Tag Archives: climate action

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Klobuchar Proposes to ‘Act with Urgency’ on Climate Change: Transform Energy, Rebuild Green America, Mobilize the Heartland and ‘Leave No One Behind’

US Senator Amy Klobuchar has released her plan to “act with urgency” on Climate Change: transform the energy sector, rebuild a Green America, mobilize the Heartland and “leave no one behind” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. With this summer posting heat records and yet another Category 5 hurricane wreaking havoc in the Caribbean and Atlantic islands and barreling down on the East Coast, US Senator Amy Klobuchar has released her plan to tackle the Climate Crisis, which is distinguished for a focus on agriculture and the Heartland, in addition to the more common focus on manufacturing, transportation and clean, renewable energy. This is from the Klobuchar campaign:

MINNEAPOLIS, MN — The climate crisis isn’t happening in 100 years — it’s happening now. 2018 was the fourth-hottest year on record globally and it was another near-record year for U.S. weather and climate disasters. The dire warnings in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment make clear that immediate action is needed. The National Climate Assessment lays out how increasing global temperatures are harming our country’s food systems and public health by increasing the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, while displacement and destruction caused by climate-related natural disasters threaten our economy and national security.

Senator Klobuchar is a strong voice from the Midwest when it comes to climate change. In the Senate, she leads the fight to combat climate change by serving on the Senate Climate Action Taskforce, has fought for legislation to reduce greenhouse gases, and has led a Senate resolution recognizing that global climate change is occurring and will continue to pose ongoing risks unless we take action. She authored legislation setting a national renewable electricity standard and she successfully extended renewable energy production tax credits. The first bill Senator Klobuchar ever introduced was a carbon counter bill to establish the first national greenhouse gas registry to track emissions by major industries.

Read Senator Klobuchar’s full plan here.


Confronting the Climate Crisis with Urgency 

We can’t wait. That’s why Senator Klobuchar is committed to taking immediate action — without Congress — to transform our energy sector, unlock scientific breakthroughs, hold the fossil fuel industry accountable, and support workers and communities that are on the front lines of the climate crisis. She will:

Use the full power of the presidency to tackle the climate crisis. Starting on day one of her administration, Senator Klobuchar will take aggressive executive action to confront the climate crisis. She will introduce sweeping climate legislation in the first 100 days of her presidency, but she also won’t wait for Congress when it comes to the full range of legal actions a President can take to address climate change. Specifically, in the first 100 days of her administration Senator Klobuchar will:

Get the United States back in the Paris International Climate Agreement on day one. On day one of Senator Klobuchar’s presidency she will get us back into the Paris International Climate Change Agreement, and she will immediately begin working with global leaders to strengthen the agreement so that the United States maintains global leadership to address the climate crisis.

Restore the Clean Power Plan. Senator Klobuchar will bring back the Clean Power Plan, which set emissions standards for states with respect to reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. She will negotiate even stronger emissions standards that account for the progress states have already made. 

Bring back the fuel-economy standards. Senator Klobuchar will restore and strengthen our fuel economy standards, which are key to making an immediate impact on the emissions of cars and light trucks. The Trump Administration has weakened the fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks and has challenged the right of California and other states to follow more stringent standards.

Introduce sweeping legislation that will put our country on the path to 100% net zero emissions by 2050. In her first 100 days as President, Senator Klobuchar will introduce and work with Congress to pass sweeping legislation that will put our country on a path to achieving 100% net-zero emissions no later than 2050. 

End the Trump Administration’s censoring of climate science. Senator Klobuchar will end Trump Administration efforts to censor climate science through actions like deleting climate-focused websites, removing the phrase “climate change” from reports, and preventing government scientists from attending conferences on climate change.

Set ambitious goals to reduce the carbon footprint of the federal government. During the first 100 days of her administration, Senator Klobuchar will aggressively work to reduce the federal government’s significant carbon footprint. As President, she will set ambitious goals to increase the efficiency of federal buildings, data centers, and vehicles, reduce water consumption, and increase the use of renewable energy. 

Reinstate the National Climate Assessment Advisory Committee to immediately start addressing the climate crisis. The National Climate Assessment Advisory Committee was charged with translating the findings of the National Climate Assessment into concrete goals. During the first 100 days of her administration, Senator Klobuchar will reinstate this committee that President Trump let expire.

Hold the fossil fuel industry accountable. Senator Klobuchar is committed to standing up to the oil companies and holding the fossil fuel industry accountable. She will:

End federal fossil fuel subsidies. For too long, taxpayers have subsidized the massive profits of fossil fuel companies. Senator Klobuchar will end federal tax subsidies for fossil fuel exploration and production. 

Make politicians accountable to voters, not special interests. Again and again, bold action on climate has been blocked by the power of special interests. As President, Senator Klobuchar will put people first by working to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and get dark money out of our politics, as well as establish a campaign finance system that increases the power of small donors through a matching system for small donations. She will investigate potential wrongdoings and hold energy companies accountable. 

Expanding Renewable Energy and Transforming the Energy Sector 

There is a scientific consensus that in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change we will need to achieve 100% net-zero emissions no later than 2050, which cannot be done without a wholesale transformation of the energy sector. To expand renewable energy and transform the energy sector to produce clean power, Senator Klobuchar will:  

Invest in infrastructure and provide incentives for state and local governments, nonprofits, and private companies to expand clean energy production. Senator Klobuchar will support a landmark carbon pricing system that does not have a regressive impact on Americans and will help make clean energy production more cost competitive. She will also do more to accelerate the adoption of clean energy, including by subsidizing production and investment by state and local governments, nonprofits and private companies, as well as by upgrading our grid infrastructure and storage capabilities. 

Provide production and investment tax credits. Senator Klobuchar will create a technology neutral tax credit to support production of or investment into clean sources of energy. She will also create a clean energy bond program so that tax-exempt entities can benefit. The credits will be phased out as overall emissions are reduced. 

Upgrade energy grids and storage capacity. Our country’s electric grid needs an upgrade to account for the irregular nature of certain clean energy sources, accommodate distributed energy production, and facilitate smart metering and other innovative technologies. As President, Senator Klobuchar will create a competitive grant program and a new investment tax credit to promote investments in grid improvements and storage. She will also provide rural electric cooperatives access to technical resources and expertise to overcome the barriers to renewable energy storage and grid improvements based on a bipartisan bill she leads in the Senate.

Streamline renewable energy production on federal land. Many federal lands have significant renewable energy potential. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work to streamline the permitting process for renewable projects on federal lands while protecting sensitive ecosystems and ensuring a fair distribution of payments. 

Empower municipal utilities and electric cooperatives to lead on clean energy. Senator Klobuchar knows that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to clean energy policy. She will make sure smaller producers, including municipal utilities and electric cooperatives, have a seat at the table when decisions are made about federal energy policy. In the Senate, she authored bipartisan legislation that was signed into law that enables rural electric power cooperatives and their members to continue to use energy-efficient water heaters as part of conservation programs. This law allows cooperatives to optimize both their own energy management and the environmental benefits of water heaters. 

Reduce climate pollution. A carbon price will create an economic incentive to reduce carbon pollution and there is more we can do to limit climate pollution from existing fossil fuel production. 

Restore and expand the Clean Power Plan. In her first 100 days as President, Senator Klobuchar will bring back the Clean Power Plan, which set emissions standards for states with respect to reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. She will negotiate even stronger emissions standards that account for the progress states have made. 

Strengthen enforcement of the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws. Under the Trump Administration, EPA enforcement efforts have fallen dramatically. As President, Senator Klobuchar will direct the EPA to vigorously enforce the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws and make sure the enforcers have the resources they need.

Reduce methane leakage from oil and gas production. Methane has as much as 84 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide. The Trump Administration has rolled back EPA and BLM rules to prevent methane leakage even though the Senate defeated an attempt to repeal the BLM methane rule on a bipartisan vote and many companies already comply with stricter state rules. As President, Senator Klobuchar will restore and strengthen the EPA and BLM methane rules. 

Support research to improve negative emissions technologies. To supplement other mitigation efforts as we transition to clean energy, Senator Klobuchar will support research to improve negative emissions technologies that could be used to reduce the amount of carbon currently in the atmosphere.

Ban new fossil fuel permitting on federal lands and review and restore environmental protections repealed by the Trump Administration. To help accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels, Senator Klobuchar will ban new fossil fuel permits on federal lands. Senator Klobuchar will also undertake a comprehensive review and restore environmental protections repealed by the Trump Administration. The Trump Administration has revoked dozens of guidance documents and rules that protect people’s safety, health and the environment when it comes to our power plants, oil refineries, national parks and wildlife refuges, offshore drilling, pipelines, and oil and gas development. Senator Klobuchar will undertake a thorough review of all the repealed guidance and rules, and work to restore our environmental and safety protections.

