Have you ever thrown away food? The answer to that question is most likely a yes, as 95% of food scraps are sent to the landfills each year in the US alone!
To celebrate LA Pride and Global Green’s unique and historic partnership to make the annual event significantly more environmentally friendly and encourage all attendees and community members to become aware of ways to live more sustainably, West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister presented LA Pride President Chris Classen and Dr. Les McCabe, President & CEO of Global Green, with a proclamation declaring June 10 to be LA Pride Global Green Day.
Due in no small part to that previous day's tragedy in Orlando, the Pride Parade’s participant numbers were slightly down from the customary crowd of about 250,000, yet there was definitely a strong level of support from within the community. This year Global Green evaluated ways to reduce the footprint of the festival and parade by up to 50% beyond previous years, the final goal being to move to a zero waste event in the future. The city’s new bikeshare bicycles implemented for zero emission commuting surrounded the attendees in West Hollywood Park.
This year Global Green curated a booth in order to assess the various forms of transportation used to arrive at the festival. “It makes a lot of sense for two of the most important and successful progressive movements to come together in the City of West Hollywood to help green LA Pride,” said Dr. McCabe. “West Hollywood and Southern California have been the birthplaces of so many important environmental and human rights policies and practices over the last few decades – from establishing landmark equal rights for LGBT communities to green building and urban design initiatives which have now become commonplace in cities around the world. By putting progressive policies for our people and planet together through LA Pride, we can further accelerate the great challenges and barriers that still remain for the LGBT and environmental movements to be successful.”
Global Green is excited to make further strides towards environmental progression in terms of the festival and parade. We find promise in the partnership to make changes in terms of human rights and the environment for the better.
A message on behalf of Energy Upgrade California
Summer is here and it’s already a record breaker. 2012 to 2016 have been the driest years in California’s entire documented history, with last January being one of the driest months ever recorded and our March snowpack only 5% of average levels for the month. Southern California residents especially need to come together in order to face the challenges of this historic drought. Voluntary water use restrictions have failed to impact the severe shortage and it’s time for real change.
This may not be news to most Californians, but what can we do? We always encourage people to engage with policymakers about meaningful water policy, but Energy Upgrade California knows our communities actually have a lot of power to conserve when we need it most.
SaveOurWater.com has some great ideas to conserve water both indoors and outdoors by everything from simple tips like keeping a pitcher of water in the refrigerator rather than letting the tap run cold or plugging the bathtub right away before adjusting temperature, as well as more in-depth methods like installing low-flow shower heads and toilets.
Landscaping continues to be one of the foremost sources of water use. How many of us have seen neighbors and gardeners watering in the mid-day heat or noticed their vegetation isn't native to our region and their lush, green lawns persist quite unnaturally through the driest months of summer? Whether it's sprinklers that flood the sidewalks or hoses used to spray-down pavement, we know water waste when we see it.
The good thing is that we can do a lot to save water and money (who doesn’t like that) and we encourage Californians to check out the resources below to learn more about drought-tolerant plants and conservative irrigation techniques, and remember, it’s okay to strike up a neighborly conversation about the drought. This isn’t about judging or persecuting water-wasters, it’s about starting a dialogue in your community. You don’t have to be a nag, but do be a good neighbor; recommend the plumber who installed your low-flow showerhead or ask whether your neighbor knows about any of the rebate programs for drought-tolerant landscaping.
Lastly, conservation is the cheapest, quickest and most reliable way to increase water supplies in this unprecedented drought. Head to EnergyUpgradeCA.org, SaveOurWater.com, and BeWaterWise.com/calculator to learn more about water efficiency. Together we can all be a part of California’s sustainable future.
Eleni Petrow is an Environmental Policy and Green Urbanism Associate at Global Green, a national environmental non-profit proud to serve as an Ambassador for Energy Upgrade California.
For decades, utilities have structured rates to be commensurate with usage – the more kilowatts of electricity a household uses, the more is paid per month. Despite its similarity in service and necessity, municipal solid waste has historically been charged to residents in most U.S. communities as a percent of property taxes or as a flat fee, regardless of generation. Not surprisingly, residents have had little incentive to curtail their waste generation. [i]
As New York City works to meet its ambitious target of 90% reduction in landfill waste by 2030, [ii] the City will need to enlist its residents and businesses in city-wide behavior change. Other cities facing similar challenges have responded by adjusting municipal waste fees to address this mismatch of residential incentives with municipal goals by financially encouraging recycling and composting while financially discouraging trash. These models have come to be known as Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) and are built on the same basic principles that utilities rely on to charge for payment per unit of service used.
The optimal PAYT system measures the amount of individual waste collected, either by weight or volume, and charges the waste producer a fee equal to the social and economic cost of his or her waste generation. This assumes, of course, that the social and economic costs can be nearly perfectly calculated, that waste can be traced directly to the responsible individual, and that billing each individual or household commensurate with generation is feasible. [iii]
PAY-AS-YOU-THROW SUCCESS STORIES
While ensuring that these assumptions hold true may be tricky in a city as vast as New York, the benefits of a successful PAYT program are impressive. The 2002 report, Municipal Experience with Pay As You Throw Policies: Findings From a National Survey, found that cities that implemented PAYT programs realized dramatic and sustained increases in waste reduction and recycling, and more controlled disposal costs. On average, PAYT cities in this study realized a 44% decrease in waste generation and a 75-100% increase in recycling. [iv]
PAYT is not a new concept; in fact, many of the best researched programs were initially implemented in the early 1990s. Boulder, Colorado was recently inspired by early PAYT success achieved in near-by Colorado cities. Boulder implemented its first PAYT program in 2011 and realized a 33% increase in recycling by 2007, [v] and a 25% reduction in garbage costs.[vi] Boulder and its neighboring cities' programs further inspired other Colorado cities to consider PAYT including its state capital, Denver. [vii]
Adopting PAYT in New York City will no doubt be a massive undertaking and will require many intermediate steps to ensure its success. However, PAYT programs do not require large-scale operational changes which makes it possible to adjust the current waste billing and measurement systems without any high up-front capital costs. In other words, PAYT can build onto New York’s composting pilot and city-wide curbside recycling and simply more closely matching costs incurred per individual with fees charged per individual.
PAY-AS-YOU-THROW IS FAIR & EQUITABLE
Tying generation costs to fees rests on the city’s ability to measure residential waste generation by household, which will not only encourage residents to reduce their waste generation, but also serve to support Mayor de Blasio’s equity initiatives. PAYT provides residents some control over their waste costs and enables the city to offer reduced rates for low income households. While this is more difficult in a city with more than 70% of its population residing in multifamily units, [viii] other large urban areas such as San Jose and Seattle have successfully included multifamily buildings in their PAYT programs [ix] and offer reduced-rate services for low-income households. [x]
While the promised benefits PAYT are alluring, New York City must carefully plan its roll-out of a new residential waste system and engage the public in creating its new structure. Public input serves to ensure that the program addresses the interests and concerns of residents while also informing residents of new potential changes.
Once a program is designed, public outreach and education is imperative to building the resident buy-in that determines PAYT success. A study of several Iowa recycling programs showed that residents under a PAYT system diverted twice as much waste, but only if they were aware of the program. [xi] Educating a city of 8.5 million will require a public branding campaign as well as easily accessible information for questions and concerns. It will also take time.
The city of Athens, Georgia used time to its advantage as it rolled out its PAYT program over a period of 18-months. The implementation included phased changes of waste collection payments by slowly and simultaneously decreasing taxes and increasing a charge that appeared initially on residents’ municipal water bill.[xii] San Jose, California took a similarly intentional approach through extensive public surveys and public engagement through the program design phase. Less than a year after San Jose’s initial program launch, 80% of residents were satisfied with the changes, increasing to 90% after three years. [xiii]
NEW YORK CITY AS A LEADER FOR NATIONWIDE CHANGE
As New York aims to reach its admirably lofty waste diversion goals, it will need to rely on more than New Yorkers’ environmental interests and altruism alone, and PAYT has been proven to be an attainable way to make the social and economic costs of waste generation tangible to individuals. Implementing a PAYT in New York City will take time and necessitate public participation in the program design; careful consideration of the expected program costs and revenues; and intentional program branding, advertising, and education. New York City is uniquely positioned to harness the learnings of the more than 7,000 U.S. municipal PAYT programs, and give PAYT the stage that it deserved more than twenty years ago. [xiv]
ADDITIONAL VIDEO RESOURCES:
Bob Moylan, Former Commissioner of the Worcester, MA, Department of Public Works From DC Environmental Network and Global Green Pay as You Throw Workshop on April 13, 2016
Kristen Brown, Vice-President Municipal Partnerships, Waste Zero From DC Environmental Network and Global Green Pay as You Throw Workshop on April 13, 2016
American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, 2010-2014. Rep. United States Census Bureau.
It’s April Fools’ Day, but the opening of the Exposition Light Rail next month is no joke! Yes, you read right — you may have noticed all of the work on Colorado Avenue or even a few trains rolling through and wondered when you’re going to get the chance to ride.
Global Green is excited to say the wait will be over soon! But you can get ready now by riding Breeze, Santa Monica’s popular bike share program that launched last fall.
Breeze Bike Share presented by hulu is a key part of Santa Monica’s plan for sustainable, multi-modal public transportation. Breeze was specifically designed to compliment the existing transit systems as well as the new Light Rail. Eighty Breeze hubs (and counting!) are strategically located throughout Santa Monica and nearby Venice to connect with our clean-running Big Blue Buses and are poised to give people easy, affordable access to the Expo Line.
Have you ever found yourself downtown or in East LA and longed for a better way to the beach? Are you commuting hours to and from the West Side? Maybe you just want to try that new restaurant on Main Street or do a little shopping. Next month, you can connect easily from the Silver Line at Pershing Square; or from the Red, Purple or Blue Lines at 7th St./Metro Center, and hop on the Expo Line to ride the brand new Phase 2 extension to Santa Monica. Use your Social Bicycles® app to find the bike share stations along your route and finish your journey with a Breeze (bike-ride, that is). You can ride Breeze easily to all of your destinations in Santa Monica and never worry about finding a spot or feeding the meter.
If you dread the daily scurry through the hordes of SoCal traffic, if you find yourself circling, idling or tearing your hair out searching for expensive parking, even if you are just over paying for gas — Breeze is here for you.
The synergy of Breeze and the Expo Line offers more options and bridges the first/last mile gaps to provide reliable, sustainable and affordable transit. The combination is a great way to be more active and give yourself some extra time to read, catch up on emails or maybe even shut your eyes (!) when you’d normally be stuck behind the wheel.
This spring, let’s make better use of our time with Breeze Bike Share and the Expo line.
Check out santamonicabikeshare.com to learn more and be sure to take a look at our other bike share blogs!
