Governor Andrew Cuomo sees the opportunity to create a new industry centered largely on Long Island to take advantage of the offshore windpower in an area of the Atlantic Ocean, considered “the Saudi Arabia of windpower.” In this, the state is acting much like other nations which jumpstart new industries by funding critical studies, research centers, workforce development. This is all to ease the way, lessen the risk and increase likelihood of success for the private companies which are expected to vie for leases from the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
Cuomo has set a standard of the state generating 50% of its energy needs through renewable by 2030, and offshore wind, in addition to solar, hilltop windpower, hydroelectric and other sources (“all of the above”) are considered essential to meeting that goal, which Cuomo has proudly declared the most ambitious in the nation.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation just released proposed regulations to require all power plants in New York to meet new emissions limits for carbon dioxide (CO2), a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. The regulations, a first in the nation approach to regulating carbon emissions, will achieve the Governor’s goal to end the use of coal in New York State power plants by 2020.
Environmental groups including Sierra Club have long advocated offshore wind, especially as Long Island faces a crucial transition juncture of expanding or upgrading fossil-fuel based power plants to meet its energy needs, versus investing and transitioning to renewable energy.
The state is targeting acquiring 2,400 megawatts of energy from offshore wind – the equivalent of what is generated by the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant – enough to power 1.2 million households. The associated industries that would develop to manufacture the wind turbines and platforms, construct ports and stage the equipment, install the turbines, operate and maintain the systems are expected to employ some 5,000 people in relatively high-paying jobs, and generate $6 billion for the region. What is more, over time, windpower will bring down the cost of electricity on Long Island, where high costs of energy are considered impediments to economic growth.
At the same time, the state has invested in new research programs at State Universities, including Stony Brook to address key issues such as storage batteries (for when the wind does not blow), and transmission.
The master plan, being unveiled in public hearings, has been developed over a period of years by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
The strategy is to be the furthest along in order to be first in line to contract for the electricity, which could be sold to New Jersey and other regions, to reduce cost and risk to private entities which will bid for the rights to construct and operate the wind turbines. The state is not actually seeking to be the winning bidder for the leases, but to be the customer for the power for those that do. And the state is also aware that other customers – New Jersey, as one example (though the former governor Chris Christie showed little interest, the new governor Phil Murphy is) – will also be bidding. But there is great confidence because of proximity and the sheer market size, that New York City and Long Island residents will be the beneficiary. And there is so much energy potential from this area, there is “enough for all.” Indeed, NYSERDA is eyeing 3,200 MW of production from the sites it has targeted, of which it would contract for 2,400.
NYSERDA has conducted studies in 20 areas –literally every environmental, biologic, economic and engineering aspect – in order to define every aspect of locating the best places to position turbines and cables, where to stage construction, where to manufacture the turbines and components, even where to invest in workforce development. All along the way, the agency has engaged stakeholders – from municipalities and environmentalists to labor unions to consumer advocates, to commercial fishing interests.
The state has allocated $15 million to spend on workforce development and infrastructure advancement (for example, building port facilities), and is allocating up to $5 million for multi-year research studies that will assist project developers with the data will be made available by NYSERDA in real time to public. For example, data on wind speeds particularly impact economics of projects and will improve the certainty of bids to state.
“We are seeking to invest $20 million or more, kicking off in 2018, for research and development – component design, systems design, operational controls, monitoring systems, manufacturing processes,” said Doreen Harris, Director, Large Scale Renewables, NYSERDA.
To attract private investment in port infrastructure and manufacturing, the state is hoping to spotlight promising infrastructure investments (60 sites have been identified), helping jumpstart project development and “secure its status as the undisputed home for the emerging offshore wind industry in the US.”
Think of it: Long Island used to be the center for America’s aerospace industry. Now it can be a leader in a global offshore windpower industry. What is more, off shore windpower can also bring down Long Island’s historically high utility rates which are considered an impediment to business development and economic growth.
“We’ve established technical working groups to determine best use of funds – to insure new Yorkers well prepared to serve offshore wind industry and connected to the global Industry.” Indeed, offshore wind is brand new for the US, but has been in force in Europe for 25 years.
The United States projects will have the benefit of leap-frogging over earlier technology, with more efficient, productive, and less environmentally risky structures.
The state is estimating that the near-term incremental program cost would be less than 30 cents a month for a typical homeowner – the cost of windpower is front-loaded in the initial construction, as opposed to fossil-fuel generated energy which continues to get more expensive over time because it is a finite resource that is increasingly more difficult and costly to obtain and needs to be transported from further distances to users. Electricity generated from wind is already competitive with fossil-fuel generated power, but over time, as usage thresholds and technology improvements are reached, the costs will go down. And this does not even factor in the environmental and public health benefits of transitioning from carbon-based fuel.
The only kicker is that while New York State is being pro-active, it is BOEM that ultimately controls the leases and is undertaking similar studies, so people are concerned this can be unnecessarily time-consuming and duplicative. And while BOEM under the Obama Administration was full-speed ahead and keen to develop offshore windpower, concern was raised after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke declared the entire continental shelf open for drilling, and this prime windpower area used instead for drilling rigs or equally horrible Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals such as the Port Ambrose that had been beaten back by Governor Cuomo.
But BOEM’s Energy Program Specialist Luke Feinberg, who attended NYSERDA’s May 8 public hearing in Melville expressed enthusiasm for offshore wind in this area (not to mention the area does not seem to have much potential for oil). BOEM presented a timetable that projects out two to five years before actual construction can begin; BOEM intends to hold its next lease auction no later than 2019.
BOEM is taking comments on the proposed “New York Bight” Call Area by May 29. Submit comments and view documents at boem.gov/New-York/
The New York Public Service Commission is now considering a number of options for the state to advance solicitations once the leases are awarded; send comments or view materials at http://documents.dps.ny.gov.
With Harvey reaping its terror and Hurricane Irma warming up for its debut, Texas’ climate catastrophe is the latest example of how tragically foolish it is to invest billions to combat ISIS (hardly an existential threat), $70 billion to build a wall along the Mexico border, $1 trillion to rebuild the nuclear weapons arsenal, yet deny the reality of climate change with the attendant costs in the multi-billions of every single one of these climate catastrophes – the cost to the Treasury and taxpayers to rebuild infrastructure, to pay for public health consequences, to lose the productivity of the workforce.
“This is the costliest and worst natural disaster in American history,” Dr. Joel N. Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather, stated. “AccuWeather has raised its estimate of the impact to the nation’s gross national produce, or GDP, to $190 billion or a full one percent, which exceeds totals of economic impact of Katrina and Sandy combined. The GDP is $19 trillion currently. Business leaders and the Federal Reserve, major banks, insurance companies, etc. should begin to factor in the negative impact this catastrophe will have on business, corporate earnings and employment. The disaster is just beginning in certain areas. Parts of Houston, the United States’ fourth largest city will be uninhabitable for weeks and possibly months due to water damage, mold, disease-ridden water and all that will follow this 1,000-year flood.”
