Deforestation, oil spills, and coronavirus: Crises converge in the Amazon

by 


Highlights

  • Brazil now has the second-highest number of documented COVID-19 cases, with 400,000 confirmed cases and 25,000 deaths
  • According to the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil, an indigenous rights organization, the mortality rate among the indigenous population of nearly one million is double that experienced in Brazil overall
  • The entire Amazon region has seen an estimated 2,278 positive cases and 504 deaths across approximately 73 different Amazon indigenous nations
  • Rapid deforestation is still occurring while the pandemic spreads through the Amazon
  • Under his administration, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has granted amnesty for fines for illegal deforestation, slashed budgets for environmental law enforcement, criticized scientists, and blamed indigenous communities for last years fires
  • Other environmental threats to the Amazon include two oil pipelines that collapsed in Ecuador, releasing roughly 15,000 barrels of oil into the Amazon’s waterways

Scientists are increasingly warning that to avoid catastrophic impacts from climate change, the world’s governments must implement massive reductions of warming emissions and begin a drawdown of greenhouse gases (GHG) from the atmosphere over the decade ahead. There are dozens of scalable solutions available now to reverse the climate crisis. Endorse the Climate-Safe California Platform to avert dire consequences and inspire greater climate action worldwide.


Read More: https://grist.org/justice/deforestation-oil-spills-and-coronavirus-crises-converge-in-the-amazon/

Climate Justice is Racial Justice

The recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others at the hands of police, are abhorrent and intolerable. Institutional racism, intentionally interwoven into the American fabric since long before our nation’s founding, has locked in major inequalities for people of color in wealth, income, education, health, jobs, housing, and public safety.

Black, Brown, and Indigenous people are more likely to be killed by police than white people, with virtually no officers charged, let alone convicted.

Toxic oil and gas infrastructure – from freeways to oil rigs–are often sited in communities of color, dangerously close to homes, schools, and hospitals due to historic redlining and redevelopment. Constantly in the pall of polluted air, they suffer from significantly lower life expectancy and higher rates of asthma, cancer, and other diseases than white people and those in wealthier neighborhoods.

And these same communities of color are being hit much harder by the dual pandemics of COVID19 and climate.

There cannot be climate justice without racial justice.

Shared responsibility and equitable, inclusive solutions are fundamental values we at The Climate Center strive to realize in our efforts to achieve speed and scale greenhouse gas reductions. We stand in solidarity with communities of color. We stand in solidarity with the protesters in the streets.

The climate movement cannot remain silent any longer. To achieve our urgent climate policy goals, we must close the climate gap to ensure communities of color are no longer disproportionately harmed. We must end police violence, white supremacy, and the environmental injustices that many Black, Brown, Asian and Indigenous communities experience daily.

Take action today. Learn about systemic racism, talk about it, speak out against it, practice anti-racism, and demand racial justice. Together we can ensure a just transition to a clean, green, and equitable future.

Following are a handful of the many resources available online: Systemic Racism Explained (short video), 5 Ways to Show Up for Racial Justice Today, Activism & Allyship Guide, 15 Things Your City Can Do Right Now to End Police Brutality, Anti-Racism Resources for White People, and 8 Ways Environmental Organizations Can Support the Movement for Environmental Justice.

The Climate Movement’s silence on racism

by Emily Atkin, Heated


Highlights

As protests and demonstrations occur throughout the world in response to the murder of George Floyd, some environmental groups have responded in solitary while many other activists and groups have remained silent.  

  • Groups such as the Sierra Club and white climate activists like Greta Thunberg have all spoken out in solidarity. However, other activists like Al Gore or groups such as Citizens Climate Lobby have remained silent on the issue.
  • Liz Havstad, the executive director of Hip Hop Caucus, says it doesn’t make sense for climate groups not to stand in solidarity:

“The burden of the issues that you’re working on are falling harder on all people color, and particularly Black people…Unless you’re willing to solve the roots of that disproportionate impact, you’re not solving anything at all.”