MARCH 15, 2016, BY HENDRIK RICHERT
While interning with Global Green’s New York Office, I attended the NYC Solar Installer Workshop: Solar and Storage, organized by Sustainable CUNY (City University of New York) as part of their long-term commitment to develop the city’s energy resiliency. The workshop was designed to improve knowledge on current solar energy systems and energy storage, and for attendees to gain a better understanding of relevant NYC permitting and code requirements related to solar systems.
Leaders from the energy industry presented on topics including:
- NYC fire code rooftop access requirements by the Fire Department of New York
- The New York Battery & Energy Storage Technology Consortium (NY-BEST) presented their roadmap for a more sustainable New York, along with a goal of achieving 50% of the city’s energy needs through renewable technology by 2030.
- Interconnection processes for solar energy storage by Con Edison
Global Green has been at the forefront of efforts to improve New York City’s preparedness for future disasters at community centers. This annual event is instrumental in ensuring we stay informed of new policies, emerging programs and the applicable permitting requirements as we continue installing solar resiliency projects in NYC through Solar for Sandy. The Solar for Sandy initiative provides essential back-up energy capacity to disaster resiliency hubs for the community through solar with backup systems. The first Solar for Sandy installations were in Red Hook Recreation Center in Brooklyn and Far Rockaway Beach Surf Club, located in some of the areas hardest hit by the superstorm. To expand on this, Global Green also serves as an advisory board member of CUNY's NYSolar Smart DG Hub with the goal of establishing a more resilient distributed energy system in New York.
Jeffrey Irvine from Sustainable CUNY described their online consumer tool, the NYC Solar Map, as a one-stop-shop for solar. Using state of the art LIDAR laser mapping they were able to build a user-friendly tool “to map out the solar potential of all of the million buildings across New York City." Giving users the ability to look up things like zoning classifications and payback information simply by clicking on a building, they are able to establish if their home is a good fit for an installation. Ultimately this system aims to connect customers with qualified, registered installers.
Stay tuned for more updates on solar resiliency in NYC.
May 29, 2015
To: California Department of Water Resources
From: Global Green USA
Subject: Comments on 2009 MWELO for Integration Into 2015 Revision
Global Green USA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to identifying smart solutions to climate change through catalytic projects, research, and advocacy. In particular, we support water, energy, and waste efficiency in urban areas through these activities.
The Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance came to our attention as an excellent, if underutilized, tool for encouraging water efficiency in urban and suburban areas, as well as helping to support the purchase and use of post-consumer materials (specifically compost made from food scraps and yard wastes) to encourages oil health as well as water efficiency.
Our comments concerning the document are based on the following assumptions:
- Water use reduction and soil health are top priorities for the DWR, and the State of California.
- oil organic matter is of paramount importance when it comes to water retention. For every 1% organic matter content, the soil can hold 16,500 gallons of plant available water per acre of soil down to one depth - about 1.5 quarts of water per cubic foot of soil for each percent of organic matter.1
- Compost has attributes that are unique among “mulches” – because it is very permeable, it is superior to inorganic materials as well as more compacted organic materials such as wood chips in terms of achieving water retention and soil health.2
- Compost is appropriate for use in nearly all ecosystems in California, and is already the preferred soil amendment and erosion control method used statewide by CalTrans. It supports native plant species and reduces irrigation needs as well as erosion and runoff.3
- There is abundant supply of compost in the State of California, but that supply is also poised to grow as more cities divert food scraps from landfill in accordance with AB 341. Increased use of compost containing post-consumer food scraps and yard waste for landscaping projects will help to support achieving the Statewide goal of 75% diversion, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.4
§ 491. (pp) – Definition of “mulch.” We recommend that this definition indicate that organic materials should take precedence, where ecologically possible, over inorganic materials, and that composted organic material, in particular that which includes post- consumer material, should take precedence over more compacted products such as bark, wood chips, etc.
§ 492.6 Soil Management Report – Section (2) We recommend that the project applicant be required to meet a minimum soil organic matter content of 5% unless there is a compelling ecological reason why this would be harmful.
§ 492.6 Landscape Design Plan – Section 3(A)We recommend that the “Mulch and Amendments” section indicate that organic materials should take precedence, where ecologically possible, over inorganic materials, and that composted organic material, in particular that which includes post-consumer material, should take precedence over more compacted products such as bark, wood chips, etc.
§ 492.6 Landscape Design Plan – Section 10
We recommend that the application of composted organic material, in particular that which includes post-consumer material, be listed as a best management practice for storm water control.
§ 492.4 Water Efficient Landscape Worksheet
Global Green's experience with certifying multiple LEED for Homes and LEED for Neighborhood Development projects across the State of California suggests that nearly all competently designed landscapes that use climatically appropriate plantings and irrigation strategies achieve water reductions well above 50% of baseline. This trend suggests that the State's water usage baseline is likely too weak and should be made more stringent, in turn yielding increased landscape irrigation savings. We suggest a re-examination and possible reduction of the values assigned to the ETAF and the Additional Water Allowance for SLA.
Examples of Other Ordinances That Promote Water Retention and Soil Health
Denver, Colorado Water Service:
“Before a newly constructed premise may be landscaped, property owners must amend their soil with compost so the soil more efficiently retains water. This rule applies to all new residential, commercial, government and industrial properties within Denver Water’s service area.”
