ESG in 2021: The State of Play

February 25, 2021 by  
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ESG in 2021: The State of Play Date/Time: March 18, 2021 (1-2PM ET / 10-11AM PT) The world of environmental, social and governance metrics and ratings has entered a new and dynamic phase. Suddenly, nearly every publicly held company — and many privately held firms — are examining their policies and programs through the lens of investors’ rising interest in ESG metrics. For their part, investors are learning that corporate environmental and social activities are no longer a nice-to-do activity — they are core to well-managed and profitable companies. As a result, ESG has moved from the margins to the mainstream. What are the implications for today’s sustainability and finance professionals? How can they serve the interests of investor relations departments, risk professionals and other internal stakeholders who have become part of the ESG ecosystem inside companies?  In this one-hour webcast, you’ll hear the state of play from two industry insiders. Among the things you’ll learn: What are the key ESG metrics investors are examining? What are the opportunities for sustainability professionals to play a leadership role in their company’s ESG strategy? How will the Biden administration affect the trajectory of ESG transparency and disclosure? What are the rising ESG issues that investors are considering in assessing companies? Moderator: Joel Makower, Chairman & Executive Editor, GreenBiz Speakers: Thomas Kamei, Executive Director, Investment Management, Morgan Stanley Tessie Petion, Head, ESG Engagement, Amazon If you can’t tune in live, please register and we will email you a link to access the archived webcast footage and resources, available to you on-demand after the webcast. taylor flores Thu, 02/25/2021 – 11:53 Joel Makower Chairman & Executive Editor GreenBiz Group @makower Thomas Kamei Executive Director, Investment Management Morgan Stanley Tessie Petion Head, ESG Engagement Amazon gbz_webcast_date Thu, 03/18/2021 – 10:00 – Thu, 03/18/2021 – 11:00

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ESG in 2021: The State of Play

Earth911 Podcast: Dr. William Ripple on the State of the Climate Emergency in 2021

January 20, 2021 by  
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Listen to “Earth911 Podcast: Dr. William Ripple on the The … The post Earth911 Podcast: Dr. William Ripple on the State of the Climate Emergency in 2021 appeared first on Earth 911.

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Earth911 Podcast: Dr. William Ripple on the State of the Climate Emergency in 2021

By 2035, all new cars sold in Massachusetts must be electric

January 5, 2021 by  
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Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has released a masterplan for the state that requires all cars produced and sold to be electric come 2035. The plan, dubbed  Massachusetts 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap ,  looks at various factors that contribute to carbon pollution. State administrators noted that cars are major contributors to carbon pollution, and any plan to achieve net-zero emissions must include the eradication of fossil fuel-powered automobiles. In a  press release , the governor highlighted the negative impacts of climate change caused by excessive carbon pollution. “The people of Massachusetts are experiencing record droughts, increased risk of wildfire, severe weather, and flooding in our coastal communities,” Baker said. “The costly impacts of climate change are on display in the Commonwealth, making it critical that we take action.” Related: Solar-powered Lowell Justice Center will be Massachusetts’ first LEED Platinum courthouse Kathleen Theoharides, the state’s Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary, said that achieving net-zero emissions requires efforts from everyone to make the plan successful. “We know that achieving Net Zero emissions by 2050 will require hard work and collaboration across all sectors of the economy,” Theoharides said. The new roadmap “establishes a blueprint that will help us achieve our climate goals in a way that is cost-effective and delivers significant benefits to residents across the Commonwealth, especially those in our most vulnerable communities.” In the report, which was released on December 31, the state has identified key areas of concern to help reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Besides turning to electric cars, the report also outlines a shift from a fossil fuel grid to a renewable energy grid. According to the report, data indicates that low-income homes in the state do not have access to air conditioning as compared to more affluent homes. The plan looks at increasing temperatures due to climate change and notes that all homes will require clean energy to facilitate home air conditioning. Another area of focus will be new buildings. The state plans to prevent emissions from all upcoming buildings with improved building codes and construction policies. Massachusetts now becomes one of the few states with a clear roadmap toward net-zero emissions . However, the bulk of the work still lies in the implementation of the plan. + Mass.gov Via Clean Technica Image via David Mark

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By 2035, all new cars sold in Massachusetts must be electric