Meanwhile, around the globe there are even greater flooding disasters –1,200 have died so far and 900,000 homes destroyed in floods in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, taking with it farms and crops that will lead to the next climate catastrophe, famine.
Now Congress will soon take up a budget that proposes to slash the EPA into nothing (Scott Pruitt has already scrubbed any research and mention of climate change from the website and is doing his level best to stop any data collection), cuts to FEMA that was already $25 billion in debt before Harvey, cuts to Health & Human Services and every other social safety net. But Trump threatens to shut down government if he doesn’t get nearly $2 billion (a downpayment on $70 billion) for his border wall with Mexico.
Which has posed more of a national security threat to Americans? Climate disasters or ISIS? The wrong-headed approach to national security came to a head with a rally that drew about 60 people on short notice on Thursday, August 31 at the Massapequa, Long Island office of Congressman Peter King, who makes a great show of concern for protecting national security but drops the ball on the national security implications of climate change. (See story)
You only have to compare the horrid waste of blood and treasure because of a disdain for addressing the realities of climate change to the results of the efforts of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) consisting of New York State along with eight other Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states (not New Jersey because Governor Chris Christie thought it would better position him to become the GOP presidential candidate if he withdrew from RGGI and denied the reality of climate change). Founded in 2005, the RGGI, the nation’s first program to use an innovative market-based mechanism to cap and cost-effectively reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change, is updating its goal to lower carbon pollution by reducing the cap on power plant emissions an additional 30% below 2020 levels by 2030. With this change, the regional cap in 2030 will be 65% below the 2009 starting level.
RGGI has already contributed to a 50% percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from affected power plants in New York, and a 90% reduction in coal-fired power generation in the state. To date, New York has generated more than $1 billion in RGGI proceeds, which are applied to fund energy efficiency, clean energy and emission reduction programs.
RGGI continues to exceed expectations and has provided more than $2 billion in regional economic benefits and $5.7 billion in public health benefits while reducing emissions in excess of the declining cap’s requirements. Analysis by Abt Associates – found participating member states had 16,000 avoided respiratory illnesses, as many as 390 avoided heart attacks, and 300 to 830 avoided deaths by reducing pollution. The health benefits in New York alone are estimated to have exceeded $1.7 billion in avoided costs and other economic benefits.
And contrary to the lie that clean, renewable energy and sustainable development will hurt the economy and increase consumer costs, the economies of RGGI states are outpacing the rest of the country and regional electricity prices have fallen even as prices in other states have increased. So even as the RGGI states reduced their carbon emissions by 16% more than other states, they are experiencing 3.6% more in economic growth. Each of the three-year control periods contributed approximately 4,500 job years to New York’s economy and 14,000 to 16,000 job years region-wide.
Meanwhile, New York consumers who have participated in RGGI-supported projects through December 2016 will realize $3.7 billion in cumulative energy bill savings over the lifetime of the projects, according to New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
New York is actively promoting clean energy innovation through its Reforming the Energy Vision strategy and initiatives. Additionally, programs including the Clean Energy Fund, $1 billion NY-Sun Initiative, $1 billion NY Green Bank, $40 million NY-Prize competition for community microgrids, and others, ensure that progress toward reducing emissions will be accelerated.
New York has devised a host of programs to incentivize local projects aimed at developing clean, renewable energy and sustainability. Most recently, NYSERDA has developed a Solar PILOT Toolkit to assist municipalities in negotiating payment-in-lieu-of taxes (PILOT) agreements for solar projects larger than 1 MW, including community solar projects.
How ironic is the climate catastrophe in Texas, the leading proponent of fossil fuels and opponent of programs incentivizing the transition to clean, renewable energy (and the localized independence that wind, solar and geothermal bring), that Harvey has damaged its oil refining infrastructure, which is already resulting in higher gas prices, not to mention taxpayer money that will be channeled to rebuild the devastation. None of those private, profit-making companies which have gouged and inflicted public health horrors should get funding from taxpayers.
Now Texas will be coming to Congress for billions in aid.
Congress should pass a law: no federal help for states that deny climate change (Florida and North Carolina actually have legislation banning the use of the term) and therefore do nothing to mitigate the consequences, and which deny altogether the concept of a federal, “one nation” government to collect taxes and provide services on behalf of all. Texas, which has cheered the notion of secession, continually supports policies intended to shrink the federal government to a size it can be flushed down a toilet, including dismantling the Environmental Protection Administration and ending environmental regulations. So let them see what that actually means. Let’s also be reminded the Texas’ Republican delegation obstructed federal aid to New York and New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy.
Too harsh? The climate deniers are dooming the entire nation and the planet to such tragic, devastating and costly climate catastrophes. Hundreds of thousands of Texans will emerge from Harvey with their homes, retirement, college funds decimated, very possibly their jobs flushed away along with the floodwaters. Tens of thousands will become climate refugees – just a small fraction of the estimated 200 million worldwide who will be forced to flee flooded coasts as sea levels continue to rise, and storms continue to ravage.
But, since Trump is so keen to dish out taxpayer billions to those he considers his base (one wonders what would happen if and when California is hit with an earthquake), Congress should impose conditions on the billions that will be sent to Texas to rebuild its infrastructure and housing: Texas should do what every other community has done that underwent such devastation: rebuild and transition to clean, renewable energy sources and sustainable, climate-friendly, low-carbon emitting structures.
Congress, which Trump just dared to defy on his tax “reform” (that is, giveaway to the wealthiest 1% and corporations while starving federal government of funding), should make sure that EPA has the people and resources it needs, that climate action is a priority, that the Interior Department does not give away Americans’ legacy (and property) for environment-destroying development, that FEMA and Housing & Human Services (now in the command of a man who dismisses poverty and bad things that happen to some dereliction of personal responsibility) are properly funded and staffed.
Donald Trump has declared the US will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement – leaving behind 194 countries to join Syria and Nicaragua (which didn’t sign because the accord didn’t go far enough) as the only countries not to pledge cooperation in meeting this existential crisis. There needs to be repercussions, within the US and from outside.
It isn’t enough to upend NATO and the United Nations. Trump has to flip the bird on the entire planet. Why? Because he can. Because he is an arrogant fool; a little man who gets orgasmic pleasure out of being able to bully the whole world.
But he is supported by Mike Pence, Scott Pruitt and most Republicans. How has it happened that Climate Change has become a test of tribal membership?
Because climate change is a stand -in for preserving the power of the status quo (the Elites as Trumpers would mock). And in a society where cash is equivalent to political power, there is desperation to keep profit on one side of the ledger.
The rise of Silicon Valley during the Clinton era disrupted the Old World fossil-fueled industrial-military complex. We even renamed our époque, displacing the Industrial Age with a new label, the Information Age and now The Digital Age.
It wasn’t just the economic transition that was feared, Climate Change – like the Information Age – was a move toward globalization (underpinning Obama foreign policy), threatening to undermine tribal controls and nationalism. In contrast, Trump’s “America First” doctrine is founded on the notion that the world is a giant arena of competing nations, with winners and losers – evoking the image of the Roman Colosseum where gladiators battled to the death.
