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 naïve 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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Letter to President-Elect - 'Climate Change is Not a Hoax,' Scientist Says

Dear president-elect: Climate change is not a hoax, and we're all in this together

The Sunday Edition | November 13, 2016

 Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist and associate professor of political science at Texas Tech University, where she is director of the Climate Science Center. Here is her letter to president-elect Donald Trump, commissioned by The Sunday Edition. 

Dear Mr. president-elect:

I think I speak for many in the U.S., in Canada, and around the world, when I say that you've surprised us, you've shocked us, and you've even scared us. Why? Because your words and your actions will affect us all. Your neighbours here in Canada. Policy makers in Europe. Clean energy investors in China. Refugees in Syria.

And climate negotiators who gathered in Marrakesh just this week, to put legs on the hope that was, and still is, offered by the Paris Agreement.

You've given a voice to the fear and anger, the anxiety and frustration of millions of U.S. citizens. That surprises us, shocks us, and even scares us too. But to heal a suppurating boil, we can't just slap some cover-up on it. It has to be lanced. And my hope, from the bottom of my heart, is that by doing so, you will start the healing process.

I'm a climate scientist. Thanks to decades and even centuries of careful research, we know climate is changing, we're responsible, and the impacts are serious. I've helped write U.S. national climate assessments that document how climate change is affecting the country's water, its energy, ecosystems, infrastructure, and even people's health.

This thing is not a hoax; it's real.

But what I've learned, in over a decade spent talking with and listening to thousands of people who disagree with me on climate, is that far more connects us than divides us.

That's what I've learned.

I care, because there are huge and real economic risks of inaction. I care, because it affects national security. The US military calls climate change a threat multiplier. I care, because two thirds of the world's biggest cities lie within just a meter or so of sea level, and we literally cannot pick them up and move them somewhere safer.

And I care because, most of all, climate change isn't fair. It disproportionately affects the poor and the weak, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged, the very people who contributed least to the problem but bear the brunt of its impacts.

I know that in the past, people could simply say, "What's the point, when China isn't doing anything?" But for two years running, now, China has cut its coal use. They're shutting half-built coal plants and they currently lead the world in wind and solar energy. There are solutions and, regardless of what we think about climate, those solutions can grow the economy, clean up our air and water, and ensure our energy future.

But these solutions require two big things: one, that we listen to each other, instead of talking over each other, and two, that we work together instead of tearing each other apart.

Yours in hope,

Katharine Hayhoe

Published in The Sunday Edition


Clean Energy Opportunity Should Trump Ideology

Trump victory won’t halt the U.S. clean energy boom 

Dan Woynillowicz is policy director and Merran Smith is executive director of Clean Energy Canada, a national climate and energy think tank based at Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue.

If you work in clean energy, chances are your inbox and Twitter feed have been overwhelmed with stories about the implications of a Donald Trump presidency for the renewable energy sector. If you were watching markets, no doubt you took note of falling stock prices for clean-energy companies.

The prospects seem grim. And that won’t affect just U.S. companies. Canadian energy companies, from Enbridge to Alterra Power, have been growing through investments in renewable power south of the border. This investment creates jobs at headquarters here in Canada, not to mention value for their Canadian shareholders.

There’s no doubt that Mr. Trump and opponent Hillary Clinton had differing views on climate change and the opportunity clean energy offers. A lot of people lump the two together: If you want to reduce carbon pollution, build more clean energy. Since Mr. Trump thinks climate change is a hoax, that pretty much eliminates the case for clean energy – right?
Not so fast.

The reality is that clean energy has been booming in the United States for a whole bunch of reasons that don’t have much to do with climate change. Things such as health, security and innovation, which lead to high levels of support amongst Republicans – yes, Republicans – for harnessing the power of American water, wind and sun.

