Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

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The holidays are almost here — which means that the season of eating is about to begin! DC EcoWomen board member Erica Meier shares how you can make a difference for our planet during this holiday season by choosing to eat a plant-based diet.  

By Erica Meier

The international scientific consensus is clear. Report after report paints an alarming yet sobering scene: Global warming is real, it’s happening now and human activities are largely to blame. 

The forecast is bleak: Worsening weather extremes and severe storms, disease outbreaks, altered coastlines, and more, with negative consequences on human health, particularly those in impoverished or marginalized communities. Specifically, according to Oxfam, women around the world, including in the US, will continue to be disproportionately affected by climate change. Which is why climate action must engage and benefit women and girls.  

As alarming as this message is, however, it’s not new. There’s been growing scientific consensus on this topic for years, if not decades, with environmental advocates and others waving red flags the whole time.

The good news is that there’s something more immediate and tangible we, the people, can do right now that will have a lasting collective impact: Eat plants.

There is widespread agreement in the research community, including reports from the United Nations, that raising animals for food is a leading cause of pollution and resource depletion. One of the most important actions each of us can take to reduce our environmental footprint is to choose plant-based foods. 

For example, did you know:  

  • It takes 420 gallons of water to produce just one pound of grain-fed chicken? 
  • The amount of manure produced on factory farms is three times greater than the amount of waste produced by humans — and there are no sewage treatment plants for animal waste? 
  • The production of animal feed, including pastures for grazing, takes up almost 80% of the world’s agricultural land resources?
  • The cattle industry is responsible for 80% of the forest clearing in the Amazon? 

In addition, hidden cameras are routinely capturing the immense suffering forced upon billions of animals each year behind the closed doors of the meat, egg, and dairy industries — and more recently the aquaculture industry.

Imagine how much more efficient and sustainable our food system could be if we ate plants directly rather than funneling them through farmed animals. A recent report by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences put a number on it: the production of plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy is two- to 20-fold more nutritionally efficient per unit of cropland than our current resource-intensive animal-based system.

As stated by the United Nations in 2006: “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.” In 2010, the UN further declared that “a substantial reduction of impacts [from agriculture] would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change away from animal products.”

More recently, a lead researcher on a report published in Science summed it up in The Guardian by concluding: “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth … it is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”

And yet, the herbivorous elephant in the room remains largely ignored in discussions about how to fight climate change. The answer is literally in our hands: We can use our forks! 

As we continue to work towards policy change and corporate reform, we can also take direct action by diverting our monetary support away from foods that are destroying our planet and causing animal suffering, and instead green our diet with more plants. 

Without a doubt, our food choices matter. Every time we sit down to eat, each of us can stand up for the planet, our health and animals. We can start today simply by making our next meal a plant-based one.

Erica Meier is a DC EcoWomen board member. She is also the president of Compassion Over Killing, a national animal protection organization that hosts the annual DC VegFest and promotes plant-based eating a way to build a kinder, greener, and healthier world for all.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Climate action must engage and benefit women and girls

As the United Nations 2019 Climate Action Summit gets underway today in New York, DC EcoWomen asked UN Women  to send us their thoughts about why it’s important to integrate gender equality into the fight against climate change. The following blog post by Ulrika Modéer, UNDP’s Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, and Anita Bhatia, UN Women’s Deputy Executive Director for Resource Management, Sustainability and Partnerships, talks about the challenges and opportunities women and girls face because of climate change – and introduces a gender equality initiative that will be unveiled at Monday’s summit.

Climate action must engage and benefit women and girls

By Ulrika Modéer and Anita Bhatia

Photo: UN Women/Bundit Chotsuwan

Climate change is already altering the face of our planet. Research shows that we need to put all our efforts over the coming decade to limit warming to 1.5°C and mitigate the catastrophic risks posed by increased droughts, floods, and extreme weather events.

But our actions will not be effective if they do not include measures to ensure social justice, equality and a gender perspective. So, how do we integrate gender equality in climate change actions?

Climate change has a disproportionate impact on women

Climate change affects women and girls disproportionately due to existing gender inequalities. It also threatens to undermine socio-economic gains made over previous decades. With limited or no access to land and other resources including finance, technology and information, women and girls suffer more in the aftermath of natural disasters and bear increased burdens in domestic and care work.

Droughts, floods and deforestation all impact duties typically carried out by women and girls – such as water, firewood and fodder collection. These duties take more time or are thwarted in the face of these climate disasters, causing them to take up time that could have been used for education or leisure. For example, women and children accounted for more than 96% of those impacted by the flash floods in Solomon Islands in 2014 and in Myanmar, women accounted for 61% of fatalities caused by Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

Despite challenges, women play a key role in climate-related sectors

Women and girls also remain marginalized in decision-making spheres — from the community level to parliaments to international climate negotiations. Global climate finance for mitigation and adaptation programs remain out of reach for women and girls because of their lack of knowledge and capacity to tap into these resources.