Indeed, Trump justified withdrawing from the Paris Accord not because he challenged climate science, but on bogus claims that it threatened “sovereignty” and would weaken the US economy in order to give advantage to China and India (“They are laughing at us”). These are demonstrable lies: the Paris Accord is voluntary, nations came up with their own plan to meet their own targets, there are no penalties or enforcement mechanism.
As for the lie about hurting the economy: the US has the strongest economy on the planet – growing a steady 2% is decent for a mature economy , adding 11 million jobs under Obama with the fastest growth (to 9.8 million) in clean energy jobs (growing at 10 times the rate in the economy and 2.5 times the number of fossil fuel jobs); you can look at the renaissance inPittsburghfrom a steel town to a green city where 80% voted for Clinton (“I was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump ridiculously declared.)
But what is the real fear?
Adherents of Climate Action have a sense of being a citizen of the world with a greater responsibility beyond one’s own national interest, undermining the national government’s authority and control – the direct opposite of Trump’s “America First” doctrine. International cooperation is essential to solve this existential crisis facing the planet.
But the United States has a unique responsibility – we arethe biggest carbon polluter in history, generating 4 times greenhouse gas-emissions per person than China, a country with 4x the population, and 10x India, and disproportionately responsible for the damage done to coastal communities and island nations, for famine-stricken Africa and cyclone-battered Philippines, as much as flooded Louisiana and scorched California.
Climate Action also requires that “sustainability” be factored in as a cost of doing business – which means, at least initially, a slight cut into shareholder profits until the technology and use thresholds turn in favor of clean-renewable energy sources and conservation. But shareholders don’t actually get “profits” from the companies –the extra cash is used to pay for lobbyists and to fund campaigns for or against politicians.
Climate activists – the new gen Environmentalists – are seen as communal, as in “communist” or “socialist” and a threat to capitalism, the same source of antagonism to single-payer health care.
Moreover, a citizen of the world is more accepting of diverse cultures, religions, and personal persuasions. Their openness to cultural differences and open-mindedness makes them a threat to evangelicals and orthodox religionists as well as authoritarian nationalists.
That is basis for common cause between the Religious Right and Capitalists going back to the 1960s (coinciding with the birth of the Environmental, Anti-War, Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements, all upending the power structure).
Pulling out of Paris may be more symbolic action – a gigantic middle finger to the world, and heaven help us if other countries use it as an excuse to abandon their commitments – but what Trump is actually doing is more harmful by reversing all the policies and programs that Obama had in place that enabled the US to reduce its carbon emissions to 1990s levels.
Trump, in attempting to “soften” the blow of rejecting the Paris Accord, asserted that the US has already reduced its carbon emissions to 1990s level. But that is solely due to Obama policies, regulations and programs including incentives to create clean renewable energy industry, that Trump is aggressively overturning with vengeance. For example, he is giving a free pass to coal companies to dump waste into streams, reversing the Clean Power Plan (which allowed states to come up with their own standards to comply with the goals), overturning protections in marine sanctuaries and national monuments to allow drilling and mining. His budget ends investments and tax credits to develop clean, renewable energy, as well as funding for the EPA.
Instead of the US being a global leader, as under Obama, Trump is turning the US into a pariah. And the US would deserve it.
Trump said that “the world is laughing at us” – more of a symptom of his psychosis – but now, Putin and China are in fact laughing. China now has opening to be the world leader while Russia is ecstatic over America’s retreat from moral leadership – what country would trust any “deal” with the US?
But the damage to the US economy, to public health, to infrastructure, to the nation’s ability to innovate by tying us to a dirty, destructive and finite fossil fuel, forcing American families to pay through their noses for expensive fossil fuels and repair the damage caused by climate catastrophes, not to mention the threats to national security because of increased conflict and deprivation (200 million climate refugees) will also weaken this nation. Rome comes to mind.
What’s to be done?
Every signatory to the Paris Accord should impose tariff or carbon fees on US imports.
Those millions who marched and now feel like frustrated, forgotten fools must continue to march, rally, protest not at the White House but at local Congressional offices; vote out politicians who don’t support Climate Action.
Consumers need to seek out companies that practice sustainability and overtly reject those that don’t. Use social media to promote or pan.
Investors need to divest of stocks in companies that reject sustainability; instead invest in bonds that build such things as water treatment plants, clean-energy utilities.
Support organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC.org),Environmental Defense Fund (EDF.org), League of Conservation Voters (LCV.org),the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth (foe.org) which variously are suing the Trump Administration, as well as local, grassroots organizationslike Reach Out America (reachout-america.com) and Citizens Climate Lobby (citizensclimatelobby.org) which has local chapters.
Thankfully,states and localitiesare taking matters into their own hands. The Climate Revolution will continue, against our own federal government.
California Governor Jerry Brown, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and Washington State are holding fast to their goal of transitioning to clean, renewable energy, forming the United States Climate Alliance (which so far also includesConnecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia)and together with cities like New York City and Atlanta (accounting for 30% of the world’s economy), will keep the US from going into a fossil fueled abyss.
“The White House’s reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement has devastating repercussions not only for the United States, but for our planet. This administration is abdicating its leadership and taking a backseat to other countries in the global fight against climate change,” Governor Cuomo said. “New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change which is why I am also signing an Executive Order confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment, and our planet.”
“Climate change presents the greatest threat humankind has ever known,” stated Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). “We simply cannot afford to let this president unravel the progress on climate change we’ve made as a nation and a global community. Retreating from the global climate effort would damage our diplomatic credibility, set the U.S. further behind in the clean energy movement and devastate countless communities and ecosystems in the United States. Once again, the recklessness and ignorance of this president have dealt an irreparable blow to our planet and American leadership.”
“President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement is an abdication of American leadership and an international disgrace,” stated Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt). “At this moment, when climate change is already causing devastating harm around the world, we do not have the moral right to turn our backs on efforts to preserve this planet for future generations.
“The United States must play a leading role in the global campaign to stop climate change and transition rapidly away from fossil fuels to renewable and more efficient sources of energy. We must do this with or without the support of Donald Trump and the fossil fuel industry.”
The U.S. Climate Alliance – formed by the governors of California, New York and Washington State – announced that Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia have all joined the coalition, which is committed to upholding the Paris Accord and taking aggressive action on climate change.
In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee formed the Alliance to convene U.S. states committed to achieving the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.
With input from all participants, the U.S. Climate Alliance will also act as a forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices, and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy.
“As the federal government turns its back on the environment, New York and states across the country are picking up the mantle of climate leadership and showing the world it’s possible to address climate change while also creating good-paying careers,” said Governor Cuomo. “The U.S. Climate Alliance is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We welcome these 10 new members and look forward to collaborating and maintaining the momentum in the global effort to protect our planet, while jumpstarting the clean energy economy.”
“The President has already said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion,” said Governor Brown. “I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy – not for America, not for anybody. If the President is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.”
