Friday, December 2, 2016

Cities and States: Rise of Clean Energy can't be Trumped

A wind turbine in Adair, Iowa. Credit Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

IOWA CITY — THE wind turbines that rise out of the cornfields here reminded me on a recent drive of one postelection truth, even in the red state of Iowa.

As President-elect Donald J. Trump considers whether to break the United States commitment to the Paris climate accord, the rise of clean energy across the heartland is already too well entrenched to be reversed.

By 2020, thanks to MidAmerican Energy’s planned $3.6 billion addition to its enormous wind turbine operations, 85 percent of its Iowa customers will be electrified by clean energy. Meanwhile, Moxie Solar, named the fastest-growing local business by The Corridor Business Journal of Iowa, is installing solar panels on my house, and is part of a solar industry that now employs 200,000 nationwide.

Doomsday scenarios about the climate have abounded in the aftermath of the November election. But responsibility for effectively reining in carbon emissions also rests with business, and with the nation’s cities and states. Those are the battlegrounds. Worldwide, cities produce as much as 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Many of the planet’s cities lie along the coasts and are threatened by slowly rising seas. Seventy percent of those cities are already dealing with extreme weather like drought and flooding. Add in aging infrastructure and waves of migrants and it is obvious that city planners, mayors and governors have had to re-envision how their cities generate energy and provide food and transportation.

“The concept of a regenerative city could indeed become a new vision for cities,” the Germany-based World Future Council reported recently. “It stands for cities that not only minimize negative impact but can actually have a positive, beneficial role to play within the natural ecosystem from which they depend. Cities have to constantly regenerate the resources they absorb.”

This idea won broad support at a recent gathering of city leaders from around the world in Quito, Ecuador, hosted by the United Nations. The Habitat III conference approved a “new urban agenda” that urges cities to adapt to climate change but minimize their harm to the environment and move to sustainable economies.

In a changing climate, these approaches make sense. As Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, told the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce recently, “Cities, businesses and citizens will continue reducing emissions, because they have concluded — just as China has — that doing so is in their own self-interest.”

With or without significant federal support, reducing greenhouse gas emissions will require major private investment, as it has here in Iowa, and ambitious private-public initiatives from mayors and governors. We need to activate a new era of “regenerative” cities and states.

California’s recent move to reduce its carbon emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 is a hopeful shift that other cities and states should emulate. This would involve setting high benchmarks for developing green enterprise zones, renewable energy, cultivating food locally, restoring biodiversity, planting more trees and emphasizing walkability, low-carbon transportation and zero waste.

Following this regenerative approach, the Australian city of Adelaide reduced its carbon emissions by 20 percent from 2007 to 2013, even as the population grew by 27 percent and the economy increased by 28 percent. The city experienced a boom in green jobs, the development of walkable neighborhoods powered by solar energy, the conversion of urban waste to compost and a revamped local food industry. The city also planted three million trees to absorb carbon dioxide.

Over 10,000 climate initiatives are underway in cities worldwide, according to the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which represents 80 major cities. In nearby Des Moines, for instance, Mayor Frank Cownie recently committed the city to reducing its energy consumption 50 percent by 2030 and becoming “carbon neutral” by 2050.

Initiatives like those have become a “fill the potholes” reality for many mayors, regardless of political games in Washington. In San Diego, the Republican mayor, Kevin Faulconer, helped to push through a climate action plan that commits the city to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. Other cities are following his lead.

“Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else,” the urban visionary Jane Jacobs wrote. “But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.”

In an age of climate change, and a possible shift in the federal government’s priority on climate action, never have those words been truer.

Jeff Biggers, the author of “Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland,” is the founder of the Climate Narrative Project at the University of Iowa.

New York Times

Cities and States Lead on Climate Change

Op-Ed Contributor
New York Times
Nov. 30, 2016

From the Pulpit: Minister says President-Elect 'crossed a moral/ethical and political line'

Excerpts from a Sermon by the Reverend Thomas H. Yorty
Westminster Presbyterian Church, Buffalo

November 20, 2016

Last Sunday, … I made some comments about the recent election and the moral courage and vision churches, this church, will be called upon to summon in the days ahead.