“14.02.4 Soil Amendment for Irrigation of Turf at Newly Licensed Premises. Proof of proper soil preparation is required before installation of plant material. Penalties may apply if soil amendment is not completed prior to the installation of plant material. Proper soil amendment is the equivalent of adding approved compost at a rate of four cubic yards per 1,000 square feet of permeable area, incorporated (roto tilled) to a depth of six inches.” http://www.denverwater.org/OperatingRules/OperRules14/
Chapter 14, Article VI, Section 1(c)(12-13) address the mandatory use of compost for both new residential and non-residential landscapes.
“All new landscapes are required to have a minimum 6 inches of soil depth in areas planted with turfgrass. The six inch soil depth will consist of 75 percent soil blend with 25 percent compost.”
http://www .leandertx.gov/sites/default/files/fileattachments/Planning/page/ 338/waterconservationordinan ce03.15.2007.pdf
We hope that these comments and resources are useful to you as you revise the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance for the State of California. Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any further questions.
Laura “Lily” Kelly
Senior Program Associate
San Francisco Office and Coalition for Resource Recovery
Global Green USA
645 Harrison Street #200
San Francisco, CA 94107
1 Sullivan, Preston "Drought Resistant Soil" (2002) Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas. https://attra.ncat.org/attra- pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=118
2Shaw, David A., Pittenger, Dennis R., McMaster, Mark “Water Retention and Evaporative Properties of Landscape Mulches” Proc. 26th Annl. Irrigation Show, Phoenix, AZ, Nov. 6-8, 2005. Irrigation Assoc., Falls Church, VA. http://ucanr.edu/sites/UrbanHort/files/80238.pdf
3 California Department of Transportation "Erosion Control Toolbox - Compost"
4 CalRecycle "Climate Change and Solid Waste Management - Organics" http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Climate/Organics/
The world spotlight is finally shining on climate change.
International momentum for meaningful action hit a critical peak this week at the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris, where our global leaders have convened to combat the ever-intensifying climate change epidemic.
Though tension between nations is inevitable as delegates attempt to navigate the substantial political and economic issues, one thing is clear: the world needs to get serious about climate change.
This is the perfect opportunity to reflect on how each of us can take action towards a sustainable future. One fun, easy way to start is Santa Monica’s Breeze Bike Share, presented by Hulu. If you have been to this coastal destination recently, you probably noticed the bright green Breeze bikes rolling around town, after Global Green USA helped Santa Monica launch the complete 500 bike, 75 station hub system on November 12. As of now, Breeze bike share has more than 2,700 active users who have collectively traveled 23,000 miles! This equates to over 17,500 lbs of CO2 spared from release into the atmosphere. (1)
Active transportation like cycling benefits health, supports community and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Using a bike share program to commute to work or for shorter journeys is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Santa Monica’s Bike Share program is just one of the ways the city is moving toward a sustainable future. Santa Monica has been a shining example of environmental leadership for over 20 years and Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown is currently representing the city in Paris as part of the Mayor’s National Climate Action Agenda. This climate leadership coalition started right here in Southern California, spearheaded by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, with the City of Santa Monica in the mix from day one. (2)
Governor Jerry Brown reinforced the idea that local leaders have their own part to play in combating global climate change, stating, “We don’t have to wait for the federal government to jump in… the task of reducing our carbon footprint is so great and so global that every entity that can needs to pitch in.” Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon agreed. “Local governments are actually leading national governments. They are the driving force.” (3)
So let’s look to the example set by local leaders in Santa Monica, who were first in the region to offer the community shared bicycles as sustainable public transit. We all need to take notice, take responsibility and take action against climate change.
Check out the #Breeze bikes at any one of the 75 stations around Santa Monica or head to www.breezebikeshare.com for more information on $99 founding membership rates offered through the end of 2015, SMC student discounts and other special offers.
(1) The City of Santa Monica & Social Bicycles
(2) PR Newswire
As we prepare to depart Paris after our nine days at COP21 filled with mutual optimism from the momentum of discussions here, we reflect back on our final special evening at the home of US Ambassador to France and Monaco Jane D. Hartley, where we attended a private dinner sponsored in conjunction by Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation.
Constructed in the 18th century, throughout the Summit this spectacular building served as a beautiful backdrop to photography exhibits and video projections centered on the impact on climate change, before it accommodated a remarkable sustainable dinner prepared by former White House Executive Chef Sam Kass.
Accompanied by my fellow staff member William Bridge, supporter Farleigh Hungerford and longtime Global Green friend and environmental leader Lyn Lear, we had the unique opportunity to discuss the events of the week in Paris with a variety of environmental luminaries who either spoke, advocated, or otherwise used their political and social influence to further the process of an agreement we are all hoping will be reached before the Summit concludes on the 11th.
It was both a pleasure and a privilege to be able to spend time with fellow climate defenders including actor and activist Adrian Grenier, as well as philanthropist and NEXTGen Climate founder Tom Steyer and his wife Kat. Equally rewarding were the conversations I had with my table mates who included Senator and Mrs. Timothy Wirth from Colorado, both true political pioneers in the climate change movement and early leaders of the formation of the UN Foundation; as well as its founder and philanthropic supporter Ted Turner, joined by his daughter Laura Seydel Turner and her son. Also sitting at our table were California Governor Jerry Brown and Helen Burt, Senior Vice President, External Affairs and Public Policy of Pacific Gas & Electric and PG&E Foundation Chairperson.