“Those of us who understand science and feel the urgency of protecting our children’s air and water are as united as ever in confronting one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime,” said Governor Inslee. “Our collective efforts to act on climate will ensure we maintain the U.S.’s commitment to curb carbon pollution while advancing a clean energy economy that will bring good-paying jobs to America’s workers.”
“Connecticut has been a national leader in combating climate change and we have no plans of slowing down our efforts,” said Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy. “In the absence of leadership from the White House in addressing climate change, it is incumbent upon the states to take action in order to protect their residents. We remain committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Climate Agreement because it is the right thing to do for not only the future of our state, but for the future of our planet. I am proud to stand with my fellow governors in support of efforts to reverse the harmful effects of global warming and to send a message to the rest of the world that we accept the science of climate change and we will not let the misguided beliefs of a few ruin our planet.”
“Delaware is the country’s lowest-lying state and with 381 miles of coastline, climate change is a very real threat to our future,” said Delaware Governor John Carney. “As sea levels rise, more than 17,000 Delaware homes, nearly 500 miles of roadway and thousands of acres of wildlife habitat including our critical wetlands are at risk of permanent inundation. Rising average temperatures and an increase in extreme weather events also pose health risks to Delawareans, and threaten our economy. The U.S. should lead in the global fight against climate change. Delaware is proud to join this coalition of states providing that necessary leadership.”
“As the Commonwealth reiterates its commitment to exceed the emission reduction targets of the Paris Climate Agreement, today we join the U.S. Climate Alliance to expand on our efforts while partnering with other states to combat climate change,” Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said. “After speaking with Governors Cuomo and Scott, our administration looks forward to continued, bipartisan collaboration with other states to protect the environment, grow the economy and deliver a brighter future to the next generation.”
“I am very pleased to announce that Minnesota will join the U.S. Climate Alliance, to uphold the tenets of the Paris Climate Change Agreement in our state,” said Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. “President Trump’s withdrawal will cause serious damage to our environment and our economy. Nevertheless, Minnesota and other states will show the world what we can achieve by working together to conserve energy, to use cleaner and renewable energy, and to leave a livable planet to our children and grandchildren.”
“The ‘America First’ doctrine should put our children first too,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown.“Future generations deserve to inherit a world they can thrive in, not one that plays politics and ignores the fact our climate is changing. Despite the decision by the White House to retreat, it is our moral obligation to fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement. Oregon will continue to make meaningful strides, with the rest of the world, to ensure our communities and economies adapt to meet the challenge of climate change.”
“Climate change is a real problem for all and requires immediate action to ensure future generations are left with a sustainable planet,” Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló said.“Our administration is committed to protecting the environment. As a Governor, who is also a scientist, I value science and data as primary tools in the decision making process. As such, I strongly oppose the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Our administration understands that all policy decisions even those perceived to being small can have big, lasting effects on our planet. Puerto Rico, an Island that 3.4 million American Citizens call home, would suffer greatly from the devastating effects of rising sea levels. But we all stand to lose if we don’t take meaningful action right now.
“We call upon all public officials across our nation to continue to support rules and regulations that protect our environment. As most of the world move forwards, our nation cannot sit idle and lag behind.”
“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement was a tremendous mistake. Rhode Island may be a small state, but climate change can have a big impact on our communities,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “We are determined to fight climate change from the front lines so that we can preserve our environment – including our Narragansett Bay – for future generations and create good-paying, future-proof jobs in the process. I’m proud to join Governors Cuomo, Brown and Inslee in this effort and hope other governors – from both parties – join as well.”
“Growing our economy and protecting our environment by supporting cleaner and more affordable energy and transportation choices can go together,” said Vermont Governor Phil Scott. “If our national government isn’t willing to lead in this area, the states are prepared to step up and lead. I look forward to supporting continued bipartisan cooperation on these matters and thank Governor Baker, Governor Inslee, Governor Cuomo and Governor Brown for working collaboratively on this important issue.”
“As the first state in the Trump era to take executive action to limit carbon emissions and create clean energy jobs, Virginia is proud to join the Climate Alliance,” said Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. “President Trump’s announcement to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement does not speak for the states and cities that are committed to fighting climate change and paving the way for a new energy economy. If the federal government insists on abdicating leadership on this issue, it will be up to the American people to step forward — and in Virginia we are doing just that.”
In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo joined California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., and Washington State Governor Jay R. Inslee in forming the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition that will convene U.S. states committed to upholding the Paris Climate Agreement and taking aggressive action on climate change.
“The White House’s reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement has devastating repercussions not only for the United States, but for our planet. This administration is abdicating its leadership and taking a backseat to other countries in the global fight against climate change,” said Governor Cuomo. “New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change which is why I am also signing an Executive Order confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment, and our planet.”
New York, California, and Washington, representing over one-fifth of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, are committed to achieving the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.
“The President has already said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion,” said Governor Brown. “I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy – not for America, not for anybody. If the President is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.”
“I am proud to stand with other governors as we make sure that the inaction in D.C. is met by an equal force of action from the states,” said Governor Inslee. “Today’s announcement by the president leaves the full responsibility of climate action on states and cities throughout our nation. While the president’s actions are a shameful rebuke to the work needed to protect our planet for our children and grandchildren, states have been and will continue to step up.”
Together, New York, California, and Washington represent approximately 68 million people – nearly one-in-five Americans – and the states account for at least 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. California will continue to work closely together with other states to help fill the void left by the federal government.
With input from all participants, the U.S. Climate Alliance will also act as a forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices, and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy.
New York’s Climate Leadership
Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions: Established ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to reduce emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. These targets have made New York a leader across the country in fighting climate change.
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI): Spearheaded the formation of the successful RGGI cap-and-trade program between northeast and mid-Atlantic states, led effort to reduce RGGI’s carbon emission cap by 45 percent in 2014, and recently called for an additional cap reduction of at least 30 percent between 2020 and 2030.
Reforming the Energy Vision: Established a comprehensive energy strategy to make the vision for a clean, resilient, and affordable energy system a reality, while actively spurring energy innovation, attracting new jobs, and improving consumer choice.
Clean Energy Standard: Established the most comprehensive and ambitious clean energy mandate in the state’s history, requiring that 50 percent of electricity in New York come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030.
Clean Energy Fund: Established a $5 billion fund that is jump-starting clean-tech innovation, mobilizing private investment, capitalizing the nation’s largest Green Bank, and helping eliminate market barriers to make clean energy scalable and affordable for all New Yorkers.
Coal-Free New York: Committed to close or repower all coal-burning power plants in New York to cleaner fuel sources by 2020.
Offshore Wind: Approved the nation’s largest wind energy project off the Long Island coast in 2017 and made an unprecedented commitment to develop up to 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030.
More than 200,000 gathered in Washington DC in sweltering heat for the Peoples Climate March in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 29 – twice the number anticipated – to register opposition to Trump Administration’s actions that will set the United States back in its effort to mitigate against the dire impacts of climate change. They formed a line extending more a mile down Pennsylvania Avenue, eventually encircling the White House for a two-minute “heartbeat”.
