In the U.S. and globally, marginalized communities are often the first to bear the brunt of both climate change and air pollution. Corporate decarbonization strategies must address this fact by making equity a core part of their work toward climate solutions.
Reams of data validate the fact that air pollution and poor air quality—from power plants and other sources—are disproportionately borne by people and communities of color, Black Americans in particular. This massive environmental injustice has been recently amplified and brought to the fore by the COVID-19 crisis: African Americans and other people of color are getting sick and dying from COVID-19 at much higher rates than white Americans. Air pollution and pollution-driven respiratory illness are a key part of the cause for this and many other health disparities.
Carbon offsets generated through afforestation or avoided tropical deforestation, for example, often do more for a company’s image than for climate mitigation. Some have proven actually harmful to the environments, lives, and livelihoods of host communities. Similarly, unbundled Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) can confer corporate green credentials without actually reducing GHG emissions or building new projects.
One of the most innovative conceptual approaches to carbon offsetting, however—an approach with environmental and climate justice at the very core of its concept—comes Nashville-based startup Clearloop, which generates carbon offsets by using corporate decarbonization investments to build new, clean-energy infrastructure in the dirtiest parts of the U.S. grid.
Clearloop is based in the heart of the U.S. Southeast, a fossil-fuel-heavy region that ranks as the sixth-largest global carbon emitter and lacks adequate renewable energy mandates. The company’s approach to climate and renewables innovation differs from legacy strategies because it’s anchored to the concept of emissionality.
Coined by the nonprofit WattTime, emissionality quantifies the precise amount of GHG emissions avoided through the addition of a unit of clean energy generation capacity. An emissionality approach to carbon offsetting is therefore an important improvement on “additionality”: It gives companies the ability to drive the addition of renewable capacity in dirtier parts of the U.S. electric grid—the ability to clean up those parts of the U.S. grid that are most reliant on coal and other fossil-fueled electricity generation.
With respect to energy justice, driving renewable capacity additions to dirty regions of the U.S. grid also promises to increase access to cleaner and more affordable energy for populations and communities who have had few avenues for such access to date.
You can read more about this on the Fast Company website here.
Relatively few Americans associate climate change with possible harms to their health, and most have given little thought to this possibility. Studies in the United States and Britain have shown that “people have a strong tendency to see climate change as less threatening to their health and to their family’s health than to other people’s health,” according to Julia Hathaway and Edward W. Maibach at the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University.
Two recently published reports tell a different story. One, by two public health experts, called for the creation within the National Institutes of Health of a “National Institute of Climate Change and Health” to better inform the medical community, public officials and ordinary citizens about ways to stanch looming threats to human health from further increases in global warming. The second was a full-page article in The New York Times on Nov. 29 with the headline “Wildfire Smoke in California Is Poisoning Children.” It described lung damage along with lifelong threats to the health of youngsters forced to breathe smoke-laden air from wildfires that began raging in August and fouled the air throughout the fall.
Children are not the only ones endangered. Anyone with asthma can experience life-threatening attacks when pollution levels soar. The risks of heart disease and stroke rise. And a recent study in JAMA Neurology of more than 18,000 Americans with cognitive impairment found a strong link between high levels of air pollution and an increased risk of developing dementia.
“While anyone’s health can be harmed by climate change, some people are at greatly increased risk, including young children, pregnant women, older adults, people with chronic illnesses and disabilities, outdoor workers, and people with fewer resources,” Drs. Hathaway and Maibach wrote in Current Environmental Health Reports.
You can read more about this on the NY Times website here.
In the past year FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has taken a leading role in fighting Covid-19 — and the agency’s plan is to count that Covid spending toward the formula used to redirect money to climate projects. Doing so would allow the Biden administration to quickly and drastically increase climate-resilience funding without action by Congress, generating a windfall that could increase funding more than sixfold.
Michael M. Grimm, FEMA’s acting deputy associate administrator for disaster mitigation, said the agency’s initial estimates suggested that as much as $3.7 billion could be available for the program, called Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities, or BRIC. By comparison, that program so far has just $500 million to award in grants.
More of that $3.7 billion “may be forthcoming,” Mr. Grimm said in a statement.
But the amount of new money could potentially climb to as much as $10 billion, according to some estimates, if FEMA also decided to count Covid dollars toward a similar fund, the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, designed to help communities rebuild after a disaster. Mr. Grimm said the decision to provide that funding has not yet been made.
The proposal wouldn’t necessarily reduce the money available to address Covid, according to people familiar with the plan. Rather, it would give FEMA the ability to draw additional resilience money from the government’s dedicated disaster fund, which Congress routinely replenishes once the fund is drawn down.
You can read more about this on the NY Times website here.
Con Edison is Solar One’s neighbor to the south, and they have been one of our most generous and consistent supporters over the years. But this month and in January, they are highlighting us as a Strategic Partner, and we couldn’t be more grateful.
The utility has a long tradition of contributing to and maintaining the social, cultural, and economic vitality of their service areas. Here’s what they have to say about it on their website:
“To do this, we’ve committed ourselves to providing financial or in-kind support to organizations whose activities advance strong, vibrant, and stable communities. We choose these groups carefully who focus on Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) education, environment, civics, community, and arts and culture, looking to their ability to use education, training, and special programs and events to enrich the quality of life of all New Yorkers.”
In addition to robustly supporting out Green Design Lab K-12 Education program, and being a lead sponsor for our much-missed Oktoberfest fundraising dinner, Con Ed is also a major supporter of our Green Workforce Training Program, as highlighted in the ads you may have seen recently in publications such as amNY, the NY Daily News, the NY Times and El Diario, and on Con Ed’s social media platforms. The campaign is being run in both English and Spanish.
There’s also a fundraising component to the campaign, which we’ll be announcing after the New Year. You can learn more about Con Edison’s work in the community as a Clean Energy Leader by visiting conEd.com/partnerships/. And once again, a big heartfelt Thank You to Con Edison for their continuous and robust support of Solar One!
Solar One couldn’t be more pleased to introduce the three newest additions to our Board of Directors: Majora Carter, Stephan Roundtree and Adriana Espinoza. All of them bring impressive credentials, expertise and experience in sustainable community development, policy making and environmental justice.
Majora Carter is a real estate developer, urban revitalization strategy consultant, MacArthur Fellow and Peabody Award winning broadcaster. She is responsible for the creation and successful implementation of numerous economic developments, technology & green-infrastructure projects, policies and job training & placement systems, and is the founder of Sustainable South Bronx. Majora has served on the boards of the US Green Building Council, Ceres, The Wilderness Society, and the Andrew Goodman Foundation. She is quoted in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History and Culture in DC: “Nobody should have to move out of their neighborhood to live in a better one”.
Stephan Roundtree is a lawyer who currently serves as Northeast Director for Vote Solar, the highly effective solar advocacy organization that Solar One worked closely with to help pass New York State’s first net metering law, allowing solar installation owners to sell excess power back to Con Edison. With degrees from Boston College, the Vermont Law School and the Northeastern University School of Law, Stephan brings a passion for social and environmental justice along with extensive technical knowledge gained through his previous work with Green Mountain Energy, the American International Group (AIG) and Solar One’s long-term partners WEACT for Environmental Justice.
Adriana Espinoza is a social worker by training and an environmental advocate by vocation. During her graduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin, she worked in the Texas House of Representatives, conducting policy analysis focusing on public education, healthcare and criminal justice reform. In that role, Adriana was also part of the team that supported Sen. Wendy Davis’s historic filibuster for women’s health care legislation. After graduating and moving to New York, she worked on election reform and voting rights before becoming the NYC Program Director for the New York League of Conservation Voters. While at NYLCV, she advocated for bold climate policies such as the Climate Mobilization Act and fought alongside other advocates to elevate environmental issues affecting low-income and minority communities across the city. She currently serves as New York’s first Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice in the NYC Mayor’s Office of Climate Policy, overseeing the development and implementation of the City’s environmental justice laws and initiatives.
We are grateful for the generosity, dedication and vision these new Board members bring to the Solar One organization, and welcome them with thanks!
Scientists have been ringing alarm bells about our changing climate for decades, and the last few years have seen teenage activists turn up the volume. From protesting pipelines to organizing school climate strikes, these young leaders are among the loudest, angriest voices demanding solutions. Now, many of them are speaking up for the first time through a fundamental part of democracy: by voting.
More than 22 million Americans have turned 18 so far this year. Studies show those newly eligible voters are overwhelmingly concerned about the existential threat of a warming planet, and that people born since 1981 will make up the largest segment of the electorate within eight years. That promises to radically change public policy, which is one reason leaders of the youth climate movement are urging their peers to show up at the polls — and cast a ballot with the Earth in mind.
Check out what three youth climate activists have to say about how they feel about casting their first votes this year.
Delaney Reynolds, 21, is the founder of the Sink or Swim Project, a Miami-based nonprofit that educates and engages youth on solutions to sea level rise. Jamie Margolin, 18, co-founded Zero Hour, an organization dedicated to supporting the next generation of climate activists. And Jerome Foster II, 18, started OneMillionOfUs, which aims to register and empower young voters in the 2020 election.
You can read their remarks at Grist.org here.