Despite these challenges, women and girls play a critical role in key climate-related sectors and have developed adaptation and resilience-building strategies and mitigation techniques. Women and girls are driving the demand for renewable energy at the household and community levels for lighting, cooking and productive use solutions that the international community must now support. Women are holders of traditional farming methods, first responders in crises situations, founders of cooperatives, entrepreneurs of green energy, scientists and inventors, and decision-makers with respect to the use of natural resources.

Women comprise an average of 43% of the agricultural work force in developing countries and manage 90% of all household water and fuel-wood needs in Africa. Some studies have shown that if women were afforded equal access to productive resources as men, their agricultural outputs would exceed men’s by 7-23%. It is therefore imperative to embrace and scale-up the initiatives of the 51% of the world’s population.

Women and girls lead in mitigation efforts

In recent times, women and girls have used their knowledge and experience to lead in mitigation efforts. From developing apps to track and reduce the carbon emitted as a result of individual consumption, to reducing food waste by connecting neighbors, cafes, and local shops to share leftover and unsold food. Young women scientists, like South-African teenager Kiara Nirghin, are making a difference in the fight against climate change. They are building on the legacies of women and girls such as Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who empowered communities to manage their natural resources in a sustainable way.

At the same time, UNDP and UN Women have been collaborating to advance gender equality and women’s leadership on climate change. For example, in Ecuador, the two UN agencies have teamed up with the government to support the inclusion of gender in the country’s climate action plans. UNDP and UN Women have also collaborated globally to ensure that gender remains a key factor when world leaders make critical decisions on climate change.

Engaging women will help limit warming

If policies and projects consider women’s particular roles, needs and contributions to climate action and support women’s empowerment, there will be a greater possibility to limit warming to 1.5°C in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We must continue to engage women and women’s organizations, learning from their experiences on the ground to build the evidence for good practices and help replicate more inclusive climate actions.

The UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in New York on Monday, September 23 is a unique opportunity to elevate at the highest level the need for substantive participation of women and girls in efforts against climate change.

Gender equality initiative to be presented at UN Climate Action Summit

At the Summit, there will be several initiatives put forth to address climate change, including one focusing on gender equality. The initiative recognizes the differential impact of climate change on women and girls, and seeks support for their leadership as a way to make climate actions more effective. It calls for the rights, differentiated needs and contributions of women and girls to be integrated into all actions, including those related to climate finance, energy, industry and infrastructure. It promotes support for women and girls in developing innovative tools and participating in mitigation and adaptation efforts and calls for accountability by tracking and reporting progress towards achieving these goals.

For climate action to get more traction and be effective, we need a critical mass of governments and other stakeholders to sign on to the Climate Action Summit’s gender-specific initiative. The world cannot afford to keep limiting the potential of women and girls in shaping climate actions, as all evidence points towards the benefits of their involvement.

There is already interest by United Nations member states, as shown by the increased integration of gender considerations in their national climate plans, but a broader movement is needed. We need multi-stakeholder partnerships and to engage a critical mass of supporters – governments, UN entities, financial mechanisms, and civil society organizations to support the gender-specific initiative of the SG’s Climate Action Summit.

The time for gender-responsive climate action is now.

 

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Women Paving the Way in Ocean Conservation

By Charlotte Runzel, DC EcoWomen member

We’ve come a long way in the ocean conservation movement. While there’s still an enormous amount of work to be done, women have paved the way forward and challenged the movement for the better. This list includes women who have studied the marine environment in depth and now lead outreach and communications efforts to promote science, advocacy, and activism in a strategic and inclusive way.

Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson

“The ocean is indeed in deep, deep trouble due to overfishing, climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction, and good science is needed to turn that around. This science doesn’t need to be fancy, expensive, or complicated. Rather, it needs to be thoughtful, targeted, and inclusive.” – Dr. Johnson

Dr. Johnson challenges the way we think about ocean conservation. She’s intermingling equity, diversity, and inclusion with powerful new ideas that bring people together to save the planet. She is innovative, thoughtful, intelligent and the person we need to overcome obstacles in the ocean and our climate.

Her resume includes helping islands Barbuda, Montserrat, and Curaçao regulate and protect their coastal waters and save coral reefs in the Caribbean. She studied environmental science and public policy at Harvard and received her PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She worked at the Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was the executive director of the Waitt Institute, and founded the Blue Halo Initiative.

She currently has her own consulting firm, OceanCollectiv, which creates and amplifies solutions for a healthy ocean. She is a New York University professor. In addition to her wide expertise in ocean conservation, Dr. Johnson advocates for social justice in the environmental movement.

Read more by Dr. Johnson: New York Times, The Hill, Scientific American

Dr. Nancy Knowlton

“We are literally playing Russian roulette with the planet, so in my field at least, it is not enough to just ‘do science.'” – Nancy Knowlton

Dr. Knowlton works to re-calibrate environmental media to spread #OceanOptimism. She aims to inspire people to take action by using positive rhetoric; instead of the “doom and gloom” that is plaguing media. She’s confronting the way the media covers environmental journalism because people are more likely to take action if they are motivated by positive messaging.

Dr. Knowlton has dedicated her life to studying marine diversity and coral reefs. She has a B.S. from Harvard and a PhD from UC Berkeley. Through her research, Dr. Knowlton uncovered the connection between ocean warming and coral bleaching. She was a professor at Yale University, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. At Scripps, she founded the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation.

She is currently the Marine Sant Chair at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where she works to combine research and outreach.

Read more by Dr. Knowlton: Smithsonian Magazine, The Solutions Journal, Seven Seas Media  

Dr. Sylvia Earle

“It’s the ignorance that most people have about why the ocean matters to them. Who cares if the ocean dries up tomorrow? The ocean should and does matter to everyone. Even the people who have never seen the ocean are touched by the ocean with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink.” – Sylvia Earle

Dr. Earle broke down gender stereotypes in the science field. Though extremely overqualified, she was rejected from the Tektite project, a government-funded study that housed scientists on the ocean floor as part of a deep-sea research program. The organizers could not fathom the idea of women and men living together underwater. Instead of giving up, she led Tektite II Mission 6, an all-female led research expedition that added onto the work of the first Tektite project. She is also the first female Chief Scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  

Her education and experience include a bachelor’s from Florida State University, and a master’s and doctorate degree from Duke university. Her dissertation was one of the first robust descriptions of underwater plant life. She was a research fellow at Harvard, directed the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory in Florida, participated in various scientific missions to understand undiscovered areas of the ocean, and was the first person to walk untethered on the seafloor 1,250 feet below the surface.

Dr. Earle is currently a National Geographic explorer, leads Mission Blue, a nonprofit aimed to inspire action to explore and protect the ocean, and is working to establish a global network of marine protected areas, or “hope spots.”

Read more by Dr. Earle: National Geographic, Huffington Post, New York Times  

If you know a women working to save the ocean, comment below!

Charlotte Runzel is a policy associate at the National Audubon Society in Washington, where she analyzes and promotes marine policy. Prior to working at Audubon, she majored in Marine Science and minored in Conservation Resource Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. As an undergraduate, she interned at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and  the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter, performed her own climate change research on marine sponges in French Polynesia, worked as a lab and field assistant in UC Berkeley’s marine biomechanics lab, and directed a non-profit organization.

Photo Credits: TED Conference/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; NTNU Norwegian University of Science and Technology/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0; Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife/Flickr CC BY 2.0

 

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By Stephanie Gagnon, U.S. Country Manager for the Climate Scorecard Project

At the American Association of Geographers (AAG) annual meeting last April, I gave a presentation on how the U.S. could approach global climate negotiations using market-based solutions. My session also included two male presenters and one other female presenter, each of whom engaged with global climate issues and negotiations, and each presentation was followed by time for questions from the audience.

Although my presentation had focused less on the science of climate change and more on policy approaches to global environmental negotiations, I found myself confronted in the Q&A session by a member of the audience, who aggressively challenged me on the science of climate change and claimed that climate change was neither happening nor human-caused.

Once I had recovered from the shock of being aggressively challenged on the veracity of climate change science at a session specifically focused on climate change, I found it interesting that I was the only presenter this man had chosen to use to advance his climate change denial. Hadn’t he had the option to challenge the men who presented before me? Why use a presentation about policy rather than about science to make this point?

In speaking with other female presenters at the conference, I realized I wasn’t alone. Almost all of the other women I spoke to recounted similar experiences in which men publicly belittled their research and findings regarding climate change but didn’t challenge their male colleagues. This was particularly worse for women of color or who identified with other minority groups. Women across the field have reported gender-based harassment at steadily climbing rates.

The phenomenon of men ignoring or challenging women in the sciences is not by any means a new one. In 2015, the hashtag #distractinglysexy trended on Twitter in response to a male Nobel laureate’s comment about his female peers. Men have been using women’s genders to silence them on issues across the board for centuries. But in the area of climate change, a relatively new field of research and activism, the silencing of women takes on a different connotation. Rather than being isolated to a toxic-masculine gatekeeping of STEM fields, it feels more like an attempt to put women in their place, to remind us that once, not so long ago, we would never have been allowed into this space.

The demographic of this kind of harasser fits almost perfectly with the demographic of climate deniers in the U.S. Studies have shown that in general, white, politically conservative males from rural areas who are confident in their understanding of scientific concepts are the most likely demographic to reject mainstream scientific consensus on climate change. And this demographic is the same demographic that is running online harassment campaigns to silence female scientists.

In fact, I would argue that the same underlying factors are at play that both feed into climate denial and motivate the gendered harassment of women. Climate denial is built upon a solid rejection of the “mainstream,” which is seen as an elitist attempt by minorities to grab power from the majority. Climate deniers tend to see attempts to regulate carbon pollution as attempts to infringe on their freedom – this perpetuates the fear that, for example, the government will use climate change as an excuse to tell them which car to drive. This interpretation then feeds into the fear that women will use climate change as an excuse to force men into the domestic work often stereotypically reserved for women.

