The political arena is heating up when it comes to presidential candidates who seem to be increasingly keen on creating climate reform proposals. This phenomenon seemed to have stemmed from Beto O’Rourke‘s $5 trillion climate change reform plan. But since then, Washington Governor Jay Inslee seems to have one-upped O’Rourke with a new $9 trillion climate reform plan. What’s more important than the monetary backing of the proposal, however, are their core ideas.
In what Inslee calls the Evergreen Economy Plan, he proposes five key ideas to move America towards becoming a more sustainable nation.
Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy
Specifically, Inslee’s plan hopes to have America be powered by 100% carbon-neutral electricity by 2030. Further, the proposal strives toward an America with “a fully clean, renewable and zero-emission electricity sector by 2035”. Now, that sounds like an incredibly ambitious goal. But if Inslee is able to pull it off, America will see an additional $600 billion invested into clean energy between 2020 and 2030. That, in turn, by generous estimates, should create millions of jobs.
To accelerate clean energy deployment, Inslee’s plan is comprised of introducing electrification upgrades in both households and businesses, supporting clean energy developments through a new federal financing authority, and improving financial incentives for clean energy deployment.
Building a Climate-Smart Infrastructure
With there being many complaints regarding our crumbling infrastructure, a crucial aspect of it is certainly the pollution it contributes. Under Inslee’s plan, he hopes to invest in sustainable transportation, clean water, affordable housing, among other initiatives. Inslee’s team estimates that the changes he hopes to implement will require an investment of $3 trillion, a hefty investment for sure but one that’s necessary to reach his ambitious goals.
Inslee hopes to have America achieve 100% zero-emission new vehicles by 2030, as an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are characteristic of the auto industry. Of course, this means that companies like Tesla are the future. As competition for market share in the EV market continues to grow, legacy companies like Ford Motors, among others, are likely to follow suit as both consumers and the government recognizes the value of electric-powered vehicles.
Smart grids are also a part of Inslee’s plan to improve American infrastructure. Of course, Tesla is innovating in this space too with its Powerpack. Micro-grids and other ways to localize power distribution networks is yet another way to put decision-making, when it comes to energy, in the hands of people.
Clean water needs no real introduction. When cities like Flint are suffering, as their citizens still suffer from the shortage of clean water, everyone loses. Innovations are already happening here, including through Jaden Smith‘s company, Just Water, but more needs to happen, without a doubt, and government action outside of private sector involvement definitely sounds like a must.
The feasibility of such an investment is definitely a question, as disagreements over the urgency of the climate change issue is definitely a point of contention that may prevent such a large amount of spending from happening.
Becoming a Leader In Clean Manufacturing
Inslee believes that it’s imperative to scale up domestic manufacturing and gives domestic manufacturers tax credits to incentivize manufacturing with sustainability goals in mind. Specifically, Inslee is interested in proposing legislation to Congress to increase investments into zero-emission vehicles.
Additional to Inslee’s focus on transportation, he also believes in what his team calls a “Buy Clean” program. Such a program would entail a federal procurement of low-carbon materials. It sounds like he’s interested in having the government become increasingly involved in aiding businesses to reduce their carbon footprints. It’s unclear how keen businesses will be in involving themselves in such a program, especially with party-line disagreements in government involvement in small business.
A less controversial plan is to crack down on companies that emit large amounts of hydrofluorocarbons, commonly referred to as HFCs. Under his plan, he’d use “executive authority to require oil and gas companies and utilities to find and stop methane leaks in pipelines delivering gas to power plants and industry”.
And Inslee hopes to take his proposal beyond the United States too. He believes that as America makes greater strides towards sustainability, that other nations are likely to follow suit, hence move our world towards a greener future. Clearly, that’s a good thing for all parties involved.
Invest in Innovation and Scientific Research
Inslee hopes to invest in STEM and climate science education at the K12 level, as well as at colleges (particularly HBCUs and other colleges that serve minorities) that are currently doing research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Beyond funding research and science, Inslee is keen on making more people aware of the implications and ramifications of climate change. He cites President Trump’s actions “to undermine America’s climate science and its scientific community” as an important reason to make sure Americans are aware of the effects of climate change.
What he doesn’t mention explicitly is Trump‘s affinity towards the coal industry, a key point of contention between the two. But at this point, even Trump realizes he needs to prioritize climate change reform for 2020 as citizens become increasingly keen on sustainability initiatives.
Overall, Inslee hopes that America will continue to innovate in the energy sector, continue to do research into climate science, and continue to move the country towards sustainability.
Ensure Good Jobs
This is a similar idea to what AOC proposed in her Green New Deal. It definitely sounds like Inslee has more specifics in his proposal in terms of how we’re going to get there, though.