To join in conversations about the event with such luminaries was a powerful experience and an opportunity to share with all of them the work of Global Green, especially as it relates to climate change and resilience. Environmental leaders including the woman labeled The Godmother of Oceans Sylvia Earle reminded all of us that the impact of climate change is not just something we see on land with the lungs of the earth diminishing from deforestation, but a thing most of us don't see to the same degree under the oceans, as carbon accumulation and acidification have destroyed over half the world’s coral reefs. Governor Brown spoke to all of us and reiterated how California is leading not only the US, but also the world by its policies and actions to combat climate change and a shining example of what can be done, even when our national governments become mired in politics and climate change denial.
While most of us concluded the evening with a level of enthusiasm regarding the momentum and public awareness achieved at the Climate Summit, we also left with the hope that our national governments, particularly those of the US, China, Russia, and India will do more than merely publicly state an obligatory intention to reduce carbon emissions, but actually reach an official, binding agreement limiting carbon output through either or both a process of cap and trade or a greater shift to renewable energies.
Time will tell of the ultimate outcome from COP21, but in the meantime, the sense of urgency over the resulting consequences of climate change was the topic of the evening. Global Green was proud to be in such good company of influencers and decision makers and we look forward to our cooperative work with these individuals, their organizations and everyone with whom we have had the pleasure of meeting during our nine days at the Summit. With the support of our constituents and those of all of the NGOs, governments, and businesses in attendance, this is a problem that can be solved, but the time for our collective action is now. We simply don't have the luxury of waiting any longer to convince climate deniers of the reality of the situation, without major consequences occurring throughout the world.
Global Green USA was well-represented at the Summit and made itself an integral part in many different formal and informal discussions, something all of us associated with this organization can be proud of, as we help lead the fight against climate change and take progressive steps to create adaptation and resilience to those communities already impacted by such change.
As COP21 talks enter their final days here in Paris, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon perhaps summed things up best when he said, "The clock is ticking on avoiding a climate catastrophe.”
Our observer status allowed us to attend the morning briefings at Le Bourget, where climate negotiators provide updates on the progress of the talks to representatives of the press and the general public. At this stage of the discussions, it appears as though negotiations have reached what are being called the crunch issues, which predominately focus on money and the sharing of burden between developed and less developed countries. The representative from India again stated his country’s position of working towards a goal of a 1.5 degree Celsius temperature rise limit, but reminded those of us in the audience that Americans use 35 times more energy than Indians. The question of social equity between developed and less developed countries looms large in all of the discussions and negotiations.
Of course, the other significant challenge that French coordinators are faced with in facilitating these negotiations is the legal context in any documentation given the large number of various political systems of the participating nations. Will the result of this conference be considered a treaty, agreement, or perhaps a memorandum of understanding that differing governments can accept? More recently in the negotiations, the European Union appears to be softening on its insistence that countries’ targets on limiting carbon pollution need to be legally binding, which unfortunately is something US negotiators have rejected due to the opposition in the Republican controlled Congress.
In the face of national constraints, our home state of California is demonstrating what can be done to effectively implement climate and clean energy policies that reduce carbon emissions while growing the economy. California is the seventh largest economy in the world and in the last four years has had stronger job growth than the national average. California Governor Brown has demonstrated that states and other subnational governments can join together to take meaningful climate action.
Today’s Washington Post Op-Ed by Katrina vanden Heuvel, “Once Again, California Leads the Way” highlights the commitment of Governor Brown and our other state leaders. Governor Brown has argued that “the real source of climate action has to come from states and provinces. . . . We’re going to build up such a drumbeat that our national counterparts — they’re going to listen.”
Governor Brown has also championed the Under 2 MOU agreement, under which provinces and states across the world have pledged to reduce emissions 80 to 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. The more than 50 regions and states that have signed on to the MOU represent what would be the “largest economy in the world,” according to Governor Brown.
Despite the monetary and political issues still remaining, negotiators describe a much higher spirit of cooperation and solidarity than at any time in the history of COP gatherings.
The question we all hope will be answered by the time COP21 wraps up on December 11th is whether or not that same cooperation and solidarity will produce meaningful results that still need to be approved by each participating country's ministers. There is no doubt that those of us who represent the rather large contingent of NGOs from around the world have put significant pressure on the politicians and their negotiators at these events.
Beyond Paris, there have been worldwide marches, demonstrations, and large-scale gatherings of people drawing attention to climate change, highlighted all week by the media. I think most people here at Le Bourget attending COP21 would agree that everyone involved in this battle against climate change should get an A for effort, but the question still remains today, will that effort produce real and meaningful results that limit global temperature increases to a maximum two degrees Celsius? Sadly, there are those who think that until we can significantly reduce the current level of carbon consumption by both developed and less developed countries, the global inequality between those countries makes reaching a level of consensus a daunting challenge.
Meanwhile, China plays an increasingly major role in the outcome of these discussions; although like the US, they want their contributions to carbon reduction to be voluntary, and as a centralized government, they have good reasons to take steps to do so. As the world biggest carbon polluter, China has significant domestic reasons to act, as evidenced this week by officials in Beijing issuing the city’s first ever red alert for smog, calling for school closures and imposing restrictions on factory and traffic emissions on a daily basis due to the extremely high levels of unhealthy air impacting its citizens.
