Climate Justice Innovators Get $27 Billion Boost From the EPA

27 02 2023

Image credit: KE ATLAS/Unsplash

By Mary Mazzoni from Triple pundit • Reposted: February 17, 2023

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is moving the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund forward and making good on its recently renewed commitments to environmental and climate justice.

Created by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the Fund aims to mobilize public and private capital to reduce emissions and combat air pollution across the U.S., with a focus on low-income and historically marginalized communities. 

As a first step, the Fund will host two grant competitions worth $27 billion, the EPA announced in its initial guidance last week. A $7 billion competition will award grants to 60 organizations providing clean technologies like community solar and energy storage within U.S. communities. A second will disburse $20 billion to anywhere from two to 15 nonprofit lenders, including community-based lenders and green banks that provide financial assistance for low- and zero-emission technologies in low-income communities. 

“The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund will unlock historic investments to combat the climate crisis and deliver results for the American people, especially those who have too often been left behind,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan, the first Black man to head the agency, in a statement. “With $27 billion from President Biden’s investments in America, this program will mobilize billions more in private capital to reduce pollution and improve public health, all while lowering energy costs, increasing energy security, creating good-paying jobs and boosting economic prosperity in communities across the country.”

Those are pretty big words, but a host of environmental and climate justice advocates agree about the Fund’s promise. “This is a huge step,” Adam Kent, Sarah Dougherty and Douglass Sims of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s People and Communities Program, wrote of the Fund in a blog. “It has the potential to not only improve lives, but ultimately transform ‘green’ investments into ‘mainstream’ investments by catalyzing far, far more than $27 billion of investments and building a more equitable clean energy future.”

$27 billion and beyond: Mobilizing funds for climate justice in U.S. communities 

An estimated 1 out of every 25 premature deaths in the U.S. can be linked to air pollution — more than traffic accidents and shootings combined. People of color and low-income people are more likely to be exposed to high levels of air pollution and as such are at greater risk of premature death. These communities also face outsized impacts from climate change. 

Addressing environmental and climate justice issues like these is a key focus in President Joe Biden’s plan to leverage federal funds to advance racial equity. Launched during Biden’s first week in office, the Justice40 Initiative looks to direct 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments to disadvantaged communities that are underserved and overburdened by pollution.

The Fund will align with Justice40 and take things a step further. “Although the law requires that just over half of Fund investments target low-income and disadvantaged communities, EPA will aim to prioritize investments in these communities throughout the entire $27 billion program,” report Kent, Dougherty and Sims of the NRDC. “This decision could transform how funding flows to underserved communities, and Fund investments can support critical, life-improving projects that otherwise would not have moved forward.”

The $7 billion in grants for clean technologies has the potential to scale transformative solutions like community solar and energy storage that can decarbonize underserved communities while reducing the burden of air pollution. The idea is that a cash infusion from the EPA can help recipient organizations grow and deploy even more community-based projects in pursuit of climate justice, similarly to how a $456 million federal loan helped Tesla become the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer. 

“These projects have the potential to create local benefits including savings on energy costs, reliability improvements, and improved air quality, as well as reducing climate pollution,” said Heather McTeer Toney, vice president of community engagement for the Environmental Defense Fund, in a statement. 

Further, the EPA’s decision to diversify its portfolio of nonprofit lenders — rather than investing in a single entity — will allow funds to reach more communities through institutions with proven track records of community-based and green lending. “This is a sound decision, as NRDC and many of our environmental justice and community-based partners have pushed EPA to select multiple recipients as a critical feature of Fund implementation,” Kent, Dougherty and Sims wrote. 

The next step

Both grant competitions are expected to launch in early summer. Organizations will have two to three months to submit their applications, and the EPA plans to make awards by late September of next year. 

The architecture of the Fund is based on input from state, local and Tribal governments, community financing institutions, environmental justice organizations, industry groups, and labor and environmental finance experts, the EPA said — and advocates are calling on the agency to keep the engagement up as it moves to start disbursing grants. 