The State of Green Business 2021

December 21, 2020 by  
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The State of Green Business 2021 Date/Time: January 25, 2021 (1-2PM ET / 10-11AM PT) Following the challenging, turbulent year that was 2020, what is the state of sustainable business in 2021? Join us for the release of the 14th annual edition of State of Green Business, GreenBiz Group’s award-winning annual report. Each year, the report looks at key trends and metrics assessing how, and how much, companies are moving the needle on the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. The report is produced in partnership with Trucost, part of S&P Global, and covers the performance on the biggest publicly traded U.S. companies (S&P 500) and global players (S&P Global 1200). In this one-hour webcast, coinciding with the report’s release, GreenBiz Group Chairman and Executive Editor Joel Makower and Trucost CEO Richard Mattison will provide insights into key trends and metrics in sustainable business, including new metrics introduced in this year’s report revealing companies’ revenue aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, and how large companies’ emissions align with a 2-degree carbon budget. Among the topics: Why the “S” in ESG is gaining currency The new face of credit risk How ESG scores relate to financial performance Why sustainable mobility is becoming the newest corporate perk Corporate profits at risk from climate change Speakers: Joel Makower, Chairman and Executive Editor, GreenBiz Group Richard Mattison, Chief Executive Officer, Trucost, part of S&P Global If you can’t tune in live, please register and we will email you a link to access the archived webcast footage and resources, available to you on-demand after the webcast. Report Partner taylor flores Mon, 12/21/2020 – 10:22 Joel Makower Chairman & Executive Editor GreenBiz Group @makower Richard Mattison CEO Trucost, part of S&P Global @richmattison gbz_webcast_date Sat, 01/25/2020 – 10:00 – Sat, 01/25/2020 – 11:00

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Can California’s cap and trade address environmental justice?