First and foremost, he hopes to introduce a G.I. Bill for impacted workers and reinvestments of resources from the coal community. Specifically, Inslee refers to how companies in the coal industry are laying off coal miners and other employees as a result of automation. Specifically, he cites some poor practices that are associated with companies in the coal space. These include reducing their pension obligations for employees, along with insurance benefits, among others. As a result, Inslee believes that America needs to provide greater support to workers working in the energy sector.
Particularly, Inslee believes that we should provide retirement benefits for impacted workers. Although Inslee’s one of the most outspoken politicians about the coal industry, it does seem like he’s interested in making sure that the employees of these industries are taken care of.
Inslee’s plan is likely the most specific of its kind, compared to his Democratic peers in the 2020 field. Like other proposals (e.g. O’Rourke’s), they’re wildly ambitious and so it’ll be interesting to see if they actually play out. Climate change hasn’t really been a huge focus in any other presidential election to date, but as young people continue to engage in activities like climate strikes and the like, it’s starting to look like climate change is definitely an issue young people are looking to vote on in 2020.
I am the Founder of Medius Ventures, the Publisher at The Rising, and a Contributor at Forbes, Business Insider, and Entrepreneur. At The Rising, I’m particularly interested in covering greentech startups and sustainability initiatives led by publicly-traded companies.
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Russia, the world’s fourth largest polluter, finally joins Paris Agreement
After four years of deliberation, Russia has finally signed the Paris Agreement. On Monday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave formal support for the agreement and ordered that Russia’s laws adapt to fit its regulations.
A new brand for Russia
Hours after signing the decree, PM Medvedev brought the news to a government meeting. There, he outlined a new climate strategy for Russia.
“The threat of climate change is (the) destruction of the ecological balance, increased risks for successful development of key industries… and most importantly, threat to safety of people living on permafrost and increase of natural disasters,” Medvedev said.
Indeed, by joining the accord, Russia has taken a long overdue stance on climate control. As the fourth largest global emitter of greenhouse gases, Russia’s entrance into the agreement can serve as a call to action for other countries not yet committed.
Notably, Russia has chosen to join the accord merely weeks before US President Donald Trump plans to withdraw from it in November.
Does Russia even want the Paris Agreement
Yet despite the seemingly good news, Russia’s decision to join the agreement may have had an ulterior motive.
The decision came just hours before the UN Climate Action Summit in New York. At the summit, Putin’s climate adviser, Ruslan Edelgeriev, broke the news. “The Russian Federation has accepted the Paris Agreement and is becoming a full-fledged participant of this international instrument,” he said.
Russia may be attempting to gain more international support. Its decision to ratify came at a good time, as belief in the accord’s effectiveness is at an all-time low. By finally ratifying, Russia has boosted morale for international climate cooperation.
In an attempt to further garner support for Russian environmental efforts, Edelgeriev explained his country’s progress. “Our total emissions [since 1990] have decreased almost by half. This represent 41 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent which on the planetary scale has allowed to cumulatively hold global warming for an entire year.”
Edelgeriev also mentioned that Russia plans to create a law on emissions by 2020.
This may all be for show
Joining the Paris Agreement means very little for Russia, whose current carbon targets are laughable.
Since the Paris Agreement allows countries to develop their own, non-binding targets for reducing CO2 emissions, Russia chose a very weak target. By 2030, Russia pledges to reduce its emissions to 25-30% less than its emission rates in 1990.
But due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia’s industries have severely slowed down. So, in 2017, Russia actually polluted 32% less than it did in 1990. Meaning Russia is already below its target.
In other words, Russia can actually increase its pollution while still staying within its target.
Noticing this furtive maneuver, the NGO Climate Action Tracker declared Russia’s targets “critically insufficient.” According to them, if every country followed Russia’s emission rules, global warming could increase 4 degrees.
To make matters worse, Russia is actually increasing coal production and opening new gas and oil plants.
So if Russia seriously wants change, it will need to reevaluate its climate plan.
Australia urged to move towards a circular economy on recycling
Australia should take its cue from the circular economy on recycling, reusing its waste rather than sending it to landfill, says a recent report by business advisory firm EY. It added that Australians need to have confidence in their country’s recycling system and should look upon it as a resource rather than waste.
The accounting firm affirmed a combined approach to waste which included households, local councils and the private sector is needed to “restore faith” in the country’s recycling system. This would lead to the start of a win-win circular economy.
Such an economy can be achieved when “people minimize waste and make the most of resources. Shifting to a more circular economy will grow the economy, increase jobs and reduce impacts on the environment,” according to the Victorian State Government.
China recycling ban
Australia’s strategy of dealing with its waste by sending it to China for processing was thrown into confusion in 2017. It was then when China decided to tighten the restrictions on contamination for accepting foreign waste. The new standards effectively banned all Australian paper, plastics and textiles because of their high contamination rate.
Before the Chinese ban, it had been sending 619,000 tonnes of recycling waste to China every year.
A “lost opportunity”
Terence L. Jeyaretnam, an environmental and sustainability expert who is also a partner at EY in Melbourne, described the present methods as an example of a “lost opportunity”.
“Through better sorting of recyclables, reducing contamination and developing markets for our recycled waste, Australia could take advantage of this lost opportunity sitting in our kerbside bins,” he said.
He added that Australians were missing out on up to $324 million of value in our waste bins and needed to change to adapt to the future.
“The old way of sorting our waste is not the right fit for 21st century Australia,” he said in the study, adding that “not only does it lead to poor environmental outcomes, it’s preventing us from grasping an opportunity worth hundreds of millions per year.”
Restoring belief in the system
The report underlined the need for Australia to view waste as a valuable resource saying it “will only be realized if households take a more diligent approach to sorting, councils assist though education and infrastructure and there is a greater focus on waste as a resource.”
It points to a lack of confidence currently amongst households with the country’s recycling methods.
“Instead of ‘waste’ we need consumers to see a tradable asset, a commodity with a market value. The first step in changing consumers behavior is restoring their belief that what they are putting in the recycling bin is actually being recycled,” said the discussion paper.
Restoring the customer’s faith in the broken recycling system would be the first step towards creating a viable circular economy and finding a solution to the recycling crisis in Australia, summarized the report.
Kamala Harris’s climate plan: How does it hold up against the competition?
In the third Democratic debate last Sunday, 2020 presidential candidates did not spend much time on climate change. However, candidate Kamala Harris made sure to use her time to make a strong stance about acting on climate change now. Harris also released a climate plan earlier this month, her own version of the Green New Deals many other candidates have released.
During her allotted 45 seconds to summarize her stance on climate policy, Harris focused on the effect of inaction on future generations. In reference to the Republican stance on denying or minimizing the topic, Harris accused them of having a “lack of courage.” She also stated that as president she would “lead as president on this issue because we have no time, the clock is ticking.” However, during the debate time, Harris did not mention many specific details about her plan to take on climate change, besides her history of “[taking] on the big oil companies.” So what specific actions would Harris take as president to fight rising temperatures?
Kamala Harris has a history of advocating for the environment
Harris released a plan detailing her goals as president to act on climate change earlier this month, but even before that, she has backed several pieces of legislation to not only act on the emissions of big companies, but also to protect the Americans who suffer the most from pollution. In July, she joined forces with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to create the “Climate Equity Act.” Covered at length in this article from The Rising, this piece of legislation aimed to first identify and then give assistance to the communities which would suffer climate-related consequences.
Harris has also referenced taking on big oil companies in her previous job as the attorney general of California. She held this role from 2011 through 2016. While the claim that she has sued oil companies herself is controversial, statements from her campaign spokesman Ian Sams support her claims of more general action against them. Sams stated that she “obtained $50 million in settlements from oil companies she took on like BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66. She also announced criminal indictments against Plains Pipeline for the massive oil spill they caused off the coast (of) Santa Barbara. The case continued after Harris left the AG’s office and resulted in conviction.”
The 2020 presidential candidate also supported a carbon tax at a CNN forum on climate change. As this was common among the other democrats who attended the event, Harris took a step to set herself apart even further and voiced support for even more aggressive policy, including an outright ban on offshore drilling for oil and hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking).
Harris’s $10 trillion plan
Following the trend of other presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders releasing plans of action for a presidential term specifically pertaining to environmental policy, Harris also released her own, right before the climate forum. While the general ideas of her plan was similar to those in Green New Deals already released, there are certainly notable differences.
First, the presidential candidate sets a goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2045, five years faster than the United Nation’s recommended date of 2050. She would invest $10 trillion into reviving and overhauling infrastructure to achieve this. Possible methods of raising this money could come from the carbon tax backed by nearly all democratic candidates and even some of the republican candidates.
Other goals from Kamala Harris that are less common among the Green New Deals currently circulating are to pass new fuel economy standards by 2035 to ensure that all new passenger vehicles would emit zero emissions. She would also expand the clean energy tax credit program beyond its current reaches to achieve total carbon-neutral electricity in 10 years.
Perhaps the thing that Kamala Harris stresses most in her plan, though is that it is for the people of the world, not against big companies. While it certainly does aim to put legislation in place against these companies to achieve set goals, the focus is always brought back to protecting those that cannot protect themselves from big company carbon emissions. Harris frequently references her Climate Equity Act in the plan, making it a central component. Many believe that this feature allows her plan to be more well-rounded; it is not just about punishing the companies who hurt the environment, but also about supporting those who are and will suffer the most from the pollution.
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