Increasing Efficiency and Rebuilding a Green America

Confronting the climate crisis also means improving energy efficiency and rebuilding infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stand up to the effects of climate change. As President, Senator Klobuchar will:

Increase efficiency and move toward an electrified transportation sector. Today, transportation accounts for about 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Senator Klobuchar will work to reduce emissions in the transportation sector through increasing fuel economy, supporting electrification, and promoting efficient transportation options. 

Bring back the fuel-economy standards. In her first 100 days as President, Senator Klobuchar will restore and strengthen our fuel economy standards, which are key to making an immediate impact on the emissions of cars and light trucks. The Trump Administration has weakened the fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks and has challenged the right of California and other states to follow more stringent standards.

Invest in electric vehicle infrastructure and promote electric vehicle sales. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make a significant investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure and bring back the tax credit for electric vehicle purchases. 

Strengthen transit and commuter rail networks and support low- and no-carbon alternatives. As President, Senator Klobuchar will refocus federal transportation grants to prioritize transit projects, first and last mile connections, and bicycle and pedestrian improvements. She will also develop new incentives for transit systems and school districts to replace their existing bus fleets with low- and no-carbon alternatives. 

Revitalize freight and passenger rail. Railroads are an energy- and cost-effective way for producers to bring their goods to market and get people where they need to go. As President, Senator Klobuchar will encourage investment in short-line and freight rail networks. She will also address safety concerns including by mandating two-man crews, improving braking systems, and ensuring communities are prepared to respond to derailments involving hazardous cargo. In addition, she will build on her work pushing for greater competition in freight markets by providing fair treatment for captive shippers, appointing well qualified members to the Surface Transportation Board, and reviewing and addressing consolidation in the freight rail industry. She is also committed to expanding high-speed rail and Amtrak service in rural America.

Innovate in international shipping and aviation. International shipping and aviation account for a growing share of carbon emissions. As President, Senator Klobuchar will support research and strengthen international agreements to reduce emissions from sources like aviation and shipping. 

Support green manufacturing and provide consumers with green options. Manufacturing processes and consumer goods can have a significant climate impact. New technologies can significantly reduce carbon pollution, but we need to make sure manufacturers have the tools to adopt these technologies. 

Assist businesses transitioning to green manufacturing processes. Senator Klobuchar is committed to ensuring businesses have the resources they need to transition to green manufacturing processes. She will increase technical support through the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and regional development strategies and encourage partnerships with community colleges and research universities. She will also expand manufacturing tax credits to specifically support upgrades and investments to reduce greenhouse gas pollution for manufacturers of all sizes.

Build a market for new and existing climate-friendly products. As President, Senator Klobuchar will support a market for climate-friendly products by promoting federal procurement policies that account for low-carbon energy sources and climate conscious processes.

Create a “Buy Clean” product labeling system. Many consumers are concerned about how their purchasing decisions affect the climate. As President, Senator Klobuchar will create a “Buy Clean” product labeling system to give consumers clear information about products that are produced to minimize their climate impact. 

Institute an import fee on carbon-intensive goods. We cannot allow foreign competitors to undercut U.S. manufacturers that are producing goods with climate conscious processes. That’s why as President, Senator Klobuchar will work to institute a fee on imports of carbon-intensive goods from foreign countries. 

Invest in green jobs and infrastructure. Senator Klobuchar has proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure package that will modernize our aging energy infrastructure so that it is secure and efficient. This massive infrastructure investment will create good-paying union jobs and give workers the skills they need to succeed in the green economy. 

Retrofit buildings to reduce their emissions. Residential and commercial buildings account for a significant share of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Senator Klobuchar will launch a major initiative to retrofit existing buildings to reduce their emissions through grants and tax credits that support insulation, weatherization improvements, upgrades to heating and cooling systems, and other energy saving upgrades.

Make new buildings climate friendly. As President, Senator Klobuchar will support the development of the next generation of low-emission buildings through model building energy codes and benchmarking and transparency programs that cut carbon pollution and energy bills for American families and businesses.

Promote effective zoning rules to minimize climate impacts. Some cities are beginning to update their zoning policies through initiatives like Minneapolis 2040. Senator Klobuchar will prioritize areas that have updated their zoning rules when awarding federal housing and infrastructure grants.

Expand the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Senator Klobuchar has been a strong supporter of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which preserves natural resources while supporting outdoor recreation through investments on our public lands. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push to permanently fund the LWCF.

Coordinate with broadband and other infrastructure priorities. In the Senate, Senator Klobuchar has been a leading proponent of “dig once” policies and other ways to reduce costs by coordinating infrastructure deployment. As President, she will direct federal agencies to maximize opportunities for coordinating climate, broadband, and other types of infrastructure deployment. 

Build climate resiliency into all federal infrastructure investments. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make federal infrastructure investments resilient to both current and future climate risks and partner with states and communities to develop regionally coordinated, resilient infrastructure strategies.

Promoting Research and Unlocking New Scientific Breakthroughs for Green Technologies 

At the same time as we move forward aggressively with the tools we have today, we need to invest in research that will create new opportunities to tackle the climate crisis. To unlock new scientific breakthroughs and promote research, Senator Klobuchar will:

Invest in federally sponsored research. Basic and applied research can uncover new technologies, make existing products more efficient, and reduce the costs of the tools we need to take on climate change. Senator Klobuchar will increase investment in federally sponsored research.

Expand direct federal research. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make bold investments in direct climate research at the Department of Energy, National Labs, ARPA-E and the Department of Defense.

Partner with universities and non-profits. As President, Senator Klobuchar will support a major expansion of federal grants for climate research to universities and non-profits. 

Unleash the creativity of the private sector. American workers and businesses are a vital source of innovation. Senator Klobuchar believes we must include the private sector in climate research and innovation. 

Strengthen tax incentives for climate research. Senator Klobuchar will strengthen existing tax credits for businesses investing in research to develop new processes, technologies and products that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help tackle the climate crisis. 

Encourage collaboration between researchers and the private sector. As President, Senator Klobuchar will make it easier for federal research grant recipients to partner with the private sector and provide set-aside grants for projects with strong commercialization potential. 

Help American companies become global green leaders. As President, Senator Klobuchar will increase support for businesses looking to export green products and technologies through a new initiative across U.S. export promotion agencies. 

Respect science and empower scientists. As President, Senator Klobuchar will stop the constant attacks on scientists and science. She will also direct all federal agencies to reimplement scientific integrity policies, reverse rules limiting what types of science agencies can use, and restart data collection canceled by the Trump Administration. 

Mobilizing the Heartland

Senator Klobuchar is a strong voice from the Midwest when it comes to climate change. She will give rural areas the tools they need to be leaders in clean energy production, support agricultural practices that take on climate change and make sure the heartland benefits from rebuilding a green America. 

Support rural clean energy production. Clean energy, including wind and solar, is a major driver of job growth in rural areas. In fact, 99 percent of operating wind capacity is located in rural areas. As part of Senator Klobuchar’s plan to tackle climate change, she will prioritize rural energy development, including expanding storage capacity and strengthening our energy grid. And as we continue to develop advanced biofuel technologies, she will strengthen the renewable fuel standard.

Invest in wind and solar and support rural energy development. As President, Senator Klobuchar will invest in interregional transmission lines and grid improvements to support the development of renewable energy. She will launch a grant program to help rural cooperatives develop energy storage and microgrid projects for renewable energy generation, transmission and storage. She will also support increased investment in small, distributed wind, solar and biogas projects.  

Provide technical resources for small, rural energy producers and distributors. As President, Senator Klobuchar will push for new economic and environmental opportunities in rural America by investing in rural renewable energy development and by passing and signing into law her bipartisan Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy (EASE) Act to provide rural electric cooperatives access to technical resources and expertise to overcome the barriers to renewable energy storage and grid improvements.

Investing in and providing incentives for homegrown energy. Senator Klobuchar believes that homegrown biofuels are an important part of our rural economies, our nation’s energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the Senate, she has been a leader when it comes to standing up to the Administration’s misuse of small refinery renewable fuel standard (RFS) waivers. She has also worked successfully in the Senate to provide financing and grant support to biobased manufacturers. As President, Senator Klobuchar will strengthen the RFS, end the overuse of secret RFS small refinery waivers, promote the use of blender pumps, pass a statute to ensure year-round E15 sales, and invest in advanced and cellulosic biofuels. 

Help farmers be leaders in responding to the climate crisis. We can position American farmers to be leaders in responding to the climate crisis by increasing land conservation and expanding on new techniques that help store more carbon in topsoil on productive farmland. 

Invest in conservation innovation. Senator Klobuchar will target research into soil carbon sequestration, which could improve soil health as well as reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere. She will also expand Conservation Innovation Grants to test emerging conservation approaches, including practices that increase carbon sequestration levels. And building on provisions she included in the 2018 farm bill, Senator Klobuchar will further improve agriculture data research of conservation practices to help farmers reduce risk and increase profitability. 

