Failure to address climate change harms vulnerable populations

July 27, 2010

Last Thursday, U. S. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid announced that he did not have the 60 votes necessary to pass major climate change legislation. This was very disappointing news for those working to pass comprehensive, equitable legislation to address climate change. It is expected that Congress will instead push through a series of smaller bills focused on addressing liability and safety issues related to the BP oil spill and potentially some other less comprehensive energy efficiency and clean energy measures.

This is a loss not only for our environment, but also for low-income populations and people of color. The failure to pass comprehensive climate change legislations means: 

  • Those who disproportionately bear the negative effects of climate change will continue to be in harm’s way. To learn more about what this means, read how the Red Cross is already working to help vulnerable populations prepare for extreme weather events caused by climate change.
  • The anticipated piece-by-piece legislation to address climate change will not provide a revenue stream for funding priorities like consumer relief from energy price increases, training for green jobs for those traditionally without equitable access to livable wage jobs, and dedicated funds to help nonprofits and low-income households afford efficiency improvements and reduce their energy consumption.

This is an important moment for you to speak up on behalf of disadvantaged populations. Let Minnesota’s congressional delegation know that you are paying attention and are disappointed that Congress failed to pass comprehensive climate change legislation at this critical time.

  •  If your representative in the U.S. House voted in support of The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (Congresswoman McCollum and Congressmen Ellison, Oberstar, Peterson and Walz), thank them for supporting comprehensive climate legislation and ask them to continue working for viable solutions that consider the impacts on vulnerable populations.
  • If your representative in the U.S. House voted against The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (Congresswoman Bachmann and Congressmen Kline and Paulsen), let them know that you are disappointed in their vote and the failure of Congress to address climate change as a serious issue that will continue to bring harm to our environment and to vulnerable populations.
  • Tell Senators Franken and Klobuchar that you are disappointed in the U. S. Senate’s inability to pass comprehensive climate change legislation, but that you appreciate their willingness to champion climate equity issues. Ask them to keep fighting for solutions to climate change that consider the impacts on vulnerable populations.

Find out who represents you and call their offices today! For more information on climate change and implications for vulnerable populations, visit the Minnesota Budget Project Climate Change Resource Page.

-Leah Gardner

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U.S. Senate poised to consider climate change legislation

March 3, 2010

The Minnesota Budget Project has been closely following legislation to address climate change. Low-income populations will be disproportionately impacted if nothing is done about climate change, but these same households will also be impacted harder by price increases resulting from efforts to stop climate change. It is important, therefore, that any climate change legislation protect low-income households from price increases and make sure that they have access to green jobs, home weatherization and other opportunities.

Since the U.S. House passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act in June of 2009, we have all been waiting to see what action the Senate would take. There have been a variety of proposals floated, including cap-and-trade, cap-and-dividend and other ideas somewhere in between. Our allies in Washington D.C. have indicated that the Senate is working to put a bi-partisan proposal in motion within the next few weeks, so the time to influence that bill is now.

Please join the Minnesota Budget Project – and other organizations from across the country – in letting the Senate know that there is broad nationwide support for strong and fair climate change legislation.

Call your Senators during the “72 Hours for Clean American Power” campaign running now through Thursday, March 4th. This is our opportunity to remind our Minnesota Senators that there is a diverse community supporting their efforts to pass comprehensive climate change. However, to make that legislation fair, the bill must provide low-income consumer relief and access to economic opportunities like energy efficiency improvements and green jobs.

Call Senator Klobuchar (202-224-3244) and Senator Franken (202-224-5641) on Wednesday or Thursday to be a part of the “72 Hours for Clean American Power.” If you miss that window, your call is still important. For more information, including phone numbers and sample call language, visit the Minnesota Budget Project climate change resource page.

-Leah Gardner

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An update on climate change policy

February 11, 2010

The Minnesota Budget Project has been following the climate change debate for some time. Low-income populations will be disproportionately impacted if nothing is done about climate change, but these same households will also be impacted harder by price increases resulting from efforts to stop climate change. It is important, therefore, that any climate change legislation protect low-income households from price increases and make sure that they have access to green jobs, home weatherization and other opportunities.

We thought it was time for a little update on what is happening with climate change legislation.