December 16, 2020 by  
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Can California’s cap and trade address environmental justice? Julia Rosen Wed, 12/16/2020 – 01:30 Growing up in North Richmond, California, Denny Khamphanthong didn’t think much of the siren that wailed once a month at 11 a.m. every first Wednesday. The alarm is a test of the community’s emergency warning system, which has alerted residents to numerous incidents over the years at the nearby Chevron oil refinery. One accident there —  a 2012 fire  — sent a cloud of black smoke billowing over San Francisco Bay and left thousands of local residents struggling to breathe. Now, when Khamphanthong explains the sound to his young nieces, he sees the fear in their eyes. “I forget that this isn’t normal,” he says. Nor is the fact that Khamphanthong and most of his childhood friends carried inhalers. Richmond, a diverse, industrial city where housing prices and incomes have lagged behind its Bay Area neighbors, has poor air quality and some of the highest rates of respiratory and cardiovascular disease in California. “There’s a lot of beautiful things that happen out of [Richmond],” says Khamphanthong, a community organizer with the Asian Pacific Environmental Network whose family emigrated from Laos in the 1980s. “But at the same time, when you look at the reality of it, it is sad.” Pollution, poverty and race collide in many other disadvantaged communities across California — and the country — and some argue that the state’s climate policies haven’t helped. While California already has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 13 percent since their peak in 2004, many residents still suffer from high levels of air pollution — much of it produced by fossil fuels. In particular, controversy has dogged California’s cap-and-trade policy , which took effect in 2013 and regulates roughly 450 entities accounting for 85 percent of California’s emissions. The system works by setting a limit on the total amount of greenhouse gases released by refineries, power plants and other large emitters, and requires polluters to obtain permits to cover their share. The overall “cap” lowers every year, forcing polluters to reduce their emissions or purchase allowances from others who do. Environmental justice activists say the cap and trade program has not served California’s disadvantaged communities, and particularly communities of color, where many facilities operate. Economists, environmentalists and policymakers — many of them white — tout cap and trade as a cost-effective way to cut emissions while generating money for other climate initiatives. But environmental justice activists say the program has not served California’s disadvantaged communities, and particularly communities of color, where many facilities operate. In their eyes, it doesn’t do enough to address climate change and allows emitters to continue polluting the air in the meantime. For example, state records suggest that the Chevron Richmond Refinery, one of California’s largest emitters, released more greenhouse gases in 2017 and 2018 — the last years for which data are publicly available — than it has since 2008. And in several recent years, it emitted as much or more of certain air pollutants . It also dramatically has increased the volume of gas flared off as waste — another source of harmful compounds . (Representatives from Chevron said that flaring was related to a new hydrogen plant coming online, and that the refinery has made significant investments in reducing emissions of air pollutants over the past 40 years.) To many, cap and trade highlights a contradiction. “You’re hearing all this great stuff about how amazing your governor and your state is on climate leadership,” says Lucas Zucker, policy and communications director at the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy . But “it doesn’t feel like anything is changing.” As the United States reckons with its long legacy of racial injustice and the increasingly devastating consequences of climate change, questions about the efficacy and fairness of cap and trade have taken on greater urgency than ever. But seven years on, researchers, regulators and activists are still arguing about how California’s most famous climate policy has affected its most vulnerable residents — and how to do better. The air Climate change is usually seen as a global problem. But its effects are profoundly local, and often refract through long-standing patterns of inequality and racism. In the U.S. and elsewhere, low-income residents and people of color shoulder an outsized share of the climate burden. They face greater risks from heat waves , floods and other climate-related impacts. And they have suffered collateral damage from the harmful pollutants produced by using fossil fuels. As the U.S. reckons with its long legacy of racial injustice and the increasingly devastating consequences of climate change, questions about the efficacy and fairness of cap and trade have taken on greater urgency than ever. These pollutants, which include particulate matter, nitrogen and sulfur oxides, and toxic substances such as benzene, have been linked to health problems ranging from respiratory disorders to reproductive problems to cancer. Numerous studies show that polluting facilities and their emissions tend to concentrate in disadvantaged communities. “Me and my five cousins, we all have asthma,” says Abe Francis, 15, of Sacramento. When Francis was young, doctors prescribed him medication because they feared he might stop breathing in his sleep. He still struggles to catch his breath when he plays basketball at the park. “It’s incredibly scary for me,” says Francis, who is African American. According to CalEnviroScreen , the system the state uses to identify at-risk populations, his neighborhood falls in the highest fifth of pollution-affected communities in California. It ranks in the 94th percentile for poverty and roughly 90 percent of residents are people of color. Chemical plant in Wilmington, a city in California’s Los Angeles County. Shutterstock Angel DiBilio Close Authorship   In Wilmington, a predominantly Latino community in south Los Angeles, Dulce Altamirano says her children and grandchildren suffer from headaches, rashes, nosebleeds, and respiratory problems caused by pollution. “The air quality is very bad,” 45-year-old Altamirano says in Spanish, with a sigh. “I personally have many problems with breathing, with my throat. … There have been times when my husband wanted to call the paramedics.” The city sits among numerous refineries, oil wells and storage facilities, shipping ports and high-traffic roads, and some neighborhoods rank in the top 10th of CalEnviroScreen scores. Climate policies present an opportunity to address these issues because greenhouse gases and harmful air pollutants often come from the same sources, such as industrial smokestacks and vehicle tailpipes. In fact, when California passed its landmark 2006 climate law  — which directed the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions down to 1990 levels by 2020 —  supporters claimed that it would save thousands of lives through improved air quality alone. But environmental justice advocates grew concerned that these benefits would not be equally distributed when the California Air Resources Board (CARB) decided to adopt a cap-and-trade program as part of its strategy to implement the law. CARB turned to cap and trade in part because it had broad support from both environmental groups and industry players, and was already in use by a coalition of East Coast states and the European Union to tackle greenhouse gases. (In 2014, Quebec joined California’s market and several other states and countries have considered or adopted their own versions in recent years.) However, community activists worried that the system would allow companies to find ways to keep emitting, particularly in disadvantaged neighborhoods. “Anytime to you have that kind of pay-to-pollute scheme, the communities that already were being sacrificed — that becomes a business decision,” Zucker says. Some evidence suggests that these fears have come true. A 2018 study led by Lara Cushing , now at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that more than half of the facilities covered under cap and trade actually increased their in-state emissions during the first three years of the program. These facilities were also more likely to be in disadvantaged communities. (In-state emissions were offset by purchasing cleaner power and carbon credits from other projects that reduced emissions elsewhere.) A 2019 report by the environmental group Food and Water Watch found similar results for the East Coast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — a cap-and-trade program that regulates the power sector. However, a new analysis by economists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, paints a slightly brighter picture in California. The researchers used a model to simulate how pollution spreads in the atmosphere to study how emissions translate to exposure. Like others, they found glaring disparities between disadvantaged communities and their whiter, more prosperous neighbors. But while this so-called environmental justice gap increased in the years before cap and trade took effect, it fell by 20 to 30 percent afterwards in the areas where facilities were covered by the program. The California studies, which took different approaches, do not offer a clear answer about whether cap and trade has helped or harmed disadvantaged communities in the state. Both had to wrestle with outside factors that affected emissions, such as the Great Recession and California’s other climate policies. But activists say that an even more important question mostly has gone unasked: What would have happened if California had adopted a different policy altogether? Many feel that their communities would have seen greater progress if the state had regulated emitters directly, says Katie Valenzuela . She grew up in Oildale — a town in a major oil-producing region in California’s Central Valley — and previously served as policy and political director for the California Environmental Justice Alliance . In March, Valenzuela was elected to Sacramento’s City Council District 4, representing midtown and downtown Sacramento and South Land Park. In recent years, state regulators have tried to tackle inequalities in air quality. But Valenzuela says that officials have leaned on cap and trade instead of embracing more aggressive climate policies — often at the expense of vulnerable communities: “It’s been 14 years, and we’ve still never had a meaningful discussion about reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.” The money By the time California’s cap-and-trade program came up for renewal in 2017, environmental justice advocates had united against it. They felt ignored by state officials and abandoned by mainstream environmental groups. The final reauthorization bill , which extended the program until 2030, only compounded their sense of betrayal: Among other provisions, it exempted many polluting facilities from extra regulation by local air districts. This souring of relationships was particularly disastrous given that many saw California’s original climate law as an explicit effort to advance environmental justice. It was “integral to the design,” says Michel Gelobter , a social entrepreneur and environmental justice advocate who helped shape the bill when he was executive director of Redefining Progress, a sustainability think tank. The law directed state officials to consider the impacts of climate policies on “communities that are already adversely impacted by air pollution.” It also mandated that the state convene an Environmental Justice Advisory Committee to oversee its climate efforts. Even the cap-and-trade program, while far from perfect, had equitable ambitions, Gelobter says. He and other economists note that traditional environmental regulations often raise the cost of goods and services, which disproportionately harms low-income people. And the extra money that consumers pay goes into the pockets of polluters, Gelobter says. Thus, to him, the most just climate policies are those that impose a price on carbon and use the revenue to blunt the economic blow on the most vulnerable members of society. California has done exactly that. Every quarter, the state auctions off emissions allowances to polluters (some are also distributed directly to industries) and by law, 35 percent of the money raised must be spent in disadvantaged communities. In practice, however, the state has delegated far more — almost 60 percent, or roughly $3 billion in total since the first funds were released in 2014. Phil Serna , a member of the California Air Resources Board, sees this as a powerful counterpoint to critiques that cap and trade is unjust. “How we invest our resources is really a reflection of our priorities,” says Serna, also a Sacramento County supervisor. How we invest our resources is really a reflection of our priorities. Some cap-and-trade revenue goes directly to California residents , to offset the increased cost of electricity and natural gas caused by the state’s climate initiatives. The rest of the money goes toward projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or improve water quality. In disadvantaged neighborhoods, that might mean expanding public transit, increasing access to renewable energy and building efficient, affordable housing. Some feel uncomfortable about the source of these funds, because they often come at a cost to community health. “We would prefer it if there was no money coming from the cap-and-trade system because there was no pollution coming from our economy,” says Alvaro Sanchez, director of environmental equity at the nonprofit Greenlining Institute . But from an investment point of view, he says, “the money picture feels fairly positive.” In the San Joaquin Valley, cap-and-trade funds have helped low-income residents purchase clean cars. Most of the valley ranks in the upper third of CalEnviroScreen scores and the region has the worst air quality in the nation . Bakersfield leads the country in particulate pollution, and Fresno ranks second. But here, the leading culprits are  agriculture and traffic  — not the large industrial facilities covered under cap and trade. (The program regulates transportation indirectly by forcing fuel distributors to buy emission allowances.) Under an initiative called Drive Clean in the San Joaquin , residents can get up to $9,500 to trade in their old car for a hybrid or electric vehicle. So far, Drive Clean has replaced 3,000 cars and saved customers hundreds of dollars a month in gas and maintenance costs, says Tom Knox, executive director of Valley Clean Air Now , which runs the program. One of those vehicles went to Sokunrith Nop, who emigrated to the U.S. from Cambodia 41 years ago and lives in Stockton. He replaced his 1995 Honda Civic with a fully electric 2017 Fiat 500e. “I love it. It suits me perfectly,” says Nop, who needed something reliable to drive his child to school. He likes saving money on gas. And he wants to help the environment. “Everybody should drive a car like that where we don’t pollute,” Nop says. He only wishes the program could help more people like him: “Those cars are expensive.” The rub Cap and trade isn’t the only way to put a price on carbon, and it’s not the only one that raises environmental justice concerns . Such issues arise whenever policies rely on market forces to drive down emissions — because markets are famously unconcerned with equity. “It’s all about finding efficiencies,” says Kyle Meng , an economist at UCSB and co-author of the study on the environmental justice gap. Still, activists and researchers have proposed numerous ways to make