Protect native sod and improve soil health. Senator Klobuchar pushed for a provision in the 2018 Farm Bill that closed a loophole allowing some non-insured crops to be planted four consecutive years without a reduction in crop insurance assistance for succeeding insured crops. As President, she will expand nationwide the sodsaver’s prohibition to substitute crop insurance yields on native sod that is converted to cropland. She will also expand the Soil Health and Income Protection Pilot Program to help provide farmers an alternative to cropping less productive cropland. 

Expand conservation practices. Senator Klobuchar has been a champion of supporting farmer conservation efforts and promoting farming practices that reduce soil erosion and improve air and water quality, including by helping pass the 2018 Farm Bill, which included several of her priorities. As President, she will support significant new investments in conservation of working and retired lands. Senator Klobuchar will support the continued expansion of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and increase resources for the Conservation Stewardship Program to help provide farmers the tools they need to protect and enhance natural resources on working agricultural lands. And after successfully increasing the acreage cap of the Conservation Reserve Program, Senator Klobuchar will work to attract more enrollees and ensure payment rates are fair. 

Use green infrastructure investment to strengthen rural communities. There is a significant infrastructure backlog in rural America. From roads and bridges to levees and stormwater systems many rural areas face infrastructure challenges that will be difficult to address without federal investment. Upgrading rural infrastructure to meet our climate goals will also provide an opportunity to address the backlog and overcome infrastructure challenges that are holding back rural America. 

Strengthen rural transportation infrastructure. Rural transportation infrastructure is at risk from the effects of climate change. As President, Senator Klobuchar will invest in the repair and improvement of rural bridges that are not part of the federal-aid highway network and invest in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to improve inland waterways and ports, including funding for the Navigation and Ecosystem Restoration Program to modernize and expand outdated locks and restore ecosystems along the Mississippi. 

Expand energy efficiency programs. Energy costs can be a significant burden on farms, small businesses and households in rural communities. Senator Klobuchar has long worked to see that the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has the resources needed to provide grants to farms and rural businesses to install energy efficient technologies, and she will continue to push for additional resources. In the Senate, she authored bipartisan legislation that was signed into law that empowers the nonprofit community to make energy-efficiency improvements to their buildings and offices. 

Upgrade levees to account for more frequent and severe floods. The floods we saw throughout the Midwest this year show why we cannot wait to upgrade our levees so they can protect communities from more frequent and severe floods. Senator Klobuchar will make upgrading levees a major focus of her infrastructure investment in the heartland.

Update the rural housing stock. Much of the existing rural housing stock is outdated and in poor condition, which contributes to the rural housing crisis. Investments in weatherizing and updating homes and their heating and cooling systems will build value and help renew the rural housing stock. 

Bring high-speed broadband to every household and business in America. Broadband access can reduce commuting and make business and farms more efficient. In an effort to close the rural-urban divide, Senator Klobuchar has previously announced a commitment to connect every household in America to high-speed internet by 2022. She will focus on creating accurate broadband maps to identify areas that lack adequate access, bringing high-speed internet infrastructure to areas most in need, including by expanding Rural Utility Service grants, and providing greater incentives for existing providers to upgrade their networks to cover unserved and underserved areas. She will also work to quickly implement the recommendations of the Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force to help farmers fully realize the potential of broadband in their operations.

Leaving No One Behind 

Vulnerable communities are currently experiencing a disproportionate share of the effects of climate change. Senator Klobuchar is committed to leaving no one behind through investments in climate adaptation and support for frontline communities. She will also focus on fulfilling our responsibility to our communities and workers who have helped power this country.  

Support communities that are most directly experiencing the effects of climate change. Traditionally marginalized communities including African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and disabled Americans are experiencing some of the most severe effects of climate change. Senator Klobuchar will prioritize assisting these communities as they adapt to the effects of climate change. 

Make sure vulnerable communities are a key part of all decision making. We cannot continue to make decisions about climate change without directly and meaningfully involving the communities that are most affected. Senator Klobuchar will make sure traditionally marginalized communities are a key part of all decision-making processes. 

Direct resources to the communities with the greatest needs. As President, Senator Klobuchar will create tax incentives and increase federal funding to communities that are most directly experiencing the effects of climate change. She will also prioritize these communities for infrastructure investments and in other federal climate change programs. 

Strengthen environmental justice programs at the EPA. The Trump Administration has worked to dismantle environmental justice programs. Senator Klobuchar will invest in the EPA’s Environmental Justice Grants, Funding and Technical Assistance and Office of Civil Rights.

Invest in affordable housing that promotes climate resilience and mitigation. As President, Senator Klobuchar will ensure that all federal housing programs put strong standards in place to reduce carbon emissions and she will invest in retrofitting so that existing housing is more energy efficient. 

Strengthen LIHEAP and SNAP to protect the most vulnerable Americans. To be sure that the most vulnerable Americans do not bear the costs of climate change mitigation and adaptation, Senator Klobuchar will strengthen two important programs for low-income Americans — LIHEAP, which helps with home energy costs, and SNAP, which provides nutrition assistance.

Use disaster funding to build more resilient communities. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work to end the Stafford Act prohibition that prevents disaster funding from being used for significant infrastructure improvements. She will also increase funding for FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. 

Fulfill our responsibility to our communities and workers who have helped power this country. As the granddaughter of miner who worked 1,500 feet underground, Senator Klobuchar understands the hard work and sacrifice of those who built and powered our country. She is committed to supporting and creating new opportunities for workers and communities that have depended on the fossil fuel industry. 

Promote community assistance and support workers. Senator Klobuchar will work with the public and private sector to attract new employers and maintain public services, while investing in infrastructure and educational opportunities in areas that experience job loss. As part of any carbon pricing system, she will create a significant manufacturing tax incentive to encourage investment in rural communities or communities that have faced or are about to face job losses. To make it easier for workers to find new jobs, Senator Klobuchar will create a new tax credit for companies that hire workers who had previously depended on the fossil fuel industry for employment. Workers will also be able to take advantage of Senator Klobuchar’s previously announced plan to provide tuition-free one- and two-year community college degrees and technical certifications and expand student loan forgiveness programs to workers in in-demand occupations. 

Reestablish U.S. International Leadership on Climate. When it comes to global leadership on climate change, the United States has abdicated its leadership role under the Trump Administration. As President, Senator Klobuchar will reassert U.S. global leadership to confront the climate crisis. 

Get the United States back in the Paris International Climate Agreement on day one. On day one of Senator Klobuchar’s presidency she will get the United States back into the Paris International Climate Change Agreement, and she will immediately begin working with global leaders to strengthen the agreement so that the United States maintains global leadership to address the climate crisis. 

Build on the Paris International Climate Agreement to achieve global emissions reductions we need. Senator Klobuchar will work with international leaders to build consensus around stronger goals to limit global warming to no more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. She will also recommit to controls on other greenhouse gasses through agreements like the Kigali Amendment. And she will increase U.S. support for the Green Climate Fund. 

Establish meaningful enforcement of international climate goals. The United States is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, but still only accounts for about 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Preventing catastrophic global warming will require meaningful enforcement mechanisms to ensure other countries also meet their emission reduction goals, which means making accountability for climate commitments a central part of our international agenda, taking on China’s efforts to promote dirty energy sources in other countries, and considering climate goals in all types of international assistance. 

Protect our national security. As President Senator Klobuchar will elevate the voices of our military and security experts who have repeatedly warned that climate change will increase the risks of international conflict and humanitarian crises. She will work with our allies to support countries most affected by climate change, including addressing global food and water shortages, supporting climate resilient development, helping countries adapt to the effects of climate change, and preparing for the increased risk of natural disasters. 

To pay for these critical investments, Senator Klobuchar will: 

Work with Congress to put a price on carbon that does not have a regressive impact on Americans. We know that carbon pollution has significant costs, but for too long the public has been forced to bear those costs while those responsible for the pollution have paid nothing. Most economists agree that the most efficient way to promote a transition away from fossil fuels is by putting a price on carbon. As President, Senator Klobuchar will work with Congress to put a carbon pricing system in place that does not have a regressive impact on Americans.

Develop Clean Energy Bonds. As President, Senator Klobuchar will create Clean Energy Bonds that will support investment in clean energy projects. Investors would earn back their full investment as well as interest from energy savings to the government and loan repayments for clean energy projects. Estimates suggest that these clean energy bonds could raise up to $50 billion and leverage $150 billion for clean energy innovation and the creation of over 1 million jobs.

End federal fossil fuel subsidies. For too long, taxpayers have subsidized the massive profits of fossil fuel companies. Senator Klobuchar will end federal tax subsidies for fossil fuel exploration and production. 

