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Entries tagged "climate change"Page Previous 1 • 2 • 3 • 4 • 5 • 6 • 7 Next
November 8, 2012 · By Janet Redman
Like most U.S. climate activists, I breathed a sigh of relief as the election returns rolled in.
You didn't have to be paranoid to fear that Mitt Romney just wasn't taking seriously the potential devastation in store for us if we don't change course. The Republican hopeful even tried to score political points by poking fun at President Barack Obama for taking climate change seriously.
And in his acceptance speech, Obama laid out a vision of a nation "that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet."
Still, it would be naïve to assume that Obama's victory is a win for the environment or the communities most impacted by climate change.
After all, Obama has yet to break the deafening silence that lasted throughout his long reelection campaign. By failing to even utter the term "climate change," he's signaling that he still considers climate deniers a powerful political force. And it makes me nervous when I hear Obama talk about "freeing ourselves from foreign oil" as he did in his acceptance speech.
In the past four years his "all of the above" approach to energy independence has leaned too heavily on expanding drilling, pumping, blasting, piping and fracking for domestic consumption and export. Staying this course means more greenhouse gas pollution, more warming, and more storms like Sandy — or worse.
And his push to expand nuclear power under the guise of "low-carbon" energy is an expensive and toxic diversion from investment in clean renewable energy like wind and solar.
Freed of his campaign obligations and concerns, Obama is now free to be bold. We must hold him accountable for living up to his visionary rhetoric and call him out on the shortsightedness of his energy policy. He said so himself.
"The role of citizens in our democracy does not end with your vote," Obama said in his acceptance speech."America's never been about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us together."
We can't sit back and wait for Obama to lead on climate or anything else. We can't abdicate the political space to Beltway lobbyists — even the ones with green credentials — to negotiate solutions to this most urgent threat. We need to organize and take action.
Here are some inspiring grassroots examples of people who aren't waiting for our leaders to take action. They're already building alternatives to our fossil-fueled economy while making their communities more resilient to climate disruption.
- WeACT in West Harlem is fighting for bus-rapid transit as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create public sector jobs, and protect residents' health.
- The New York City Environmental Justice Alliance's Waterfront Justice Project — the Big Apple's first citywide community resiliency campaign — is working to protect communities from toxic inundation during storm surges.
- Right to the City and Grassroots Global Justice Alliance groups like CAAAV, Picture the Homeless, Make the Road, and many more work to end displacement and economic inequality — which render families particularly vulnerable when climate disasters hit.
- Ironbound Community Corporation, a member of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance is crafting "Zero Waste" solutions that create recycling and composting jobs while drastically reducing climate and toxic pollution from landfills and incinerators.
- The Indigenous Environmental Network has been working with Indigenous communities throughout Canada and the United States, fighting to protect their lands from fossil fuel development like tar sands mines and the Keystone XL, Kinder Morgan, and Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines.
Janet Redman is the co-director of the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies. www.ips-dc.org
November 7, 2012 · By Emily Schwartz Greco
As authorities in the Northeast order new evacuations and the airlines cancel hundreds of flights in anticipation of another fierce storm, OtherWords is taking stock of the many ways in which Sandy may prove a teachable moment.
Daphne Wysham and John Talberth show how this latest bout of extreme weather exposes the shortcomings of relying on GDP to measure economic progress. William A. Collins, one of the 8.5 million people who lost power last week, asks whether Mother Nature was disciplining Wall Street for its dirty-energy finance. Michael Brune, who grew up in one of New Jersey's hardest-hit towns, calls for bigger investments in clean energy. Ryan Alexander calls for a more responsible approach to the nation's flood insurance system. And Khalil Bendib's cartoon can accompany any of these commentaries.
- How Sandy Reveals the GDP's Twisted Logic / John Talberth and Daphne Wysham
Extreme weather doesn't boost the economy.
- Hurricane Sandy's Wakeup Call / Michael Brune
Sandy is only the latest and most devastating incident in a pattern of extreme weather that's become impossible to ignore.
- Social Security: It Ain't Broke / Elizabeth Rose
It's a basic part of what makes America run, like our national highway system.
- Rebuilding Resilience / Ryan Alexander
We have to stop subsidizing people to live in harm's way.
- The Invisible Hand Won't Stop Inequality in Its Tracks / Sam Pizzigati
We'll have more economic and climate disasters on Sandy's scale unless our political systems intervene.
- Why the Chicken Crossed the Road / Jim Hightower
Factory farms are animal concentration camps.