  • The lack of support for the black community plays a role in why black people are underrepresented in mainstream environmental groups, are less likely to participate in outdoor recreation, and are less likely to label themselves as environmentalists
  • Various environmental groups do not see racial inequality as an intersectional movement and have been reluctant to address racism within the climate movement

The impacts of climate change are hitting harder and faster than expected, posing grave threats to human health and well-being. Lower-income communities are disproportionately affected by exposure to pollution from our fossil fuel economy. Climate Justice involves a climate safe future for all people from all backgrounds and neighborhoods.


Read More: https://heated.world/p/the-climate-movements-silence

Cities are leading on clean mobility during the COVID and climate crises. They need help.

Take action today: Ask your electeds to commit to a phase-out of dirty, gas-powered vehicles and invest in sustainable mobility as part of COVID-19 stimulus funding.

On March 30th, The Climate Center and our partners sent a letter to the California Air Resources Board asking them to hold firm on clean air regulations during this pandemic. The fossil fuel industry has used the pandemic to try to halt clean air regulations that protect millions of Californians– right when we need them most for both public health and to get on the path to a climate-safe future.

California’s pre-pandemic transportation habits were a disaster for the climate and public health. Even without a deadly respiratory illness, our rampant fossil fuel use compromised air quality and the lung health of our most vulnerable, and GHG emissions from transportation remained stubbornly high.

Tackling these emissions from transportation requires both a reduction in vehicles on the road and electrification of virtually all of the vehicles remaining. Sadly, COVID-19 will not do the job for us.

The pandemic’s effect on traffic and related emissions is already wearing off, with gasoline use rebounding and some commuters choosing to drive their cars over using public transit.

Ridership on buses and trains in major cities in the U.S., Europe, and China is down by 50-90% from pre-crisis levels. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in the U.S. has provided some relief with $25 billion for public transit, but we must do much more for climate-safe mobility.

In addition to transit, converting car lanes to bike and pedestrian pathways can help. Many European cities are adding miles of new bike lanes, with French officials aiming to create more than 400 miles of bike lanes throughout the greater Paris metropolitan area.

And the City of Oakland took steps to accommodate car-free travel by opening 74 miles of streets to pedestrians, scooters, and bikes!

California legislators must seize the moment to incentivize cities to remove cars from the road and to start the process of phasing out fossil fuel vehicles.

We at The Climate Center are committed to working with lawmakers to move us forward for climate-safe mobility.

We hope you will join us. Take action today.

Endorse our Climate-Safe California campaign and support The Climate Center’s bold efforts today. 

Note: There are new additional tax benefits for charitable giving in 2020 due to COVID 19. Read more.

Additional Reading:

Coronavirus is not just a health crisis — it’s an environmental justice crisis


Highlights

There are large disparities in COVID-19 deaths among people who have historically faced environmental justice issues within the US. 

  • African-American communities have historically been disproportionately housed near sources of large pollution, particularly in the South, leading these communities to develop asthma, cancers, and other respiratory problems
  • This life long exposure has lead to more COVID-19 deaths as poor air quality increases fatality from the virus 
  • Health experts particularly worried that overcrowded housing, lack of health insurance, and workplace exposure in jobs like agriculture will cause the number of cases to skyrocket within some latinx communities 
  • Lack of access to safe drinking water and underfunded health care are issues impacting infection rates within the Navajo Nation
  • Political scientist Fatemeh Shafiei, director of environmental studies at Spelman College, has found that low-income residents and people of color are disproportionately exposed to health-threatening environments in their homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces throughout their lives
  • Eliminating pollution exposure, and ultimately structural inequalities within the country, would dramatically improve the health and safety of these marginalized communities and lower the risk of COVID-related deaths

Lower-income communities are disproportionately affected by exposure to pollution from our fossil fuel economy through proximity to oil and gas wells, oil refineries, major highways, and other industrial areas. The Climate Center works to secure a healthy, vibrant, and equitable future for everyone in these communities


Read more: https://grist.org/justice/coronavirus-is-not-just-a-health-crisis-its-an-environmental-justice-crisis/

A clean, green, and just economic recovery

Take action today for a clean, green, and just economic recovery in California.