Make a series of corporate tax reforms. To pay for a green infrastructure investment worth hundreds of billions of dollars, Senator Klobuchar will make a series of corporate tax reforms including adjusting the corporate tax rate to 25%, closing loopholes that encourage U.S. companies to move jobs and operations overseas, establishing a financial risk fee on our largest banks, and increasing efforts for tax enforcement. 

Increase the capital gains rate. To support and create new opportunities for workers and communities that have depended on the fossil fuel industry, Senator Klobuchar will raise the capital gains rate for Americans who make over $200,000. 

Close the trust fund loophole. To support updating our buildings and providing consumers support through programs like LIHEAP and rebates, Senator Klobuchar will close the trust fund loophole.

Democratic Candidates for 2020: Sanders Says His Green New Deal Will Avert Climate Catastrophe, Create 20 Million Jobs

Senator Bernie Sanders, seeking the Democratic nomination for president, has unveiled his Green New Deal which he says will avert climate catastrophe and create 20 million jobs © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Senator Bernie Sanders, in the town of Paradise, California, which was obliterated in last season’s wildfires, unveiled his Green New Deal,the only plan bold enough to confront the climate crisis and create an economy that works for all.” Under Sanders’ plan, the United States will reach 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030 and complete decarbonization by 2050. This is from the Sanders campaign:

“This is a pivotal moment in the history of America — and really, in the history of humanity. The climate crisis is not only the single greatest challenge facing our country; it is also our single greatest opportunity to build a more just and equitable future, but we must act immediately,” said Sen. Sanders. “When we are in the White House, we will launch the decade of the Green New Deal, a 10-year mobilization to avert climate catastrophe during which climate change, justice and equity will be factored into virtually every area of policy, from immigration to trade to foreign policy and beyond.” 

Sanders’ Green New Deal boldly embraces the moral imperative of addressing the climate crisis and builds on an unprecedented grassroots movement powerful enough to take on the fossil fuel industry and win. As president, Sanders will mobilize the political will necessary for a wholesale transformation of our society, with support for frontline communities and massive investments in sustainable energy, energy efficiency, and a transformation of our transportation system.  

The Green New Deal will avert climate catastrophe, transform our energy system, build an economy for all and end the greed of the fossil fuel industry by: 

  • Ending unemployment by creating 20 million jobs needed to solve the climate crisis.
  • Ensuring a just transition for communities and workers, including fossil fuel workers.
  • Ensuring justice for frontline communities, especially under-resourced groups, communities of color, Native Americans, people with disabilities, children and the elderly.
  • Saving American families money with investments in weatherization, public transportation, modern infrastructure and high-speed broadband.
  • Committing to reducing emissions throughout the world.

The Green New Deal will pay for itself over 15 years by holding the fossil fuel industry accountable for the damage it has caused. Sanders’ plan will:

  • Make the fossil fuel industry pay for their pollution, through litigation, fees, and taxes, and by eliminating federal fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Generate revenue from the wholesale of energy produced by the regional Power Marketing Authorities. Revenues will be collected from 2023-2035, and after 2035 electricity will be virtually free, aside from operations and maintenance costs.
  • Scale back military spending on maintaining global oil dependence.
  • Collect new income tax revenue from the 20 million new jobs created by the plan.
  • Reduce the need for federal and state safety net spending due to the creation of millions of good-paying, unionized jobs.
  • Make the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share. 

The full details of the Green New Deal can be read here

Cuomo Takes Bow in Delivering on Justice Agenda, Calling Legislative Session ‘Most Productive in Modern Political History’

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo took a deserved bow in delivering on the Justice Agenda he laid out at his inauguration, calling this year’s Legislative Session “the most productive in modern political history.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo took a deserved bow in announcing historic progressive accomplishments during this year’s Legislative Session, delivering on his 2019 Justice Agenda first laid out in December, and calling it “the most productive in modern political history.”

“These sweeping reforms will ensure social and economic justice for all New Yorkers, address the devastating impact of climate change, support New York’s ongoing commitment to workers’ rights, modernize transportation systems across the state, and enhance the Empire State’s nation-leading commitment to gender equity and LGBTQ rights. All of this was done while enacting fiscally responsible policies including holding spending growth to 2 percent for the ninth consecutive year, enacting a permanent property tax cap and cutting taxes for the middle class,” the governor’s office stated.

“Six months ago we laid out our 2019 Justice Agenda – an aggressive blueprint to move New York forward – and today I’m proud to say we got it done,” Governor Cuomo said. “At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what you accomplish, and this was the most progressively productive legislative session in modern history. The product was extraordinary, and we maintained our two pillars – fiscal responsibility and economic growth paired with social progress on an unprecedented and nation-leading scale.”

Here’s a synopsis:

Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act: This legislation enacts the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, creating the most aggressive climate change program in the nation with goals to: reach zero carbon emissions in the electricity sector by 2040; install 9 GW of offshore wind by 2035; 6GW of solar by 2025; 3 GW of energy storage by 2030; and directs state entities to work toward a goal of investing 40 percent of clean energy and energy efficiency resources to benefit disadvantaged communities. Additionally, the law creates the Climate Action Council comprised of the leaders of various state agencies and authorities as well as legislative appointments to develop a plan outlining how the state will achieve an 85% reduction in GHG emissions from 1990 levels by 2050, and eventually net zero emissions in all sectors of the economy. 

Permanent Property Tax Cap: Made permanent the 2% property tax cap, building upon the approximate $25 billion in taxpayer savings since it was implemented in 2012.

MTA Money and Management: Funded the MTA with an estimated $25 billion raised through Central Business District tolling, a new progressive mansion tax, and the elimination of the internet tax advantage. Implemented overdue MTA reforms including the developing a reorganization plan, modifying MTA Board appointments to align with appointing authority, requiring the MTA to undergo an independent forensic audit and efficiency review, and calling for a major construction review unit made up of outside experts to review major projects.

Advancing LGBTQ Rights: Governor Cuomo is enacting transformative legislation in support of LGBTQ rights, including the elimination of the gay and trans panic defense—closing a loophole in state law that allowed individuals to use the gay and trans panic defenses after attacking another based upon that victim’s gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. The Governor also enacted into law the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and a ban on LGBTQ conversion therapy.

Establish a Farmworkers Bill of Rights: This legislation established a farmworkers bill of rights, granting overtime pay, a rest day and the right to unionize.

Enact Additional Sexual Harassment Protections: This package of reforms will lower the high bar set for employees to hold employers accountable under the New York Human Rights Law for sexual harassment by amending the requirement that conduct be “severe or pervasive” to constitute actionable conduct; extend the statute of limitations for employment sexual harassment claims filed with the Division of Human Rights from one year to three years; and protect employees’ rights to pursue complaints by mandating that all non-disclosure agreements in employment contracts include language stating that employees may still participate in government investigations conducted by local, state, and federal anti-discrimination agencies

Expand Statutes of Limitations for Rape: Statutes of limitations on rape cases impose a ticking clock on how long victims are able to come forward if they want to seek charges. Over the last year, victims who have suffered in silence for decades have bravely spoken about their abuse, and also have laid bare the state’s limited ability to prosecute their abusers due to the passage of time. In recognition of this fact, states across the country are lengthening or eliminating the statutes of limitations on crimes of sexual violence. This legislation extends the statute of limitations for Rape in the Second Degree and Third Degree, and expand the civil statute of limitations for claims related to these offenses, allowing victims greater opportunity to obtain justice.

Closing the Gender Wage Gap: Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has fought aggressively to increase safeguards for women in the workplace and close the gender pay gap in New York. This package of reforms includes legislation to expand the definition of “equal pay for equal work” to prohibit unequal pay on the basis of a protected class for all substantially similar work and to close any loopholes employers try to use to pay people less on the basis of their gender, race or other protected classes; as well as a salary history ban, which prohibits employers from asking or relying on salary history of applicants and employees in making job offers or determining wages.

Reauthorize and Expand the MWBE Program: The Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise program has been highly successful since its inception, establishing the highest goals for MWBE participation in the entire nation and awarding thousands of state contracts to minority-owned and women-owned businesses. This legislation reauthorizes the MWBE program and extends the provisions of law relating to the participation of MWBEs in state contracts to ensure this effective program continues.

Tenant Protections: This package of reforms, known as Housing Stability and Tenant Protection act of 2019, enacts the most sweeping, aggressive tenant protections in state history, safeguarding affordable housing for millions of New Yorkers.

Remove the Non-Medical Exemptions for Vaccines: The United States is currently experiencing the worst outbreak of measles in more than 25 years, with outbreaks in pockets of New York primarily driving the crisis. As a result of non-medical vaccination exemptions, many communities across New York have unacceptably low rates of vaccination, and those unvaccinated children can often attend school where they may spread the disease to other unvaccinated students. This new law will remove non-medical exemptions from school vaccination requirements for children and help protect the public amid this ongoing outbreak.

Ensuring Quality Education: School aid increased by over $1 billion, bringing total school aid to a record $27.9 billion. In addition, new reporting requirements will address imbalances in the distribution of resources by prioritizing funding at the individual school level in order to advance a more transparent, equitable education system.

Makes the Jose R. Peralta DREAM Act a Reality: Finally opens the doors of higher education to thousands of New Yorkers by giving undocumented New York students the same advantages given to their citizen peers, including access to the Tuition Assistance Program and state administered scholarships such as Excelsior.

Expands Eligibility for the Excelsior Scholarship Free Tuition Program: As the state’s successful free tuition program enters its third year, students whose families make up to $125,000 annually will now be eligible to apply for the program, allowing more than 55 percent of full-time, in-state SUNY and CUNY students—or more than 210,000 New York residents—to attend college tuition-free when combined with TAP assistance.

Criminal Justice Reform: Sweeping criminal justice reform was delivered by eliminating cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent offenses, ensuring the right to a speedy trial, and transforming the discovery process.

Continued Investment in Infrastructure: Builds upon the Governor’s unprecedented commitment to invest $150 billion in infrastructure projects over the next five years.

Delivering on the Gateway Tunnel Project: This legislation establishes the Gateway Development Commission and creates a comprehensive rail investment program for purposes of the project. This bi-state effort, in cooperation with New Jersey, represents significant progress on a crucial project for our nation’s economy and security while restoring our role as a global leader in infrastructure.

Protecting the Environment: The launch of the Green New Deal—the most aggressive environmental protection initiative in the nation, the ban of single-use plastic bags, launch of the food waste recycling program and investment of an additional $500 million in clean water infrastructure, increasing the State’s historic investment to $3 billion, all of which serves to protect New Yorkers while combatting some of the most pressing threats to the environment.

Keeping New Yorkers Healthy: By codifying provisions of the Affordable Care Act, New Yorkers can rest assured that their health needs will be covered, regardless of Washington’s actions.

Supporting Workers’ Rights: Extended Janus protections to all local governments and guaranteed the right to organize and collectively bargain.

Promoting the Democracy Agenda: To boost New York’s voter turnout and ensure that New York’s elections remain fair and transparent, the following initiatives were enacted this year: synchronized federal and state elections, pre-registration for minors, early voting, universal transfer of registration, and the advancement of no-excuse absentee voting, and same-day registration.

Common Sense Gun Reform: Building upon the SAFE Act—the strongest gun control legislation in the country—additional measures were enacted this year to ensure guns were kept out of the wrong hands, including the Red Flag Bill, ban on bump stocks, and extending the background check waiting period.

Signing the Child Victims Act: The signing of this long-awaited legislation provided necessary relief to child victims of sexual abuse by amending New York’s antiquated laws to ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions, regardless of when the crime occurred.

Closing the LLC Loophole: Closed the LLC loophole by limiting political spending by an LLC to a total of $5,000 annually, which is the same limit as corporations. The new law also requires the disclosure of direct and indirect membership interests in the LLC making a contribution, and for the contribution to be attributed to that individual.

2019 Women’s Justice Agenda Accomplishments: With the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, Comprehensive Coverage Contraceptive Act, and the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act, as well as the ban on revenge porn, and strengthened protections for breastfeeding in the workplace, Governor Cuomo continued his commitment to ensuring fairness and equality for women across New York State.

New capital funding investments this year include:

  • Full Funding for Extreme Winter Recovery: $65 million in State funding for the Extreme WINTER Recovery program. Provides enhanced assistance to local governments for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of local highways and roads impacted by New York State’s harsh winter weather. This unprecedented infrastructure investment in local roads and bridges is in addition to the $478 million in State funding provided through the CHIPS and Marchiselli programs, and $200 million for PAVE-NY and Bridge NY.
  • $120 Million Public Housing Investment: Building on the State’s unprecedented $550 million investment in the New York City Housing Authority, the Governor and Legislature are providing an additional $100 million in capital funding to help support its ongoing transformation while providing $20 million to support housing authorities and other housingoutside of New York City.
  • $100 Million for the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative: The Governor and Legislature are providing $100 million in capital funding to support the State’s up to $300 million commitment to communities impacted by Lake Ontario Flooding. Launched last month, the REDI Commission is working with localities along the shoreline to identify and support projects that will reduce the flooding risk to infrastructure while strengthening the region’s local economies.
  • $20 Million for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority: A $20 million capital appropriation is provided to support the first year of a five-year $100 million commitment from the Governor and Legislature to theNFTA to fund a five-year capital plan for maintenance and improvements of Metro Rail.
  • Penn Station 33rd Street Entrance: $425 million in capital funding will support the Penn Station 33rd Street Entrance project, and others associated with improvements to the Long Island Railroad. Just last month, the Governor unveiled final design renderings for the new main entrance to Penn Station located at 33rd street and 7th Avenue, which will provide much needed direct access to the LIRR Main Concourse and the New York City Subway.
  • $20 Million Investment in Public Libraries: A $20 million capital appropriation to public libraries will help libraries across New York State as they continue to transform into 21st century community hubs.
  • $30 Million for Higher Education Capital Matching Grant Program: A $30 million capital appropriation will support the Higher Education Capital Matching Grant Program, which under the Governor’s leadership is enabling independent colleges across the state to make critical investments in their infrastructure and equipment by providing matching capital grants.
  • $25 million Security Investment to Protect Against Hate Crimes: A $25 million capital appropriation is included for security projects at nonpublic schools, community centers, residential camps, and day care facilities at risk of hate crimes because of their ideology, beliefs, or mission.

Joe Biden Releases His Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution & Environmental Justice

Vice President Joe Biden, in the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination for President, released his plan for a Clean Energy Revolution & Environmental Justice © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

With Democrats clamoring for the Democratic National Committee to host a climate debate for candidates, several have issued their own climate action plans, including Vice President Joe Biden. The Biden Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution & Environmental Justice details how a Biden Administration will tackle the moral and economic imperative of climate change on day one. 

“More severe storms and droughts, rising sea levels, warming temperatures, shrinking snow cover and ice sheets – it’s already happening. We must take drastic action now to address the climate disaster facing the nation and our world,” said Vice President Joe Biden. “Science tells us that how we act or fail to act in the next 12 years will determine the very livability of our planet. That’s why I’m calling for a Clean Energy Revolution to confront this crisis and do what America does best – solve big problems with big ideas.”

Here is an overview:  

The Biden Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution & Environmental Justice 

Addressing the global threat of climate change and revitalizing America’s economy

From coastal towns to rural farms to urban centers, climate change poses an existential threat – not just to our environment, but to our health, our communities, our national security, and our economic well-being. It also damages our communities with storms that wreak havoc on our towns and cities and our homes and schools. It puts our national security at risk by leading to regional instability that will require U.S military-supported relief activities and could make areas more vulnerable to terrorist activities.

Vice President Biden knows there is no greater challenge facing our country and our world. Today, he is outlining a bold plan – a Clean Energy Revolution – to address this grave threat and lead the world in addressing the climate emergency.

Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face. It powerfully captures two basic truths, which are at the core of his plan: (1) the United States urgently needs to embrace greater ambition on an epic scale to meet the scope of this challenge, and (2) our environment and our economy are completely and totally connected.

If we can harness all of our energy and talents, and unmatchable American innovation, we can turn this threat into an opportunity to revitalize the U.S. energy sector and boost growth economy-wide. We can create new industries that reinvigorate our manufacturing and create high-quality, middle-class jobs in cities and towns across the United States. We can lead America to become the world’s clean energy superpower. We can export our clean-energy technology across the globe and create high-quality, middle-class jobs here at home. Getting to a 100% clean energy economy is not only an obligation, it’s an opportunity. We should fully adopt a clean energy future, not just for all of us today, but for our children and grandchildren, so their tomorrow is healthier, safer, and more just.

As president, Biden will make the United States a world leader to address the climate emergency through the power of example, by ensuring the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions no later than 2050.