In the U.S. Congress:

  • The U.S. House passed a cap-and-trade bill last June called The American Clean Energy and Security Act. The bill set aside the revenues necessary to target consumer relief to the lowest-income 20 percent of the population. Our main recommendation for improving the bill was to extend relief to moderate-income households.
  • Last October, the U.S. Senate proposed a similar cap-and-trade bill called the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act which has passed through the Environment and Public Works Committee. In its present form, the bill falls short of fully funding low-income consumer relief. As the bill heads towards the Finance Committee, we will continue to ask for reallocation of revenues to fully fund relief for at least the lowest-income households.
  • An alternative to cap-and-trade was introduced in the U.S. Senate in December by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME). The Carbon Limits and Energy for American Renewal Act (CLEAR) Act proposes a cap-and-dividend approach to reducing carbon emissions. This bill would provide consumer relief on a per capita basis, using 75 percent of revenues to fund dividends. It appears that this  level of resources would more than mitigate cost burdens for low-income households. Here is a two page summary and a link to the full text.
  • In December Senators John Kerry (MA), Joseph Lieberman (CT) and Lindsey Graham (SC) presented a “Framework for Climate Action and Energy Independence” to inform the debate on cap-and-trade in the U.S. Senate and gain bi-partisan support. You can read their 5 page outline here. In the President’s State of the Union address in January, Obama seemed to open the door to many of their interests while pushing for a comprehensive climate bill.

On the international scene:

  • The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) brought world leaders together in Copenhagen last December to discuss international commitments to address climate change. Many anticipated this meeting would nudge the U.S. Congress toward passing legislation to address climate change. A short agreement called the Copenhagen Accord was created – its influence on U.S. policy remains to be seen.

Unfortunately, it is still unclear what will happen next on climate change or how soon Congress might act to pass legislation. We will keep you posted as we learn more.

We also have a new climate change resource page where you can find our written materials on the basics of cap-and-trade and the importance of low-income consumer relief, the latest policy updates on climate change legislation, and resources and program information regarding consumer relief, green jobs, energy efficiency and weatherization. You will also find more information about environmental justice concerns and local programs and partnerships working to address climate change.

-Leah Gardner and Julia Jackson

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Updates and opportunities to act on climate change

December 15, 2009

At the end of November, we blogged about how the Senate bill addressing climate change (the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act) fell short of delivering the funds needed for low-income consumer relief. Now we’re writing to Senators Klobuchar and Franken to share our concerns with them and we are asking your organization to add your voice.

Our new letter is an updated version of a previous sign-on letter delivered earlier this fall. Both letters reflect our ongoing commitment to:

  1. Hold low-income households harmless from increased prices of basic necessities as a result of cap-and-trade.
  2. Ensure equitable access to potential economic benefits, including green jobs.

If your organization was not able to sign on to the previous version, here’s your second chance! To add your organization to the list of signers, please send an email to leah@mncn.org by this Friday, December 18th.

As you may have noticed, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act is only one of several efforts underway to address climate change. Here are some other updates:

  • The United Nations Climate Change Conference, also called Cop15, is taking place in Copenhagen from December 7th through 18th. You can find detailed information at their Web site. If you’d like to follow a more Midwestern focus, a coalition called RE-AMP has compiled a list of blogs, twitter feeds, pictures and videos from Midwesterners in Copenhagen.
  • Last week Senators John Kerry (MA), Joseph Lieberman (CT) and Lindsey Graham (SC) presented a “Framework for Climate Action and Energy Independence” to inform the debate on cap-and-trade in the U.S. Senate and gain bi-partisan support. For more information you can read their five-page outline.
  • Last week Senator Maria Cantwell (WA) introduced a new climate change bill, the CLEAR Act. This bill proposes a “cap-and-rebate” or “cap-and-dividend” approach where 75 percent of the money raised from auctioning off carbon shares would be rebated directly to every American. The other 25 percent of revenue would be used for clean-energy research and development, energy efficiency, and green jobs assistance. For more information, a one-page summary is available.

We will continue to do our best to keep you informed as progress unfolds, but now is a great time to act by signing on to our letter or calling Minnesota’s senators with your own message. If you are interested in taking action now, please call or email us – we have templates and information you can use!

Leah Gardner (651-757-3063) and Julia Jackson (651-757-3074)

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Senate climate bill falls short on funds for consumer relief

November 30, 2009

In early November, the Senate climate change bill (the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act) made its way through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Here at the Minnesota Budget Project, we asked Minnesotans to contact our own Senator Amy Klobuchar, who sits on this committee, to ask her to maintain and strengthen the low-income consumer relief provisions related to the cap and trade system. Unfortunately, there was a setback in terms of fully funding consumer relief, and we want to update you on what changes were made and where the bill is headed next.

While the House bill provided full relief for low-income consumers, committing 15 percent of the total emissions allowance value, the Senate version has decreased the overall amount of funds due to deficit reduction requirements. Although the bill still says it provides 15 percent for consumer relief, it is 15 percent of a smaller pot of money. In comparison to the House bill, the Senate bill actually ends up allotting 12.6 percent of the previous total allowance value according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. For more information on the Senate climate bill you can read their full report on the latest markups.

Although the Senate may not be looking at the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act again until early 2010, now is the time to get involved.

The Minnesota Budget Project is hosting two events this week to bring people together to talk about why climate change is a concern for low-income communities and how proposed solutions can create new opportunities. These Convening on Climate Change events are free and will take place in Duluth on December 2nd, and Mankato on December 3rd. You can find the details and RSVP for these events online

Now is also a great time to contact your Senators or plan a visit for when they are home for the holiday break. We suggest the following simple talking points:

  1. Provide full protection to low-income households and extend additional relief to moderate income households by increasing the allowance revenue dedicated to direct consumer relief. At a minimum, dedicate the same amount of revenue as the House bill did—using 15 percent of total allowance revenue.
  2. Redirect allowances currently going to utilities, as needed, to fund direct consumer relief.
  3. Provide additional funds for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to provide energy assistance to low-income consumers who face above-average cost burdens, risking utility shut-offs or other hardships.

Another reason to act now is because we expect discussion to heat up with the upcoming COP15 international conference on climate change taking place in Copenhagen in December. Find out more online at the COP15 website.

-Leah Gardner (with Julia Jackson, our intern working on climate change)

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Senate releases bill to address climate change

October 6, 2009

Last week the U.S. Senate released their version of a bill to address climate change – the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. The bill is an important step toward a cleaner, healthier and more economically vibrant place for all members of our society, addressing the serious problem of climate change and producing needed employment opportunities at the same time. Although much of the bill took the form of “placeholder language” – signaling a need for continued negotiations – the existing content suggests it will include critical provisions to mitigate cost burdens for low- and moderate-income households rising from expected energy price increases. At the same time, the bill includes important measures to target low-income people and people of color for new green job opportunities so that they are able reap the economic benefits of this legislation.

As negotiations continue, we know that Minnesota will play an important role in the debate – particularly given Senator Klobuchar’s leadership in the Environment and Public Works Committee. A diverse range of organizations recently delivered a sign-on letter to our Senators asking them to dedicate 15 percent of total allowance values for full, direct consumer relief for low- income households, as the House bill did, in addition to extending relief to moderate-income households. We also made the case for public investments in training and job creation programs to ensure that disadvantaged populations have access to well-paid employment opportunities.

We will continue to keep you informed as details emerge, but given that legislation has already passed through the House and is currently being crafted in the Senate now is a great time to get involved and weigh in on what will surely be a challenging debate. To learn more about our position or to share your own priorities and concerns, please contact me at 651-757-3063 or leah@mncn.org.

-Leah Gardner

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Convening on climate change provides opportunities to act

August 27, 2009

Last week, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits hosted a Convening on Climate Change to bring together a diverse range of nonprofits and other advocacy groups to talk about the impacts of climate change on low-income communities and people of color. This is an urgent conversation since there is pending federal legislation that could have both positive and negative impacts on Minnesota’s low-income families.

Over 50 people attended the convening, representing environmental groups working to reduce global warming, faith groups speaking up about climate-related social justice issues, labor and equal rights groups working for adequate access to green jobs, community groups working to oversee proper implementation of local investments in home weatherization, and a variety of low-income service providers concerned about provisions for adequate consumer relief to counter rising energy prices. Attendees got a chance to learn from one another about how climate change itself impacts low-income people disproportionately and the many ways that legislation may provide both opportunities and concerns for disadvantaged populations.

The convening, however, wasn’t just about learning…it was also about action.

Organizations in attendance had the chance to discuss and commit to a variety of action items that will allow us to work on this issue in a more collaborative spirit.

One important action that many groups committed to that day was to sign-on to a letter to Senator Klobuchar asking her to take the lead in shaping strong and fair climate legislation with low-income Minnesotans in mind.

It is not too late to add your organization to the list of those supporting strong and fair solutions to climate change! E-mail me by Monday, August 31st at leah@mncn.org if your organization can sign-on and strengthen our joint work on behalf of disadvantaged populations.

I’d also encourage you to call me at 651-757-3063 soon if you would like to discuss additional ways to get involved or learn more about this important issue. Remember, time is of the essence as we expect the U.S. Senate to take this issue up in September!

-Leah Gardner


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