California’s program fairer. For instance, regulators could require that emissions in disadvantaged communities decline at least at the same rate as the overall cap, rather than setting a statewide goal, says James Boyce , an economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Officials also could impose geographic restrictions on trading to ensure that the pollution benefits accrue more locally, or force emitters to go through local air permitting processes. California’s Environmental Justice Advisory Committee repeatedly has called on regulators to reduce the number of available allowances and do away with offsets — a cost-containment measure that allows polluters to buy added emissions credits from outside projects that reduce carbon emissions, such as planting trees or protecting them from logging , often in other states. Alicia Rivera , a community organizer for Communities for a Better Environment in Wilmington, says that she struggles to explain the concept of offsets to residents breathing unhealthy air. “The refinery gets credit, but in Wilmington, they haven’t reduced anything,” she says. (CARB has not banned offsets; however, starting in 2021, companies won’t be able to use as many, and at least half must benefit the state.) Some say that California’s program would produce more equitable results if it had a more ambitious emissions target, and thus higher carbon prices. (By the state’s own assessment , cap and trade deserves little credit for its progress so far.) Others say that it has received too much attention. Danny Cullenward , a climate policy expert at Stanford University, argues that cap and trade “claims to be able to do anything you want … while the politics frustrate any efforts to dial it up to do that.” Stanley Young, director of communications at CARB, says that cap and trade serves as a backstop for the state’s other climate policies, such as efforts to increase renewable energy use and clean up traffic pollution. He says that it works as advertised. It helps lower greenhouse gas emissions and forces companies to factor in the cost of carbon.  The program raises money, too, and California has made good on its obligation to invest the resulting funds in hard-hit communities, but some say it still could do better. Certain programs that ostensibly benefit disadvantaged communities may not actually do so; for example, a recent study by Cushing and others found that some of the state’s clean vehicle rebate programs serve more well-off Californians than low-income residents. Sanchez, of the Greenlining Institute, says that the most disadvantaged communities often lack the means to access cap-and-trade revenue. When they do, state agencies are sometimes reluctant to give control to community-based organizations, says Simeon Gant, executive director of GreenTech , a workforce training program in Sacramento whose students include teenager Abe Francis. As a result, he says, “they never get to the people they’re targeting.” Indeed, many Californians never have heard of cap and trade and remain unaware that it produces money for their benefit. Khamphanthong and others say the state should do a better job of engaging with community members to figure out what they need most. In Richmond, Khamphanthong would like to see support for green jobs that treat employees well and benefit the community. “Why not just work with us to figure out a solution?” he asks. The future In recent months, California’s cap-and-trade program has encountered problems. At the beginning of the pandemic, the spring auction brought in a fraction of the expected revenue. Over the summer, the head of California’s Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees CARB, released a letter stating that he would work with the board to reevaluate the state’s dependence on cap and trade going forward. Whatever California decides, it has to put equity first, says Jackie Cole of Veritable Good, a consulting firm that specializes in environmental justice. “If that is not the central lens through which you are developing solutions, then those communities will always be left out,” she says. New York may offer an interesting model. Last year, activists celebrated the passage of a climate law that sets even more aggressive emissions reductions goals than California. Environmental justice groups championed the bill, and they are hopeful that the state will steer clear of cap-and-trade policies (they have long fought the East Coast’s regional market). Instead, activists support imposing a polluter fee to raise money, on top of strict mandates to cut emissions. After a long negotiation among community members, local officials and industry representatives, refinery managers agreed to cut emissions of several key pollutants by 50% by 2030. Back in California, CARB passed a resolution  — “almost a constitution,” says Serna — reaffirming its commitment to social and racial justice in October. “I have every expectation that that will eventually find its place into everything that we continue to do at CARB,” he says, including managing cap and trade. (In September , Black employees at CARB wrote an open letter and proposed an action plan to address concerns about systemic racism within agency culture.) The state already has taken steps to address air pollution in disadvantaged communities, including issuing new regulations for vehicles  — a major contributor. After Francis participated in a recent CARB panel on environmental justice, the agency offered to install low-cost air monitors at his home as part of a pilot program. Francis said they already have helped his family members stay safe on unhealthy days. The state also has begun implementing a 2017 law , passed alongside the cap-and-trade extension, that creates a community-focused system for tackling harmful emissions in the most affected neighborhoods. Along with Richmond, one of the first cities to participate is Wilmington, together with neighboring Carson and West Long Beach. After a long negotiation among community members, local officials, and industry representatives, refinery managers agreed to cut emissions of several key pollutants by 50 percent by 2030. The final plan , released last year, also includes provisions to reduce pollution from traffic and oil wells. Rivera, the community organizer, says the refinery agreement represents a victory — albeit hard-won and too late for many. But Altamirano, the Wilmington resident who served as a member of the community steering committee in the negotiations, isn’t quite as hopeful. She lives close enough to a refinery to hear valves pop open and to smell the noxious fumes that seep out. Sometimes, flares illuminate the night sky above her house. And she says she’s still waiting to see change. ” Solo hablan, pero no se hace nada ,” she says. “Just talking and then doing nothing.” Listen to Public News Service’s audio version of this story. This report was made possible in part by the Fund for Environmental Journalism of the Society of Environmental Journalists . Pull Quote Environmental justice activists say the cap and trade program has not served California’s disadvantaged communities, and particularly communities of color, where many facilities operate. As the U.S. reckons with its long legacy of racial injustice and the increasingly devastating consequences of climate change, questions about the efficacy and fairness of cap and trade have taken on greater urgency than ever. How we invest our resources is really a reflection of our priorities. After a long negotiation among community members, local officials and industry representatives, refinery managers agreed to cut emissions of several key pollutants by 50% by 2030. Topics Carbon Policy Environmental Justice California YES! Magazine Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Signage from a mass mobilization at the Chevron Oil Refinery in Richmond on August 15, 2009. Flickr planet a. Close Authorship