On April 28, The Climate Center and many of its partners sent a letter to the California legislature asking them to use federal stimulus funds to support proven programs that improve health and resilience, and create jobs for a climate-safe future.

We asked that they secure ongoing revenue streams to increase the impact and longevity of those dollars. And we recommended using bonds to help power California’s recovery.

Despite the terrible toll, COVID-19 is presenting a unique opportunity to transform our economy into a healthy, equitable, and resilient one. The California legislature can funnel stimulus dollars to reverse some of the damage already done by the pandemic, including 100,000 clean energy jobs lost in March alone.

Crucial investments we need now include accelerating the equitable phase-out of fossil fuel development, production, and use by replacing it with clean energy, increasing sequestration through healthy soils initiatives on agricultural and working lands, and investing in community resilience measures including community energy resilience to help us weather unavoidable climate impacts.

These investments create a pathway to a resilient economic recovery for California with a secure transition for everyone.

While the world appears to be at a standstill, emissions are still rising and the climate crisis means that we will likely face multiple disasters at the same time going forward.

The impacts of climate change will far outweigh those of COVID-19 and could abruptly collapse whole ecosystems, starting with tropical oceans in the next ten years. While the economic impacts from the pandemic are significant, extreme weather events alone are predicted to cost around $8 trillion globally per year by 2050 with untold direct and indirect human health impacts.

We have the chance right now to address the COVID-19 health crisis, the climate crisis, and the economic crisis by supporting a bold suite of policies to transition us to a vibrant, healthy, and climate-safe future for all.

Let’s ensure a clean, green, and just economic recovery. Take action today here. Together we can do it!

Endorse our Climate-Safe California campaign and support The Climate Center’s bold efforts today!

Earth Day 2030: California celebrates reaching net-negative emissions

Let’s imagine it is April 2030. In the early 2020s, as the coronavirus pandemic swept the world, we in California finally addressed the climate crisis at the speed and scale science demanded.

Nation & World Collaborating for Speed & Scale Climate Action

Today, Earth Day 2030, we celebrate the deep systemic changes we have collectively made for a healthy, equitable, and climate-safe future. We reflect back on an exceptional ten years of climate action.

The decade began with a nightmare, COVID-19, which woke us up to the deadly consequences of ignoring science. We quickly realized that we must heed the warning of climate experts and take immediate, bold action to avert climate catastrophe.

It took an exponentially growing body of diverse advocates (like you!) putting pressure on policymakers to create bold change in line with the science. COVID-19 showed us how quickly and dramatically we could change government policies, unleash market forces, and create opportunities for everyone to participate in a climate-safe economy.

Today we look back on our many achievements, including:

  • California accelerated the phase-out of fossil fuel development, production, and use. 

Legislation enacted in the early 2020s is showing enormous benefits for health, the environment and the economy as the state halted all new investments in fossil fuel infrastructure and began rapidly phasing-out fossil fuel-powered cars, trucks, buses, trains, and equipment.

We dramatically increased investments in public transportation, housing near jobs, and innovative programs that reduced toxic air pollution, especially for frontline communities.

The state also enacted zero-emissions building codes and began phasing out methane gas. We are grateful to the workers whose livelihoods were dependent on fossil fuel industries for making this rapid transition to a 100% GHG-free, clean energy economy possible.

Ranchers, farmers, and public resource managers were incentivized to implement climate-friendly habitat and soil protection and restoration programs on millions of acres from the Sierras to the sea.

Farmers led the way in reducing emissions while supporting food and water security with climate-friendly, regenerative production.

  • Unavoidable damage from extreme climate events meant that California became heavily invested in community resilience and protecting the most vulnerable, lower-income communities.

Legislation enacted in the early 2020s funded and supported California’s counties and cities to develop and implement clean, local, decentralized, resilient energy and storage, building independent capacity to address climate and other emergencies.

Major new state programs funded and supported local climate emergency response and preparedness measures, including early warning systems, resilience centers, and public education programs that are now benefitting all Californians.

  • California created new financing mechanisms, from frequent flyer fees and carbon taxes to private sector investments, that generated the billions of dollars needed annually for speed and scale climate solutions.