In the United States, tens of thousands more took to the streets 370 sister marches taking place in nearly all 50 states, from the town of Dutch Harbor in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to the streets of Miami, Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago and other major American cities. Early counts estimated that more than 50,000 people took place nationwide.
Sister marches took place on Saturday across the world including in Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, Uganda, Kenya, Germany, Greece, United Kingdom, Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica, and more.
“The solidarity that exists between all of us is the key to having a strong, fair economy and a clean, safe environment,” said Kim Glas, Executive Director, BlueGreen Alliance, one of dozens of organizations that partnered in the Peoples Climate March. “We can tackle climate change in a way that will ensure all Americans have the opportunity to prosper with quality jobs and live in neighborhoods where they can breathe their air and drink their water. Together we will build a clean economy that leaves no one behind.”
“This march grew out of the relationship building among some of the country’s most important progressive organizations and movements,” said Paul Getsos, National Coordinator for the Peoples Climate Movement. “In 2014, the march was planned as a singular moment to pressure global leaders to act on climate change. There was a simple demand – act. This march was planned before the election as a strategic moment to continue to build power to move our leaders to act on climate while creating family-sustaining jobs, investing in frontline and indigenous communities and protecting workers who will be impacted by the transition to a new clean and renewable energy economy.”
As it happened, the march coincided with the 100th day of Donald Trump’s occupation of the Oval Office.
In Washington, the march topped 200,000 people at its peak, , representing a huge cross-section of geography and demographics and far outpacing the National Park Service’s permitted space for 100,000 people. The march extended for over 20 blocks down Pennsylvania and all along the south side of the National Mall, with tens of thousands more surging along the mall to push back on the Trump administration’s policies and stand up for “climate, jobs and justice.”
The day’s activities in D.C. began at sunrise with a water ceremony led by Indigenous peoples at the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Participants included Cheyenne River Sioux tribal members who traveled 1,536 miles by bus from Eagle Bend, SD to attend the ceremonies.
At an opening press conference, representatives from front line communities spoke about the impact that climate change and pollution were already having on their lives and called out the Trump administration for worsening the crisis. They called for a new renewable energy economy that created good paying, union jobs, and prioritized low-income and people of color communities.
The march kicked off at 12:30 pm in front of the Newseum, which heralds the First Amendment freedoms of religion, free press, free speech, assembly and protest, and was led by young people of color from Washington, D.C. and Indigenous leaders from across the country. Tens of thousands of marchers headed up Pennsylvania Avenue in creatively named contingents, like “Protectors of Justice,” “Reshapers of Power,” and “Many Struggles, One Home.”
(The day coincided not only with Trump’s 100th day, but the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, which Trump snubbed, the first sitting president to do so; Reagan missed one after he was recovering from an assassination attempt but still sent respects.)
“When our communities are most threatened by climate; the solutions we build must allow us to have control of our resources and the energy we produce in an equitable and truly democratic way,” said Angela Adrar, Executive Director, Climate Justice Alliance. “They must create meaningful work that allows people to grow and develop to their fullest capacity. They must allow us to retain culture and traditions from our ancestors and give us the freedom of self-determination we so deserve so that we can thrive. This does not come easy and it must come with resistance and visionary opposition. Our existence depends on it.”
By 2 pm, in sweltering heat for an April day (nearing 90 compared to average of 79) that seemed to validate Global Warming, organizers had succeeded in their goal of completely surrounding the White House. Marchers sat down in the streets in a silent sit-in to recognize the damage caused by the Trump administration over the last 100 days and those who are losing their lives to the climate crisis.
At the appointed time, everyone created a heartbeat, tapping out a rhythm on their chests or clapping while drummers kept the time, lasting 2 minutes.
“The heartbeat was meant to show that while march participants came from many different backgrounds and communities, their hearts beat as one. It was a heartbeat of resistance, one that began with the Women’s March and will continue through the Peoples Climate March to May Day and beyond,” the organizers said.
“Six months ago, my kids woke up to half a foot of water in our living room,” said Cherri Foytlin, director of BOLD Louisiana and spokesperson for the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Now, Trump wants to open up the Gulf Coast to even more offshore drilling. But we have a message for him: we are not afraid, and we will not stop fighting. With 100 and 500 year storms now coming every year, we are fighting for our lives.”
After the heartbeat, marchers rose up with a collective roar and continued down to the Washington Monument for a closing rally. Speakers at the rally celebrated the success of the day, while many marchers gathered in “Circles of Resistance,” some set up around their parachute banners, to talk about how to continue to build their movement.
As of 3:30 pm, crowds of people still remained at the Monument while marches continued to take place across the country. The Peoples Climate Movement, a coalition of over 900 organizations representing many of the major social justice, labor and environmental groups in the country, has pledged to keep the momentum going after Saturday, from supporting the May Day marches on Monday to organizing at the local level.
“Today’s actions are not for one day or one week or one year,” said Getsos. “We are a movement that is getting stronger everyday for our families, our communities and our planet. To change everything, we need everyone.”
Promising Ongoing Resistance
The march took place on the 100th day of Trump occupying the Oval Office and the irony was not lost on the marchers, who chanted, “We won’t go away. Welcome to your 100th day.”
Indeed, Trump seemed to go out of his way to stick it to those who believe climate change is an existential threat to communities, the nation and the planet.
On the eve of the climate march, the EPA announced it was scrubbing its website of any mention of climate change.
Trump has shown utter contempt for climate change, and specifically the hard-fought initiatives Obama put through to transition the economy away from global-warming exacerbating carbon emissions and put the creation of clean, renewable energy industries on a level playing field with the subsidized Fossil Fuel industry.
Trump has shown contempt for local communities, particularly targeting Native American communities, in swiftly (and proudly) restarting the Keystone XL pipeline (his banker to which he owns millions of dollars is a leading investor) and Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) which threatens the water supply to native community at Standing Rock.
Just before the People’s Climate March, as if to add insult to injury, his administration backed away from challenging the lawsuit – brought by EPA Scott Pruitt when he was Oklahoma Attorney General – to Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which put new restrictions on coal-fired utility plants. That was the key mechanism that Obama put forward to meet the US commitment to reduce carbon emissions under the Paris Climate Agreement.
And he instructed Interior Secretary Zinke to open up oil and gas drilling on the continental shelf – which would require reversing Obama and Bush’s creation of marine sanctuaries that protected – under the pretext of an “American First Energy Independence Policy,” which Zinke admitted would also open the way for US Oil & Gas extractors to export US supplies. Trump is literally salivating over the 1.7 billion acres protected, where Zinke said, there are “90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil, 327 trillion cubic ft of undiscovered recoverable natural gas.”
Through high-handed executive orders, he has reversed regulations or ended implementation or enforcement that now will allow extraction companies to dump toxic waste into streams; he opened the way for a chemical to be used, for lead ammunition that kills birds that feed on the carcasses of animals brought down by those bullets. He doesn’t care.
And his budget promises to gut the EPA, shutting down entirely climate change research, eliminating 3000 positions.
And on the eve of the march, Pruitt’s EPA scrubbed its website of any findings connected to climate change.