The Biden Plan will: 

  1. Ensure the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050. On day one, Biden will sign a series of new executive orders with unprecedented reach that go well beyond the Obama-Biden Administration platform and put us on the right track. And, he will demand that Congress enacts legislation in the first year of his presidency that: 1) establishes an enforcement mechanism that includes milestone targets no later than the end of his first term in 2025, 2) makes a historic investment in clean energy and climate research and innovation, 3) incentivizes the rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities most impacted by climate change.
  2. Build a stronger, more resilient nation. On day one, Biden will make smart infrastructure investments to rebuild the nation and to ensure that our buildings, water, transportation, and energy infrastructure can withstand the impacts of climate change.  Every dollar spent toward rebuilding our roads, bridges, buildings, the electric grid, and our water infrastructure will be used to prevent, reduce, and withstand a changing climate. As President, Biden will use the convening power of government to boost climate resilience efforts by developing regional climate resilience plans, in partnership with local universities and national labs, for local access to the most relevant science, data, information, tools, and training.  
  3. Rally the rest of the world to meet the threat of climate change. Climate change is a global challenge that requires decisive action from every country around the world. Joe Biden knows how to stand with America’s allies, stand up to adversaries, and level with any world leader about what must be done. He will not only recommit the United States to the Paris Agreement on climate change – he will go much further than that. He will lead an effort to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic climate targets. He will make sure those commitments are transparent and enforceable, and stop countries from cheating by using America’s economic leverage and power of example. He will fully integrate climate change into our foreign policy and national security strategies, as well as our approach to trade.
  4. Stand up to the abuse of power by polluters who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities. Vulnerable communities are disproportionately impacted by the climate emergency and pollution. The Biden Administration will take action against fossil fuel companies and other polluters who put profit over people and knowingly harm our environment and poison our communities’ air, land, and water, or conceal information regarding potential environmental and health risks. The Biden plan will ensure that communities across the country from Flint, Michigan to Harlan, Kentucky to the New Hampshire Seacoast have access to clean, safe drinking water. And he’ll make sure the development of solutions is an inclusive, community-driven process.
  5. Fulfill our obligation to workers and communities who powered our industrial revolution and subsequent decades of economic growth. This is support they’ve earned for fueling our country’s industrial revolution and decades of economic growth. We’re not going to leave any workers or communities behind.

The Biden plan will make a historic investment in our clean energy future and environmental justice, paid for by rolling back the Trump tax incentives that enrich corporations at the expense of American jobs and the environment. Biden’s climate and environmental justice proposal will make a federal investment of $1.7 trillion over the next ten years, leveraging additional private sector and state and local investments to total to more than $5 trillion. President Trump’s tax cut led to trillions in stock buybacks and created new incentives to shift profits abroad. Joe Biden believes we should instead invest in a Clean Energy Revolution that creates jobs here at home.     

The Biden plan will be paid for by reversing the excesses of the Trump tax cuts for corporations, reducing incentives for tax havens, evasion, and outsourcing, ensuring corporations pay their fair share, closing other loopholes in our tax code that reward work not wealth, and ending subsidies for fossil fuels.

This all builds on Vice President Biden’s years of leadership on climate change – from introducing one of the first climate bills in the Senate to overseeing the largest clean energy investment in our country’s history, the Recovery Act and to mobilizing the world to achieve the Paris Climate Accord.

Vice President Biden has committed that Biden for President will not accept contributions from the oil, gas and coal corporations or executives. 

For more on Vice President Biden’s plan, watch THIS video, view the policy HERE.

What I Learned From Traveling Around the World in 23 Days

Inle Lake, Myanmar. A trip around the world affords an opportunity to meet people on their own turf. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Bill Chalmers, the “ringmaster” and Chief Experience Officer of the Global Scavenger Hunt, launches us on this around-the-world-in-23-days mystery tour with what he calls a “chimpanzee test” – a test where a chimpanzee is likely to get more answers right than a human being who has news and information available to them. The test basically demonstrates that unlike the gloom-and-doom of headlines, the trendlines are positive and these are actually the best of times for human society.

Throughout this Global Scavenger Hunt, “A Blind Date With the World” – where we don’t know where we are going next until we are told when to go to the airport or get ourselves there, and along the way, complete scavenges and challenges –  we are encouraged, even forced, to “trust in the kindness of strangers.” To interact with local people even when we can’t understand each other’s language. To learn and understand for ourselves.

For me, it is an incomparable opportunity to see in close proximity and context what is happening in countries literally around the globe – to examine this notion of American Exceptionalism, America First; to see the scope of such hot-button issues as trade, technology, migration and how they have played out over the longer course of human civilization. (I have a theory that 98% of Trump’s so-called hard-core base have never traveled beyond their own provincial border.)

As Chalmers notes, it is conceit to think we can parachute into places and understand the nuances of complex issues, but still, travel is about seeing for yourself, but also gaining an understanding of one another, disabusing stereotypes or caricatures, and most significantly, not seeing others as “other”, which works both ways. In very real ways (and especially now), travelers are ambassadors, no less than diplomats. Isolating people is not how change happens – that only hardens points of view, and makes people susceptible to fear-mongering and all the bad things that have happened throughout human history as a result. “See for yourself,” Chalmers tells us.

This is particularly poignant when we arrive in Myanmar:  One of the first things I see upon arriving in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly known as Rangoon in its colonial days) is the National Human Rights Commission which at this juncture, strikes as ironic. But despite the awful headlines, we all find the people of Myanmar to be kind, gentle, considerate. And a complete lack of politics or angst.

And just after returning home, the two prizewinning Reuters journalists imprisoned for their reporting of the deadly crackdown on the Rohingya, were released.

War Remnants Museum, Ho C hi Minh City, Vietnam. Press photos from international journalists from the time of the Vietnam War document the atrocities committed and go unpunished © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vietnam is a testament to the resiliency of human society to rebound after wars and other crises (as we see everywhere, in fact – in Spain, in Portugal, in Greece, places that suffered during World War II, and you reflect on the success of the alliances that set the stage for 70 years of progress, now being weakened). In Vietnam, visiting the Chu Chi Tunnels and the War Remnants Museum, you cannot help but feel ashamed at the war crimes that remain unpunished because of the wealth and power of the United States.

In Gibraltar, still a colony of Great Britain, I come upon a May Day labor rally that could have been New York City: Privatization. Nonconsultation and lack of transparency. Unfair distribution. Wage increases that don’t keep up with the cost of living.

May Day Rally in Gibraltar © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Abu Dhabi is like a fantasy of a society built on oil wealth, conspicuous ostentation, a gallery of skyscrapers that defy physics; Amman, Jordan, on the other hand, is the real world. But my side trip to Petra – a fantastic city carved out of the rock faces, showed how greatness is made possible by innovations in engineering a water supply. Petra was able to dominate (and protect) the caravan routes, and the result was fabulous art and culture.

This theme picked up again in Athens, visiting the National Archaeological Museum, where I am struck by the artistry from 2500 years ago (themes and imagery that I will see again repeated throughout history on our final stop in New York City, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and realize that the human species is not smarter or better than thousands of years ago, we just have better tools and technology.

But this panel about 6th Century Greece stood out that notes the nexus between trade, migration, innovation, democracy and culture and rise of empire:

“The nature of the economy underwent a radical change as a result of the growth of trade. A new class of citizens emerged who were conscious of liberty and its potential and now demanded the right to play an active role in the running of public affairs….The liberty that was characteristic of the Greek way of life and which governed their thinking finds eloquent expression in their artistic creations. …Works of art and artists moved freely along the trade routes. The wealth and power of the city-states were expressed in the erection of monumental, lavishly adorned temples and impressive public welfare works.

“Greeks turned their attention to the natural world and to phenomena that gave rise to philosophical speculation, formulative ideas such as those of matter, the atom, force, space and time, and laying the foundations of science…”

But then came the rise of the Persian Empire and the Persian Wars.

Banquet Relief of Malku with Two Attendants, ca early 3rd C, artifact from Palmyra. The ancient site has been destroyed by ISIS and the artifacts looted © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

These themes are repeated in New York City  where our “Global Scavenger Hunt” ends. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the challenge I take is to find objects from five of the countries we visited, and this leads me to a fascinating exhibit, “The World Between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East.” The museum rarely (if ever) becomes political, but in this exhibit, archaeologists comment on the destruction of Palmyra and other ancient sites by ISIS.

“It may seem frivolous to focus on monuments, museums when people are enslaved and killed. But to wipe out, destroy culture is a way of destroying people. We must protect heritage as well.”

Palmyra only exists now “on paper” and in photos after the destruction by ISIS © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is a humbling experience, to be sure, to go to the origins of the great civilizations, fast forward to today. How did they become great? How did they fall? Greatness is not inevitable or forever.  Empires rise and fall. Rulers use religion, art and monuments to establish their credibility and credentials to rule; successors blot out the culture and re-write history. Traveling around the world, you appreciate just what a small world it is, how interdependent we are, how vulnerable our societies are, and that individuals do have impact. Also, that people everywhere are more similar than different.

I come back to a monstrously disturbing New York Times headline: “Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace:”

“Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.”

The Barbary Macaques delight visitors to Gibraltar but the loss of 1 million species due to human activity and development is more threatening to society and civilization than the impact on tourism revenue © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In this case, headlines are trendlines. And it isn’t just about aesthetics or seeing animals like the Barbary Macaques that delight tourists in Gibraltar, but whole economies and sustenance. It is a matter of national security, peace and progress. It is about food and water supply, disease, habitable spaces. Sea level rise alone is expected to trigger 300 million climate refugees, competing for dwindling resources. There have been periods of mass extinction in the past – in fact, homo sapiens (us) were touch and go there for awhile.

