Monday, December 14, 2015

Local Plea for Climate Justice was Heard at Paris Talks

UB Law students presented WNY climate pledge 
to national figure

By David Kowalski

The Rise Up For Climate Justice Campaign of Western NY created a pledge calling on President Obama and U.S. negotiators in Paris to make bold cuts in global warming pollution and to ensure justice for communities and workers during the necessary shift from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy sources. 

The campaign succeeded in outreach efforts to diverse groups of people and organizations in WNY and asked them to endorse the Climate Justice Pledge. Signatories included people of different faith groups, labor unions, students, people of color, indigenous peoples, teachers, community activists, environmentalists, artists, performers and local politicians.

Following a well-attended September rally at Niagara Square and subsequent events, the campaign sponsored a community Gathering on November 28 in Buffalo. About 200 supporters of the campaign gathered in the Temple Beth Zion auditorium to express their concerns about climate change and participate in various ceremonies (Video credit: Diana Strablow).

                                       Community Gathering       Photo credit: Jim Anderson
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One ceremony at the Gathering involved the campaign's Climate Justice Pledge. A scroll bearing names of organizations and people who signed the Pledge was presented by Lynda Schneekloth, chair of the local Sierra Club Niagara Group, to University at Buffalo Law students Bridget Steele and Andrea DiNatale.
UB Law students accept the scroll of Pledge signers. Photo credit: Nate Schneekloth
The students and their faculty adviser, Jessica Owley, planned to transport the Pledge scroll to Paris and deliver it to a national Sierra Club official who could pass it on to a U.S. negotiator at the U.N. Climate Conference.

The scroll contained 2,361 names of citizens, organizations and local public officials from Western New York who signed the Climate Justice Pledge. Among the organizations were 17 labor unions, 13 faith groups, 9 socio-economic & civic groups, 7 union leaders, 3 peace groups, 9 elected officials, 1 political party, and 8 environmental groups. The list is here.

Scroll of Climate Justice Pledge signers. Photo credit: Lynda Schneekloth
The UB student-faculty contingent traveled to Paris and arrived at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which ran from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12. They shared their observations, opinions and photos through social media, primarily on a website called SUNY Buffalo Law School’s Climate Change Blog.

On Dec. 9, a blog titled "WNY Climate Justice Pledge Makes It to Paris" was posted on their website. As it turned out, the Pledge not only made it to Paris, the students managed to connect with a national figure, Michael Brune, the Executive Director of the national Sierra Club, and present to him the scroll of WNY Climate Justice Pledge signers!
Michael Brune holding the Scroll presented by Alyssa Erazo, reading the Pledge, and Collin Doane.
Following the presentation describing the significance of the WNY Climate Justice Pledge scroll and the diversity of pledge signers, Michael Brune accepted the scroll and said "This is how we will win."

"Twenty minutes after receiving the scroll from the representatives of Buffalo, Mike Brune was set to meet with John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, to convey to the US Delegation the hopes of the American people, including Western New Yorkers," Chris Kennedy wrote in her blog post. She added:
"I would like to think that it was the commitment and enthusiasm of the people of Western New York that made John Kerry decide that the U.S. needed to support a Climate Change Agreement with a Legally Binding Transparency System.

Although that may not be the case, I am sure it is not coincidence that Kerry changed his tune shortly after meeting with Sierra Club Executive Director Mike Brune who passed our message and our scroll along."
John Kerry served as the top U.S. negotiator at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris. We may never know what transpired between John Kerry and Michael Brune, who heard WNY Climate Justice Pledge message when he received the scroll and said "This is how we will win."

What is clear is that, thanks to this terrific group of young law students and their University at Buffalo faculty advisor, the Western New York plea for Climate Justice was indeed heard at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. And for that accomplishment alone, we can all feel very proud of them and extremely grateful.

UB law students (L to R): Bridget Steele, Leah Bernhardi, Christina Kennedy, Alyssa Erazo, and Collin Doane. (Center) Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club in holding the WNY Climate Justice Pledge scroll. (Far Right) Sandy Chelnov, Rise Up for Climate Justice Campaign.
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Landmark Climate Deal Approved by All Nations at Paris Talks

Historic deal sets the world on a course to a low carbon future 
fueled by clean, renewable energy

For the first time in history, representatives of 195 nations have unanimously approved lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions to help avoid the worst effects of climate change.

In a statement from the White House, President Obama said “This agreement sends a powerful signal that the world is fully committed to a low-carbon future."

Obama added, "We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge. It won’t be easy. Progress won’t always come quick. We cannot be complacent."

“The world finally has a framework for cooperating on climate change that’s suited to the task,” said Michael Levi, an expert on energy and climate change policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Whether or not this becomes a true turning point for the world, though, depends critically on how seriously countries follow through.”

Prior to the Paris talks, 186 nations put forth public plans detailing how they would cut carbon emissions through 2025 or 2030. Enacting those plans will cut emissions by half the levels required to fend off the worst effects of global warming.

There is no legal requirement dictating how, or how much, countries should cut emissions. So the Paris accord has built in a series of legally-binding requirements that countries ratchet up the stringency of their climate change policies in the future. Countries will be required to reconvene every five years, starting in 2020, with updated plans that would tighten their emissions cuts.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Obama’s top negotiator in Paris and who has spent the past year negotiating behind the scenes with his Chinese and Indian counterparts in order to help broker the deal, defended the agreement. While the deal includes no mechanism that would force countries to cut pollution, it will make every nation report emissions, upping the pressure on governments to act, he said.

“There is a uniform standard of transparency and therefore, we will know what everybody is doing,” Kerry said. “The result will be a very clear signal to the marketplace of the world that people are moving into low-carbon, no-carbon, alternative, renewable energy.”

Despite the historic nature of the Paris climate accord, its success still depends heavily on two factors outside the parameter of the deal: global peer pressure and the actions of future governments.

A deal that would have assigned legal requirements for countries to cut emissions at specific levels would need to go before the United States Senate for ratification. That language would have been dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate, where many members question the established science of human-caused climate change, and still more wish to thwart Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda.

The Republican-controlled Congress already voted this month to block the centerpiece of Obama’s climate agenda, rules that would cut emissions by one third from the U.S. fleet of power plants. However, Obama can veto the measure.

As with health care, opponents may find it hard to undo Obama’s environmental legacy. The power-plant rules will probably end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, where the administration has a strong track record on pollution cases. And in the private sector the tide has, arguably, been turning. Utilities have already shuttered dozens of coal-fired power plants in recent years. Last week, Ford Motor Co. said it plans to invest $4.5 billion in electric vehicles to meet ambitious new auto emissions standards put in place by the Obama administration.

“People in the Republican party I speak with know they’re on the wrong side of history on this issue, like with gay marriage,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “And Obama is sticking it to them. He’s saying, do you really want to be the party that’s against science and against what people want?”

Read more online at: 
The New York Times: Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris
The Bloomberg Politics report at the Buffalo News: Like Obamacare, Climate Gives President Huge But Fragile Win
The Washington Post: 5 things you should know about the historic Paris climate agreement

Bill McKibben: An Agreement to Finally Begin Addressing Global Warming

The New York Times
The Opinion Pages | Op-Ed Contributor

Falling Short on Climate in Paris

By BILL McKIBBEN    DEC. 13, 2015

Paris — THE climate news last week came out of Paris, where the world’s nations signed off on an agreement to finally begin addressing global warming.

Or, alternately, the climate news came out of Chennai, India, where hundreds died as flooding turned a city of five million into an island. And out of Britain, where the heaviest rains ever measured over 24 hours in the Lake District turned picturesque villages into lakes. And out of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, where record rainfalls flooded atolls.

In the hot, sodden mess that is our planet as 2015 drags to a close, the pact reached in Paris feels, in a lot of ways, like an ambitious agreement designed for about 1995, when the first conference of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change took place in Berlin.

Under its provisions, nations have made voluntary pledges to begin reducing their carbon emissions. These are modest — the United States, for instance, plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 2025 by 12 to 19 percent from their levels in 1990. As the scrupulous scorekeepers at Climate Action Tracker, a non-government organization, put it, that’s a “medium” goal “at the least ambitious end of what would be a fair contribution.”

And that’s about par for the course here. Other countries, like gas station owners on opposite corners looking at each other’s prices, have calibrated their targets about the same: enough to keep both environmentalists and the fossil fuel industry from complaining too much. They have managed to provide enough financing to keep poor countries from walking out of the talks, but not enough to really push the renewables revolution into high gear. (Secretary of State John Kerry, in a fine speech, doubled America’s contribution — to $800 million, which is more than Congress is likely to appropriate, but risible compared to the need.)

So the world emerges, finally, with something like a climate accord, albeit unenforceable. If all parties kept their promises, the planet would warm by an estimated 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or 3.5 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels. And that is way, way too much. We are set to pass the 1 degree Celsius mark this year, and that’s already enough to melt ice caps and push the sea level threateningly higher.

The irony is, an agreement like this adopted at the first climate conference in 1995 might have worked. Even then it wouldn’t have completely stopped global warming, but it would have given us a chance of meeting the 1.5 degree Celsius target that the world notionally agreed on.

Instead, as we now know from recent revelations about Exxon Mobil, those were exactly the years the fossil fuel industry set to work to make sure doubt replaced resolve. Its delaying tactics were cruelly effective. To meet that 1.5 degree target now would require breakneck action of a kind most nations aren’t really contemplating. At this point we’d need to leave almost all remaining coal and much of the oil and gas in the ground and put the world’s industries to work on an emergency basis building solar panels and windmills.

That we have any agreement at all, of course, is testament to the mighty movement that activists around the world have built over the last five years. At Copenhagen, world leaders could go home with nothing and pay no price.

That’s no longer true.

But what this means is that we need to build the movement even bigger in the coming years, so that the Paris agreement turns into a floor and not a ceiling for action. We’ll be blocking pipelines, fighting new coal mines, urging divestment from fossil fuels — trying, in short, to keep weakening the mighty industry that still stands in the way of real progress. With every major world leader now on the record saying they at least theoretically support bold action to make the transition to renewable energy, we’ve got a new tool to work with.

And we’ll try to keep hoping that it adds up fast enough to matter. That’s a little hard, as the hottest year ever measured draws to a close. One doesn’t want to rain on the Paris parade — but that’s what seems to be happening somewhere every day now.

Like Washington State, where high temperatures and heavy rainfalls led the governor to declare a state of emergency late last week, as landslides closed highways. Or Portland, Ore., which had the rainiest December day in its recorded history. Or Norway, which had the worst flooding in more than a century of record keeping. Or …

Bill McKibben is the founder of, the global grass-roots climate campaign. He teaches environmental studies at Middlebury College.

Article online at the New York Times: Falling Short on Climate in Paris

~   ~   ~ 
@billmckibben on Twitter

"We've got a 1.5 degree target, and a 3.5 degree plan. So, let's get to work"
Bill McKibben 

TALK: Climate Change and Human Responsibility

Thursday, December 10, 2015

NY Renews - A Climate Justice and Jobs Campaign - Dec.16 Launch Party

On December 16, 2015, leaders and members of labor, community, and environmental organizations across New York State will unite to launch a climate justice and jobs campaign - NY Renews - that aims to win progressive policy reform in the 2016 NYS legislative session and beyond.

The NY Renews platform contains three planks that each respond to the needs and interests of the campaign's core constituencies.

It calls for mandatory and legally enforceable greenhouse gas emission reduction and renewable energy procurement goals that match a set of aspirational goals already adopted in the 2015 NYS Energy Plan and carried forward in the Reforming the Energy Vision regulatory initiative. These goals include 80% emission reductions by 2050 (from 1990 levels), with an interim goal of 40% by 2030; and a clear path to 100% renewable energy procurement, with an interim goal of 50% renewable energy procurement by 2030.

The platform calls for the creation of a reinvestment fund targeted to low-income communities, and environmental justice and climate vulnerable communities across the state, and mandates that 40% of existing public funds collected by NYSERDA be allocated to targeted communities for purposes of renewable energy and energy efficiency reinvestment and local job creation.

The third plank of the platform calls for mandatory job standards on publicly supported projects and direct financial support to workers and communities caught in the transition from dirty energy to renewable energy. Workers would receive re-training and retirement support and communities would receive revenue support to offset diminishing tax revenues from industries in transition.

UPDATE Dec. 16, 2015: TimesUnion - Coalition launches campaign to make NY climate leader

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The launch event in Buffalo - 'Party for the Climate!' - will take place at the Tralf Music Hall from 6:00pm to 9:00pm on December 16. Its a free, all-ages event (under-21 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian). A cash bar and food will be provided. With support from Ujima Theatre Company, we've booked a couple of local musical powerhouses - the 16-piece Buffalo Afrobeat Orchestra and DJ Milk - to keep the energy high and bring people together. This event will reveal - through the voices of local labor, community, and environmental leaders - our unity of purpose and showcase our collective power.

Click Here to Join the Facebook Event

The NY Renews campaign will kick into high gear in early 2016 so your organizational support for the campaign and participation in the event are critical. Join us! 

WNY Climate Justice Campaign: Reports from Paris - Join Us!

The Paris Climate Talks are Over and the Time for Action is NOW!

Join us on this International Day of Action
to hear the reports of the
UB Law Students and Faculty and other colleagues
who attended the U.N. Climate Talks in Paris.

What did they learn?
What have we all learned?

What do we do now?

Sweetness 7 Cafe - Parkside and Russell

301 Parkside Avenue

Buffalo, NY

(Across from the Zoo Entrance)

Saturday, Dec 19, 2015

6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Visit Rise Up for Climate Justice!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

FORUM: Taking Climate Action - Future of Western NY

WHEN: TUESDAY, December 8, 5:30pm Networking & more; 6:30pm Panel Discussion

WHERE: Buffalo Museum of Science, 1020 Humbolt Parkway [Map]

The WNY Environmental Alliance’s annual Environmental Congress is a future-oriented forum, exploring innovative solutions for a cleaner and sustainable WNY.

We're bringing together a panel of climate action leaders for a proactive and critical discussion of solutions being offered, their impacts on the WNY community and implications for climate justice. The panel represents a range of perspectives, including environment, science, social justice, local government, faith, labor and business.

Join us on December 8 at 5:30 pm!

There will be networking, refreshments and an exhibition of local projects demonstrating climate innovation. Also view the fantastic Museum of Science second floor exhibits that will be open to our guests.

RSVP HERE to attend

The panel discussion will begin at 6:30 pm  

- Business  – Joseph Mendelson, Director, Policy & Electricity Markets and Regulatory Counsel, SolarCity
- Environment – Adrienne Bermingham, Roots & Shoots Program Coordinator, The Jane Goodall Institute
- Social Justice – Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project
- Public Sector – Brendan Mehaffy, Executive Director, Buffalo Office of Strategic Planning
- Science – Jason Briner, Associate Prof. of Geology, University at Buffalo
- Labor and Economic Justice – Franchelle C. Hart, Executive Director, Open Buffalo
Moderator – Robert Shibley, Dean of the UB School of Architecture and Planning; One Region Forward
RSVP HERE to attend

Check out the Event and Activity on Facebook

- Rise up for Climate Justice Campaign of WNY: visit their website and Facebook page 
- WNY Sustainable Business Roundtable: visit their website

WORKSHOPS added to WNYEA Environmental Congress Event on Dec. 8

We've added afternoon WORKSHOPS to the program of the WNYEA's 9th Environmental Congress on on Tuesday, December 8. Join us!

We will be taking a deeper dive into some of the topics that the membership has put forward. Alliance members will be leading four simultaneous working group sessions in the Buffalo Museum of Science classrooms from 4:00 - 5:30pm.

Email if you plan to attend, and include the title of the workshop you would like to join.


NY Renews: Building a strong and just coalition for a winning legislative campaign
In December, a broad coalition of labor, environmentalist and social/economic justice advocates are releasing a climate justice and jobs campaign – NY Renews. The aim of this campaign is to win progressive policy reform in the 2016 NYS legislative session and beyond. The platform calls for (1) mandatory and legally enforceable greenhouse gas emission reduction and renewable energy procurement; (2) a reinvestment fund for low income and vulnerable communities to support energy democracy; and (3) mandatory job standards on publicly supported projects and funds for just transitions for workers and communities displaced by the energy transition. The workshop will discuss the underlying values of the campaign, the Jemez Principles,the three platforms and their relevance to WNY, and to seek appropriate ways of engagement for the Buffalo Niagara region.
- Facilitated by: Meghan Maloney de Zaldivar, Energy Democracy Organizer, PUSH Buffalo

Engaging Youth in Climate Justice Action
This workshop will be a working session to bring together climate justice partners and potential partners working with youth, to get to know one another and learn how our groups engage K-12 youth in climate justice efforts. We hope to learn from each other about various participatory climate justice education activities, and determine if there’s interest in continuing to work together to involve more youth in climate justice work in a meaningful way.
- Facilitated by: Derek Nichols, Program Manager, Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo, and Rebekah A. Williams, Youth Education Director, Massachusetts Avenue Project

Environmental Justice and the Campaign for Green Jobs
A workshop on the who, what, where and how of energy based economic development in Buffalo. Using the Home Energy Conservation Kit (HECK) project case study as the basis for conversation, project leaders will present and facilitate a discussion about initiatives, impacts, partnerships and the role of worker owned cooperatives in the just transition to a clean and inclusive economy.
- Facilitated by: Johnnie Fenderson, Workforce Development Coordinator, PUSH Buffalo, and Art Wheaton, Director of Western NY Labor and Environmental Programs, The Worker Institute at Cornell

Our Buffalo, Our Outer Harbor "seeking pathways to a sustainable future.”
The Western New York Environmental Alliance has been fully engaged in discussions about appropriate steps to take regarding the development of the Outer Harbor. We argue against "sprawl" and for "smart growth". We advocate for appropriate development around the Times Beach Nature Preserve and Tifft Nature Preserve. We push for financial accountability from the State of New York and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. We advocate for the protection of critical natural resources such as Lake Erie and the Niagara River strait. We have stood behind our members that are working to make sure that decisions about our common and publicly owned waterfront are made by an informed community. We believe in the Public Trust.
- Facilitated by: Jay Burney, co-founder of GreenWatch, the Learning Sustainability Campaign, and chair of the Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve.

DECEMBER EVENTS: Rise Up For Climate Justice Campaign of WNY

For Details and Maps to specific events, see the EVENTS listed in the SIDEBAR.

STAY TUNED for additional Events!

FILM & TALK: 'The Doctrine of Discovery' - Roots of Domination

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