“As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land, and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency,” J.P. Freire, the agency’s associate administrator for public affairs, said in a statement. “We want to eliminate confusion by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.”
The first page to be updated is a page reflecting President Trump’s Executive Order on Energy Independence, which calls for a review of the so-called Clean Power Plan. Language associated with the Clean Power Plan, written by the last administration, is out of date. Similarly, content related to climate and regulation is also being reviewed, according to the statement from Scott Pruitt’s EPA.
According to the Washington Post, an EPA staffer stated “we can’t have information which contradicts the actions we have taken in the last two months,” adding that Pruitt’s aides had “found a number of instances of that so far” while surveying the site.
At the rally beneath the Washington Monument that followed the march, an EPA employee – who had spent two decades in the Marines before working for 17 years at the EPA, said, “What this Administration is doing to us would be considered an act of war.” Indeed, the very chemical in sarin gas, which Trump used to justify bombing Syria, was just okayed by the Trump Administration.
Trump, he said, is vilifying federal workers like the EPA who work to protect the American people. “We are federal servants. We take the same oath as I took when I joined the Marine Corps. We’ve been made scapegoats.
“America is not for sale,” he said. “We will fight back.”
This past week, President Trump signed an executive order to “review” the last 21 years of large national monument designations — including Bears Ears National Monument – a huge affront to every American whose birthright Trump would sell off to satisfy corporate greed, but especially, yet another attack and violation of treaties made with Native Americans.
“Not only are national monuments an inherent part of Western culture, they hold historical significance to local Tribes and contribute to a $887 billion dollar recreation industry that employs millions of people around the country,” writes Senator Tom Udall (D-NM).
“We need to come together and fight on this. One of the most consistent marks of Trump’s presidency so far has been an outright assault on environmental protections. He could do more damage by rescinding national monument designations and selling off public lands to the highest bidder.”
Indeed, the Peoples Climate March will not be a one-off, a show of strength to a dumb and deaf Trump Administration and its complicit Congress.
Sustaining Momentum After People’s Climate March
Climate activists are looking to sustain momentum and are focusing on local actions to counter the federal dismantling of climate action initiatives.
“Across America, DFA members are mobilizing in their own communities to fight for environmental justice and resist Trump and his oil industry friends. Even after today’s marches, we still have a lot of work to do,” Robert Cruickshank, Democracy for America stated.
“Tomorrow, DFA Electoral Director Annie Weinberg will be leading a training in D.C. hosted by our friends at Climate Hawks Vote.She’ll be training climate activists on how to win elections and build a more reflective democracy.
“In fights to stop coal and oil exports, to block pipelines, and resist oil companies, it’s become clear that elections at every level of government matter. City and county governments grant crucial permits. State governments regulate emissions and help develop renewable energy sources. And the federal government plays the biggest role of all.
“Humanity was already failing to stop climate change before Trump took office. But now our climate is poised to get much, much worse. If we don’t act now, we may lose our final chance at averting a catastrophe.”
Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Action is launching a new organizing strategy aimed at winning local elections.
“Our plan is simple but incredibly ambitious: lay siege to fossil fuels at the local level. Everywhere. All at once. We’ll push local lawmakers to do everything in their power to obstruct the fossil fuel industry. With Trump opening a new wave of oil and gas drilling, we know we need to stand strong locally to create the clean energy future that we need.,” writes Katy Kiefer, Director of Distributed Organizing, Food & Water Watch. “Onward to the Clean Energy Revolution.”
Other organizations, like Earth Justice, are mounting lawsuits based on the public health and environmental destruction of rolling back environmental initiatives and violating the spirit and letter of the Clean Air and Clear Water acts, as well as the Antiquities Act.
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, laid out a rather dire forecast of “The Consequences of Climate Change: A National Security Perspective,” in remarks at a Great Neck, NY synagogue. He couldn’t help but register a bit of panic over the incoming Trump Administration and its crew of climate-deniers and Big Oilmen.
“We have gone from ecstasy before the election to despair,” he says. We can’t afford to lose ground over the next 4 or 8 years.” That’s because once the earth heats more than 2 degrees, “it is enough to start the process to the point where it is unrecoverable. We will accelerate so fast that by the end of the 21st century, we will see dire developments.”
It was reminiscent of how George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, two Texas oil men, reversed course on President Bill Clinton’s climate action, especially when Al Gore, a foremost climate change activist, was robbed of the presidency. Trump threatens to be even more dangerous because the planet is heating up more quickly than forecast, the arctic ice sheets are melting faster than predicted, and Trump has made clear his intention to reverse course on Obama’s progress, put the brakes on transitioning from a carbon-emitting economy, and go back to promoting fossil fuel development.
Wilkerson didn’t dwell on the public health aspects of climate change, but on how drought, famine, wildfires and sea level rise making coastal and island communities and even US naval and military bases, uninhabitable, would create national security challenges. Indeed, if you thought that a few million Syrian refugees could destabilize European democracies, think what hundreds of millions of climate refugees, would mean.
“By 2065, you are talking about machine guns on the border shooting people.”
We’ve actually already seen that happen: when police snipers murdered two black men as they tried to cross the Danziger bridge to flee New Orleans flooding after Hurricane Katrina.
Superstorms like the tsunami in Indonesia, the super typhoon in the Philippines, Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy that supposedly shouldn’t happen except once a century are hitting at least once every decade.
The US military is already concerned, but is unable to do anything for fear of being perceived as acting “politically.” As a result, “sea rise alone, will force the DoD to cannibalize its own budget, diverting 10 to 20% of its $600 billion budget to make its military installations resilient. “The air force at Langley already has days when jets can’t take off because the runways are flooded.”
“The military has no question at all about the climate changing and changing rapidly and that it’s changing faster” than previously projected, he said.
“The military sees the risk, wants something done. They don’t want to be the only ones who watch and then become the hammer, manning the machine guns on the border.”
Wilkerson did not offer much in the way of solution, beyond his organization, Climate Security Working Group, lobbying Congressmembers individually (he said he had a hopeful meeting with Joni Ernst and Charles Grassley). That is futile, though, because you have a Congress and a Trump Cabinet that is wholly in bed with donors from fossil fuels.
Wilkerson said he was an “optimist.” But what a difference a couple of weeks makes.
Trump has doubled down to undermine Obama’s climate action efforts and reverse the transition to clean, renewable energy, after feigning that he was “open-minded” in an interview with the “failing” New York Times, and a pretend meeting with Al Gore. Trump says he will shut down NASA’s Climate Research division, pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement, and reverse course on Obama’s Clean Power Plan (which his pick to lead the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is fighting to overturn in court).
Trump’s transition team has demanded the names of all Department of Energy employees and contractors who have attended climate change policy conferences; many have reported a climate of intimidation, and there is fear of a witch hunt. (The agency said it would not comply.)
He is installing Oil Men and Climate Deniers in key governmental positions. His pick for Secretary of State, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, not only has oil deals with Vladimir Putin, but vigorously supports the Trans Pacific Partnership, which empowers corporations to sue localities for “lost profits” when they adopt regulations for environmental protection.