Chalmers started off our “Blind Date With the World” with the Nicholas Kristof model, that these are actually the best of times for human society despite the gloom and doom headlines. But I disagree: the trendlines are not that hopeful. We may well be living in a golden age of human capacity, but we must recognize that we now have the power of the Gods to shape, to destroy or to create. And we seem too short-sighted to see that.

“Governments must start putting people and the planet ahead of corporate interests and greed and act with the urgency this report illustrates,” writes Annie Leonard, Executive Director, Greenpeace USA. “Leaders must adopt strong targets and implementation plans to protect biodiversity with the active participation and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Instead of plundering the forests and seas for short-term profit we need to shift our system into one that respects planetary boundaries.”

The Greek Gods may well have the last laugh at the extraordinary ability humans have to destroy themselves.

__________

© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

New York State Strategy: Turn Long Island into Leader for Nascent Offshore Windpower Industry

Long Islanders advocate for offshore windpower outside of Long Island Power Authority offices. NYSERDA is investing millions of dollars to ease the way for private entities to develop a windpower industry on Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

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.

To get more information on the New York State Offshore Wind Master Plan visit nyserda.ny.gov/offshorewind.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

NYS Reconvenes Scientific Advisory Committee on Climate Change Disbanded by Trump Administration

Superstorm Sandy which decimated Breezy Point, on the south shore of Long Island, was a wake-up call on the need to mitigate against Climate Change and the probability of harsher storms and rising sea levels © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

A key scientific advisory committee on climate change, disbanded by the federal government late last year and subsequently reconvened by New York State, will hold its first meeting in New York City this week. The committee, officially titled the Independent Advisory Committee on Applied Climate Assessment, is a group of leading scientists and experts tasked with providing recommendations to help federal, state and local government, communities, and the private sector plan for the effects of climate change. The federal committee was disbanded by the Trump administration in late 2017 and reconvened by Governor Cuomo in his 2018 State of the State address.

“Denial is no life strategy and pretending that climate change doesn’t exist is harmful to the very future of this planet,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “The work of these experts must continue without political interference and we’re proud to host this group in New York.”

The reconstituted group, formerly known as the Federal Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment, will carry on its vital work advising on how to provide decision-makers the ability to better understand the impacts of climate change on their organizations and communities, and what they can do to plan for those impacts. The 19-member Independent Advisory Committee, chaired by Richard Moss, Visiting Senior Research Scientist at The Earth Institute of Columbia University, is meeting in New York City from May 1 to May 3. The committee will collaborate to develop strategies for deeper engagement by states and cities in the National Climate Assessment, a federal government interagency effort on climate change science mandated by the Global Change Research Act of 1990. To learn more about the Independent committee’s work, please go to climateassessment.org.

Richard Kauffman, Chairman of Energy and Finance for New York State, said,“Under Governor Cuomo, we are once again picking up the mantle of leadership by ensuring scientists and climate change experts can convene to do their important work to combat climate change. I’m proud New York is supporting the Advisory Committee and look forward to their recommendations.”

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “While the federal government is willfully ignoring science, New York is embracing it. We stand ready to provide leadership in responding to the critical challenge of climate change and work with these experts to strategically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and bolster the resilience of our communities. At Governor Cuomo’s direction, New York is redoubling our efforts to reduce emissions and speed our transition to renewable energy, which will benefit our state with cleaner air, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and provide new jobs for New Yorkers.”

Richard Moss, Visiting Senior Research Scientist at The Earth Institute of Columbia University and Chair of the Independent Advisory Committee, said,“We know that many states and cities are looking for better information to advance their climate preparedness. Scientists are improving knowledge that can support climate action, and our advice is designed to help the National Climate Assessment better evaluate and make that information available. We are extremely grateful that Governor Cuomo, on behalf of NY State, is joining with Columbia University and the American Meteorological Society in the continuation of the committee’s work.”

Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York State is taking bold action to meet the challenge of climate change. On June 1, 2017, when the federal government announced its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, New York joined with California and Washington State to form the U.S. Climate Alliance to uphold the goals of the agreement. The U.S. Climate Alliance has grown to include 17 governors representing nearly half U.S. gross domestic product.

New York has also established a Clean Energy Standard for half of its electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030, complementing Governor Cuomo’s ambitious Reforming the Energy Vision strategy. REV is building a cleaner, more resilient and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers by stimulating investment in clean technologies like solar, wind, and energy efficiency. The REV strategy is ensuring New York State reduces economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and achieves the internationally-recognized target of reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050. To learn more about REV, including the Governor’s $5 billion investment in clean energy technology and innovation, please visit www.ny.gov/REV4NY and follow us at @Rev4NY.

Independent Advisory Committee on
Applied Climate Assessment
 

MEMBERS

  • Richard Moss*, Chair, Columbia University
  • Susan Avery*, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • Kristin Baja, Urban Sustainability Directors’ Network
  • Maxine Burkett*, University of Hawai’i, William S. Richardson School of Law
  • Ann Marie Chischilly*, Northern Arizona U., Inst. for Tribal Environmental Professionals
  • Jan Dell*, Wyland Foundation
  • Paul Allen Fleming*, Seattle Public Utilities
  • Kathy Jacobs, U. of Arizona, Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions
  • Andrew Jones, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Kim Knowlton*, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Jay Koh, The Lightsmith Group/Global Adaptation & Resilience Investment WG
  • Maria Carmen Lemos*, School for Environment and Sustainability, University of Michigan
  • Jerry Melillo*, The Ecosystems Center
  • TC Richmond, Van Ness Feldman
  • Lynn Scarlett, The Nature Conservancy
  • Jared Snyder, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
  • Jessica Whitehead*, North Carolina Sea Grant
  • Daniel Zarrilli*, New York City Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency

*Member of original Federal Advisory Committee

US Climate Alliance Members on Track to Meet Paris Climate Targets; Show Economic Growth Surpassing Non-Alliance States

North Carolina Joins Climate Alliance, Bringing Total Membership to 14 States and Puerto Rico 

Alliance Represents 41% of American GDP and 117 Million Americans, Enough to Be World’s Third Largest Economy 

Economies of Climate Alliance States Are Growing Faster than Non-Alliance States, Demonstrating that Fighting Climate Change and Creating Jobs Go Hand-in-Hand

Ambitious Expansion of NY Green Bank to Grow Sustainable Infrastructure Financing and Combat Climate Change 

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, a national leader in climate action and co-chair of the US Climate Alliance, has been a proponent of one of the nation’s largest offshore wind energy projects, off Long Island’s coast © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The U.S. Climate Alliance – a growing coalition of 14 states and Puerto Rico committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – are collectively on track to meet and possibly exceed their portion of U.S. commitment under the Paris Agreement. The announcement was made after the release of an independent report showing that U.S. Climate Alliance states are on track to reach a 24 to 29 percent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2025, fulfilling their contribution to the Paris Agreement targets.

The co-chairs of the U.S. Climate Alliance – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York State, Governor Jerry Brown of California, Governor Jay Inslee of Washington, along with former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry – spoke at a news conference in New York as part of Climate Week where they highlighted how states are stepping in to fill the void of climate action left by the federal government.

The governors also announced North Carolina as the newest member of the U.S. Climate Alliance, bringing total membership to 15, representing 36 percent of the U.S. population and $7.6 trillion in GDP – 41 percent of America’s total and enough to be the world’s third largest economy.

“While the federal government abdicates its responsibility on climate change, governors do not have the luxury of denying a scientific reality, and it is more important than ever for states to take collective, common sense action,” Governor Cuomo said. “Today, New York State is picking up the mantle of leadership and raising the bar in the global fight against climate change. As a co-chair of the U.S. Climate Alliance, we are committed to upholding our share of the Paris Agreement, driving the clean energy economy, and ensuring a greener future for our children and for all Americans.”

“Governors Cuomo, Brown, and Inslee and other governors who are a part of the bipartisan U.S. Climate Alliance know the stakes in the climate fight,” former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said. “They are leading on climate where the federal government is failing to do so, joining partners in business and local government to ensure the U.S. is making progress every day. Today we are reaffirming to the American people and to the leaders from all over the world that the United States will not abandon the global community and put its children and grandchildren at risk.”

To accelerate progress and drive more critical climate-related investment, Governor Cuomo today also announced an ambitious expansion of NY Green Bank. Building on the success of its $400 million in commitments across 21 projects and robust pipeline of deals, NY Green Bank is today committing to work with the private sector to raise new funds, assist other states in the establishment of new Green Bank offices, and provide capacity to those new Green Banks for back-end services including due diligence, underwriting and general technical support.

