On October 5th, members of the UN met in Paris to discuss global warming and how we can hold our citizens accountable for fixing the environment they have taken advantage of. The first session of the Conference involving the Parties who agreed to the Paris Agreement took place in Marrakech, Morocco from 15-18 November 2016. Over 170 countries signed this agreement. According to the UNFCC , the agreements central focus is to strengthen the global recognition of the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the agreement aims to strengthen and expedite the ability of countries response to the impacts of climate change. “To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives. The Agreement also provides for enhanced transparency of action and support through a more robust transparency framework”.
After the recent election, many countries are worried that the US will not stick to their agreement. President Trump, unfortunately, does not see these environmental issues as a priority of his presidency and this makes many feel hopeless.
Although, Many urban cities aim to use the treaty as inspiration to better their city into a more sustainable area. “Urban areas are at the center of converging global frameworks, not only the Paris Agreement on climate change but also the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in September 2015, and the New Urban Agenda, adopted last month in Quito, Ecuador, at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development – or Habitat III.” Other cities like those in Morroco and Ecuador are finding natural ways to develop their urban cities. If this movement continues to expand, with hopes that the US takes part, the Paris Treaty can really move the world towards sustainability.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second left), UNFCCC”s Christiana Figueres (left), French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and the president of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21), and President François Hollande of France (right) celebrate the historic adoption of Paris Agreement. Photo: UNFCCC
Ten things you need to know about the Paris Treaty
In 2003 the Healthy Forests Initiative Act, originally proposed by George W. Bush, was set into law after the widespread forests fires of 2002 kept taking place. According to SierraForestryLegacy.org, the primary effect of this act was to decrease public involvement, reduce environmental protection, and increase access to National forests and other lands (federal) for timber companies. The site notes that these proposals allowed the timber industry more free reign than to enact the proposed benefits to fuels reduction efforts on National Forests. The site also notes that it was assumed that the initiative was based on a false assumption that logging would decrease forests fires which general scientific consensus proved that the logging increased the fires. It was thought that by allowing the timber companies to log that it would thin out overstocked stands, and clearing away vegetation would lessen the effects of fires. There was major opposition to this act and many argued that the fires allowed for the forest to clear out dead and older trees to let saplings grow in its place on their own- that the intervention from humans would disturb natural processes. The issue of frequent forest fires was the reason this act was set into place. The act has had great opposition and has not been productive in terms of creating healthy forests. The whole premise of this act was to clear out trees and prevent fires by giving more power to timber companies which actively destroyed federal lands and nationally protected forests. This initiative would have been successful if taken in a different direction.
The Sustainable Practices Policy for the University of California campuses establishes goals in nine areas of sustainable practices: green building, clean energy, transportation, climate protection, sustainable operations, waste reduction and recycling, environmentally preferable purchasing, sustainable foodservice, and sustainable water systems. As noted in the policy document, the University’s locations should be “living laboratories for sustainability, contributing to the research and educational mission of the University, consistent with available funding and safe operational practices” (University of California). In light of climate change and water security crises extremely relevant to the west coast of the United States, this set of policy regulations for the Universities of California is their action towards the commitment of sustainable business practices and the responsible stewardship of resources.
As a relatively new set of sustainable regulations, deemed effective in September 2016, it is difficult to analyze the policies’ action and effectiveness. Although many of the practices mandated within the Sustainable Practices Policy include tried and true methods of enhancing and ensuring more sustainable practices; for example, requiring building and maintenance to comply with popular LEED standards, using automobiles at LEV program standards, and enhancing the use of renewable, energy sources such as wind, solar, and biomass.
California, as an important leader in environmental policy and regulation in the United States, has the capacity to hold the University of California accountable for its proposed standards of sustainable practices. With the federal EPA possibly succumbing to reductions in power and authority, California may have less national supervision and enforcement of said regulations and policies. Even though, the state of California has historically been an autonomous figure in regards to social and environmental progress over the years.
 University of California – Policy Sustainable Practices
In the early 1900s, the United States officially began regulating the use of pesticides and other chemicals on crops in the US. They did this through what was named then the Insecticide Act of 1910 and has become known in later years as the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). This legislation came about with the hope of protecting the health of consumers as well as protecting the environment. A revision came about in the wake of World War II as many new chemicals were developed during this time. More of these chemicals were being used to kill pests on crops, chemicals that were not yet covered in these regulations. Prior to the 1970s, Congress was in charge of the act and the rules and regulations that were a part of it, but in 1972 they transferred control of this legislation to the US Environmental Protection Agency. This legislation established four key things in hopes of improving the health of consumers and the environment. FIrst it requires the registration with the EPA of any pesticide being used. This is to document the amounts and the effects of every chemical used on crops. Second, the EPA has whitelisted the list of usable pesticides. This means that they have selected only those that they believe to be the safest and farmers are only allowed to use chemicals from their list. Thirdly, the EPA created a new application process in order for a pesticide to be added to their list. This ensures that chemicals and their effects are thoroughly tested before they are used on consumer products. Finally, the regulation allows for the EPA to monitor and control not only which pesticides can be used but how they are used. It is important that this is done from a central authority so that no one farm is causing more harm to their product or the environment than another. I think that it is definitely good for chemicals to be regulated as adding too many pesticides in our food production can have terrible health impacts and these chemicals can also taint water supplies. We need people who know what they are doing to make sure that the food we eat is safe. Farmers who do not adhere to the regulations set forth by FIFRA are responsible for any harm caused by their crop. FIFRA is an important piece of legislation that is keeping consumers and the environment safe.
Blog Assignment 4
The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act is an environmental policy in the United states that is designed to reduce the risk of disease to users of the nation’s coastal recreation waters. The act authorizes the EPA to award program development and implementation grants to eligible states, territories, tribes, and local governments to support microbiological testing and monitoring of coastal recreational waters. The waters the program works with includes coastal recreational waters, the Great lakes and waters adjacent to beaches or similar points used by the public. The purpose of the BEACH Act is to provide support for developing programs to notify the public of the potential exposure to disease-causing microorganisms in the waters. The act also requires an online system that the program must provide information to the public with; information on pollution occurrences for the waters and state reported beach monitoring data (EPA BEACH Act). I believe the online system is very helpful for informing the residents on when it is unsafe to use or enter the water in their area.
According to EPA’s BEACH Report of Hawaii 2010 Swimming Season, close to all of Hawaii’s coastal waters are considered “beaches” including cliffs, rocky shorelines, or sandy stretches of coastline. So a majority of Hawaii’s coastal waters are monitored through programs that focus on frequency of sampling. But recent budget cuts to the Hawaii Department of Health have drastically affected the monitoring of Oahu Hawaii beaches in particular. The monitoring section lost five employees on the island. After the staffing reduction, certain beaches were not being sampled as often. The island of Oahu went from being monitored and sampled 3 times a week to twice a month. The results of the decrease in monitoring resulted in lowered report actions; less than 1 percent of the time (EPA’s BEACH Report Hawaii). Increases in funding for the programs can get the monitoring and sampling of coastal recreation waters done more frequently. The specific island of Oahu that had funding cut for their program could advocate for other resources such as grants and private funding. I think that is something that would get staff back and increase the awareness of pollution occurrences.
“Summary of the Beach Act” Laws and Regulations formed by the EPA
“EPA’s BEACH Report: Hawaii 2010 Swimming Season” composed by the EPA
The high volume hydraulic fracturing technique “fracking” has triggered health concerns and harsh environmental impacts. The European Chemical Agency (ECHA) made changes in the existing database of registered chemicals to help to improve the search of information on registered substances used for the purposes of fracking. Chemicals known to be used in fracking have into water supplies.
Chemicals used in fracking: Benzene, Lead, Mercury, and Uranium
Most chemicals used in fracking are not detectable by the human eye, and oftentimes can not be detected by smell or tastes.
The commission wants to ensure that the risks of individual projects are controlled to have limited impacts on the environment in states that wish to exploit such resources. Member states are required to follow a set of minimum principles when applying their legislation to production using fracking.
The EU existing legislation covers issues such as: planning, underground risk assessments, well integrity, baseline reporting and operational monitoring, capture of methane emissions, and disclosure of chemicals used in each well. The commission has inserted review clause to assess the effectiveness of this approach. The network has collected information on unconventional oil and gas in the EU which will help technology emerge in order for well stimulation.
In recent years, the United Kingdom has strengthened their water regulations. Their standards follow strict requirements with the EU Drinking Water Directive. To ensure water quality, it’s mandatory for “monitoring and analysis, public reporting of data, use of treatment chemicals and materials in contact with water, and action that must be taken if a standard is exceeded” (Drinking Water Quality, water.uk). For the UK, it was put into law for Northern Ireland in 2007, Scotland in 2014, England and Wales in 2016. Their strict regulations as of 2016 have resulted in 99.83%-99.96% drinking water quality compliance among the four.
If water companies don’t meet regulations or endanger the public, then they will be met with consequences. Thames Water is “UK’s largest water and wastewater services company”. They are responsible for water supply for people across London and Thames Valley. Also, they are responsible for the treatment of water waste (Thames Water). In March of this year, they were fined £20,361,140.06, which is 25496219.58 in US dollars. “These offences were caused by negligence and led to the death of wildlife and distress to the public.” that had dated back to 2012. They “fail[ed] to react adequately to thousands of high priority alarms used to alert them to the serious problems. This wasn’t the first time they were fined. In 2015, they were fined £250,000 or $313050 for polluting a nature reserve. This amount wasn’t much to them, but with the most recent fine, I believe that it will cause them to make sure that they’re making the right decisions when it comes to people’s safety.
One regulation that has been globally was the water advisory and limitation lately in California. This regulation have helped the California drought especially the south. Since there have water contamination and big bodies of water have dried up like lakes and rivers. With the water being limited used, it has helped with farms and being able to the residents to drink water. The purpose of the advisory and limitations in the first place is to save as much as possible for useful things. This is because eating, growing food, and for big states is mainly these things are more needed or valued compared to taking long baths/shower or watering the lawn. The regulation has changed over time because it started to rain a little more in California overtime. More water have been saved instead of water into area for the things needed in life instead of watering random areas that is not much has happen or wasting water. This have been productive because not only did California survived, it showed how much water the residence have used. National politics around environmental issues have been known for a while because climate change has affected many parts of America. However, some politicians have denied the fact that climate change doesn’t exist in America.
This question may sound extreme or downright bizarre, but other nations have adopted laws that essentially grant the environment its own bill of rights. Bolivia, for example, enacted the Law of Mother Earth which grants the environment with the rights to life, diversity of life, to water and clean air, to equilibrium, to restoration, and to pollution-free living (Neill, 2014). A bill of rights like this personifies the environment. It makes people realize that it is a living system.
According to Stevens (2017), other nations have begun to consider adopting similar strategies. In India, the Ganges and Yamuna rivers have received similar rights and appointed two official protectors. Any harm, like pollution, to these rivers would be equivalent to harming a person. This will allow for immediate criminal action to be taken against any perpetrator. New Zealand is another nation which grants one of its natural features person-hood status. The nation’s Te Urewera National Park was given protections in 2014.
However, despite the good intentions of these policies, implementation has been difficult, especially for Bolivia. The reason: business opposition. The existing business community is ripe with “careless exploitation of natural resources” (Chávez, 2014). This is a problem that is not just unique to Bolivia. This exploitation is seen worldwide.
Nonetheless, legislation like the Law of Mother Earth can go a long way in reframing attitudes and beliefs about our environment. It helps make people realize that our natural systems are fragile and need to be given rights. We can no longer exploit without consequence. Humans are dependent on nature. We have not conquered it as many would like to assume. It is important that we treat it with the same respect that we would grant to a person.
Chávez, F. (2014). Bolivia’s Mother Earth Law Hard to Implement. Inter Press Service. Retrieved from: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/05/bolivias-mother-earth-law-hard-implement/
Neill, P. (2014). Law of Mother Earth: A Vision From Bolivia. Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-neill/law-of-mother-earth-a-vis_b_6180446.html
Stevens, S. (2017, April 10). Can human rights save Mother Nature? Mother Nature Network. Retrieved from: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stories/can-human-rights-save-mother-nature#disqus_area
As the current administration roles back on EPA regulations, local and state governments are still taking measures in reducing emissions and using cleaner energy. From the EPA website that since the late 1980’s that energy efficiency programs have been successful in various regulated and unregulated markets. These are mostly done at state, third-party administration and utility levels. It’s more important to look at state level because of the focus on specific needs and to come up with a more cost-effective systems.
With a guide to action off the EPA website to further analyze state energy, environmental, and economical needs. This is to further provide a system that is controlled by the state to see the amount of emission and to lessen the environmental impact. The goals are to reduce the gas emissions and decrease the amount of water used. Providing long term benefits to the cities that are starting to use clean energy.
With the roll, back on the EPA states have made a shift to cleaner energy. In the article, Climate Action Will Thrive on State and Local Level, Leaders Vow After Trump Order, Maryland’s governor has sign legislation to ban oil and gas fracking in the state. Also, many West Coast governors state they have had job growth and economic growth around climate policies. Many people stating that it was a bad decision to have exited the Paris Agreement. Quoting from the article “the number of U.S. jobs in solar energy overtook those in oil and natural gas extraction for the first-time last year, with wages above the national median.” And that “The Sierra Club recently did an analysis showing 60 percent of the reductions needed to meet the Paris commitment can be met outside of federal policy.”
Roll backs at the federal level will not change much of anything if states create different regulations. Policies can be made at the state level to counter act the roll back on the EPA. Setting leading examples in environmental and political interest. Creating different forms of economic and environmental benefits around changing policy.