The final piece to this debate centers on many countries calling for a target review in five years, which by most standards would seem reasonable. Unfortunately, the initial draft of the agreement in progress calls for the year 2024 as the earliest date of such a reappraisal; a date many, if not all, representatives of island nations believe is too late for them, in some cases to literally avoid extinction as sea levels continue to rise. While for obvious reasons these delegates are in favor of a legally binding agreement to protect their countries from sinking in rising ocean levels and thereby causing the mass displacement of their citizens, the US, China, India and the other largest contributors to climate change aren't inclined to support any document that legally binds them, and at least in the case of the US, any such document would most likely be rejected by the Republican controlled congress.
Perhaps Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiana Figueres summed up where we are at this stage of the negotiations best when she said that she is kept up at night by a vision of “ …the eyes of seven generations beyond me asking me, what did you do?”
Among the many other NGOs advocating climate change, we at Global Green can point to what we have accomplished and will continue to work for, until we reach the goals of significant global carbon reductions and a halt to increase global temperatures.
The messaging from Le Bourget today comes from French President François Hollande, who stated his concern over a planned agreement on climate change, “The greatest threat is not that we aim too high and miss. The greatest danger is that we aim too low and only do that.”
However, the good news from today is that it appears a confidential draft agreement has been reached and will now be submitted to the foreign ministers for their review this week.
A considerable amount of ongoing debate between developed and less developed countries has focused significantly on India. Unfortunately, 55 percent of power production in India is through coal, the fuel of choice for Indian economic development. India’s leaders have stated that they plan to double the use of coal within their borders, in order to help bring electricity to over 300 million citizens without access to energy currently.
On a positive note despite this troubling trend in India, developed countries have collectively pledged in excess of 57 billion dollars to assist investment in clean energy by developing countries. With no such investment, countries like India will not possess the capacity to continue economic growth and at the same time increase the use of renewable energies.
Meanwhile, 20 kilometers back in Paris at Le Petit Palais, we participated in Earth to Paris, a congregation of a veritable who's who in the climate movement by a number of partners including the United Nations Foundation, National Geographic, UNICEF, Facebook, and Pacific Gas & Electric among others. As participating representatives of Global Green USA, we were witness to the wisdom and passion of such notables as Sylvia Earle, Dr. Jane Goodall, Tom Steyer, Governor Jerry Brown, and actor and activist Adrian Grenier.
While Dr. Jane Goodall focused on the untenable practice of clear-cutting forest and its effect on global warming, Sylvie Earle lamented the loss of half the world’s coral reefs, degrading continuously through the acidification of the ocean. Whether the devastation occurs on land or at sea, both of these well-respected climate champions point to politics and corruption as significant contributing factors to our inability to limit deforestation and ocean acidification.
On the flip side, Gov. Brown was able to speak to the success of California as a state that has lead the way in mitigating climate change by demonstrating first hand that green energy really can be an economic engine of growth.
The governor's comments were lauded by businessman and climate champion philanthropist Tom Steyer, who highlighted the successful job growth rate in California, faster than any other state in the US, in large part due to leaders creating a scale of green energy that places it below the cost of fossil fuels. While Governor Brown was optimistic that this COP21 will be the most significant since the original COP10 in RIO, Mr Steyer focused on the importance of increasing the momentum established here in Paris.
From a business perspective, ambassador of Dell Corporation Adrian Grenier perhaps put things in the simplest terms by quoting founder and CEO Michael Dell, who said that if his name is on every product the company produces, the last place he wants to see it end up is in oceans and landfills.
As we enter the final few days of COP21, it has been interesting to witness the arrival of celebrities and musicians ranging from Bono to Madonna to Leonardo DiCaprio and others who have brought significant media attention to the issue of climate change. COP21 has elevated the issue to perhaps its highest level of public awareness in history. We can only hope that such awareness here and around the world will lead to collaborative universal action to mitigate the threat impacting us all with significant consequences for humanity if we don't act now.
There is broad consensus here in Paris that climate action is essential not only to protect the planet, its people and biodiversity, but also to insure transformative, sustainable development throughout the world, taking into account social justice while simultaneously protecting ecosystems vital to our health and well being.
The leaders from government, international organizations, the private sector and civil society convened at COP21 all recognize the importance of working with a collaborative approach to solving the issues of climate change. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, such collaboration becomes a moot point if our national governments cannot agree on comprehensive and equitable carbon reduction policy.
A major discussion point today is focused on the idea of a carbon tax known as a Cap and Trade process, which would set limits on each country’s carbon emissions or require carbon trading. Currently, only 40 countries are engaged in such a practice and it will take all 190 countries here at COP21 to agree on carbon reductions to make any significant difference in climate change.
Unfortunately, as Ian Parry, the Principal Environmental Fiscal Policy Expert from the International Monetary Fund notes, the Cap and Trade debate has become mired in the concern that it will undermine economic growth, particularly in developing countries. The recent vote by the US congress against setting carbon emissions limits certainly doesn't inspire other countries to do the same. The US, along with other developed countries, contributes 60% of global carbon emissions, and so must take the lead in this important idea.
Ironically at this COP21, compared to prior climate summits, there is a much higher number of less-developed countries prepared to make changes. Given these dynamics, the mood here does not lead to a feeling that an agreement will be reached by the various countries per se, as much as a pledge. While such pledges send an important message on capping carbon emission in the absence of actual agreements, there is little doubt that we will exceed the two-degree Celsius ceiling necessary to prevent further climate change. As such, a considerable amount of focus here in Paris has been on climate adaptation and strengthening resilience through a process of examining human and economic risks.
The consensus that climate impact is inevitable for the immediate future is creating a focus of efforts that, while not abandoning mitigation, more so accepts the grim reality that many countries will have to face it in the short-term.