Those federal tax credits for wind and solar? They were passed last December by a Republican Congress with bipartisan support. Revoking them would require a legislative effort that may not be looked upon kindly by the many Republican lawmakers who have renewable energy manufacturing and development in their states. Lawmakers like Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, who said this summer: “If he wants to do away with it, he’ll have to get a bill through Congress, and he’ll do it over my dead body.” He won’t be the only one: looking across the country – and the electoral map – the top-10 wind-energy producing congressional districts are represented by Republicans.

Besides, much of the renewable energy boom has been driven by state policy. You might recall that back when he was governor of Texas, George W. Bush passed legislation requiring utilities to buy renewable energy.

It led to a building boom that has made the state the largest producer of wind power in the United States. Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma and North Dakota lead the United States in the proportion of electricity generated by wind, and all are led by Republican governors. Ditto North Carolina, which trails only California in the development of new solar projects.

Up in New Hampshire, which also went for Mr. Trump, the newly elected Republican governor won on a platform that included support for the Northern Pass transmission line, which would move clean hydroelectricity from Quebec into New Hampshire and the New England power grid.

Not only is this good news for Hydro-Québec, but it’s also good news for New England states, as it will provide base-load power that can enable more development of in-state wind and solar.

Down in Florida, as Floridians delivered their support to Trump, they also voted to maintain unlimited oppostate-level policies in red states and blue states that aren’t going to disappear, and they are driving significant investment in clean energy.

Just last year, the United States saw $56-billion (U.S.) in clean-energy investment, second only to China. That kind of investment creates a lot of jobs: Almost 210,000 Americans are now employed in the solar industry, double the 2010 figures. This represents more people than those employed in oil and gas extraction. The U.S. Bureau of Labor notes that wind turbine technician is the fastest-growing occupation in the country. Would Mr. Trump put these good jobs in jeopardy? Doubtful.

Looking at dollars and cents – and customers’ wallets – it’s also worth highlighting that the unsubsidized cost of wind and solar just keeps falling, down 61 per cent and 82 per cent respectively, between 2009 and 2015.

And these trends will continue, making clean energy the competitive choice. It’s one of the big reasons that so many major U.S. companies are committing to renewable energy and signing big contracts for wind and solar.

If we learned anything from Mr. Trump’s campaign, it was that we should expect the unexpected.

Most people, and the stock markets, seem to think Mr. Trump will be bad for clean energy’s prospects in the United States. They may very well be right.

Or, it might just turn out that clean energy will continue to rise. For clean energy, opportunity should trump ideology.

Link to The Globe and Mail

Could Trump's Desire for Popularity Create an Opportunity for Climate Action?

Trump Loves to Be Loved. Climate Leaders Hope That Could Be the Opportunity They Need

Most Americans want the U.S. to take action on climate, and, at the COP22 meeting in Marrakech, leaders say the best hope for continued American action on climate is to appeal to Trump’s desire for popularity.

By Lucia Graves | Pacific Standard Magazine 

As a candidate, Trump has called global warming a hoax, said he wants to dismantle the Paris Agreement, and vowed to halt all funds to United Nations world climate programs. He’s also called for increased extraction of oil, coal, and natural gas reserves at a time when climate leaders are seeking to limit emissions by transitioning to renewable forms of energy.

But at the global climate talks in Marrakech, Morocco, climate leaders are espousing something more optimistic than the headlines suggest.

Of course nobody expects Trump to emerge as a climate leader when he takes over the White House on January 20th; at COP22, his unexpected election last week has cast an undeniable pall over what had been a relatively cheerful post-Paris landscape.

But Trump does like to be popular.

That desire has caused skeptics to call him a chameleon, a charlatan, and a huckster. But diplomats see it as an opportunity: Given decidedly high public support [66%] among Americans for U.S. involvement in a global climate pact, Trump too might read the tea leaves. And, publicly, that’s what the world’s representatives in Marrakech are betting on.

It’s what Al Gore was alluding to when he recently expressed the hope that Trump will work with the “overwhelming majority of us who believe that the climate crisis is the greatest threat we face as a nation.” And it’s what Royal meant when said she would “dare to believe” that Trump’s promises on the campaign trail were, at least in part, a kind of theater. Even China seems to be on board with this particular line of criticism: “I believe a wise political leader should take policy stances that conform with global trends,” Xie Zhenhua, the country’s climate chief, told Reuters at the beginning of the month.

But perhaps it’s Morocco’s Minister of the Environment Hakima El Haité who put it best. “We have for many months listened to the candidate Trump. Today we have to deal with the President Trump,” she told me on Sunday, as she was leaving an event just north of the city in the Palmeraie, a stretch of palm-studded desert. “Those are two personalities.”

She’s right. One of the joys and the terrors — but mostly terrors — of having a president-elect who has reinvented himself as a real estate tycoon, playboy, and reality-television star, is there’s no definitively knowing what he’ll do. By a slim margin, Republican voters remain opposed to U.S. cooperation in the global effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions, but, again, that isn’t the case for the general electorate. And Trump didn’t even win the popular vote to begin with.

Another mildly encouraging fact for reformers: He’s flipped his opinion over the years on practically every area of policy, and climate change is certainly among them. On the latter, he’s gone from insisting global warming is a hoax to complaining that it threatens one of his golf courses. Most recently, he’s conceded climate change is a scientific reality. He just won’t allow that humans are to blame for it.

Perhaps the biggest problem with climate leaders’ stubborn optimism is that the reasons to doubt Trump’s good intentions on climate go well beyond toxic campaign promises. Already he has named Myron Ebell, a noted climate contrarian who has called the Clean Power Plan illegal, to take on the Environmental Protection Agency. Some reports even say that Trump’s transition team has already come up with ways to bypass the supposed four-year process for withdrawing from the Paris climate accord.

But negotiators so far are turning a deaf ear to all that. They won’t be felled by anonymous arrows; there’s simply too much at stake. They’re waiting to hear directly from Trump.

The above contains excerpts. Read the full report at Pacific Standard Magazine

Thursday, November 10, 2016

TALK: Are Electric Buses Right for Buffalo and WNY?

Report & Panel Discussion: Buffalo's Lead Poisoning Problem - What to Do About It?

What to do about Buffalo's lead poisoning problem?

Investigative Post has painstakingly detailed the problem and our reporting has prompted city and county officials to take steps to begin addressing the problem.

On Wednesday, Nov. 16, Dan Telvock will recap his award-winning reporting on the topic and moderate a panel discussion with three national experts. Telvock's presentation and the panel discussion will identify the problems and assess the effectiveness of the measures put in place and consider what additional steps need to be taken.

Speaker panel participants include:
  • Dr. Yanna Lambrinidou, an affiliate faculty member at Virginia Tech and founder of the non-profit children’s environmental health organization Parents for Nontoxic Alternatives.
  • Dr. Marc Edwards, who the Washington Post described as “the heroic professor who helped uncover the Flint lead water crisis,” will participate via Skype. Edwards is professor of Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech. He and Lambrinidou also helped expose lead in the drinking water in Washington, D.C.
The Nov. 16 event is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site, 641 Delaware Ave.

Admission is $10 for the public and those who have purchased an Investigative Post membership at the Bronze level. There is no charge for Silver, Gold and Platinum members.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. A membership, which includes free admission to most Investigative Post events, can be purchased online.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Elect Hillary Clinton - Then Pressure Her, says Environmental Author, Bill McKibben

The Climate Movement Has to Elect Hillary Clinton—and Then Give Her Hell

Clinton’s no friend of the earth, but she can be pressured. Trump, on the other hand, would be an ecological and moral disaster.

By Bill McKibben | The Nation | Oct.18, 2016

It’s an odd feeling to be working for the election of someone you know dislikes you and your colleagues. I’ve spent a good chunk of this month trying to register voters on campuses in Pennsylvania and Ohio—registering them to vote against Donald Trump, which means pushing for the election of Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t how I wanted to spend the fall—I’d much rather have been campaigning for Bernie Sanders.

It didn’t get any easier when Wikileaks released a tape of Clinton talking to backers in the building-trades unions about the environmental work so many of us (including much of the rest of organized labor) have been engaged in for the last few years. “They come to my rallies and they yell at me and, you know, all the rest of it. They say, ‘Will you promise never to take any fossil fuels out of the earth ever again?’ No. I won’t promise that. Get a life, you know.”

The good news is that when Clinton wins, none of us will be under the slightest illusion about who she is.

I know the young people Clinton was talking about, and they weren’t demanding she somehow wave a wand and stop the fossil-fuel age overnight. They were asking her about the scientific studies showing that we can’t actually keep mining and drilling new supplies of coal, oil, and gas if we’re going to meet the temperature targets set with such fanfare in Paris last year. They were asking her to support the “Keep It In the Ground” Act introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and endorsed by a passel of other senators, from Barbara Boxer of California to Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. (Oh yeah, and that guy Bernie.) They were also asking her to take a stand against fracking, since new studies demonstrate quite clearly that the release of methane from the use of natural gas makes climate change worse. Publicly, she hemmed and hawed. When Bernie said in a debate that he was against fracking, period, Clinton said, “By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.” That was a pretty weak hedge to begin with, but we now know that privately she reassured the building trades unions: “My view is, I want to defend natural gas…. I want to defend fracking.”

Truth be told, these aren’t revelations. All of us working on climate issues have known this is how Clinton feels; she set up a whole wing of the State Department devoted to spreading fracking around the world. She’d favored the Keystone Pipeline from the start, and it was abundantly clear that only Sanders’s unexpected success in the primaries convinced her she’d have to change. (And it was only his refusal to endorse her until after the platform was agreed upon that made the platform into the fairly progressive document that it is, on climate and other issues). Still, it stings to see in black and white exactly how little regard she has for people fighting pipelines, frack wells, coal ports. Though truth be told, that was no huge surprise either: Politicians are forever saying they want people engaged in the political process, but most of them really just want people to vote and then go home.

So why are many of us out there working to beat Trump and elect her? Because Trump is truly a horror. He’s man who looks at fourth-grade girls and imagines that he’ll be dating them in ten years. He’s a racist. He knows next to nothing and lacks the intellectual curiosity to find out more. He’s a bully. He’s almost a cartoonish villain: If a writer invented a character this evil, no one would believe them. But he’s very nearly president.

Because environmentalists are not just concerned about the climate—we have allies and friends whom we support. And on some of those issues Clinton actually seems sincere: She clearly cares about women’s issues and understands that we are a nation of immigrants.

Because if Trump wins, we backslide on the small gains we’ve made. We’ve forced Clinton to say through gritted teeth that she opposes Keystone, for instance. She can’t, I think, go back on that. Trump has made it clear he’ll permit that and every other pipeline, just as soon as he’s done tearing up the Paris climate accord.

But none of that makes it easy to go out and support her. We’ve watched all fall as she’s maintained a studied silence about the most dramatic and important fossil-fuel fight of the moment, the Dakota Access Pipeline. Even the sight of attack dogs being used on peaceful Native American protesters didn’t move her to break ranks with her industry allies and that fraction of the labor movement that still wants to build pipelines. That’s craven on her part, pure and simple.

And so the good news is that when she wins, none of us will be under the slightest illusion about who she is. The honeymoon won’t last 10 minutes; on November 9 we’ll be organizing for science and human rights and against the timid incrementalism that marks her approach. It’s clear that we need to beat the creepy perv she’s running against. It’s also clear that we then need to press harder than ever for real progress on the biggest crisis the world has ever faced.

“Get a life”? We’ve got a planet, just one.

~   ~   ~

Top Clinton Ally Speaks Against Oil Pipeline at Canisius College Event

Clinton Surrogate Jennifer Granholm comes out against Dakota Access Pipeline

"We ought to be doing everything we possibly can to keep fossil fuel energy in the ground and developing the renewable side."

Buffalo, NY — Former Michigan Governor and co-chairwoman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential transition team Jennifer Granholm spoke out against the Dakota Access Pipeline during a clean energy jobs event at Canisius College on Tuesday. 

"Hillary Clinton may want the climate movement to 'get a life,' but clearly her surrogates are willing to stand with us", said Jason Kowalski, spokesperson for 350 Action. "Electing Hillary Clinton will help empower ‘keep it in the ground’ allies like Granholm to stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like Dakota Access."

Native organizers at Standing Rock have been met with militarized law enforcement this week, but remain committed to stopping the pipeline.

VIDEO (1 min.) - Granholm responds to a question about the pipeline:

Video link at YouTube:


Question - Sara Schultz, Sierra Club Niagara Group: A question a lot of people want to know — do you stand with the Standing Rock Sioux in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline?

Jennifer Granholm: Yes, I do. I do. And you know, here’s what I think. In all things, we should be erring on the side of generating more renewable energy rather than generating more fossil fuel energy, and pipelines facilitate the generation of fossil fuel energy. We are seeing that the costs of renewables are dropping to grid parity and below, especially wind in particular is very, very cheap. We ought to be doing everything we possibly can to keep fossil fuel energy in the ground and developing the renewable side. 

Myth About Renewable Energy Subsidies

The Myth About Renewable Energy Subsidies

Global subsidies for fossil fuels outstrip those for renewable energy nearly 10-fold

February 25th, 2016 by Giles Parkinson | CleanTechnica
Originally published on RenewEconomy.

Ever hear the story about why renewable energy can’t compete without a subsidy? You hear it all the time from the fossil fuel industry. And the response from renewables? Take away fossil fuel subsidies, and they’d be glad to compete on level terms.

This graph below, displayed today by David Hochschild, a commissioner with the California Energy Commission, at the Energy Productivity Summer Study in Sydney, illustrates why the fossil fuel and nuclear industries don’t want that to happen.

Studies by the International Energy Agency point out that global subsidies for fossil fuels outstrip those for renewable energy nearly 10-fold. The International Monetary Fund said if climate and environmental costs were included, then the fossil fuel subsides increased another 10 times to nearly $5 trillion a year.

This graph, that Hochschild sourced from DBL Investors, shows the accumulated energy subsidies in the US under federal programs. Oil and gas dominate, followed by nuclear. Federal renewable energy subsidies, in the form of investment and tax credits, are a small fraction.

“The fossil fuel industry hates to talk about that,” Hochschild told RenewEconomy in an interview after his presentation.

“There is a myth around subsidies, but there is no such thing as an unsubsidised unit of energy.”
He said the oil depletion allowance had been in place for the oil industry since 1926, and would be ongoing, despite the fact it was one of the most profitable industries in the world. He cited insurance costs for nuclear plants – met by taxpayers – “without which there would be no nuclear plants”.
For natural gas, it was the drilling, or fracking, which had been made exempt from compliance with the safe drinking water act: “That is subsidy,” he said. And he pointed to taxpayer funded rail networks that have helped coal.

By contrast, the large-scale wind and solar industries in the US have had to content with repeated changes to their federal support mechanisms. The tax credits have been changed seven times in a decade.

“How can you plan a wind turbine factory or project in those types of conditions,” he asked.
And he used this graph to illustrate the short-term nature of the subsidies that renewable energy does get. And the biggest benefit. “You put subsidies in renewable energy and costs go down” to the point where they are not needed any more. That has not happened with fossil fuels and nuclear.

~   ~   ~

END FOSSIL FUEL SUBSIDIES: While governments talk about the need for climate action, they’re handing out massive amounts of public money to the fossil fuel industry and making the problem worse.

The U.S., China, E.U. and the other G20 countries are still giving $452 billion to support fossil fuel production every single year.

Send your message demanding world leaders Stop Funding Fossils in the next 5 years.

The time for talk is over, We Need Action!

TAKE ACTION - Visit:   

WEBINAR: Local Climate Adaption Planning for Climate Smart Communities - Nov.10

Adapting to a Changing Climate: 

Strategies for Community Planning

Webinar: Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, 10:30 AM- 12:00 PM

This Climate Smart Communities webinar will 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 in this webinar 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 this webinar will draw 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 will be provided to help participants understand the array of activities available to help build local resilience to 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 November 10th, follow these steps:
  1. First, click on this link:
  2. Enter your name and email address.
  3. Enter the meeting password: NYSDEC1
  4. Click "Join".
  5. Click “Call Me” in the onscreen “Audio Connection” box and enter your phone number to join the audio portion through your telephone.
  6. Alternatively, call 1-844-633-8697 and enter the Event Number: 640 857 413, 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).
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Paris Climate Agreement Is Now International Law

Environmentalists say the agreement is just the first step of a much longer and complicated process of transitioning away from fossil fuels.

AP Report  | November 5, 2015

The Paris Agreement to combat climate change became international law on Friday — a landmark deal about tackling global warming amid growing fears that the world is becoming hotter even faster than scientists expected.

1.5 deg. C limit prevents flooding Island Nations and coasts
So far, 96 countries, accounting for just over two-thirds of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, have formally joined the accord, which seeks to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). More countries are expected to come aboard in the coming weeks and months.

U.N. Secretary General Ban-Ki moon praised the civil groups for mobilizing hundreds of millions of people to back fighting climate change, but warned the outcome remained uncertain.

"We are still in a race against time. We need to transition to a low-emissions and climate-resilient future," Ban said. "Now is the time to strengthen global resolve, do what science demands and seize the opportunity to build a safer more sustainable world for all."

Scientists praised the speed at which the agreement, signed by over 190 parties last December in Paris, has come into force, saying it underscores a new commitment by the international community to address the problem which is melting polar ice caps, sending sea levels rising and transforming vast swaths of arable land into desert.

But environmentalists say the agreement is just the first step of a much longer and complicated process of transitioning away from fossil fuels, which currently supply the bulk of the planet's energy needs and also are the primary drivers of global warming.

Naomi Ages, climate liability project lead at Greenpeace, said that it was up to civil society groups to hold governments and corporations responsible.

"We know that existing fossil fuel projects will push us past 2 degrees, so we're mobilizing around the world to keep it in the ground and stop development of new fossil fuel projects," Ages said.

While the Paris agreement is legally binding, the emissions reductions that each country has committed to are not. Instead, the agreement seeks to create a transparent system that will allow the public to monitor how well each country is doing in meeting its goals in hopes that this will motivate them to transition more quickly to clean, renewable energy like wind, solar and hydropower.

The agreement also requires governments to develop climate action plans that will be periodically revised and replaced with new, even more ambitious, plans. Many of these details will begin to be addressed at the COP22 climate change meeting that begins next week in Marrakech, Morocco.

Read more here and at The Guardian.

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One of the main focus points of the COP22 meeting will be how to make the abstract goals outlined in the Paris agreement - to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future - a concrete reality.

Hundreds of engineers, researchers and scientists will be attending what the UN has described as a "brainstorming session" to look at ways to de-carbonise our lives.

They will consider a wide range of clean energy technologies, including renewables, carbon capture systems, battery technology, and green transport.

The Paris agreement does not detail how the private sector or carbon markets can be used in emission-reductions efforts, but does endorse them as a way of reducing carbon emissions.

The Paris agreement, however, sends a clear signal to companies around the world that they must look to reduce emissions now, or end up paying a high price later.

Read more here: The Paris climate agreement and why it matters

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