So how do we combat this insidious sexism that creates an unsafe environment for female climate change professionals?

Toxic masculinity is a major factor at play. Addressing this issue at its source by making men feel safe to express themselves in ways outside the traditional paradigm of masculinity could help men feel less personally threatened by female researchers’ success. Additionally, helping white men in rural areas who may feel left behind by the decline of American manufacturing could help them to feel more included in the climate change conversation. By changing messaging around climate change solutions so that it focuses on opportunities to create a better future rather than limits we should impose on our modern way of life, we can work to address fears that climate change policy necessarily means giving up the things we love. Additionally, working in programs for economic advancement, like training and job placement guarantees in the renewable energy sector, could help create opportunities in areas where current policy only accelerates plant closings.

It is not the responsibility of the scientists who are targets for harassment and silencing to address the issues that enable their harassers. Instead, it is our role as a society to work to create safer spaces for all people producing research and policy recommendations so that we can hear them and learn from them.

Stephanie Gagnon is the U.S. Country Manager for the Climate Scorecard Project. She is passionate about bridging the gap between research and action in both policy and technology to combat climate change. In particular, she focuses on climate change communication strategies to engage key actors around the issue of climate change mitigation.

Photos: Miki Jourdan CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; Tracy CC BY 2.0

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Climate Justice is About Protecting Mother Earth AND Mothers

 

By Martha Bohrt, environmental advocate

In my interest to find out how people understand being impacted by climate change, in all parts of their identity, I became aware that, for women, there is an added layer that makes the topic intergenerational. Current mothers worry about the future of their children, as do those considering having children.

It must be noted I am not suggesting that only women are concerned about the state of the world for future generations. I know that, regardless of gender and/or interest in parenthood, this is a concern for many. What I think is worth highlighting is the additional emotional load carried by women when evaluating reproductive choices.

In the race to prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change, there are no winners, only losers. However, as the negative impacts of the current climate crisis become more evident, it is also clear that certain groups will carry the burden more heavily.

Initiatives like Zero Hour, for example, organize around the idea that young people should have a say in the development and implementation of environmental policies, since they are the ones who will have to live longer with the consequences of such policies. Women-centered environmental movements like WEDO and GenderCC have brought to the forefront the additional obstacles faced by women in dealing with climate change impacts due to existing gender inequalities.

Networks like Conceivable Future are organizing around the very idea that climate justice is reproductive justice. The mission of the organization focuses on two demands: “the right to make reproductive decisions free from massive, avoidable, government-supported harm; and the demand that the U.S. end fossil fuel subsidies as an act of commitment toward our generation and those that follow.” It promotes testimonies from women evaluating whether to have children considering the climate crisis. It also organizes events in which women can share their experiences in making these decisions.

Make no mistake, these networks aren’t encouraging population control and not having babies. They are merely drawing attention to the fact that, for our generation, the climate crisis is a big, negative factor when viewing the future. According to Conceivable Future, “there is a lot of sadness and anger around this issue for many of our generation. Whether we decide to have children or not, the future looks very uncertain, and we urgently need to meet, discuss, and organize for the well-being of ourselves and our families, however they are composed.”

Full disclosure: I am not considering having children. But learning about organizations working at the intersection of climate issues and women’s issues has really pushed me to think about how I am affected by the climate crisis in areas that I have not considered in the past. Many of my lifestyle choices are impacted by my desire to help decrease my carbon footprint. I use public transportation, I compost, I avoid plastics, etc. So, I wonder, if I were grappling with this decision, would I take this into consideration?

While I don’t have an answer, I would like to pose the same question to you. How does climate change impact your life choices, from choosing light bulbs and appliances, to the more intimate choices that define part of your humanity?

I truly believe solutions to this tough topic can only be found through an exchange of ideas and experiences. I look forward to reading yours!

Martha Bohrt is a professional working to promote the ideal of public service beyond the public sphere, into the private and nonprofit sectors. Martha has worked with local, state, and transnational agencies to advance environmental projects on air and water quality improvement, as well as environmental resilience.

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Women, Children, Poverty and Climate Change in the District

By Whitney Ricker, FEMA contractor and climate justice advocate

It’s common knowledge at this point; women (on average) are more likely than men to be affected by climate change. This fact usually conjures images of women in the Global South who will face extreme hardship due to severe famine, migration, and violence caused by the impacts of climate change and de-stabilization. Children who grow up in these situations will likely be at a large disadvantage due to poor economic conditions, and physical and mental health issues stemming from their struggles.

While these are important issues to think about on a global stage, it can be easy to overlook what is already happening in our own backyard. Read on for more information on the connection between women, children, poverty and climate change.