Millions of people took action to bring about the changes in policy that accelerated our transition.

On this Earth Day 2030, we commit to continuing our efforts to secure a healthy, vibrant, and equitable future for all.

We can achieve this vision if we act today based on the latest science. Support The Climate Center and help make Climate-Safe California a reality. Make every day Earth Day!

Environmental groups sue EPA over ‘reckless’ response to coronavirus


Highlights

The National Resources Defence Council (NRDC) is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of a dozen environmental groups.

  • Environmental groups across the country petitioned the EPA to publish an emergency rule that requires polluters to submit a public notice that they are taking advantage of newly relaxed emissions and pollutions standards
    • This petition comes days after the EPA relaxed pollution standards at the request of an oil industry trade group claiming it was necessary to loosen regulations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • These relaxed pollution standards will affect drinking water and air quality which directly impacts public health, especially in fence-line communities that border refineries and factories
    • Even with previous environmental regulations, these communities are still greatly impacted by emissions
    • A study focused on health hazards in vulnerable communities found that nearly 12,500 high-risk chemical facilities across the country place 39% of the U.S. population (124 million people) in constant risk of a chemical disaster, disproportionately affecting communities of color 
  • Juan Parras, founder and executive director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.), says relaxing these regulations is a direct violation of the EPA’s main objective:

“The EPA, in allowing this to happen, is basically going against its very core value, which is to protect health and human safety [against] industrial pollution,” 


Fossil fuel divestment and the transition to 100% clean electricity is critical to achieving The Climate Center’s goals under the Climate-Safe California Platform.


Read more: https://grist.org/justice/environmental-groups-sue-epa-over-reckless-response-to-coronavirus

Trump’s move to suspend enforcement of environmental laws is a lifeline to the oil industry

By Marianne Levelle, Inside Climate News


Highlights

The Trump administration suspended U.S. environmental laws due to calls for help from the American Petroleum Institute. The suspension of the rules will ultimately lead to more pollution, making more people in frontline communities susceptible to health risks, including COVID-19. 

  • The Environmental Protection Agency announced a policy that suspended enforcement and civil penalties for regulated entities that can prove the ongoing pandemic caused failure to comply with the law, allowing the oil industry to violate air and water pollution regulations at refineries
  • Gina McCarthy of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) calls the policy “an open license to pollute.” 
  • The industry sought out federal help after oil prices crashed due to Saudi  Arabia’s increase in oil production which impacted Russian and U.S. oil markets
  • Some members of Congress and oil executives wanted help in the form of direct financial support or trade halts with Saudi Arabia
  • The suspension of environmental laws will cause more pollution in communities surrounding refineries, making people more vulnerable to the respiratory effects of COVID-19

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must re-examine the ways in which we move around. The Climate Center is committed to working with state and local lawmakers to put us on track for a Climate-Safe California, which will include climate-safe transportation.


Read more: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/27032020/coronavirus-covid-19-EPA-API-environmental-enforcement

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – March 27, 2020

Due to the COVID-19 disruption, the legislature has gone into recess until April 13 at the earliest. While the legislature is on recess, The Climate Center continues to analyze the bills that were introduced in February, and is in the process of determining positions on many of them. Below are several, but not all, of the key bills we are tracking. For a complete list of the 112 bills we are currently tracking in 2020, click HERE. Our next update will be published here on April 9. Please send updates, suggestions, corrections to woody@theclimatecenter.org

 

Assembly Bills

AB 345 (Muratsuchi) SUPPORT – This bill will, if enacted, establish regulations to protect public health and safety near oil and gas extraction facilities,  including a minimum setback distance between oil and gas activities and sensitive receptors such as schools, childcare facilities, playgrounds, residences, hospitals, and health clinics. See The Climate Center’s Letter of Support. STATUS: In the Senate. Read first time. Sent to the Senate Rules Committee for assignment to a policy committee.

 

AB 1839 (Bonta) WATCH – The “Green New Deal” bill. Introduced on January 6, this bill would create the California Green New Deal Council with a specified membership appointed by the Governor. The bill would require the California Green New Deal Council to submit a specified report to the Legislature no later than January 1, 2022. So far the plan is scant on specifics including how goals will be met or how much the State will pay to meet those goals. STATUS: Introduced in January 6. No committee assignment yet. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing.  The Climate Center is still assessing the bill and has not yet taken a position.

AB 1847 (Levine) WATCH – This bill would authorize the CPUC (contingent on the Commission finding that an electrical corporation is not complying with State law, rules, or regulations) to appoint a public administrator to the electrical corporation for a period not to exceed 180 days. The bill would vest the public administrator with oversight authority over the electrical corporation’s activities that impact public safety. See the bill author’s factsheet. STATUS: In the Assembly Utilities & Energy Committee. No hearing date set.

AB 2145 (Ting) WATCH – This bill would state the intent of the legislature to enact legislation to reform the electric vehicle charging infrastructure approval process employed by the CPUC to help ensure that by 2030 California will safely install enough EV charging ports to meet the demand through public and private investment.

 

AB 2689 (Kalra) Likely Support. – This bill updates Investor-Owned Utility (IOU) confidentiality provisions to allow a broader range of market experts to participate in complex IOU cost recovery proceedings and supports California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) oversight to protect customers from unreasonable or unjustified IOU rate increases. California IOU electric generation rates have increased 49% since 2013. Between 2008 and 2018, IOU customer rates doubled from $29.3 billion to $59.3 billion per year. AB 2689 would result in greater IOU accountability and improved consumer protection, safety, and affordability. The California Community Choice Association is a sponsor of this bill. STATUS: In the Assembly Rules Committee.
AB 2789 (Kamlager) WATCH – This bill would appropriate $1,500,000 and require the CPUC, in consultation with the CA Energy Commission, to request the California Council on Science and Technology to undertake and complete a study, as specified, relative to electrical grid outages and cost avoidance resulting from deployment of eligible renewable energy resources, battery storage systems, and demand response technologies. The bill would require the PUC to report the results of the study to the Legislature by January 1, 2022. STATUS: Awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee.
AB 3014 (Muratsuchi) WATCH – This bill aims to improve the reliability of California electric supply by reforming the State’s resource adequacy (RA) program. Specifically, this bill creates the Central Reliability Authority (CRA), a non-profit public benefit corporation, to purchase residual RA needed to meet state requirements while still allowing load-serving entities (LSEs), such as Community Choice Agencies (CCAs), to maintain their procurement autonomy. The newly created CRA also reduces costly RA purchases currently undertaken by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and greatly enhances the RA market. The California Community Choice Association is a sponsor of this bill. STATUS: In the Assembly Rules Committee.

AB 3021 (Ting) SUPPORT – This bill would appropriate $300,000,000 per fiscal year in the 2020–21, 2021–22, and 2022–23 fiscal years from the General Fund to the California Energy Commission to administer a program to provide resiliency grant funding and technical assistance to local educational agencies for the installation of energy storage systems. STATUS: Double-referred to Education and Natural Resources committees.

 

AB 3251 (Bauer-Kahan) WATCH – This bill would require that charging of energy storage systems be treated as load in calculations for demand response programs, and that capacity from energy storage systems installed on the customer side of the meter be allowed to be aggregated for purposes of determining resource adequacy capacity; and electricity exported to the grid from the customer side of the meter be allowed to count toward the capacity obligations of load-serving entities. STATUS: In Assembly, referred to Asm Energy Committee.

 

Senate Bills

SB 45 (Allen, et al) SUPPORT – Dubbed the “Wildfire Prevention, Safe Drinking Water, Drought Preparation, and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2020.” This is a proposed $5.51 billion general obligation bond to be placed on the November 3, 2020 statewide general election. Specifically, $570 million will be made available for climate resiliency initiatives including microgrids, distributed generation, storage systems, in-home backup power, and community resiliency centers such as cooling centers, clean air centers, hydration stations, and emergency shelters. STATUS: Passed out of Senate, in the Assembly, held at the desk.

 

SB 378 (Wiener) WATCH – Would establish customer and local government protections related to Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) incidents. Specifically, the bill requires IOUs to provide annual reports to the Wildfire Safety Division within the CPUC on the condition of their electrical equipment and provide maintenance logs to assess fire safety risk. The bill also requires the CPUC to develop procedures for consumers and local governments to recover costs from IOUs accrued during PSPS events, improves PSPS notification procedures, and makes IOUs subject to civil fines if the CPUC determines that the IOU failed to act in a reasonable and prudent manner. STATUS: In the Assembly, pending committee referral.

SB 774 (Stern) WATCH – SB 774 would require IOUs to collaborate with the State’s Office of Emergency of Services and others to identify where back-up electricity sources may provide increased electrical distribution grid resiliency and would allow the IOUs to file applications with the CPUC to invest in, and deploy, microgrids to increase resiliency. Concerns focus on too much control being placed in the hands of the IOUs over microgrid development when other LSEs and stakeholders can and should play a role. STATUS: In the Assembly committee process with no committee assignment and no hearing date.

 

SB 917 (Wiener) WATCH – This bill renames the California Consumer Energy and Conservation Financing Authority and via eminent domain takes control of PG&E to create the Northern California Energy Utility District and a public benefit corporation, Northern California Energy Utility Services, to carry out day to day operations. The key provision of the bill that is relevant to Community Choice Energy is: “10623: The authority of a community choice aggregator to provide electric service within the service territory of the district shall remain as if the district were an electrical corporation.” STATUS: Triple-referred to Senate Energy, Govt & Finance, and Judiciary Committees.
SB 947 (Dodd) SUPPORT – This bill would require the California Public Utilities Commission to evaluate financial performance-based incentives and performance-based metric tracking to identify mechanisms that may serve to better align electrical corporation operations, expenditures, and investments with public benefit goals. STATUS: In the Senate Energy & Utilities Committee.
SB 1215 (Stern) – SB 1215, the “California Emergency Services Act” establishes the Office of Emergency Services in the office of the Governor and provides that the office is responsible for the state’s emergency and disaster response services for natural, technological, or manmade disasters and emergencies. Creates a grant program for microgrids. STATUS: In Senate, double-referred to the Governmental Organization and Energy Committees.
SB 1240 (Skinner) SUPPORT – This bill would require the California Energy Commission, in consultation with the California Independent System Operator, to identify and evaluate options for transforming the electrical corporations’ (Investor Owned Utilities’) distribution grids into more open access platforms that would allow local governments and other third parties to participate more easily in grid activities, as provided. The bill would require the commission to update the identification and evaluation at least once every two years. The bill would require the commission, beginning January 1, 2022, and biennially thereafter, to submit to the Legislature a report on the identification and evaluation of options. The Climate Center is a sponsor of this bill. For more details, see Kurt Johnson’s blog about this bill. STATUS: In Senate – referred to Senate Energy Committee.
SB 1258 (Stern) WATCH – Titled the California Climate Technology and Infrastructure Financing Act, this bill would enact the California Climate Technology and Infrastructure Financing Act to require the California Infrastructure Bank (IBank), in consultation with specified agencies to administer the Climate Catalyst Revolving Fund, which the bill would establish to provide financial assistance to eligible climate catalyst projects. STATUS: In the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee.
SB 1314 (Dodd) SUPPORT – SB 1314, the Community Energy Resilience Act of 2020, would require the Strategic Growth Council to develop and implement a grant program for local governments to develop community energy resilience plans. The bill would set forth guiding principles for plan development, including equitable access to reliable energy, as provided, and integration with other existing local planning documents. The bill would require a plan to, among other things, ensure a reliable electricity supply is maintained at critical facilities and identify areas most likely to experience a loss of electrical service. The bill would require the council to establish a stakeholder review board to provide statewide oversight for purposes of the grant program. The bill would require a local government, as a condition of receiving grant funding, to submit its plan and a report of project expenditures to the stakeholder review board within six months of completing the plan. The bill would require the stakeholder review board to annually report specified information about the grant program to the Legislature. The Climate Center is a sponsor of this bill. For more details, see Kurt Johnson’s blog about this bill. STATUS: Double-referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committees.