This afternoon's session entitled Leadership on Climate Change Adaptation: Innovation for Stronger Resilience highlighted some of the global economic risks of climate change. Mike Wilkins, Managing Director of the Standard & Poor’s rating service, painted a picture using S&P data and analytics that show the significant impact that climate change will have on countries of risk, particularly in the Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia.
High-risk areas will continue to see their credit risk increase, which will substantially reduce their ability to borrow for economic development due to a debt risk caused by climate change.
This leaves many countries with just two choices regarding transfer of risk, either insurance or adaption. Unfortunately, with increased climate change risk, these same countries will see a 30% to 70% increase in insurance costs, which for many is untenable. This makes for a strong argument for investment in resilience, which over time in the face of climate change pays for itself.
An example of the investment in mitigation and adaptation made by a country like The Netherlands versus the investment by Asian countries like Thailand or Vietnam provides a stark contrast to the disparity between nations to withstand any inevitable future major climate change events.
From my perspective, it is important not to err on the side of focusing on adaptation and resilience to the exclusion of climate change mitigation. The fact is these are not either / or scenarios.
Both must be considered, but with the realistic understanding that even with the best efforts at mitigation that can emerge from a summit like this, there will continue to occur major climate change events in the coming years that will require many countries to take steps in adaptation and resilience similar to what Global Green USA has done with our construction projects in New Orleans and Solar for Sandy in the Northeast that take an adaptive approach by providing off grid solar power at community centers so to offer a place for people to go in a future climate catastrophe with access to power.
Finally, I couldn't agree more with panelist Jean-Marie Chataignier in the importance of a multi-dimensional approach to combating this challenge by focusing on education regarding climate change; encouraging partnerships between NGOs, governments, research, and the business community; and innovation and investment in processes to help decarbonate our planet.
If there is one major theme that runs throughout this summit, it is the recognition that it will take a collaborative effort between each party to affect real change and create adaptive and resilient solutions. Any and all government pledges will be a major step in recognition of the problem, but I suspect it will require more COPs over the next few years to reach a point where the politics of any individual country is superseded by the well-being of global humanity.
The second day of COP21, the Paris Climate Summit (COP being an abbreviation for Conference Of Parties) begins under a dark cloud brought about by the news that the US Republican-lead Congress has won approval of two measures blocking federal rules to cut power plant emissions and rendering those rules inoperative. This is absolutely the wrong message to send to countries around the world regarding the American commitment to reduce its impact on global warming, with our nation being the second largest producer of greenhouse gas behind China.
Meanwhile here in Paris today, Tom Vilsack, the US Secretary of Agriculture, spoke alongside his counterparts in Costa Rica, Ireland, and Vietnam, advocating for the need to encourage people to get involved in the field of agriculture and its significant impact on climate, as well as the need to motivate farmers around the world to embrace climate-smart agriculture focused on carbon sequestration in the soil and based upon innovation and technology such as drip irrigation.
On a more positive note, here at La Galerie Des Solutions are a number of international companies on display from a variety of areas including transportation, real estate, construction and energy that all advance responsible business practices. The firms focus on corporate sustainability by delivering long-term social, environmental and ethical value, following suit with the United Nations Global Compact from July 26, 2000, which calls upon businesses throughout the world to voluntarily align their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, anti-corruption, and the environment.
Historical finger-pointing between environmental organizations and the business community has never accomplished anything except delay the important collaborative dialogue between the two sectors, an essential component in a process of cooperative and collaborative problem solving. As Global Green USA moves forward in building relationships with strategic business partners, it is with the belief that non-profit organizations like ours must work together with government agencies and the corporate community to solve the problem of climate change. For this reason, Global Green has reached out only to those companies that embrace innovative climate solutions and which advance best practices in green business.
Despite the actions of certain members of our own government to thwart the President's commitment to mitigate climate change, if non-profit organizations and companies like those represented here at COP21 can come together to create and mobilize members of each sector into creating new initiatives and scaling up existing ones, together we will be the real drivers of sustainability, either with or without the support of Congress.
Earlier today, Mark Zuckerberg announced that he will gradually throughout his lifetime leave 99% of his stock to various charitable organizations, which will hopefully include the environmental arena. Along with Bill Gates, Mr. Zuckerberg leads by example as a socially responsible corporate chieftain, with others to surely follow.
Day 1: December 1
Despite the recent events in Paris, attendees to COP21 UN Climate Summit in Paris seem undeterred and resolved to participate in this significant event over the next two weeks. Representing Global Green USA are Les McCabe, President and CEO; Bill Bridge, Director of Strategic Partnerships; and GGUSA Board member Sebastian Copeland, who will soon be releasing his new book, Arctica: The Vanishing North, a poignant pictorial of the impact of climate change.
According to our hosts in Paris, the streets of the city are significantly less crowded due to the obvious lingering concern over the terrible attacks that occurred nearly three weeks ago. Everywhere one looks throughout the city, a very heavy military and police presence stands vigilant, particularly here in Le Bourget where the entry to the Summit is carefully controlled by security screenings and credentials required in advance of arrival.
Le Bourget, a township approximately 20 minutes northeast of Paris, is the focal point of activity during COP21. The actual conference facility is only accessible by shuttle buses from train stations and other designated sights. Our credentials come via our affiliate organization Green Cross International and provide us with observer status to most of the events, plenaries, and exhibits.