- Shivering in the Land of Climate Denial / William A. Collins
If Wall Street doesn't get Mother Nature's hint, it will become the entire world's tragedy.
- Sandy Trumps Romney's Climate Joke / Khalil Bendib Cartoon
November 5, 2012 · By Janet Redman
My relationship with President Obama has been getting a bit strained lately. I really like Obama, and I know he likes me, too. But I feel like he’s taking me for granted… as a climate voter.
I know it sounds like something out of an afterschool special, but back in 2008 it looked like we were headed somewhere significant. Obama the presidential candidate said he cared about the environment. He wooed me with his talk about rebuilding the U.S. economy with a combination of renewable energy and clean manufacturing, and vowed to be a global leader in the international fight to halt climate change. He won me over as a green voter and a progressive. Obama was my guy.
But ever since Super Tuesday, when Republicans cast their ballots for Governor Mitt Romney as presidential favorite, Obama’s been acting funny. The more Romney veered from his climate protecting past — and the more supporters cheered when he did — the further Obama distanced himself from me and my friends.
By the time debate season rolled around six months later he was pretending he didn’t even know me. And I didn’t feel like I knew him either.
Obama and Romney were almost indistinguishable on climate and energy policy, practically going to the mat to prove who loved dirty coal more than the other guy. Romney’s energy platform rested on expanding extreme energy like deepwater oil drilling, toxic natural gas fracking, and tar sands production. Obama said he wanted to do all that, too, and throw in some wind and solar. It was the first time since the 1980s that neither the right or left candidate talked about climate change.
Where was my guy?
Some of my friends said I shouldn’t be so hard on him. They hinted that it might even be my fault that Obama’s been acting like he doesn’t know me. He told us when he won the election four years ago that he wanted to fight for clean energy and community resilience, but that we needed to make him do it.
Many of us tried. We rallied our friends and families — and members of congress — behind a comprehensive climate bill, shut down dirty power plants in major cities like his home town of Chicago, and got arrested outside his front door demanding that he reject permits for the Keystone XL pipeline to pump in tar sand oil from Canada. Environmentalists and climate change activists waited patiently during health care reform, the financial crisis, bank bailouts, immigration discussions, and fights over taxes. And we’re still waiting.
I admit, we weren’t perfect. We didn’t build enough public pressure to keep king coal and big oil from turning the American Clean Energy and Security Act into Swiss cheese, for example, but Obama didn’t exactly walk boldly into the political space that we did make for him either.
And now he wants my vote again.
Call me a sucker, but I know Obama really cares about me. I’m convinced he believes the science of climate change, knows that we have to reduce America’s greenhouse gas pollution (just look at the new vehicle standards and coal power plant rules put in place during his first term) and wants to do right by people in the United States who care about climate. I also know that he’s trying to play to the middle of the road in a country where a third of the population still doubts the existence of global warming.
So the choice seems to be between Governor Romney, who’s promising to lead the nation as a climate denier, and President Obama, who’s been doing his best impression of one.
I may be a glutton for punishment, but I will cast my vote for Obama tomorrow because from inside the beltway the political optics signal a concrete difference for the state of the environment if we have a second Obama administration or four years of Romney.
Still, I’m not going to let Obama hold my hand in public until he starts acting like the man who courted the climate community before the last election.
October 9, 2012 · By Janet Redman
Civil society to World Bank president Dr. Jim Kim, "add your voice to the choir of support for an FTT"
Today, the Institute for Policy Studies sent the newly appointed World Bank president Dr. Jim Kim a letter signed by 58 organizations from around the world urging him to champion financial transaction taxes (FTT) – a tiny tax on stocks, bonds, currency and other derivatives trades - as an innovative way to raise much-needed money to address climate change, health and other development priorities in poorer countries. The groups – including WWF, Greenpeace, Oxfam, AFL-CIO, World AIDS Campaign, United Methodist Church, and the Main Street Alliance – come from a broad cross-section of civil society and show a growing consensus that it's time for developed countries to get serious about meeting their promises on climate and development finance.
The letter was sent in anticipation of the World Bank's annual meeting in Tokyo later this week, where high-level finance ministry officials from developed and developing countries will assemble to discuss poverty eradication, sustainable development and the world economic outlook.
In the letter, groups urged Dr. Kim to "[p]romote FTT as a source of innovative finance for developing countries’ efforts to address climate change. Such revenues are needed for the Green Climate Fund and … it would be helpful to promote FTT as a source of climate finance in the context of studies and reports mandated by international bodies such as the G20 and the UN."
In conjunction with the Bank meetings the Leading Group on Innovative Financing for Development will hold a symposium highlighting the role of FTT on meeting the funding gap for climate and development left by the global economic crisis. Two of the countries featured in the event – France and Germany – are part of an eleven-country 'coalition of the willing' that announced their commitment to implement an FTT today at the European Union Finance Ministers Meeting (ECOFIN). The letter to Kim emphasized that "[a]t this key moment in their decision-making, it is particularly important to urge European leaders to allocate part of FTT revenue to development and climate."
Now that countries have taken this leap forward, the World Bank's leader should make his own bold move and support an FTT.
Note: Besides the four biggest economies in the Eurozone – France, Germany, Italy and Spain – Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia have pledged to implement a financial transaction tax at ECOFIN. This "coalition of the willing" approach will still need to be given the green light by EU heads of state, but the political momentum is clearly strong.
Dr. Jim Yong Kim
The World Bank
1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
October 9, 2012
Re: Financial transaction taxes as a source of innovative finance
Dear Dr. Kim:
We, the undersigned 58 organizations, congratulate you on your position as World Bank President. We are hopeful that with your impressive track record, you will bring fresh thinking to this important financial institution.
We are writing now to encourage you to use your prominent position of influence to become a vocal champion of innovative ways to ensure sufficient resources are available to tackle the most pressing problems faced by the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
Given the budget constraints facing many of the largest donor countries, it is widely accepted that new sources of financing are needed. Our organizations are part of a growing international campaign to promote one of the most promising forms of innovative finance – small taxes on trades of stock, derivatives, currencies, and other financial instruments.
We have long advocated that such financial transaction taxes (FTTs) are a practical way to generate revenue to fill domestic and international financing gaps, discourage the type of short- term financial speculation that has little social value but poses high risks to the economy, and serve as a predictable and sustainable source financing for health, climate, development, education, and job creation. In a recent paper, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs concluded that “financial and currency transaction taxes are technically feasible and economically sensible. They could readily provide the means of meeting global development financing needs.”
Over the past two years, we have been encouraged by significant shifts in the debate, with influential leaders such as Bill Gates, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, and Pope Benedict XVI coming out in support. Now is a critical time to add your voice to the call.
A group of at least 11 European governments appears on track to forge an EU agreement to implement a FTT by the end of 2012. However, with the exception of France, they have made no clear commitment yet on how the resources would be allocated. Your support could help ensure that a substantial portion of the revenue goes to meet the needs of the world’s poorest people, rather than simply paying down deficits.
1. Raise FTT in the context of your work to publicize the new World Development Report focusing on jobs. As governments look for sources of financing for job-creation strategies, FTT should be promoted as one potential source.
2. Promote the FTT as part of a plan to achieve internationally agreed global health, education and other development goals. For example, with the prospect of ending AIDS closer than ever, FTT revenues could help achieve Millennium Development Goal #6, aimed at reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS and ensuring universal access to treatment and help fully fund implementation of the 2011 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS.
3. Promote FTT as a source of innovative finance for developing countries’ efforts to address climate change. Such revenues are needed for the Green Climate Fund and other funds of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, including the Adaptation Fund, Least Developed Countries Fund, and the Special Climate Change Fund. Further, it would be helpful to promote FTT as a source of climate finance in the context of studies and reports mandated by international bodies such as the G20 and the UN.
4. Bring these messages to the general public and world leaders. At this key moment in their decision-making, it is particularly important to urge European leaders to allocate part of FTT revenue to development and climate. We also recommend that you publish an open letter on this theme in major newspapers.
5. Meet with civil society and independent experts on this timely issue. We would be very pleased to organize a briefing that would include participation by leading experts in the field. Over the past several years, many of our organizations have been involved in similar briefings with the International Monetary Fund, the Gates Foundation, the European Commission, and national governments. We would appreciate the opportunity to share research and analysis of the feasibility and potential benefits of this means of generating additional finance.
