Fuel Economy Standards Under Threat

The Environmental Protection Agency faces an April 1 deadline to decide whether Obama-era corporate average fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks from 2022 to 2025 are attainable or should be revised. The earlier conclusion issued by the Obama EPA that no changes to the 2025 standards are needed has already been abandoned by Administrator Scott Pruitt. He also dismissed the possibility of setting standards beyond 2025. “Being predictive about what’s going to be taking place out in 2030 is really hard,” Pruitt said. “I think it creates problems when you do that too aggressively. That’s not something we’re terribly focused on right now.”

In the meantime, Pruitt signaled a showdown with California who has a waiver from the federal law allowing it to set its own air pollution requirements. California set more stringent CAFE targets for both 2025 and 2030. “California is not the arbiter of these issues. California regulates greenhouse gas emissions at the state level, but that shouldn’t and can’t dictate to the rest of the country what these levels are going to be.”

The transportation sector has taken over from electrical power generation as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the U.S. SGI joined many investors within the Ceres Investor Network earlier this year to send letters to the EPA and members of Congress, as well as to GM and Ford, in support of strong Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. More recently, SGI signed on to letters addressed to GM and Ford urging them to call out the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers to end its lobbying and public advocacy that questions climate science. The Alliance efforts to roll back the CAFE standards are in opposition to the auto industry’s support of actions to reduce GHG emissions. The letter also urges Ford and GM to publicly express opposition to changes to the CAFE standards that would lead to increases in GHG emissions.

SGI members continue to advocate that business and our government leaders take immediate action to avert climate change.

SGI members score progress with utilities on climate change

This year, SGI members filed resolutions with two midwestern utilities: CMS Energy and WEC Energy Group. Each resolution aimed for the public disclosure of an assessment of the long-term business impacts of limiting global warming to under 2-degrees Celsius, as adopted by the Paris Climate Agreement.

We have great news: both resolutions have been withdrawn as the companies agreed to the main components of the resolutions. Despite the Trump administration’s decision to end the Clean Power Plan, both midwestern utilities rise to meet the challenges of climate change. In fact, CMS announced last week that they reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent and no longer using coal to generate electricity by 2040.

Sr. Ruth Geraets, PBVM of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Aberdeen, SD who led the filing of the resolution at CMS Energy said, “My congregation is concerned about climate change and the critical need to reduce greenhouse emissions because our mission calls us to care for creation. As longterm shareholders in CMS, we believe having a strategy in place to meet climate challenges head-on will improve CMS’ competitive position over the long term. We were pleased to see CMS step up to this challenge with its recently announced clean energy breakthrough goals.”

With respect to the dialogue with WEC Energy Group, on behalf of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Central Pacific Province, Tim Dewane said, “Pope Francis has said, ‘Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility.’ We thank WEC Energy Group for its efforts in this regard so far. We believe they are not only good for the planet, but they are also in the bottom-line best interests of the company, its customers and shareholders.”

“These two utility companies are climate leaders in the Midwest,” said Frank Sherman, Executive Director of SGI. “They recognize that market forces and their customer base are pushing them to exceed federal climate regulations and state renewable portfolio standards. Although they are big companies, utilities have a very local focus and are highly dependent on the social license granted by the communities where they operate.”

Our partners at ICCR shared a press release about this win which can be found here.

Top 10 Sustainable Business Stories of 2017

Frank Sherman, Executive Director of Seventh Generation Interfaith

We experienced a record number of extreme weather events in 2017. We also witnessed a different kind of inversion. As our government reversed environmental and social regulations, companies took voluntary actions to protect people and the planet. In a Harvard Business Review profile of the Top 10 Sustainable Business Stories of 2017, business leaders took steps to reduce climate change. As the new administration pulled out of the Paris Agreement and made an all-out assault on our air, water, climate, and land, multinational corporations joined state and local governments to declare We Are Still In. Large institutional investors such as Blackrock and Vanguard woke up to the risk of climate change in voting with faith-based shareholder proposals.

China accelerated their sustainability efforts, stepping into the leadership position given up by the U.S., by committing to cut coal by 30% and cancelling 103 coal plants; making big moves in electric vehicles; and becoming the world’s largest solar producer. As the U.S. administration moved to relax fuel efficiency standards, GM, Ford and Volvo announced major investments in electric vehicles (EV). France, India, Britain, Norway, and China commitment to ban diesel and gas vehicles over the next couple of decades helped push EV sales up 63% globally last year!

Business leaders like Apple’s Tim Cook stood up stating that sustainability that isn’t about philanthropy, but rather about the core business and its role in society. Companies supported state attorney generals’ suit of the administration’s immigration ban and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Looking ahead at 2018, author Andrew Winston predicted that “Millennials and Gen Z will continue to push for purpose and meaning in work and life”. Companies will set more aggressive sustainability goals and embrace “clean labels” (…like Walmart, Target, and Panera did in 2017). The #metoo movement against sexual harassment will move beyond media and politics to the corporate suites.

Happy New Year!

We Are Still In

Frank Sherman, Executive Director of Seventh Generation Interfaith

This month, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the Administration’s intent to repeal the Clean Power Plan. This was President Obama’s signature policy to curb greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions from electrical power plants, the cornerstone of the US plan per the Paris Climate Accord.

Shortly after the EPA announcement, the We Are Still In coalition announced that the US will be represented by a robust delegation at the upcoming 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23), including a US Climate Action Centre and a US Delegation of Climate Leaders as an indication of support for the UN climate talks. The We Are Still In movement is a coalition comprised of approximately 2,500 mayors, governors, state attorneys, business leaders, investors and other prominent climate actors who declared that they will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement. The coalition represents $6.2 trillion of the US economy and more than 130 million Americans, i.e. approximately 40 percent of the US population.

This Clean Power Plan (CPP) was passed by the Obama EPA to meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act. Repeal of the CPP will be fought in the courts. In the meantime, the We Are Still In coalition believes the US can still meet the GHG reduction targets in spite of the repeal of the CPP. GHG emissions in the US are down over 11 percent since 2005, with the power sector down 24 percent. Over the same period, US GDP was up 12 percent, proving that economic growth and GHG emissions can indeed be decoupled.  With natural gas prices depressed, declining renewable energy cost, aging coal plants, increased availability of electric vehicles, and growing public support for climate action (e.g.  the Yale Climate Communication Center reports that over 60 percent of Trump voters support regulating GHG and over 70 percent support renewable energy), this trend will continue.

Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, has declared:

Paris is everyone’s deal. It belongs to cities, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and all of global civil society as much as it belongs to nation-states. So when President Trump attempted to destabilize the process by announcing his intent to withdraw, there was no domino effect of despair. Instead, he unleashed an inspirational counter-movement in support of the Paris Agreement, which is embodied so beautifully in the We Are Still In Campaign.

Businesses and Investors Need to Act on Climate Now

Alicia Seiger writes in The Stanford Social Innovation Review:

The business case for acting on climate change has never been stronger, and the need to act has never been more urgent. For the past three years, worldwide carbon emissions from fossil fuels have stayed flat while gross domestic product (GDP) has grown, demonstrating that emissions and economic growth aren’t inextricably linked. Decoupling emissions and growth is just the first step. To stay within the carbon budget for 2 degrees Celsius warming—and avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change—global emissions have to start falling by 2020. While the President of the largest economy in the world blows headwinds at progress, business leaders and investors must act to bend the emissions curve.

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How do you speak to a climate denier?

–Frank Sherman, Associate Director Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investing

Climate change was on center stage at last week’s ICCR conference in Grand Rapids. Watching environmental regulations built up over many years being weakened or eliminated in Washington, leading to the U.S. exit from the Paris Climate Accord, has been painful. Especially considering the fact that the poorest people on our planet who had nothing to do with causing this problem will bare the blunt of the consequences.

But how do you speak to a climate denier?

(Complete text of How do you speak to a climate denier?)