Instead of a Nobel laureate to head Energy, he is installing former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who couldn’t even remember the name of the agency when he said he would shut it down.
What’s left to be done?
Some might naively think that technology will save us, when the situation really becomes dire.
Some of the proposals call for “geoengineering” – launching shields to keep the sun’s rays from the earth to slow the warming (what about the solar energy needed to produce food and solar energy?). “This is like playing god,” Wilkerson said – an ironic statement considering the climate deniers typically are in the camp that says God wants the earth to heat. Not to mention the cost.
Indeed, by the time societies are that desperate, it will be too late to reverse the impacts.
On the other hand, the despairing realization that Planet Earth may be doomed is what is behind Elan Musk’s Mars shot (something that is being made clear in the “Mars” television series). “He is doing it because he wants to hedge the bet (on continuation of the humanrace). But how many can pay $20 million for a seat on a rocketship?”
“To us in military, one of clearest indicators there are people who understand the depth of the problem, but doing something serious – getting off this planet. They know there is a real chance this planet may become uninhabitable.
“We have put more people on the face of earth since 1900 than the previous 5000 years, reaching a global population of 7 billion, and by the next century, there will be 3-4 billion more. That ain’t going to happen, not without dire circumstances.
I find myself rooting for other nations to treat the US, the world leader on climate action under Obama, as a pariah, especially if Trump tears up the Paris Climate Agreement, and that they slap carbon fees on US goods, and that the UN and international Court prosecute the US for actions that result in the death and unliveability of lands. They should sue for damages and reparations.
We need to fight corporations that are not making the transition to clean energy – boycott products, fight permits, cram stockholders meetings, or alternatively, divest and drive down stock prices of offending corporations and climate deniers. Sue to recover costs when pollution impacts public health or damages the environment, require new projects to be designed sustainably and address clean energy and water. Block rate hikes and actions of utilities that refuse to adopt the Clean Power Plan standards.
Launch lawsuits over pollution that impacts public health, recover costs for remediation, require new projects to address clean energy and water; block rate hikes and actions of utilities that are refusing to adopt the Clean Power Plan standards; divest and drive down the stock prices of offending corporations and climate deniers.
The EDF has a good strategy: tripling the size of its legal team; ramping up investments in state-based work to modernize the electric grid and advance clean-energy policy (EDF co-authored the first ever statewide bill to limit carbon emissions in California, which has created nearly 1 million new jobs and made California the nation’s leading clean technology patent developer).
The League of Conservation Voters is funding a campaign that goes hard after every dangerous executive action, nominee, and vote in Congress, coordinating with allies in new ways so that nothing slips through the cracks; plans to bolster allies in the Senate to stand strong, use their bully pulpit, and form a “green” firewall to beat back congressional attacks that require 60 votes to pass; hold key elected officials accountable, especially in the Senate, for their votes, words and actions, and expose those who push Trump’s anti-science agenda; mobilize hundreds of thousands of grassroots activists, activating grassroots networks and standing in solidarity with allies across the progressive movement; working with states to advance solar, renewable and other sustainable solutions; and lay the groundwork for 2017 and 2018 elections, where key Governor and Senate races are already unfolding.
We need to protest, to occupy, to boycott, to sue, to conduct unrelenting shaming campaigns of companies, corporate executives, investors and politicians who put short-term personal gain over long-term havoc, and if necessary, impeach – impeach an EPA Administrator who does not abide by the Clean Air, Clean Water acts. Impeach a Secretary of Health & Human Services who does not advocate for public health. Impeach a president who violates his Constitutional oath and sets aside national security for self-enrichment.
The Obama Administration has announced nearly $40 million in new programming to enhance resilience to climate change and advance clean-energy development by building regional, national, and local capacity in the Pacific Islands to prepare for and help mitigate the negative impacts of climate change. These steps come as sea level rise and the increased strength and frequency of catastrophic weather events pose an existential threat to places most vulnerable to their impacts, such as the Pacific Islands. In addition, and consistent with the theme of this year’s World Conservation Congress, the Administration is announcing policies to promote conservation and combat climate change by protecting wildlife, oceans, and lands.
The announcement coincided with the World Conservation Congress, which the United States hosted for the first time, President Obama addressed leaders from Pacific Island Conference of Leaders and the World Conservation Congress before traveling to Midway Atoll in the newly expanded Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
At Midway, the President discussed the reality that climate change is already altering the structure and function of ecosystems, changing the distribution and abundance of plants and animals, and in many cases limiting the ability of lands and waters to provide critical services to communities.
Throughout the week, senior Administration officials, including Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, attended the World Conservation Congress to discuss these steps and hear directly from leaders in government, business, NGOs, Indigenous groups, and youth groups on a broad range of topics related to conservation and climate change.
Building Regional, National, and Local Capacity to Prepare for Climate Change
The United States announced new investments over the coming years to build regional, national, and local capacity in the Pacific Islands to enhance resilience to climate change.
Building Regional Capacity through the Institutional Strengthening in Pacific Island Countries to Adapt to Climate Change (ISACC) Program: Under this program the United States intends to invest up to $5 million to support regional organizations, which are critical to address the collective needs of Pacific Islands. The program will leverage the substantial regional expertise and professional networks of the Pacific Community (SPC), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS). The program will embed climate-adaptation coordinators from the three partner organizations in eight Pacific Island countries to provide technical assistance and train key staff of national climate-change agencies.
Building National Capacity through the Climate Ready Program: The United States will be launching a new program to enhance the resilience of Pacific Island nations. Under the Climate Ready program, USAID is announcing $9 million to help national governments develop and implement policies that promote resilience, enhance access to climate finance, and improve national capacity to manage and monitor adaptation programs. Climate Ready will engage in twelve Pacific Island nations: the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
Building Local Capacity for Climate Change Adaptation: To enhance the capacities of communities and governments in the Pacific Islands to reduce the risk of disasters, the United States is announcing $15 million in disaster risk reduction programs next year, and will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Pacific Island countries to prepare for natural disasters in the face of a changing climate.
In addition, seven new local recipients have been awarded a total of over $1.7 million by the Pacific American Climate Fund, which overall has provided 22 grants valued at $9.5 million to civil- society organizations across the Pacific Islands, to help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change. Specifically, the grants will support community-based farmers in Fiji, a women’s council in the Federated States of Micronesia, and vulnerable communities in Samoa, the Solomon Islands, and Palau.
Finally, USAID will continue its ongoing community-based initiatives that help particularly at-risk communities better prepare for and respond in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. For example, in Vanuatu, USAID helped to reintroduce indigenous preparedness practices, such as safe water collection and food-preservation techniques that, in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Pam, enabled affected communities to survive until the arrival of international assistance. In Papua New Guinea, USAID supports community- and provincial-level DRR investments that enable community members and policy makers to identify and mitigate the increasing effects of climate-change-induced hazards. In Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, USAID trains school-aged children and community members in climate change and community preparedness. And across the Pacific, USAID is investing to develop strong, local Red Cross Societies to help countries better manage disasters and to ensure that community-preparedness work is sustainable and fully institutionalized.
Contributing to the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Facility: The United States will contribute $8 million to a World Bank multi-donor trust fund to support the creation of a disaster and climate risk insurance facility for Pacific Islands (“the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative (PCRAFI) Facility”). The PCRAFI multi-donor trust fund will establish a long-term, sustainable insurance facility to provide climate- and disaster-risk insurance products to the Pacific Islands countries. It will also support technical assistance to these countries and related regional organizations to bolster capacity to assess and manage climate and disaster risks, with the overall objective of strengthening the financial resilience of Pacific Islands to climate and natural disaster risks.
Expanding Research on Climate Migration and Relocation
The United States is committed to engaging with the international research community to understand how to build a comprehensive approach to reduce the risk of climate-related displacement and manage the consequences of unplanned migration while also harnessing the opportunities of voluntary, planned migration and community relocation. This research can help facilitate migration and community relocation as effective adaptation and coping strategies to the effects of climate change.
Symposium on Climate Migration: The Council on Environmental Quality, in collaboration with Hawaii and Alaska Sea Grant College Programs, the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai’i Manoa, and the National Sea Grant Law Center, will host a Symposium on Climate Displacement, Migration, and Relocation in December 2016. The Symposium will provide an opportunity for stakeholders, researchers, policy experts, indigenous leaders, and local, State, and Federal, government officials to explore legal and policy opportunities and challenges arising from climate displacement. This includes questions about how to plan for and implement voluntary migration and community-led relocation as adaptation strategies to the impacts of climate change, both domestically and in the context of the Pacific Islands.
Facilitating the Transition to a Cleaner Energy Future
Although they are not large emitters of greenhouse gases, the Pacific Islands are committed to combating climate change and to making major changes in their energy profiles as part of their Nationally Determined Contributions within the Paris Agreement. The United States is committed to helping the Pacific Islands increase their resources and technical expertise in order to develop a comprehensive approach to energy transformation.
Energy Excelerator Targeting Half a Billion Investment in Clean Energy: The Energy Excelerator, a public-private partnership financed through the U.S. Navy and located in Hawaii, is setting the goal of achieving half a billion dollars in total private, follow-on investment in companies in its accelerator program, including those developing clean-energy technologies for the Pacific Islands, by September 2017. This effort builds upon the $350 million already raised by the accelerator’s 42 companies to create innovative clean-energy technologies to support Pacific Islands in transitioning to cleaner sources of energy, agriculture, and transportation. (Of the 42 companies, 23 are already actively deploying solutions in the Pacific Islands.)
Developing a New Pacific Energy Transition Program: The U.S. Department of Energy and the State Department are announcing the creation of a new Energy Transition Initiative Pacific Program to assist Pacific Islands with their transition away from imported fuels. Building on U.S. government technical assistance delivered to Caribbean nations under the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative, and ongoing successful Energy Transition Initiative efforts in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands, this new effort will bring the lessons learned and technical assistance to the Pacific Islands, including those setting ambitious targets to deploy clean energy. To initiate this process, the Department of State, Department of Energy, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and the Pacific Community (SPC) are announcing they will host a workshop to provide regional governments with concrete strategies for implementing an Energy Transition Initiative model in their countries, to identify specific areas for follow-on technical assistance and/or advisory support, and to facilitate access to Green Climate Fund and sources of finance for clean-energy projects. This workshop will support IRENA’s Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) Lighthouses Initiative.
The United States is continuing our leadership in addressing conservation challenges across the continent and globe, from the Hawaiian Islands, known as the “extinction capital” of the world, to Africa, where elephant poaching is a gruesome reality. New, innovative approaches to conservation, including conservation finance and mapping technology, are taking hold, alongside of long-tested strategies like land protection and smart public-land management.
Releasing the State of Conservation in North America Report: The Department of Interior is releasing the State of Conservation in North America Report, which highlights progress in protecting 12 percent of all land in North America under the highest protection standards. The analysis and information in the report create a baseline for progress in protecting important ecosystems and can offer a catalyst for future conservation actions in the United States and with international partners.
Signing an Arrangement with the Vietnam Biodiversity Agency: The United States Geological Service will establish a partnership and conclude an arrangement with the Vietnam Biodiversity Agency to offer scientific and technical support of their effort to revise the Vietnam Biodiversity Conservation Law. The arrangement will be a “Project Annex” to the 2010 MOU signed by DOI and the country of Vietnam’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, which provided a framework for the exchange of scientific and technical knowledge with respect to earth sciences and effective management of natural resources.
Launching the Next Generation Conservation Ambassadors Program:The Department of Interior will also launch an international mentorship partnership, Next Generation Conservation Ambassadors, which will involve matching subject-matter experts from the Department of the Interior with young people working on various conservation-related topics in other countries. Topics may include but are not limited to water management, historical preservation, land management, relationships with indigenous people, climate change, wildlife monitoring, and habitat restoration. Mentors will provide input, counsel, and guidance for one year. This program will provide avenues to share our expertise and knowledge with emerging young leaders from other countries, furthering a vision for comprehensive, collaborative approaches toward addressing climate change.
Restoring Humpback Whale Populations around the Globe: NOAA will announce its final decision to remove 10 populations of humpback whales from the endangered species list, including almost all the populations found around North America. This is continued evidence that U.S. efforts to protect and restore thousands of endangered animals and plants are working.
Supporting the Expansion of Large-Scale Marine Protected Areas: In 2015, NOAA and partners launched a multi-year effort to provide a foundation of publicly accessible baseline data and information from the deepwater areas of central and western U.S. Pacific Islands marine protected areas (MPAs). Recent and planned expeditions using vessels such as NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer are informing priority MPA science and management needs such as the identification and mapping of vulnerable marine habitats like high-density, deep-sea coral and sponge communities. To continue to support the global expansion of large-scale MPAs, NOAA vessels in 2017 will total more than 200 days at sea; include complementary work across multiple research vessels;; and improve fundamental understanding of at least four existing MPAs.
Issuing a Unified Strategy with the International Oceanographic Commission (IOC): NOAA’s Ocean Service will later this month conclude a formal unified strategy with the International Oceanographic Commission (IOC), ensuring closer coordination between the U.S. Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON) and international ocean observing and data networks such as the Global Ocean Observation System (GOOS) and the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). This will improve the acquisition, delivery and application of information on change in the marine environment, and support marine conservation and decision-making at the national, regional, and global levels.
Announcing New Grants to Combat Wildlife Trafficking: USAID and partner organizations will announce the grand prize winners of the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, whose innovative technology has the best potential to strengthen forensic evidence, reduce consumer demand or address the corruption that fuels poaching and illegal trafficking. The Fish and Wildlife Service will announce $1.3 million in grant funding for combating wildlife trafficking. Up to 13 grants will contribute to efforts to reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife products. The grant program was developed as part of the Implementation Plan which resulted from President Obama’s 2015 release of the National Strategy for Combatting Wildlife Trafficking.