Yesterday, President Obama joined 140 other heads of state at this location to announce each country’s environmental experts’ positions on climate change. It is clear that everyone in attendance recognizes the significant impact of current climate change and its aftermath years from now, if no reduction of global warming materializes. However, as the world news media has been reporting, a definite apprehension looms over the ability of the leaders attending COP21 being able to reach an agreement on the proper actions needed to stop global temperatures from rising two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial era temperatures, the acknowledged point at which we will see exponentially more extreme weather events like heat waves and floods, polar ice melts, rising sea levels and increased ocean acidity.
The failure of prior summits stretching back to COP3, the Kyoto Protocol Climate Conference, reflects the inability of leaders of nations to bind themselves to targets and decisions which are either unattainable or unpopular with governing bodies at home. American officials entered the Paris conference having already decided to agree to non-binding goals and targets with the other major climate change supporters, under the notion that our own congress in its current configuration is unlikely to agree with any binding agreements of other nations. This model, while perhaps more practical, provides no guarantees and instead operates on the good faith efforts of countries to curb their greenhouse gas emissions.
Complicating the ability to reach some type of consensus on climate change is the ever-present dichotomy between developed countries that have had the benefit brought by the Industrial Revolution of already having modernized their economies through the use of dangerous fossil fuels and are now financially stable enough to adapt clean air strategies without hindering economic development, unlike developing countries like India, where 35 percent of its population still does has no access to energy whatsoever.
China, the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions today, holds a very large presence here at the conference, and for the first time has recognized not only the significant deficit it offers to a clean environment, but also finally understands the health issues facing its citizens in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai; an embarrassing mirror of Los Angeles decades ago with actual smog alert warnings, since dropped with the introduction of emission curbs, the requirement of catalytic converters, and the move toward renewable energy.
While the biggest contributors to climate change, China, the US, India and Russia in descending order, recognize and support the importance of every country to develop carbon reduction plans, those countries contributing the least to global warming (mainly Island nations) are seeing their countries literally shrinking in size with the rise of sea levels. In other words, larger developed and developing countries account for the vast majority of climate change impact, and as such play a critical role in the outcome of these discussions and meetings; while smaller countries who damage our ecosystem the least are, through no fault of their own, dependent upon the decisions and outcomes reached by those previously mentioned nations.
Whatever the outcomes of this Summit, experts predict they will be insufficient at this stage to stop the two degree Celsius temperature rise. As Bill McKibben was recently quoted in the Los Angeles Times, the result of COP21 under the United Nations stated concession of an acceptable increase of 3.7 degrees Celsius will continue to keep
" …Earth’s ecosystems unstable.” As Mr. McKibben continued, "Paris is a placeholder until something stronger replaces it.”
Nonetheless, one can still keep faith for the future in light of this congregation of concerned nations, NGOs, and scientists gathered for the next two weeks in the great metropolis of Paris, France. If nothing else, perhaps the plethora of news coverage will draw much needed attention to this matter around the world, so that as global citizens, we will begin to demand a greater response from our elected leaders as well as make more conscious choices in our investments and purchases, accounting for the significant role any business plays in contributing to climate change.
COP21 becomes another important step in the process of increasing awareness of what many of us consider to be the greatest challenge facing the planet today... something we at Global Green have recognized going back to our work ten years ago post Katrina, and seven years after that, post Sandy.
Green building and design to lessen our carbon impact, coupled with resilient building and resilience and renewable energy systems such as our recent Solar for Sandy initiative, puts Global Green on the front lines of response to climate change. Our resiliency and mitigation projects in New Orleans and the Northeast US demonstrate our capacity to respond to climate change events now and in the future, particularly in those communities that are the most vulnerable; while at the same time, our presence here and throughout the year as advocates for climate change mitigation place our organization in the company of other crucial and influential NGOs leading the fight against climate change and model responses at the front of this important battle.
The presence of over 150 countries, hundreds of green businesses, non-profit environmental groups, and government agencies all together no doubt will become a catalyst for important information sharing, innovation, and strategies to address climate change. I am proud that Global Green USA is a part of this process during the next ten days here in Paris.
Global Green partners with leading universities to provide hands-on education to university students, and the innovation and creativity of the university setting to collaborate on addressing pressing sustainability challenges.
In the 2013 Fall semester, Global Green USA and Parsons the New School for Design held a class focused on re-designing New York City school lunch trays. With over 830,000 lunch trays sent to landfill each school day in NYC, the challenge is: Can we transform trays currently made from unrecoverable expanded polystyrene foam into aesthetically pleasing, functional, recyclable, and compostable lunch trays.
The curriculum for the class, taught by Parsons faculty member Daniel Michalik, was designed in conjunction with Global Green USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR). This semester-long class provided a valuable applied educational experience for undergraduate design students; it brought experts in the field of food service packaging design and paper fiber together with young student designers who bring a fresh take to a timely issue in NYC. Parsons students worked both individually and in groups to research the design constraints associated with these trays. Glob-al Green coordinated school visits to see trays in use and tours of manufacturing or recycling facilities, and arranged for product samples and presentations from industry professionals.
The objectives of the class were to provide a hands-on educational experience for design students, to inform the design of prototype trays that would, if produced and used en masse, enrich the lunch experience for New York’s school children by giving them the chance to act responsibly for the environment, and to reduce the ecological impact of school lunch.
Global Green is seeking to develop a key transformative university partnership in 2015 in order to provide hands-on education to university students, and the innovation and creativity of the university setting to collaborate on addressing pressing sustainability challenges.
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