Poverty Among Women and Children in the District

Women in the District face homelessness at a higher rate than their male counterparts, and over a quarter of children live in poverty. While residents in Washington, D.C. become wealthier on average, the gap between the haves and have-nots also grows. For instance, the housing prices within the District have risen to $602,500, with no signs of going down. Gentrification continues to push families and individuals out of neighborhoods, which leaves a large number in poverty. The statistics below show the bigger picture – the populations that now live under the poverty line:

Extreme Weather and Climate Change in the District

Flooding is expected to be a major issue facing D.C. in the coming decades. As land in the District sinks and increasing sea levels raise the waters of the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, extreme flooding events will inundate further inland, including portions of Anacostia, the Tidal Basin, and the Southwest Waterfront. Inundation can lead to issues, including storm drain backups and potential sewage overflows, especially in sections of the city where old infrastructure has not been updated.

Climate change is increasing extreme weather events. As poverty grows within the District, extreme weather will cause intense, new challenges for those who face poverty. During the summer months, Washington, D.C. is subjected to the “Urban Heat Island Effect,” which is when urban centers experience higher temperatures than surrounding areas during extreme heat events. Numerous factors contribute to this event, such as dark pavements absorbing heat and less greenery to deflect heat and cool down surrounding areas.

During the hottest months of the year, increased temperatures can have severe health impacts, especially for expectant mothers, children, the elderly, and those who in poverty.

The health impacts include the following:

  • Severe dehydration
  • Dizziness/fainting
  • Respiratory illness
  • Cardiovascular illness
  • Heat stroke

Research has shown correlations between extreme weather events and an increase in overall violence. Extreme heat events are correlated with increased rates of violent crime, especially in socially disadvantaged neighborhoods. Women and children are more likely to experience sexual violence, abuse, and exploitation following all types of natural disasters. In 2018, violent crime had decreased overall in D.C. However, a natural disaster could quickly change the trend.

How to Help

On a large scale, it will take social reform, healthcare reform, and many other measures to ensure that women and children in poverty in Washington, D.C. are prepared for the impacts of climate change. Here are a few ways that you can help daily.

Volunteer – There are dozens of shelters and food banks across the D.C. region, along with other organizations dedicated to helping women who have suffered abuse and/or other trauma. If you have time, here is a list of shelters in the District. Along with volunteering at shelters, volunteering with children/teenagers who live in harsh circumstances can have a positive impact for years to come.

Help those you encounter – Instead of giving money to those you see on the street, consider giving them a nutritious snack, or carry around a cold bottle of water to give to someone on a hot day. A small act could be a lifesaver to someone living on the streets.

Donate – Shelters are always in need of supplies, food, and clothing to distribute. Consider cleaning out your closet or buying a few extra items at the store to donate to local shelters.

Advocate for children and education – Advocating for a good education, especially around the connection between poverty and climate change, can have big impacts on a large scale.

Whitney Ricker is a recent graduate of James Madison University, where she studied Geographic Science with an emphasis on Environmental Conservation, Sustainability, and Development. She is currently employed as a FEMA contractor, and when she isn’t advocating for climate justice, she can be found watching documentaries and British TV shows at home.

Photo Credits: allenran 917 CC BY 2.0, Daniel Lobo CC BY 2.0, Bruno Sanchez-Andrade Nuño CC BY 2.0, Ajari CC BY 2.0 and Elvert Barnes CC BY-SA 2.0

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on DC’s Ambitious New Renewable Energy Law: 7 Things You Need to Know

By Lauren Meling, digital strategist and DC EcoWomen member

A lot of frightening environmental news have made headlines lately. But, just before the end of 2018, there was a big positive story that made headlines around the country and happened here in our area. As a DC EcoWoman or supporter, you may have heard that DC’s going to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2032. There’s actually a lot more to this story than just the applaudable headline. Here are seven of the most interesting takeaways.

  1.  It’s the most ambitious clean energy transition in the country

The Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 mandates DC energy providers to source 100 percent renewable energy by 2032, and replaces a previous target of 50 percent renewable energy by 2032. And before you ask — nuclear energy is not considered a renewable energy in this rule.

Unlike some other cities, DC is legally required to meet the mandate. It is not a voluntary ambition. The law will require its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to be 100 percent renewable by 2032. It means DC will be one of the first large cities to join the 100 percent renewable club, which already includes several smaller cities and towns, and will beat larger areas like California or Hawaii by several years.

DC is able to meet this accelerated timeline because it does not produce much energy within its borders. It relies on electricity generated elsewhere and transmitted in the PJM electrical grid.

  1. Utilities were on board

In a statement, Pepco Holdings called it “an important step toward advancing the cause of clean energy for the benefit of every ward in the District of Columbia.”

Surprised? I wouldn’t blame you. But what’s unique about this law is that utilities will be financially penalized for missing incremental renewable energy targets — fines which will go toward supporting renewable energy development. As GGW puts it:

The burden falls on utility companies to meet benchmarks for renewable electricity—or pay a price. Every year, the city sets renewable energy standards for companies to hit that increase incrementally until they reach 100 percent in 2032. What happens if companies don’t meet those standards? The city requires electricity suppliers to make compliance payments into D.C.’s Renewable Energy Development Fund (REDF).

An important note: If you don’t want to wait until 2032, or if you live outside the District, you can purchase clean energy credits through a provider like Arcadia, Clean Choice, or others. Learn more (PDF)

  1. Solar production will rise to 10 percent by 2045

As of 2015, solar energy only produced about 1 percent of DC’s electricity. That’s not surprising considering the urbanized environment only encompasses 68 square miles. While there’s little potential for large-scale solar farms, there’s still enormous possibility for rooftop solar on buildings, large and small, across the District.

DC already provides subsidized rooftop solar through its Solar for All program. The new law will provide energy bill assistance to support low- and moderate-income residents. Thirty percent of the additional revenue collected will be put aside for programs like weatherization and bill assistance for low-income households, as well as job training in energy efficiency fields. At least $3 million annually will also be allocated toward energy efficiency upgrades in affordable housing buildings. Win-win-win!

  1. Transportation is going renewable, too

Transportation is the second-largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in DC (22 percent). Other cities/areas have passed similar laws but gave themselves longer timelines, and/or did not include transportation. What’s particularly exciting about DC’s new law is that by 2045, all public transportation and privately-owned vehicle fleets in DC will not produce GHG emissions. “Privately-owned fleet vehicles” means that if you’re transporting over 50 passengers, it’s got to be zero-emissions.

While ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber are not included, they are required to create a greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan. Private vehicles, meanwhile, are not covered.

  1. Even existing buildings are included

DC already ranks first for leadership in energy and environmental design… or rather, it would, if it were a state. Buildings, however, are still the largest single source of GHG emissions in the city (74 percent). Major cities have made headlines after encouraging new buildings to include green roofs or rooftop solar. What’s different about DC’s law is that it includes provisions for existing buildings to increase their energy efficiency, rather than placing the impetus on new construction.

In fact, there’s a fantastic resource called Benchmark DC, which displays the energy and water usage and ‘grade’ of major buildings in the District.

  1. It funds DC’s green bank

The new law also helps fund DC’s green financing bank, an important, if not headline-grabbing, way to support renewable energy and other sustainable initiatives. An additional assessment on dirty energy sources like natural gas will fund the green bank with $15 million per year in 2020 and 2021, and $10 million per year for the next 4 years. These funds will go towards financing programs for energy efficiency or renewable energy projects to lower energy costs. This includes anything from roof repairs, insulation, installing new windows, to solar panels for homes.

  1. It’s all part of a bigger picture to address climate change in our backyard

The vision of Sustainable DC 2.0 is to make DC the healthiest, greenest, and most livable city in the United States in just 20 years. The Clean Energy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018 is just one part of the overall Sustainable DC 2.0 vision, which also has plans of action for nature, transportation, food waste, climate resilience, energy, water, and more, including the recent ban on plastic straws and foam takeout containers.

Some questions still remain

While everything listed above is a positive development, several questions still remain. What exactly will Lyft and Uber do to reduce GHG emissions, and how will they be held accountable? Where does WMATA fit into this — will the Metro also need to be powered by renewables, as it encompasses operations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia and is governed by the WMATA board and not the city council? What will become of the Capitol Power Plant? For some great insight, check out Greater Greater Washington’s recap.

To end on a positive note, an analysis based on a previous version of the bill estimated it would result in a 50 percent reduction of GHGs. A new analysis has not yet been released, but if it’s anywhere close to that, we are on track to meet the recommended reduction in GHGs that climate scientists have recently called for by 2030. To take a closer look at the plan, visit Clean Energy DC’s interactive microsite.

Are you excited about this development, or do you have concerns? Comment below to discuss this topic.

Lauren Meling has dedicated her career to finding what exactly it takes to make people take action online to serve a cause. She uses her digital strategy experience and skillset combining email marketing, social media, search engine marketing, website optimization, and content creation to engage online communities in meaningful action to confront some of the most challenging crises humanity faces today. She may not be a superhero, but she plays one on the internet.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on DC EcoWomen Celebrates Earth Day with 2017 Photo Contest Winner Maggie Dewane

by Alyssa Ritterstein, DC EcoWomen Board Member

DC EcoWomen celebrates Earth Day annually you might even argue that we honor it every day through the work our members do. One of the ways we showcase the incredible environmental efforts of our members is through our annual photo contest. We recently sat down with the 2017 People’s Choice photo contest winner, Maggie Dewane, to revisit the photo she submitted from her travels to Antarctica – “In the Midst of Climate Change” – and ask what Earth Day means to her.

 

“The Earth is our home and we are all connected to it, regardless of our beliefs or background. We owe it our respect and appreciation all year round. “

 

DC EcoWomen: Why did you submit a photo for the Photo Contest?

Maggie Dewane: DC EcoWomen provides this really wonderful and warm platform for women in environmental fields to connect and support one another. Following my expedition to Antarctica, I felt proud to have taken an opportunity to broaden my professional development and environmental awareness. Sharing my favorite photo from the expedition with such a supportive network seemed like a great idea! And now, one year later, that photo and the photo contest have connected me with new friends and professionals. I have DC EcoWomen to thank for that.

DCEW: Why were you in Antarctica?

MD: I traveled to Antarctica because as an environmentalist and writer, I often try to communicate the story of climate change to a wide range of audiences. By seeing climate change firsthand and learning from scientists who study there, I gained a new and unique perspective into that story. Following my expedition, I made a short video [below] to educate audiences and encourage them to learn more so that they may feel empowered to fight climate change.

DCEW: What were you thinking about while you were there, especially as you were taking this photo?

MD: When this photo was taken, I had just seen three Adelie penguins – a penguin species that serves as an indicator of climate change. We were on Petermann Island, historically a nesting ground for Adelies. These penguins thrive in the most frigid and freezing temperatures of Antarctica, but as summers are getting warmer and winters are getting shorter, they are having to move further south down the continent. So this moment was novel and exciting. Additionally, the majestic backdrops were breathtaking and humbling. How outstanding to be in one of the last untouched wild places, in its raw beauty. However, the bright and beaming sun and those penguins served as a reminder of the reach of anthropogenic climate change, even this far removed from civilization.

DCEW: What does Earth Day mean to you?

MD: Earth Day, to me, is associated with such fond memories. Earth Day symbolized spring and new beginnings. I remember planting trees and flowers as a kid with my mom in our backyard. As I’ve grown older, it obviously has taken on a deeper, more profound meaning. The Earth is our home and we are all connected to it, regardless of our beliefs or background. We owe it our respect and appreciation all year round. There is truth to the adage, “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, but we borrow it from our children.”

DCEW: What would you tell women who are considering submitting a photo for this year’s contest?

MD: Do it! Be proud of your accomplishments because we’re all rooting for you.

Now it’s your turn! The DC EcoWomen photo contest will launches on Earth Day (Sunday, April 22) and submissions will be accepted through May 23 at midnight. Photos should feature environmental issues, career growth opportunities, D.C., or all of the above. Details and contest rules can be found on the Photo Contest page. We hope you participate, and good luck!

Maggie Dewane is the US Communications Manager at the Marine Stewardship Council and a DC EcoWomen Member.

 

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By Heidi Bishop

As the new administration’s impact on energy policy unfolds, increased interest in pursuing “clean coal” technologies have likely put Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) more squarely on your radar. The new “America First Energy Plan” makes no mention of solar, wind, or other renewable energy resources but does state a commitment to “clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry, which has been hurting for too long.” For DC EcoWomen active in energy policy, this is a good time to understand the current state of the technology.

While there are several ways to reduce the various harmful emissions from a coal plant so that it can be labeled “clean coal,” most energy plans citing clean coal are referring to the use of CCS as a method for reducing the carbon content from plant emissions to protect coal as a major form of baseload generation. In short, CCS requires a means of separating CO2 from either the fuel or emissions of a power plant, capturing and stabilizing this isolated CO2 in a solid or compressing it in gas, and then storing it over centuries. CO2 can be removed from coal directly through pre-firing degasification, such as in an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plant, or through oxyfiring. CO2 can also be removed in post-processing of emissions. Both approaches are feasible, but expensive, and energy-intensive operations that require significant capital expenditures can reduce plant efficiencies by as much as 20%.

CCS is a complex technology, and there are many useful resources available from the DOE, IEA, or the Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) to learn more. In more mainstream discussions, however, here are two Clean Coal myths you might come across:

Myth 1: Clean Coal Technologies are Market-Ready

Some proponents point to existing pilots for CCS or utility projects underway as proof that the technology is proven for large scale deployment and poised for growth. While there is significant technical potential for CCS in terms of engineering feasibility and substantial amounts of potential underground storage locations, as a commercial matter CCS is still an infant technology that is likely going to be very expensive initially and is not yet available at a broad scale.

NRG’s Petra Nova plant in Texas, which is paired with enhanced oil recovery to improve its economics, is now up and running as a major success, but the majority of projects are not. Several projects have generally followed a pattern of initial public support, steep cost overruns, engineering problems, eventual public opposition, and suspension or cancellation. Such projects include Future Gen 2 in Illinois. Once the poster-child for CCS, this project was in development as early as 2006, revised beginning in 2010, and then eventually cancelled in 2015. Similarly, the Kemper County IGCC project in Mississippi, which is currently 3 years behind and $4 billion over budget, has recently found that it will be more economic for it to run on natural gas than the coal it was originally intended to use. All of which leads to the next myth…

Myth 2: Clean Coal Plus Lighter Regulations Can Bring Back the Coal Industry

Coal generation and mining have steadily decreased in past years primarily due to competition with low-priced natural gas which makes coal generation uneconomical for a lot of plants. Secondary cases are low load growth, renewable generation, and environmental regulations such as the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) targeting arsenic and metals air pollution from coal and oil plants.

The stayed and now-cancelled Clean Power Plan (CPP) to impose carbon emission restrictions and pricing mechanisms on the power industry is often blamed for impairing coal, but in fact those regulations were not very strong and would have had little impact on an already-suffering coal industry. For example, projections from the Energy Information Administration that do not incorporate compliance with the CPP still include significant retirements of coal resources over the next few years.

Because the falling demand for coal is driven by the availability of lower cost resources, the business case to invest in new coal generation at all is weak—especially for coal with expensive CCS which can increase costs by around 75%.

Despite all these economic forces against coal and CCS, coal generation is not going to be obsolete any time soon. Today’s existing coal plants are often fairly clean in terms of more noxious pollutants like SO2, NOX, and particulates (and can still be improved), have very long engineering lives left, and can continue running on plentiful and fairly cheap coal.

Unfortunately, we are not yet in a position to rely entirely on zero-carbon technologies like renewables because the storage technologies needed to smooth their intermittent availability to meet our consumption patterns are still too expensive for wide use. Technical and economic research in clean coal may still be valuable to address CO2 emissions in parts of the world where coal remains a critical energy supply. Gas-fired power plants also emit CO2, albeit at less than half the rate per kWh as coal, so they also eventually may need CCS. Thus, in many ways, the exact future of clean coal is unsure.

Over the next few years there will be push and pull between regional and national climate policies in the U.S. as well as changes in the economics of competing with natural gas and renewable energy. These influences, however, cannot change the facts that CCS technology is nowhere close to being advanced enough to rapidly expand overnight and that the U.S. coal industry is at best looking to be sustained rather than restored to former levels.

 

 

Heidi Bishop is a marketing and policy associate at a consulting firm based in DC. She specializes in energy policy research, identifying business development opportunities, and developing publications. She has worked on a variety of energy policy topics with a focus on new business models for electric utilities, “Utility of the Future” efforts, distributed energy resources, and retail regulatory strategy. Ms. Bishop received her BA and MBA from Salisbury University and a Master of Public Management – Policy Track, Environmental Concentration from the University of Maryland.

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on How Millennials Can Shape Our Climate Future

Blog-Sep 05, 2016

By Ellie Ramm

Governments, businesses and universities are focusing increasing resources and attention on what is now our nation’s largest generation, millennials.

Generally defined as those born between 1982 and 2000, millennials now represent the largest share of the American workforce. They’re more educated than prior generations. They’re more culturally diverse. And they’re more socially conscious.

How will this millennial generation shape our climate and energy future? Consider just two observations about how millennials want to live and get around — housing and transportation.

A study found more than 6 in 10 millennials prefer to live in mixed-use communities. They’re more interested in living where amenities and work are geographically close. More than a third of young people are choosing to live as close as 3 miles from city centers.

As for transportation, millennials drive less than other generations. They’re opting for walking, biking, car-sharing or public transit. From 2001 to 2009, vehicle-miles traveled dropped 23 percent for 16- to 34-year-olds.

Capital BikeShare in Washington, DC

Capital BikeShare in Washington, DC

These preferences point to a future that is low-carbon and more sustainable. Dense urban living and mixed modal transportation options can result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. A 2014 report from the New Climate Economy notes that “more compact, more connected city forms allow significantly greater energy efficiency and lower emissions per unit of economic activity.”

Millennial demands are influencing other sustainability topics, too. A Rock the Vote poll earlier this year found 80 percent of millennials want the United States to transition to mostly clean or renewable energy by 2030. An earlier poll from the Clinton Global Initiative found millennials care more than their parents’ generation about the environment and would spend extra on products from companies that focus on sustainability.

These facts indicate that this generation of 75.4 million people (in just the United States) wants to live differently than previous generations. Energy policies and technology habits will need to change to keep pace.

Government is paying attention, with President Barack Obama calling on millennials to tackle the challenge of climate change. Businesses, like energy providers, are working to deliver service in a seamless and more socially connected way. And universities are offering more sustainability-focused programs than ever before. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)’s program list is growing, and university presidents are being asked by students to join the Climate Commitment to reduce emissions and improve resilience to climate impacts.

While millennials wield huge influence, the real power of change will come from all generations working together to develop innovative solutions and implement pragmatic policies to shape a low-carbon future and environmentally stable and economically prosperous planet for all who will inherit it.

Photo by Ellie Ramm

Photo by Ellie Ramm

Ellie Ramm works in a variety of capacities to build engagement and action on climate and energy issues of interest to states, cities and businesses to foster low-carbon, pragmatic, and sustainable solutions. She also researches the connection between behavior and sustainability, in an effort to raise awareness about actions that individuals can take at home and in the community to live more sustainably. She is currently the Solutions and Engagement Fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES).