Climate front and center in stark contrast to GOP confab

Source: Evan Lehmann, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2016

PHILADELPHIA — Convincing skeptical Republicans about climate change could be less important for building momentum around tackling emissions than reaching everyday Americans who are affected by rising temperatures, according to several people who spoke about the future of the issue.

The event underscores the attention being paid to climate change at the outset of the Democratic National Convention, where clean energy and the environment are on display like the bronze monuments in this historic city. Prime-time speakers throughout the week are expected to raise it as a key issue, creating a distinct contrast to the convention overseen by Republican nominee Donald Trump last week.

Outside the Wells Fargo Center, event after event features climate change. They range from making the economic case for cutting emissions to advancing ideas that poor people stand to suffer more from the effects of higher temperatures because, for example, they tend to live in areas that are more prone to flooding.

They might also play an important role in getting Congress to act. Several speakers said at an event yesterday that African-Americans and other minorities need to be engaged more by leaders in the climate movement, which some said is conspicuously white.

Julianne Malveaux of Economic Education suggested that white advocates might be less successful at reaching African-Americans than minority climate groups. She and others indicated that the movement is lacking black and Latino communicators. If minority millennials are engaged about the health effects of power plants on their communities, and of the economic benefits of, say, energy efficiency, those messages will “trickle up” to their parents and employers, Malveaux said.

Then, in 10 years, when millennials are parents, they’ll teach their children about climate change, she said.

The event hosted by Bloomberg Government, the Environmental Defense Fund and Defend Our Future featured about 25 climate advocates having a lunch discussion. Guests included Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sierra Club President Michael Brune and League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski.

“Eight years ago, we would talk about climate change solely as a problem to solve,” said Brune, who described a new economic focus on jobs. “If you care about clean energy … there’s a lot of reason for optimism.”

‘Use this election’ for a carbon tax

Advocates also applauded the emergence of the Clean Power Plan, the regulatory program enacted by President Obama through executive action. But many also said that legislative action is still needed to meet longer-term goals to reduce emissions.

Van Hollen said grass-roots support for a carbon price needs to grow. He sees this presidential election as a tool to help that happen.

“My view is keep the pressure up, build the momentum [and] use this election to do it,” he said, noting that congressional action is unlikely anytime soon, but that Republicans might be open to addressing emissions through “user fees” or cuts to the corporate tax rate. “If we can get to that conversation, then I think we’re in a good place.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said many of the solutions are rooted in local changes, like enhancing transportation systems in cities and retrofitting buildings to save electricity. He also said it’s important to modernize electricity regulations and delivery systems so cities can produce power “right where it’s needed.”

But many of the solutions require federal funding, said Christine Knapp, director of Philadelphia’s sustainability office. She noted that earlier ambitions to transform neighborhood rooftops with sun-catching solar panels haven’t happened. That’s true with transportation and other big infrastructure projects, too, she said.

“The really transformative stuff is going to be difficult to see without action at the higher level,” Knapp said.

Bernie backers still angry but turning to Clinton

As the speakers were talking about the party’s climate direction over salad and a berry dessert, some streets in downtown Philadelphia were marching with sweaty protesters who are angry at the rise of Hillary Clinton. The announced resignation on Sunday of Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz as chairwoman of the DNC, after revelations that she favored Clinton over Sanders in the primary contest, failed to satisfy the protesters.

A group of 100 or so Sanders supporters circled City Hall yesterday afternoon, sometimes chanting, “Hell no, DNC, we won’t vote for Hillary.” One protester carried a sign reading, “Bern the Hill.”

Many of the 1,900 delegates supporting Sanders are also livid at the news that establishment party figures were cheering in private emails for Sanders’ failure during the primaries.

“They’re really messing up,” said Matthew Killen, 32, a Florida delegate who booed Wasserman Schultz yesterday morning when she addressed her home-state delegates. “We all yelled at her, ‘You gotta be crazy for showing your face here.'”

Killen said Clinton’s plans to address climate change through renewable energy is weaker than the carbon tax called for by Sanders. Still, he said he’s leaning toward voting for Clinton as both a delegate and a citizen. She’s better than Trump, who has described climate change as a hoax, he said.

“I would vote for her based on clean energy alone,” Killen said.