The rhetoric of the campaign revealed less about policy than it did about personal character and the blatant disregard by the president-elect for women and a long list of minorities including veterans and disabled persons. That hateful rhetoric is now being translated into the governing structure of the new administration with the appointment of senior advisors and agency directors who will chart the course of the nation.

Given the proud alignment of these advisors with white supremacist nationalism and xenophobia that brands whole groups like Muslims, Mexicans and African Americans as dangerous criminals and worse – I want to devote some time this morning to reflect on our role with regard to the new president and his aim to redefine America.

I do not remember in my lifetime or the past century such unabashed racism, misogyny and Arian ideology in a soon to be sitting president.

Here is a short list of some of the items on his agenda: the dismantling of Medicare and approval for the Keystone Pipeline—issues about which I grant reasonable people might disagree, but then there is the proposed the mass incarceration and deportation of Mexicans; the registration of all Muslims; the transfer of protected federal lands for commercial use and mining; backing out of the Paris climate accords; exposing our NATO partners in the Baltic to Russian annexation; and nullification of the Iran nuclear agreement opening the door to renewed efforts in Iran to build nuclear arms.

Since the levers of control in possession of the new administration include a GOP majority congress, the likely appointment of at least two Supreme Court justices and two thirds of state governorships and legislatures this agenda could be quickly enacted.

We are well beyond talk about ‘wait and see ’or ‘give the president-elect the benefit of the doubt.’ He has crossed a moral/ethical and political line that violates the principles of our faith expressed by Jesus in the greatest commandment and in the Bill of Rights and in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.

What makes America special, indeed what makes America great is that we are the first people to conduct an experiment in multi-cultural democracy. Two hundred and forty years later, with few exceptions, we can say that experiment has been a success.i

America is not natural. Tribalism is natural. Democracy is not natural. Warlords and dictators are natural. Democracy takes work. Pluralism takes brave and visionary leadership –its goes against the grain of thousands of years of history.

America is the exception and is exceptional because we forged freedoms in the crucible of our War of Independence and fought and died for those freedoms against the forces of darkness–forces that have reared-up again.

I did not plan on preaching on what appears to be our soon to be endangered rights and freedoms or the appointments of the president-elect. It is hard to identify a time when so many of the essential operating principles and core values of our democracy have been challenged not just by incendiary rhetoric but now by the appointment to positions of formidable power individuals who espouse views that until ten days ago were considered marginal at best.

What seems in danger of taking hold, if it has not already, is a broad-based malevolent, fearful, potentially violent turning, not just inward, but against one another. So we need to talk today, as a church.

Click here to view the full sermon.

WEBINAR: Climate Change and Public Health - What Can Municipalities Do?

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Climate Smart Communities Webinar  

Climate Change and Public Health - What Can Municipalities Do?

WHEN: Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Climate change has increased the frequency of extreme weather events. Extreme weather like heat waves and severe flooding have serious impacts on public health. Last year, the New York State Department of Health released the Climate and Health Profile report which discussed health impacts like heat-related illnesses and deaths, allergies, respiratory distress, and water-borne diseases, among others.

Attend this Climate Smart Communities (CSC) webinar on December 7th to hear speakers from the NYS Dept. of Health describe the prognosis for New York State and their research on heat vulnerability and cooling centers. Speakers will provide examples of what municipalities can do to help protect their communities from the health impacts of climate change.

Please provide us with your name and community affiliation, either via email or telephone to the Office of Climate Change at or 518-402-8448. In the event that we cancel or postpone this webinar, respondents will be notified.

To join the webinar on December 7th, follow these steps:
First, click on this link:
Enter your name and email address.
Enter the meeting password: NYSDEC1
Click "Join".
Click “Call Me” in the onscreen “Audio Connection” box and enter your phone number to join the audio portion through your telephone.

Alternatively, call 1-844-633-8697 and enter the Event Number: 644 863 535, followed by your attendee ID (which will be displayed on your screen in the “Event Info” tab) to join the audio portion. The attendee ID is recommended but not required. It is also an option to join the audio portion via your computer speakers (provided your computer has a microphone).

Two days before webinar
, test the computer you plan to use by clicking on the following link:

For assistance with WebEx, go to and click "Support" on the left navigation bar.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This WebEx service includes a feature that allows audio and any documents and other materials exchanged or viewed during the session to be recorded. By joining this session, you automatically consent to such recordings. If you do not consent to the recording, discuss your concerns with the meeting host prior to the start of the recording or do not join the session. Please note that any such recordings may be subject to discovery in the event of litigation.

Community Discussion: Problems and Solutions of Plastic Pollution

To REGISTER, click here

Monday, November 28, 2016

Adapting to a Changing Climate - Strategies for Community Planning

Adapting to a Changing Climate: 

Strategies for Community Planning

Below are links to slides and a recording of a Climate Smart Communities webinar that provide an introduction to the state of local climate adaptation planning in the United States and ideas for the types of adaptation strategies you can pursue as you work to create a more resilient community.

The information provided comes from research conducted by Dr. Missy Stults looking at how local governments are planning for climate change and what opportunities exist for improving the next generation of climate adaptation plans.  A portion of the presentation draws upon a recently released paper that assesses the quality of local climate adaptation planning and one, soon to be released, that looks at the types of strategies included in local adaptation plans.

In addition, real-world examples of adaptation in practice are provided to help understand the array of activities available to help build local resilience to climate change. 

Adapting to a Changing Climate: Strategies for Community Planning


SLIDES Only (PDF)Click Here

Public Meeting: OUR Outer Harbor - Wednesday, Nov.30

Sunday, November 20, 2016

SUSTAINABILITY: Business Will Move Ahead on Environmental and Social Issues, Independent of U.S. Political Leadership

Sustainable Business Will Move Ahead With or Without Trump’s Support

Harvard Business Review | November 18, 2016

Andrew Winston is the author, most recently, of The Big Pivot. He is also the co-author of the best-seller Green to Gold and the author of Green Recovery. He advises some of the world’s leading companies on how they can navigate and profit from environmental and social challenges.

If we take the incoming president of the United States at his word, things look dire for the cause of sustainability. Donald Trump and many of his advisers appear hostile to action on climate change and to progress on many social issues that companies have already embraced, such as diversity and LGBT rights. Even if Trump himself stays ambivalent on some of these issues, Republican leaders have much clearer aims, including extensive plans to slash environmental protections.

Will the seismic shift in U.S. political leadership have a chilling effect on corporate action around environmental and social issues? The short answer is no. Companies will continue to pursue sustainability in the United States because the macro forces driving the movement remain strong. The big trends didn’t disappear on election day and, more important, they do not depend on the U.S. government. Let’s unpack what’s really been propelling most companies forward, which comes down to five megatrends.

The Economics of Clean Tech

In short, Trump cannot stop all momentum on the clean economy. The economics are too good. The cost to build and produce solar and wind power, for example, has dropped 60%–80% since 2010, making it cheaper than grid electricity in most states. And, most critical, this economic reality holds even without subsidies. Of course, government aid is helping accelerate the transition, but given the economic boost that clean energy provides to many states, support for wind and solar looks relatively safe in Congress. GOP Senator Chuck Grassley said that if Trump tries to eliminate the wind tax credit, the president-elect will “do it over my dead body.”

A Changing Climate

I’m not talking about the politics of and governmental action on climate change, such as the Paris Accord, carbon trading schemes, or efficiency standards. I mean actual extreme weather and climate change. These things are not theoretical and are costing business and society today. When Kellogg’s CEO, John Bryant, spoke at the Paris meeting, in December 2015, he told the assembled executives and diplomats that addressing climate change was “mission critical” for the company. (I was onstage with him and heard it very clearly.) One of his reasons why is what he described as a “fragile supply chain,” wherein weather shocks can damage grain production — a nice way of saying we don’t know if we can grow enough food. Across other sectors, unprecedented floods and storms around the world have done many billions of dollars of damage to factories, distribution centers, and local economies.

More companies are recognizing climate’s systemic risks. A week before the election, the CEO of General Mills, Ken Powell, spoke about his commitment to acting on climate. He put it in simple, CEO-friendly terms: “I am accountable for enterprise risk,” he said, “and clearly there’s a strong scientific consensus that climate is a risk.” For these reasons and more, hundreds of U.S. CEOs signed a letter to the president-elect that urged him to stay the course on global climate action and building the clean economy.

The Demands of Millennials

They are, after all, the largest generation on the planet and will make up 50% of the global workforce by 2020. On average, they hold some starkly different views about business than their predecessors did. A global survey of these 20- and 30-somethings earlier this year showed that 87% believe “the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance.” A Morgan Stanley survey confirmed that Millennials, and particularly those who are active investors, are three times as likely to seek employment with a company that cares about social and environmental issues. The jury is still out on whether this group will shop differently as it gets richer and deeper into adulthood, but every company I work with is feeling pressure from younger workers. In their role as employees, Millennials clearly want sustainability.

Radical Transparency and Social Media

We’re all growing accustomed to finding any information we want at any time. This includes wanting to know what’s in everything we buy, how it was made, who made it, and so on. The food and consumer products sectors are feeling this megatrend most acutely. The “clean label” movement is shaking up these industries, forcing companies to reduce ingredients and use fewer processed and artificial inputs. As General Mills’ Powell said, consumer expectations “have never been higher.”

Turbocharging this trend is social media, with which people can gather, spread stories, and generally make a company miserable if it doesn’t have its act together. In essence, as one CEO of a consumer-facing Fortune 50 company told me, customers can destroy your brand on Twitter (I’m paraphrasing only slightly). As he put it, products can’t just taste or look good — they have to tell a story and prove that they’re “responsibly sourced, manufactured, and distributed.” This shift in expectations is driving companies to understand their supply chains better, which then translates into pressure on those companies to aggressively manage their environmental and social issues.

Global Commitment and Competitive Pressure

Multinationals operate in many countries where governments publicly support strong action on climate — and 193 countries in the world signed the Paris Accord. It’s hard to say what will happen to that agreement, but even uncertainty about the commitment of the United States likely will not sink it. All of the signatories are meeting right now at the UN climate change conference in Morocco, and they’re making it clear that they are powering on. China sent a message publicly that climate change is no hoax, and France’s President Sarkozy mused about imposing import tariffs on countries that don’t “respect the rules” on carbon reduction. In essence, companies that don’t continue the sustainability journey are going to fall behind and become uncompetitive in global markets.

On top of all these megatrends is incredible innovation, making solutions to our challenges cheaper and more accessible. But even without those technological shifts, the five megatrends here create an overwhelming case to continue the sustainability journey. The bottom line is, as always, the bottom line. The business case for sustainability has been proved over and over again. The companies managing their environmental and social issues and helping their customers navigate these issues are creating business value in multiple ways: They’re saving money, driving innovation, attracting talent, and building the brand. None of that has changed, and there’s still tremendous value to unlock. Sustainability has never been solely about government pressure anyway — it’s just good for business.

All of this optimism aside, it would be na├»ve to think that the president of the United States can’t affect the course of progress toward a clean, sustainable world. And while we can’t know exactly what the next administration will do, that it will not be driving sustainability is a safe assumption. So business has a critical role now more than ever to make up for the headwinds that a hostile administration can generate.

Businesses will need to ensure the stability of the basic underpinnings of a thriving economy and society — that is, clean air and water, a stable climate, abundant and renewable natural resources, an educated and engaged pool of talent, robust global and local markets filled with people with enough wealth to buy your products, and much more.

If the new administration does not protect or enhance those pillars of a strong economy, or even actively undermines them, then business must take action, make up for the slack, and render federal action irrelevant. If government is derelict in its duties, business has to lead.

Follow Andrew Winston on Twitter @AndrewWinston


A Time to be Thankful for Family, Friends, Food and More.

The image is Norman Rockwell's painting "Freedom from Want" (1943), which is often referred to as 'The Thanksgiving Picture'. Rockwell inserted a partial self-portrait in the lower right corner.

The painting was inspired by the speech delivered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Congress in his State of the Union address (1941). Roosevelt spoke about Four Freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom from fear, freedom of worship, and freedom from want.

Now, more than ever, let's be thankful for our Freedoms, and celebrate them!

PUBLIC MEETING: Northern Access Pipeline Coalition