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Can California’s cap and trade address environmental justice?

We’ll always have Paris

November 5, 2020 by  
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We’ll always have Paris Heather Clancy Thu, 11/05/2020 – 04:58 Nov. 4, 2020, is notable for an ignominious reason — it marked the official U.S. exit from the 2015 Paris Agreement. Whether or not the nation chooses to rejoin the accord depends on which party claims the White House next January. (As I write this, that’s still not clear.) The U.S. bears the distinction of being the only country so far to bail on its 2015 commitment to reduce emissions in line with the pledge to hold global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius by mid-century. But even though the Trump administration has turned its back on climate action, half of U.S. states — representing a $11.7 trillion economy — are still committed.  What’s more, as of early October, more than 1,000 companies — with a combined market cap of $15.4 trillion and including one-fifth of the global Fortune 500 — had committed to setting science-based targets for reducing emissions in line with the Paris goals. Originally, the initiative behind the framework had hoped to sign up 250 businesses by the end of this year — it easily overshot its goal. Close to 300 of those signatories have pledged to act according to the Business Ambition for 1.5 Degrees campaign , the highest level of declared action so far, which includes a target to reach net-zero emissions by no later than 2050. And, one hopes, a lot sooner than that. 2020 has been rough for many reasons — from the pandemic to heatwaves and drought, and the horrific wildfires that have devastated millions of acres in California and Oregon. But climate change has been elevated in the national discourse this year like never before, and that gives California’s natural resources secretary, Wade Crowfoot, reason for optimism. “There is new strength and political will to actually tackle the climate crisis,” he said during a keynote conversation during last week’s VERGE 20. We need the best and the brightest companies to help us develop these platforms and then help us meet our public interest goals through the use of these platforms. Given his role in the California government, it shouldn’t surprise you that Crowfoot is laser-focused on how nature can play a role in helping the state reach its carbon-neutrality target — its goal is to achieve this by 2045, before the Paris Agreement deadline. “Not everybody fully understands that our natural and working lands have a critical role to play in California, but [also] across the world, in achieving carbon-neutrality,” Crowfoot said. Smarter forest management, for example, will reduce emissions from catastrophic wildfires and it will accelerate carbon sequestration. “Whether it’s forests, farms, ranchlands, wilderness areas, wetlands, improved land management will help us reduce emissions and maximize carbon removal from the atmosphere,” he said. Accordingly, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent executive order directs the state to conserve 30 percent of its land and coastal areas by 2030 — not just to address climate change but also to combat species loss and ecosystem destruction. The commitment echoes a commitment made by 38 countries. “What I like about 30 x 30 is that it’s a quantifiable goal, it’s easily understood and it galvanizes,” Crowfoot said. “We’re not going to do it all in state government or state agencies, we need private landowners, philanthropy, not-for-profits, the business sector to help us.” In particular, Crowfoot said companies have a crucial role to play in providing technologies — from satellites to geographic information systems to conservation genomics — that can help the state understand the impacts of climate changes on natural ecosystems and species. “We need a scientific basis of understanding but then of course we need the technology to ultimately monitor where our vulnerabilities, our threats are greatest on land and where our opportunities are richest,” Crowfoot.  One example: The state is using lidar, the technology that enables self-driving vehicles to “see,” in its forests to help understand where fire risks are greatest, using that information to proactively address management. In addition, California is using remote imaging technology to better understand evapotranspiration, how water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere. “We need the best and the brightest companies to help us develop these platforms and then help us meet our public interest goals through the use of these platforms,” Crowfoot said. During these uncertain times, and as we bid au revoir to Paris, it would be easy to be discouraged about the future of climate action. If that’s how you’re feeling today, step outside for a recharge — and then let’s get back to the business of sustainability. “You don’t have to rent an RV and go to a national park to visit nature,” Crowfoot said. “Go into your backyard. Listen to those songbirds as you’re commuting from home. Find those insects in your grass. This is the home that we need to protect, it’s the only home we’ll ever have. I’m optimistic. I think we can get this done. The challenges we are facing this year are creating a new resolve, and I think we will prevail.”    Pull Quote We need the best and the brightest companies to help us develop these platforms and then help us meet our public interest goals through the use of these platforms. Topics Policy & Politics VERGE 20 Paris Agreement California 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 Stockton and California are building resilience from the ground up

