times in the run up to the Act’s passage. We are yet to see comprehensive federal climate legislation in the United States. But a stalled effort is also an opportunity to gather energy. With each serious attempt at a nationwide climate action — the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, the Green New Deal resolution, the Smith-Lujan clean energy standard proposal — the people on the right side of history sharpen their arguments and strengthen their coalitions. As my colleague Wendy Jaglom has  pointed out : In three short years  [since President Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris agreement], the number of EVs on the road has doubled, 16 states have committed to phase down HFCs, the number of cities committed to 100 percent renewable electricity has quintupled, and seven states and 27 gas companies have committed to methane leak reduction. Today, one-third of all Americans live in a jurisdiction committed to 100 percent clean electricity, six million people live in cities committed to all-electric new building construction, and two-thirds of Americans support a 100 percent clean economy by 2050, a carbon tax, and stronger fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks. If the administration’s rejection of the Paris agreement was the equivalent of a flawed interpretation of the law, our burgeoning trans-ideological climate movement may be the equivalent of changing the law itself — more consequential and more resilient. 3. “Speaking in a judicial voice” can help deliver outcomes we all want In a  1992 lecture , RBG talked about the importance of staying cordial and assuming good intentions even when voicing disagreement. In her own words (and quoting Roscoe Pound): “One must be sensitive to the sensibilities and mindsets of one’s colleagues, which may mean avoiding certain arguments and authorities, even certain words… I emphasize that dissents are not devoutly to be avoided. I question, however, resort to expressions that generate more heat than light… It is not good to burden an opinion with “intemperate denunciation of colleagues, violent invective, attributions of bad motives, and insinuations of incompetence, negligence, prejudice, or obtuseness.” The most effective dissent, I am convinced, spells out differences without jeopardizing collegiality or public respect for and confidence in the judiciary.” Given the state of Congress today, and our more general state of political polarization, it may be hard to resist the eye-roll — but resisting it is more important than ever. We need to suppress the friendly fire even within the climate action community. I’ve been in meetings on the Green New Deal where environmental justice groups automatically view all business and industry as evil — and in DC conference rooms where well-meaning business people and policy wonks dismiss those environmental justice groups as liberal “enviro” fantasists. RBG’s guidance echoes Amory Lovins’ longstanding philosophy: “If we  focus on outcomes, not motives , we can achieve results that we all want, but for different reasons… If we simply do what makes sense without having to agree on why it’s important, we and our planet will be better off.” This logic is profoundly applicable to the energy transition. Regardless of whether you care about jobs, industrial competitiveness, resilience, social equity, or simply not breaking the planet, the answer entails accelerating our movement away from fossil fuels and toward a combination of efficiency and renewables. 4. The cost of implementation is irrelevant when the cost of inaction is unthinkable Massachusetts v. EPA  was probably the most prominent environmental case handled during RBG’s time on the Supreme Court — with the court ruling that carbon dioxide is subject to regulation by the EPA under the Clean Air Act. But a more technical and obscure case may be more instructive in our current moment. The most effective dissent, I am convinced, spells out differences without jeopardizing collegiality or public respect for and confidence in the judiciary. In 2001’s  Whitman v. American Trucking Associations , the trucking industry argued that the EPA should consider implementation costs when setting  pollution limits . The court unanimously disagreed — because the statute contains several explicit “bright line” factors — without listing cost as one of them. If legislators wanted the EPA to consider cost, they would have said so; “Congress doesn’t hide elephants in mouseholes,” wrote RBG’s opera buddy, Antonin Scalia, on behalf of the court. Today, with a planet on fire, it is worth considering that principle. As we have written before, the cost of climate inaction  dwarfs  the cost of action to point that it renders the latter meaningless in comparison. There is over $5 trillion in value-at-risk to US assets under a middle-of-the-road global warming scenario—not including the cost of market volatility. Our country can clearly spend when it needs to (or Congress wants to); nearly $2.7 trillion in CARES Act funding approved within two weeks,  $2.4  trillion to $ 3 trillion  on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the annual $1 trillion a year that our fossil fuel-burning power plants cost America, based on the federal government’s base-case estimates on the social cost of carbon. The cost of greening our economy seems quaint in comparison;  $476 billion  for comprehensive grid modernization, for example, or $11 billion for a nationwide network of EV fast charging stations. A program to upgrade 120 million homes would cost  $3.6 trillion  — while generating  $1.4 trillion  in net value (energy cost savings minus retrofit costs). In the  Whitman  case ,  RBG and her colleagues ruled that implementation costs were irrelevant when stacked against the primary “requisite to protect the public health” with “an adequate margin of safety.” Replace “public health” with “planet,” and you have the argument for an ambitious green recovery and rebuilding program. — Losing a hero is hard. But it also creates the space — and the need — for others step off the sidelines and into the fray. Once we’re done mourning, we must get to work. Pull Quote Climate action honors that legacy — because climate change is as stark an inequality issue as it gets and requires every bit as much doggedness to address. The most effective dissent, I am convinced, spells out differences without jeopardizing collegiality or public respect for and confidence in the judiciary. Topics Climate Change Leadership Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has lunch with a group of Wake Forest law students in the Worrell Professional Center on Wednesday, September 28, 2005. Photo by Wake Forest University School of Law/Flickr

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RBG left these 4 lessons for the climate fight

Rheaply is helping companies and organizations of all sizes expand their circularity

September 23, 2020 by  
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Rheaply is helping companies and organizations of all sizes expand their circularity Back in January, GreenBiz published a story about Rheaply , a resource management and exchange platform. But a lot has changed since the beginning of the year. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the company shifted gears to support those who need personal protective gear through its Emergency Resource Exchange. “What we’ve tried to do is use our technology, which connects people to items traditionally, specifically to help with PPE sourcing during this unprecedented time in global history,” said Garry Cooper, CEO of Rheaply. As the pandemic rages on and the company continues to get people the resources they need to address it, there are still other valuable items sitting idle on shelves that other people can use instead of buying new ones. It’s important for companies and organizations to continue to — or start to — move toward zero waste practices. “Moving towards a system and an economy by which we do not waste things, we view usage over consumption and access over ownership is super important,” Cooper said. “Zero waste is the mechanism that every company, government and organization should be taking hold to make operational today.” Deonna Anderson, associate editor at GreenBiz Group, interviewed Garry Cooper, CEO of Rheaply during Circularity 20, which took place August 25-27, 2020. View archived videos from the conference here: http://grn.bz/MWn . Deonna Anderson Wed, 09/23/2020 – 11:08 Featured Off

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