We look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely,
Alliance for a Just Society, USA
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)
Balance Promoción para el Desarrollo y Juventud, Mexico
Campaign for the Welfare State, Norway
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Center for Economic and Social Rights, USA
Chicago Political Economy Group, USA
Coalition 15%, Cameroon
Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), Spain
Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (Ialian Geneneral Confederation on Labour)
CPATH (Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health), USA
Ecologistas en Acción, Spain
Europeans for Financial Reform
Friends of the Earth U.S. Gender Action, USA
Global Health Advocates France Global South Initiative, Nepal
Halifax Initiative, Canada
Health GAP, USA
IG Bauen-Agrar-Umwelt (Trade Union for Building, Forestry, Agriculture and the Environment), Germany
INPUD (International Network of People who Use Drugs), United Kingdom
Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project, USA
Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Development (ICAD), Canada
International Civil Society Support International HIV/AIDS Alliance
International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID)
International Trade Union Confederation
Kampagne: Steuer gegen Armut (Tax Against Poverty Campaign), Germany
KOO-Koordinierungsstelle der Österreichischen Bischofskonferenz f.internationale Entwicklung und Mission, Austria
Main Street Alliance, USA
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, USA
National Union of Public and General Employees, Canada
NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association, Australia
Public Services International
Réseau Accès aux Médicaments Essentiels (RAME), Burkina Faso
Robin Hood Tax Campaign, United Kingdom
Stamp Out Poverty, United Kingdom
Trades Union Congress, Great Britain
Treatment Action Group, USA
UBUNTU - World Forum of Civil Society Networks
Unión Sindical Obrera (USO), Spain
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society, USA
Wealth for the Common Good, USA
Women in Europe and Central Asia Regions plus (WECARe+), Germany
World AIDS Campaign International, South Africa and Kenya
World Democratic Governance project Association
World Federalist Movement Japan
June 16, 2012 · By Oscar Reyes
President Barack Obama may be steering clear of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, but thousands of government delegates, civil society activists, and business lobbyists are already streaming into Brazil.
I arrived last night and will blog throughout this UN Conference on Sustainable Development. I'll bring you the latest about the talks among those somber-suited delegates who'll buzz around a complex of aircraft hangars on the edge of the city. And I'll sum up the action at the tent city that has sprung up in Rio's vast and verdant Flamengo Park — where the People's Summit for Social and Environmental Justice is taking place.
To kick things off, here's some recommended reading for anyone who's about to board a plane to Rio to attend the summit from June 20-22, or to help you follow the action if you're not. To learn what's at stake, I recommend reading the Rio Conventions, which world leaders agreed to follow during the meeting they held here in 1992. These landmark treaties laid out the principles under which key issues of environmental protection are to be discussed. The three landmark conventions address climate change, biodiversity, and desertification.
Then there's Agenda 21 — a modest and rather toothless action plan for supposedly "sustainable development." (While over-excited tea partiers may consider that document to be a Soros-funded, left-wing conspiracy for the United Nations to achieve world domination, it never had much impact.)
And although the first Rio Earth Summit successfully established a framework for multilateral environmental negotiations, its impact has remained limited. Nature magazine's damning report card, which makes that clear, is also very disturbing. Global greenhouse gas emissions have risen at even faster rates than before. We continue to lose biodiversity at an unprecedented rate. Land degradation is causing the continued spread of deserts.
For this reason, many delegates in Rio this time around are simply calling for measures to implement existing commitments. They say that would be better than creating any new corporate-driven initiatives or issuing yet more empty promises. The Third World Network has a comprehensive overview of the key issues, and is publishing regular updates with details of who said what at the Rio+20 talks.
"Green economy" proposals have proven to be some of the most contentious so far. On June 14, the 133 countries that comprise the G77+China (the largest negotiating bloc, representing the majority of the world's population) walked out of talks on this element of the text. They cited a lack of progress on funding to help developing countries achieve more sustainable development and "technology transfer" mechanisms that could ease patent restrictions to promote the spread of cleaner technologies. Today, they kicked out of the agreement text that would have advocated a "transition to a green economy."
That's a win for progressives. Really. Wait — don't we want a greener economy? Of course we do, but as this briefing, this video , this animation, and this report clearly show, there's widespread concern that the term "green economy" is being used as a cover by rich countries lobbying for new markets to be created in biodiversity and ecosystems, and new avenues for financial speculation. A truly green economy, by contrast, would recognize the limits of what can be "financialized." It would protect both the common good and public resources.
The battle between these very different worldviews will continue here over the coming days. The Rio+20 negotiating text remains littered with language that could be used to promote markets for environmental services. And the fight against the anti-democratic variety of green economics must be waged outside this conference too, because the World Bank and other powerhouses are busily building institutions to support these new markets.
Oscar Reyes is an associate fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies' Sustainable Energy & Economy Network. www.ips-dc.org