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The UK becomes the first major economy to enforce net-zero carbon emissions

Madeline Barone

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Smaller economies worldwide are adopting carbon neutral emission laws. On the other hand, countries like the United States are simply talking about it. For the United Kingdom, carbon neutrality isn’t just theoretical. It has recently become the first major economy in the world to pass laws enforcing net-zero carbon emissions. It’s a huge step, and no doubt, it has paved the way for other large economies to follow suit.

What does the legislation involve?

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore signed the legislation into effect June 27, 2019, after passing both houses of Parliament without a vote. These new regulations require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. This greatly exceeds the previous target of cutting emissions at least 80 percent below 1990 levels.

“The U.K. kick-started the Industrial Revolution, which was responsible for economic growth across the globe but also for increasing emissions,” Skidmore said in a statement.

“Today we’re leading the world yet again in becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050.”

How will it be implemented?

The UK’s Committee on Climate Change originally recommended the idea. It stated that the net-zero target could be achieved within a budget of 1-2% of GDP by 2050. The Committee added that if Britain’s actions were replicated worldwide, the effect would be tremendous. Specifically, it would make limiting the average global temperature rise to the “safe” limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius possible.

The country has already cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 43.5% since 1990, mostly due to its shift away from fossil fuels. This goal, however, will require the UK to add even more renewable energy sources; completely eradicate fossil fuel vehicles by 2035; and cut beef and lamb consumption by 20 percent.

Additionally, net-zero emissions require the UK to balance greenhouse gas emissions through strategies including planting trees or carbon capture. These stratagies intend to effectively balance atmospheric gas levels, and therefore make up for any pollution the UK emits. 

How will the UK’s carbon neutrality laws impact other countries?

The UK is also part of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which will allow it to reach net-zero emissions via international carbon credits. This means the UK can “offset” its own emissions by paying for cuts elsewhere.

However, ever since the UK enacted the legislation, environmentalists have argued that this policy detrimental to developing countries. According to the chief scientist of Greenpeace UK, “this type of offsetting has a history of failure.”

The UK, on the other hand, has deemed these carbon credits as an “essential” part of the 2050 cutoff. “We’re pioneering the way for other countries to follow in our footsteps driving prosperity by seizing the economic opportunities of becoming a greener economy,” Skidmore stated.

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Australia urged to move towards a circular economy on recycling

Rich Bowden

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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.



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Kamala Harris’s climate plan: How does it hold up against the competition?

Maddie Blaauw

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Kamala Harris

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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Climate Change Is a GOP Issue Too.

Tia Nelson

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america environmental concern

It’s striking to see how much the Republican Party has changed its tune on the environment. Both Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush showed leadership on the issue as presidents, and even more recently, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) called on the nation to address climate change.

Today, conservatives have largely abandoned environmental causes in a fog of climate change denial set in motion long ago by the fossil fuel industry. But we’re beginning to see some cracks, even from that very industry itself.

Recently, a group of CEOs from high-profile corporations—including some oil companies—joined forces with environmental groups to form the CEO Climate Dialogue, which called for U.S. policy that would get the nation on a path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent or more by 2050.

Those of us who care about the environment need to try to build off this effort, as well as similar ones by other corporations, to generate support among Republicans. For decades, this was a bipartisan issue, and there’s no reason it can’t be again. I consider myself a conservationist, and when I speak to my conservative friends, I remind them that there’s a reason “conservationist” has “conservative” as its root—conserving our natural resources is in fact a conservative value.

Importantly, young Republicans support climate action at nearly the same level as Democrats, and they are increasingly organizing and speaking up.

Hard as is it to picture now, the GOP once had leaders with progressive views on the environment.

In 1970, Nixon devoted several minutes to the issue in his first State of the Union address, rightly casting the issue as one that transcends politics:

“Restoring nature to its natural state is a cause beyond party, and beyond factions. It has become a common cause of all the people of this country. It is a cause of particular concern to young Americans, because they, more than we, will reap the grim consequences of our failure to act on programs which are needed now, if we are to prevent disaster.” (Richard Nixon, 1970)

Later that year, Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency, one of his many seminal environmental accomplishments. Two titans of the party who died in the past year, Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), also demonstrated leadership on this issue.

In 1988, Bush campaigned as the “environmental president”; once in office, he signed the Global Change Research Act of 1990, the law that forced the Trump administration last November to release the National Climate Assessment, which warned of dire impacts of climate change to our economy and environment. He also signed a new Clean Air Act that same year, which is credited with eliminating acid rain.

Two decades later, McCain made climate change an important part of his unsuccessful Republican presidential campaign.

There used to be pro-environment Republican governors, too. My friend Tommy Thompson had an impressive record in conserving lands during his four terms as governor of Wisconsin. He often kids me that he did more in this area than my dad—the late Wisconsin Sen. and Gov. Gaylord Nelson, who had founded Earth Day—when he was governor. (Of course, Tommy served a lot longer.)

Tommy is still proud of that accomplishment, recently touting: “We purchased and saved more lands than any administration ever under my administration.” And on Earth Day, he teamed up with former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) to urge a return to bipartisanship on the environment.

There are other GOP allies out there, such as South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has long advocated for a carbon tax, and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee.

Recently, three Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee—Reps. Greg Walden of Oregon, Fred Upton of Michigan, and John Shimkus of Illinois—wrote an op-ed declaring “climate change is real.” They urged policies to encourage innovation and renewable energy development, among other ideas.

“It’s been said that we don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. When our children look back on this time and this place, they will be grateful that we met at Rio, and they will certainly be pleased with the intentions stated and the commitments made. But they will judge us by the actions we take from this day forward. Let us not disappoint them.” (George H.W. Bush, 1992)

Whether you support free-market solutions or the Green New Deal, the important thing is that citizens and elected officials engage in discussion about how we make swift progress toward a prosperous future of clean energy and a strong economy.

Some Republicans are publicly challenging President Trump’s hostility to climate change solutions. At last December’s United Nations climate conference in Poland, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stressed that the U.S. was still in the Paris climate agreement, despite Trump’s decision to leave the accord.

There’s no doubt, pro-environment Republicans have become an endangered species. But as the Nixon-era Endangered Species Act has demonstrated, there’s always hope for recovery.

This article was originally published by the Outrider Post and republished with permission as a part of a partnership between The Rising and the Outrider Foundation.



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