November 2, 2020 by  
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How Stockton and California are building resilience from the ground up Deonna Anderson Mon, 11/02/2020 – 00:05 California — as well as the rest of the United States and, in some cases, the rest of the world — is facing three major crises right now: the COVID-19 pandemic; the climate emergency; and racial injustice.  “We’ve had this shock to our system from the pandemic that has exposed these fault lines and the basic lack of resilience in our system, in our economy,” Kate Gordon, director at the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, said during a keynote panel last week at the VERGE 20 conference. “A priority for us at the state is to get a handle on the pandemic because, honestly, without getting a handle on the pandemic and the current fires, we can’t move forward as a state.” So, how is California building resilience in both its rural and urban communities? Let’s start with a local approach. Laying the groundwork for an equitable future Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs was part of the conversation with Gordon during VERGE 20. “As mayor of Stockton, the focus is really on equity and understanding that everything we’re talking about from the pandemic of COVID-19 to the issues with climate change and wildfires in this state … [is] really about people,” Tubbs said, adding that inequality and racism in the U.S. are not abstract notions. We’ve had this shock to our system from the pandemic that has exposed these fault lines and the basic lack of resilience in our system in our economy. It’s necessary, he said, to “understand that the most important investment we can make is an investment in all of our people to be able to live with dignity.” Stockton is an inland city in California’s Central Valley, where the median income is $51,318, according to the U.S. Census . Of the estimated 312,000 residents, about 20 percent live below the poverty line. Before the pandemic, Stockton had been running an 18-month pilot universal basic income program , which gave 125 residents who live at or below the median income line (around $46,000) $500 per month, with no strings attached , meaning they could spend it however they want. At the end of May, Tubbs announced that it would be extended until January . “[And we] now have 30 other mayors throughout this country who are saying a guaranteed income or basic income is a part of a strategy for COVID-19 response, part of a strategy that’s responsive to inequality and also a part of a strategy that’s responsive to climate change,” Tubbs said.  Gordon also pointed to the need for a just transition, which she defined as the same thing as high-road economic development, which typically prioritizes well-paying jobs and environmental sustainability. “We’re talking about a transition to a more sustainable, resilient and equitable economy that provides pathways into that economy, for underserved communities. And for folks who have been left out, frankly, of the current economy,” she said. Greening the entire economy Gordon noted that instead of embracing strategies that replace or displace jobs in the current economy with green jobs, there needs to be a more explicit focus on greening the entire economy. “The entire economy needs to be powered by cleaner energy and cleaner technologies,” she said. “That is a major opportunity across every sector and every region, of the state, of the country, of the world.” And as the economy goes green, people who make decisions need to engage communities in being part of the solutions because the needs of each community will vary, said Tubbs and Gordon. It’s necessary to understand that the most important investment we can make is an investment in all of our people to be able to live with dignity. “I really see this conversation about just transition, honestly, as an opening to a more bottom-up community-driven economic development approach here in California and everywhere, frankly,” Gordon said. California has a program called Transformative Climate Communities (TCC), in which communities most affected by pollution are able to choose their own goals, strategies and projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address local air pollution. Tubbs said that during Stockton’s TCC planning process, one of the main issues that came up was the high cost of utility bills and the challenge of converting to solar. Renters can’t arbitrarily install solar panels on properties that they don’t own. And if residents did own a home, they might not be able to afford it. He said Stockton is looking forward to working with the state to figure out what it can do to provide more community solar opportunities as an option. Just like rooftop solar doesn’t work for everybody, plugging in an electric vehicle in a home garage doesn’t work for everybody. Gordon said that Kern County, California’s third largest county with about 900,000 residents , is a great example of a place struggling with EV infrastructure financing. Like Stockton, Kern County, known for agriculture and crude oil production, is inland and part of California’s Central Valley. Banks don’t think the county is a place where people will want EVs. But California is banning the sale of gas cars over the next 15 years, so every county needs a strategy. “That’s a place where we in government can step in and say, ‘Hey, can we derisk that? Can we provide some loan guarantees? Can we help you out there, because we need to expand these options throughout California?’” Gordon said. “These are not just options for our big coastal cities.” Pull Quote We’ve had this shock to our system from the pandemic that has exposed these fault lines and the basic lack of resilience in our system in our economy. It’s necessary to understand that the most important investment we can make is an investment in all of our people to be able to live with dignity. Topics Community Resilience Policy & Politics California Equity & Inclusion VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by  Sundry Photography  on Shutterstoc.

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How Stockton and California are building resilience from the ground up

Montana Heritage Center renovation will celebrate the states history and geology

October 23, 2020 by  
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A multimillion dollar expansion and renovation project is underway in Helena, Montana for the Montana Historical Society. Led by 80-year-old architecture firm Cushing Terrell, the Montana Heritage Center renovation project includes a 66,0000-square-foot expansion and the renovation of almost 67,000 square feet of existing space. The project will focus on the local land, with expansions appearing to emerge from the earth to reference the Lewis Overthrust, a geophysical event that helped define the state’s landscape with a collision of tectonic plates that drove one plate over another. The expansion project, to be completed in 2024, is 10 years in the making and will cost $52.7 million, nearly doubling the size of the existing 1952 Veterans and Pioneers Memorial Building. Inside, the building will preserve the stories of Montana’s people as a repository for historic collections and resources. When it is completed, the center will serve as a place of learning and discovery for local residents and visitors alike. Related: LEED Platinum Stockman Bank harvests rainwater and solar power in Missoula Designers are pursuing USGBC LEED and IWBI WELL certifications in an effort to highlight sustainable architecture. Continuing to pay homage to the existing structure’s history, the design uses the space between two buildings to connect the old with the new via a dynamic entryway. “The vision for who we can be in the future really has also been built into this process, bringing together diverse voices from across our state from east and west, north and south, our tribal nations, men and women, young and old — it will be reflected right here,” said Montana Governor Steve Bullock. “Those voices will shape its architecture and landscaping the way that our mountains and our plains and those winding rivers have shaped each and every one of us. This building design also looks to the future by incorporating sustainable features that will showcase the ingenuity and the values that make Montana such a special place.” For exterior landscaping , the design includes features and plants that mimic the Montana plains, grasslands, foothills, forests and mountain landscapes on a smaller scale, with a trail linking all of the ecosystems together. Thanks to this design, visitors to the center will have an opportunity to experience and feel connected to the diverse Montana backdrop as well as those who have lived within the state’s borders for generations. + Cushing Terrell Images via Cushing Terrell

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Montana Heritage Center renovation will celebrate the states history and geology

California governor issues executive order to conserve 30% of state land by 2030

October 9, 2020 by  
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On Wednesday, October 7, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an executive order to reserve 30% of state land for conservation by 2030. The governor said the move will help preserve biodiversity and prevent further destruction of vulnerable ecosystems. Gov. Newsom explained that the executive order corresponds with existing plans to conserve at least 30% of state land. Following the executive order, state agencies will be required to boost and maintain soil health, restore wetlands , manage forests to reduce fire risks and create more parks and green spaces for cities. The governor said California would be the first state to carry out this type of land conservation. Related: No new gas-powered cars by 2035, California governor says “This is a critical part of the climate change conversation, and it’s so often omitted,” the governor said. “When we talk about climate change , we get so consumed by energy and industry, commercial and residential side of this equation, and we forget our working lands. We forget our natural lands. We forget about species and we forget about animals, and plants, and insects. All of these things that truly make life not only worth living but life even capable of living.” The executive order is just one of many measures that have been put in place by the state to curb environmental degradation. Last month, the governor made an executive order to phase out gas-powered vehicles in favor of zero-emission vehicles by 2035. The executive order does not make it illegal for residents of California to own gas-powered cars or even resell them as used cars. It only aims at ensuring that gas-powered cars are phased out moving forward. “I don’t know of any other state in this country that’s been more forceful and forthright in establishing and anchoring a consciousness around climate change,” Gov. Newsom said. “We just want to fundamentally reconcile the fact we’re no longer living in the 19th century, and we don’t need to drill things or extract things in order to advance our economic goals and advance our mobility needs.” Via ABC7 Image via David Mark

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California governor issues executive order to conserve 30% of state land by 2030

Mature trees shape a leafy, light-filled home in Mexico

October 9, 2020 by  
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South of Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco, local architecture firm  Estudio Radillo Alba  has completed the Casa R.A., a family of five’s countryside home that takes its site-specific massing from the existing trees on site. Designed for a client who wanted a home that would make the most of the available land surface, the single-family dwelling embraces indoor/outdoor living with floor-to-ceiling windows and patios full of lush vegetation throughout the home.  Five mature trees shaped the design of Casa R.A., with designers arranging the building around the trees’ root systems. Two of the three trees, located at the front of the site, define the location of the garage, while another tree at the side of the home marks the main entrance. The remaining trees in the rear of the property provide shade and shelter to a back terrace. An  open-plan  living area, kitchen, dining space and small powder room reside on the ground floor. The second floor contains the master bedroom along with three secondary bedrooms and three baths. Sections of the home utilize cut-outs to make way for plant-filled patios, accesses and terraces. The home’s material palette stays light, using only mud-brick from a nearby region known for its mud-brick techniques. Related: Brick cladding conceals a family home’s sophisticated, zero-energy systems “The house was conceived as one single block which called for a single choice of material ,” the architects explained in a project statement. “Close to the plot, there is a region known for its production of mud-brick, a technique still practiced in some parts of the country. Its cultural value and its constructive heritage encouraged us to use it as a single material for the project’s envelope. The customized exposed brick covers and protects all structural elements, slabs, and mechanical installations while intending to reveal the constructive system and pay homage to the laborious process of the artisanal material.” + Estudio Radillo Alba Images via Ce?sar Belio

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