The expansion will also allow NY Green Bank to better leverage public dollars and grow its own project development scope to clean energy projects in other states across the country. NY Green Bank is part of the State’s 10-year $5 billion Clean Energy Fund, which supports clean tech innovation and mobilizes private investment in clean energy in New York State. The Clean Energy Fund has already experienced successes beyond NY Green Bank – including its NY-Sun initiative that has helped facilitate over 800 percent growth in solar deployment over five years.

The bipartisan U.S. Climate Alliance was launched in June in response to President Trump’s announcement to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. Today’s announcement marks the first time the U.S. Climate Alliance has quantified its emissions reductions. The main findings of the report include:

  • U.S. Climate Alliance states are on track to reach a 24 to 29 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2025, fulfilling their contribution to the Paris Agreement targets.
  • Between 2005 and 2015, Alliance states reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent compared to a 10 percent reduction by the rest of the country.
  • During that same decade, the combined economic output of Alliance states grew by 14 percent while the rest of the country grew by 12 percent. On a per capita basis, economic output in Alliance states expanded twice as fast as in the rest of the country, showing that climate action and economic growth go hand in hand.
  • The report outlines areas where USCA states will focus collective efforts, including to expand clean energy finance tools, modernize the power sector, design energy efficient buildings, develop a green transportation system, build climate resilient infrastructure, and protect natural resources.

The U.S. Climate Alliance’s progress report comes two months before world leaders convene in Germany for COP23, where countries will further detail their plans to meet the Paris Agreement. Countries from around the world have reaffirmed their commitment to continue reducing emissions, despite President Trump’s withdrawal from the climate agreement. U.S. Climate Alliance governors plan to attend COP23 this fall to report on their climate progress and detail further plans and additional solutions to pool resources and confront the global threat of climate change.

The U.S. Climate Alliance builds on other recent advancements, such as the commitment by nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent over the next two decades through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

“Today’s announcements reflect Governor Cuomo’s continued climate leadership, both in convening the U.S. Climate Alliance and through accelerating NY Green Bank to further advance financing solutions for sustainable infrastructure and clean energy. The U.S. Climate Alliance is showing that reducing emissions and economic growth can happen together, and NY Green Bank’s central effort in this regard to raise new capital will provide greater confidence to the marketplace, driving down costs for all while expanding New York’s clean energy economy,” New York State Chairman of Energy and Finance Richard Kauffman said.

Basil Seggos, Commissioner, Department of Environmental Conservation, said, “Governor Cuomo is leading the nation to address what is arguably the greatest environmental threat of our generation by reducing emissions and bolstering community resiliency, while the federal government has abdicated its responsibility. From statewide efforts to increase renewable energy sources and ramp up energy efficiency, to supporting communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, New York is working to address the threat of climate change. We’re not sitting by the sidelines; New York and our partner states in the US Climate Alliance are taking action and clearly reaping the economic rewards of climate action.”

New York’s Climate Leadership

United States Climate Alliance: Cofounded the bipartisan U.S. Climate Alliance to uphold the emissions reduction goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change at the state-level. The U.S. Climate Alliance now accounts for nearly $7.6 trillion in GDP, enough to be the world’s third-largest economy.

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 among 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 one of the nation’s largest offshore wind energy projects 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.

Report Available Here and Executive Summary Available Here

Texas Catastrophe Points to Need to Prioritize Climate Action, Re-Prioritize Federal Budget (Mother Nature Can Be A Real Bitch)

The climate catastrophe in Texas should be a wake-up call to prod Trump Administration, Scott Pruitt of the EPA and Congress to prioritize climate action, not a border wall, in the federal budget © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

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.

Dozens of Long Islanders, constituents of Congressman Peter King turned out for a rally at his Massapequa office to demand he reject cuts to the EPA budget.

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.

Destruction at Breezy Point, New York after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Texas Congressmen voted against giving aid, now will seek tens of billions to rebuild after Harvey. But the Trump Administration and Congress fail to learn the lessons, reflected in policy and budgeting, that would mitigate such costly climate catastrophes © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump’s Infrastructure Agenda Would Send US Back to 19th Century, End Global Leadership

The Pittsburgh skyline is visible today; a century ago, when steel and coal reigned supreme, the city would have been shrouded in cloud of pollution. Trump, pulling the US out of the Paris Climate Accord, said he represented the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris, but 75% of Pittsburghers voted for Hillary Clinton © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

My return visit to Pittsburgh for my second Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Sojourn bike tour on the Great Allegheny Passage reaffirmed for me the stupidity of Donald Trump’s justification for abandoning the Paris Climate Agreement, that he was elected by the people of Pittsburgh, not the people of Paris, and that what Pittsburghers want more than anything is to roll back time a century to the days when coal was king and steel mills were belching putrid smoke and men died prematurely in horrid working conditions, their lives under the thumb of Robber Barons who controlled industry and politics. Indeed, the people of Pittsburgh voted 75% for Hillary Clinton’s agenda and vision of America’s future.

But Trump’s entire agenda, beginning with a budget that would similarly reverse course on the very infrastructure and technology developments that would insure America’s leadership in the 21st century, rather than put us back a century.

We get a glimpse of what that is like on the outskirts of the city, in Clairton, where a huge mound of coal dwarfs a tractor truck, and across the bridge over the rail lines, is a chemical plant emitting a foul smell that penetrates the modest residential neighborhood across the street.

The city of Pittsburgh, itself, has risen anew, with glistening office towers and a new economy based on finance, health care, academics, robotics and technology. Its waterfront, once dominated by dirty industrial plants, is now a gorgeous bike path, which you can see so spectacularly from Mount Washington, the place from which George Washington surveyed to find a location to put a fort to protect British colonial interests, but from which in those bad ol’ days, the city would have been shrouded in haze.

Outside the city, where we start our bike tour near the beginning of the 150-mile long multi-purpose railtrail, in the state which built its economy on oil, coal and gas, there are windmills on the hilltops and solar farms in fields. Where we camp one night, in Confluence below the Youghiogheny River Reservoir dam built in 1944 to control flooding, the outflow has been tapped for hydroelectric power.

The biketrail – representing 150 of some 23,000 miles of similarly repurposed railtrails across the country – is a new lifeline for small towns like Meyersdale, which once supported six hotels, an elementary school and a high school, now all shuttered, and Dunbar, once a center for glassmaking and coal production. In Confluence, where the population today is 700, we add 200 to that roll during our stay.

The Trump agenda – and his budget to back it up – would cancel out the line for funding such repurposing projects that has existed since 1991, while eliminating incentives that helped jumpstart America’s fledgling clean, renewable energy industry where jobs are growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the economy. The 374,000 now employed in solar eclipse the 74,000 people working as coal miners, indeed, exceed all the workers in oil, gas and coal combined; while wind energy employed 100,000. Worldwide – and places like Europe which are legions ahead of the US in wind and solar –  some 10 million people are employed in clean renewable energy jobs.

At the same time, the Trump Administration – EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke – are sloping the playing field back in favor of climate-destroying fossil fuel industry, rolling back regulations that would allow coal mining companies to pollute water, removing protections on drilling and mining on federal lands, opening up exports of natural gas and oil, creating financial incentives for new nuclear plants, and ending tax credits for renewable energy, among a long, long list. Trump wants to really stick it to climate activists.

Trump’s promise to invest $1 trillion in America’s aging, decaying and obsolete infrastructure is also a sham – as evidenced by his Transportation director exiting the New York-New Jersey Hudson Gateway Tunnel project, and a budget that would rescind funding to rebuild the century-old tunnel.

One contrasts this myopia from the guy who boasted of being a “builder” with the bicentennial of the building of the Erie Canal, in 1817, a bold vision and engineering marvel, which quite literally made New York City the financial capital of the world by connecting the port of New York to the Midwest’s resources and markets with Europe. Even then, globalization, not isolation, is what made the United States a world power.

It’s not just the belching, choking pollution that Trump would like to go back to. In climate policy, energy policy, health care, tax reform, and now infrastructure, Trump envisions exacerbating the divide between rich and poor – and therefore political power as campaign finance and special interests increasingly determine who gets the “ear” in policy. His budget affirms his bias against transitioning away from a climate-destroying carbon energy economy in favor of clean, renewable, decentralized (and cheaper, less monopolistic) energy. His regulatory policy reverses the incentives as well as the progress. The Republican health care policy is as much a mechanism to cement power in the hands of the “haves” versus the have-nots – who are unlikely to challenge abusive employers if they are afraid of losing their health insurance; unable to join protest marches and rallies if they are in pain or suffering; and unable to have their concerns acted on by lawmakers if they don’t have the funds to contribute to campaigns.

Infrastructure, energy policy, the environment, technological innovation and prospects for economic growth, prosperity, social mobility and yes, political power are all connected. Climate justice, social justice, economic justice, political justice are all intertwined.

Trump would have us go back a century or two and cost the United States its global leadership.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin