State, local and federal emissions policies already in place will reduce carbon emissions from U.S. transportation sources in 2030 by 19% from 2019 levels, according to an analysis releasedThursday by America Is All In, a climate advocacy coalition supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
“We’ve actually made a lot of progress,” said Nate Hultman, corresponding author for the report and director of the Center for Global Sustainability at the University of Maryland. But additional action could further reduce transport emissions, bringing the country closer to meeting President Joe Biden’s overall goal of a 50% to 52% reduction in U.S. carbon emissions by 2030.
Separately on Thursday, the Federal Highway Administration announced a new program, part of the bipartisan infrastructure law, called the Carbon Reduction Program, making available $6.4 billion in formula funding for states and localities over five years.
In previous iterations of our report When Women Lead (in 2003 and 2011), we analyzed the voting records of federal legislators going back to 1983 using League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Environmental Scorecard data. We found that women in Congress vote for legislation supporting clean air, clean water, renewable energy, climate action, and public health much more often than their male counterparts (and similarly vote more often against legislation that would roll back these protections).
This update brings our analysis up to the present and looks further into the past. After comparing annual LCV scores each year from 1972-2021, we again found that women legislators vote for environmental protections more often than their male counterparts in both the House and Senate.
Climate change, pollution, food and energy insecurity, chemical safety, and biodiversity loss have become urgent global concerns that threaten lives and livelihoods in the US. If we want to make progress on protecting the environment and public health, we should help elect more women to public office, and support them during their tenure.
It’s a dangerous shift, both for representative government and for the future climate.
Corporate capture of environmental politics
In democratic systems, elected leaders are expected to protect the public’s interests, including from exploitation by corporations. They do this primarily through policies designed to secure public goods, such as clean air and unpolluted water, or to protect human welfare, such as good working conditions and minimum wages. But in recent decades, this core democratic principle that prioritizes citizens over corporate profits has been aggressively undermined.
Today, it’s easy to find political leaders – on both the political right and left – working on behalf of corporations in energy, finance, agribusiness, technology, military and pharmaceutical sectors, and not always in the public interest. These multinational companies help fund their political careers and election campaigns to keep them in office.
When it comes to the political parties, it’s easy to find examples of campaign finance fueling political agendas.
In 1988, when NASA scientist James Hansen testified before a U.S. Senate committee about the greenhouse effect, both the Republican and Democratic parties took climate change seriously. But this attitude quickly diverged. Since the 1990s, the energy sector has heavily financed conservative candidates who have pushed its interests and helped to reduce regulations on the fossil fuel industry. This has enabled the expansion of fossil fuel production and escalated CO2 emissions to dangerous levels.
Corporate interests have also fueled a surge in well-financed antidemocratic leaders who are willing to stall and even dismantle existing climate policies and regulations. These political leaders’ tactics have escalated public health crises, and in some cases, human rights abuses.
Brazil, Australia and the US
Many deeply antidemocratic governments are tied to oil, gas and other extractive industries that are driving climate change, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and China.
In “Global Burning,” I explore how three leaders of traditionally democratic countries – Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Scott Morrison of Australia and Donald Trump in the U.S. – came to power on anti-environment and nationalist platforms appealing to an extreme-right populist base and extractive corporations that are driving climate change. While the political landscape of each country is different, the three leaders have important commonalities.
Bolsonaro, Morrison and Trump all depend on extractive corporations to fund electoral campaigns and keep them in office or, in the case of Trump, get reelected.
For instance, Bolsonaro’s power depends on support from a powerful right-wing association of landowners and farmers called the União Democrática Ruralista, or UDR. This association reflects the interests of foreign investors and specifically the multibillion-dollar mining and agribusiness sectors. Bolsonaro promised that if elected in 2019, he would dismantle environmental protections and open, in the name of economic progress, industrial-scale soybean production and cattle grazing in the Amazon rainforest. Both contribute to climate change and deforestation in a fragile region considered crucial for keeping carbon out of the atmosphere.
Bolsonaro, Morrison and Trump are all openly skeptical of climate science. Not surprisingly, all have ignored, weakened or dismantled environmental protection regulations. In Brazil, that led to accelerated deforestation and large swaths of Amazon rainforest burning.
Notably, all three leaders have worked, sometimes together, against international efforts to stop climate change. At the United Nations climate talks in Spain in 2019, Costa Rica’s minister for environment and energy at the time, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, blamed Brazil, Australia and the U.S. for blocking efforts to tackle climate injustice linked to global warming.
Brazil, Australia and the U.S. are not unique in these responses to climate change. Around the world, there have been similar convergences of antidemocratic leaders who are financed by extractive corporations and who implement anti-environment laws and policies that defend corporate profits. New to the current moment is that these leaders openly use state power against their own citizens to secure corporate land grabs to build dams, lay pipelines, dig mines and log forests.
Fortunately, there is a lot that people can do to protect democracy and the climate.
Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy and reducing the destruction of forests can cut greenhouse gas emissions. The biggest obstacles, a recent U.N. climate report noted, are national leaders who are unwilling to regulate fossil fuel corporations, reduce greenhouse gas emissions or plan for renewable energy production.
The path forward, as I see it, involves voters pushing back on the global trend toward authoritarianism, as Slovenia did in April 2022, and pushing forward on replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. People can reclaim their democratic rights and vote out anti-environment governments whose power depends on prioritizing extractive capitalism over the best interests of their citizens and our collective humanity.
Using unique research and analysis, Reloop North America is conducting a multi-year campaign in the Northeast to educate legislators, support advocates, and guide industry on adhering to a set of high-performance principles that can modernize deposit return systems, delivering environmental and cost benefits to individual states and the region as a whole.
May 18, 2022, 9 am CDT (In-person in Washington DC and online) Register here.
The transition to a sustainable future continues to gain momentum, after decades of delay on climate action, and has risen to the top of the agenda across government, politics and business. The sense that time could be running out is fueling an urgency to invest in environmental solutions across every sector from transforming the way food is grown, distributed, and consumed to getting more electric vehicles built and on the road; doubling down on tech and innovation; building resilient infrastructure; and advancing environmental justice and equity. What are the highest priority solutions that need to be identified and implemented? What bold steps will it require from Washington, business and at the grassroots level?
POLITICO will convene its second annual sustainability summit to discuss the policies, strategies and innovations that government, the corporate sector, and local communities are implementing to accelerate climate progress. We’ll bring together leading voices from Washington, local and state governments, civil society, and corporate America to discuss the most promising approaches that can leverage the current momentum to get us to a sustainable future much faster.
Mercury-free LED replacements for linear and compact fluorescent bulbs are widely available and provide the same or better lighting, longer product life, and much lower total cost than fluorescents. This study finds that drop-in LED replacement lamps are available for all common linear fluorescent tubes, pin-based compact fluorescent lamps, and specialty applications. Policies to accelerate the phaseout of fluorescent lighting and a full transition to LED lighting would eliminate a significant source of mercury pollution and its threat to human health and the environment. Government policies to limit mercury have often exempted fluorescent lighting—the most common use of mercury in homes and commercial buildings—because ready-to-go, mercury-free substitutes did not exist. Our findings show that such exemptions for fluorescent lighting are no longer necessary.
The Plastics Pollution Policy Inventory is an updateable and searchable database consisting of public policy documents targeting plastic pollution in several languages, beginning January 1, 2000, and currently updated to February 2022.
The inventory currently includes over 550 downloadable policies, in over 30 languages, with the intent to address plastic pollution by subnational, national, and international level governments, and is growing based on stakeholder input and continued research. The inventory is currently comprehensive at the international level, includes a representative but not exhaustive list of policies at the national level, and an illustrative list of policies at the subnational level.
In 2020, the Plastics Policy Inventory and accompanying report, 20 Years of Government Responses to the Global Plastic Pollution Problem, were published, providing a baseline for the trends in government responses to the plastic pollution problem, as well as highlighting some gaps. Since that time, momentum has grown toward negotiation of an international agreement as a collective response to the problem, even as governments and resources have been strained by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This first brief builds upon the 2020 report and baseline by adding new data on national policy responses to plastic pollution from 2020 and 2021. Assessment of the more up-to-date policy inventory suggests that the twenty-year trend of an increase in the number of national policies introduced to reduce plastic pollution has stalled. While additional data on national policies may subsequently become available to revise these estimates, if confirmed they would suggest a pause in government responses to the problem, coinciding with the pandemic (though we cannot show causality). Our goal is for this brief to be the first in a regular series of annual updates on the trends in government responses to the global plastic pollution problem.
Industry-specific reviews of government subsidies have been much more common than analyses examining several natural resource sectors at once. Yet there is a great deal of overlap across sectors. Indeed, it is the combination of support provided by multiple levels of government and government programs, across numerous natural resource areas, that can accelerate resource depletion, pollution, or habitat loss in particular regions.
Environmentally harmful subsidies (EHS) are government actions that by design or effect accelerate the production or consumption of natural resources or undermine broader ecosystems supporting planetary health. While data availability on the scale of these subsidies varies widely across sectors and countries, even based on incomplete estimates they measure at least USD 1.9 trillion a year or about 2 percent of global GDP.
Eliminating these subsidies would free-up substantial government resources to support social needs; send more accurate signals to investors and producers on where to direct R&D efforts and deploy new capital, and to consumers on what to buy; and accelerate innovation to reduce greenhouse gases in all parts of the economy. Removal of EHS would also reduce negative externalities through changes in demand patterns and the mix of suppliers, incentivizing them pursue cleaner options. This working paper explains the basic mechanisms of government subsidization, and provides an overview of important categories of EHS, their scale where known, existing efforts to value and discipline them, and areas where actions by business have the potential to overcome existing roadblocks to reform.
Government-led efforts to discipline EHS, particularly in the areas of agriculture, fisheries, and fossil fuels, have been in process for decades. Progress remains slow. This working paper details these efforts, discusses how subsidy reform could be beneficial to many businesses, and identifies specific areas where rapid action by business could make a big difference in protecting critical biodiversity and addressing climate change.
Global energy and environmental challenges have spurred an increased focus on sustainable sources of energy while global investments in the green energy sector have surged. Low-carbon, “zero” emission technology and scientific advancements required to facilitate the energy transition—such as wind turbines, solar photovoltaic panels, and lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage systems—are pivotal advancements for the energy transition. There are a number of U.S. leadership opportunities that innovative technologies present in the global economic, energy, environment, and geopolitical arenas and in building a stronger, more resilient nation. However, with the Biden administration’s focus on a climate plan that prioritizes the clean energy revolution, environmental justice, and sustainability, it is critical to integrate a life-cycle dimension into future policies to identify, quantify, and assess the social, environmental, and economic implications of products and processes across their life cycle and throughout their value chain in order to achieve sustainability and a circular economy.