“This is a positive step toward making the just transition affordable and accessible to those most in need,” Jessica Garcia, climate finance policy analyst at Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund, said in a statement. “The EPA should continue collecting feedback from the directly impacted communities that this fund aims to serve and developing robust criteria for its applicants to achieve its dual directive of protecting communities from climate impacts and providing them financial tools to safeguard their future. ”

To see the original post, follow this link:


U.S. Climate Targets Are Within Reach, But Overconsumption Still Matters

31 01 2023

Image credit: Alexandru Boicu/Unsplash

By Riya Anne Polcastro from • Reposted: January 31, 2023

There’s good news on the viability of President Joe Biden’s climate agenda, with a new report detailing how the U.S. could potentially come within reach of his 2030 objective to power 80 percent of the nation’s electrical grid with clean energy. Doing so would also meet U.S. targets to halve carbon emissions by 2030, using a 2005 baseline, and further reduce them to 77 percent below 2005 levels by 2035, according to the report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Evergreen Action.

Time is of the essence, however. And not just because of any impending climate tipping points. The current administration isn’t guaranteed a second term. And, as the Washington Post’s Maxine Joselow pointed out last week, an incoming Republican president would likely reverse any last-minute changes. Ironically, rushing the conversion may also be the best way to end partisanship over the issue as long-term savings become apparent to businesses and consumers alike.

“President Biden committed to the most ambitious set of climate goals in American history,” Charles Harper, power sector policy lead at Evergreen Action, said in a statement. “Important progress has been made, but President Biden must take bold action this year in order to deliver on those commitments. By ramping up its work to transition the U.S. economy toward 100 percent clean energy, the Biden administration and state leaders can reduce toxic pollution, cut energy costs, create good jobs, and advance environmental justice. Let’s get to work.”

The report lists necessary measures which, based on modeling, could result in meeting the climate goals set out in the president’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) if they are implemented immediately. Researchers say setting new and stringent rules through the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Air Act, as well as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), will be paramount. Other necessary courses of action include making the most of the IRA’s grant programs and tax credits, and promoting stronger state standards on emissions to match federal targets.

“We don’t need magic bullets or new technologies,” Manish Bapna, NRDC president and CEO, explained in a statement. “We already have the tools — and now we have a roadmap. If the Biden administration, Congress, and state leaders follow it, we will build the better future we all deserve. There is no time for half measures or delay.”

The report does not call for an end to new power plants that generate electricity from fossil fuels, but it does recommend that rule changes and emission standards be applied to existing gas and coal facilities as well. The transition away from fossil fuels is thus presented as more of a carrot than a stick situation — with funds from the IRA needed to encourage the expansion of renewables, as opposed to attempting to eliminate the construction of new fossil fuel-based plants. 

The increasing availability and cheaper cost of renewable energy benefits not just consumers, but also the U.S. manufacturers and businesses that rely on all possible savings to remain competitive. The more that can be done to encourage the grid transition to renewables, the cheaper power will be for everyone. In time, then, partisan opposition to renewable energy should wane.

However, it’s important to remember that no type of consumption comes without consequences. Resources must still be extracted to build batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, etcetera in order to power the clean energy revolution. As such, we must be more careful not to create a whole new environmental disaster in the process of slowing the climate crisis.

People in the U.S. use four times as much energy as the worldwide average. Cheaper power runs the risk of increasing total consumption, as seen with the connection between gasoline prices and driving habits. With the impending robotization of multiple industries, increased power usage could be dramatically compounded and raise emissions above current modeling. Therefore, it is imperative that people in the U.S. look to reduce their consumption, in addition to cleaning up the grid. 

Many Americans are already willing to adjust their lifestyles to combat climate change, but they need the tools to successfully lower their carbon footprints. Clean power is a big part of this, but so is a public transportation infrastructure that moves us away from the personal passenger vehicle — electric or not — as the primary mode of transportation.

Likewise, the backlash against remote work doesn’t just dismiss employee needs, but it also ignores the environmental benefits of fewer commutes and climate-controlled office buildings. By looking at the bigger picture, perhaps we will begin to understand that our planet does not have unlimited resources. No matter how we power things, we cannot do so from a thought process of ever expanding abundance with zero consequences. 

To see the original post, follow this link: