An end in sight for chlorpyrifos

Kid in field

Last week, California got great news from the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) — use of the brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos will be forbidden in California after December 31, 2020.

Chlorpyrifos has been linked to severe and permanent brain damage in young children, including ADHD, IQ loss and autism. It has also been the source of several farmworker poisonings in the state.

Steps to eradication

While the use of chlorpyrifos in California will end next December, there are a few key dates to look forward to before then that will aid in eliminating the harmful chemicals from the state’s agricultural and food system. DowDuPont (now Corteva), the principal manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, will have to cease all sales of the pesticide in California as soon as November 8.

Then, distributors must stop selling the chemical to growers by February 6, 2020. Hopefully with sales ending in February, chlorpyrifos will be mostly out of circulation well before the date in December fully prohibiting use.

Until then, all uses of chlorpyrifos must comply with existing restrictions, including a ban on aerial spraying, quarter-mile buffer zones and limiting use to crop-pest combinations that lack alternatives.

An ongoing process

PAN celebrated California Governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement in May of this year to initiate the cancellation process of chlorpyrifos — applauding this strong action at the state level while we await progress on the pesticide at the federal level.

But as we celebrated, we braced ourselves for an ongoing and possibly unwieldy battle to see the cancellation process though. Just last month, the agrichemical corporations that manufacture chlorpyrifos filed an opposition to the accusations served against them by DPR that kicked off the cancellation process.

So last week’s announcement from DPR with a concrete timeline for phasing out chlorpyrifos was a welcome victory.  MORE

What’s driving California’s emissions? You guessed it: Cars.

California received plenty of praise back in 2016 when it hit its target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions four years ahead of time. But the Golden State’s progress has slowed, according to a report out Tuesday from a nonpartisan research center. California is now on track to hit its 2030 goal in 2061. Three whole decades late.

The biggest problem: California’s beloved cars.

“This is a sobering report,” said F. Noel Perry, a California investor who founded the center behind the report, Next 10. “We are at a very important point: California is going to need major policy breakthroughs and deep structural changes if we’re going to meet our climate goals.”

What happened? Over the last three years, California has reduced emissions at a rate of only 1.15 percent. At that pace, it would take a century for the state to zero-out carbon emissions. But a law ex-Governor Jerry Brown signed in 2016, requires the state to reach zero emissions by 2050. Since falling behind, the state would need to step up emissions reductions to 4.51 percent every year, according to the report.

Next 10

Next 10’s report, the California Green Innovation Index, shows that the state has plucked most of the low-hanging fruit, mainly by cleaning up electricity production. California’s next challenge is the tougher job of eliminating climate pollutants from transportation, industry, and homes, and offices. And, yes, all of those cars.

Passenger vehicles alone produce nearly a third of California’s emissions, more than all of the electric plants, livestock, and oil refineries in the state put together. Vehicle ownership has reached an all-time high, as has the total miles that Californians are driving. Moreover, “even in climate conscious California we’ve seen a consumer preference shift to favor SUVs and light trucks,” said Adam Fowler of Beacon Economics, which prepared this report for Next 10.

Next 10

Since early 2017, more than half the new passenger vehicles Californians bought were SUVs and trucks.

Another big, related problem is housing. California’s economy is booming, but cities haven’t built the homes needed by all the new workers. That’s forcing more people into suburbs far from public transportation. The report found that the percentage of people choosing public transit “declined substantially throughout most of California between 2008 and 2018.” Failure to build housing is doubly bad because new buildings are much more efficient in terms of insulation,climate control, and energy efficiency. Every new home even gets solar panels.

“This is one of the gnarliest challenges,” Perry said. “How do we reduce commute times and how do we build denser housing?”

It’s not all bad news. California continues to prove it’s possible to cut carbon emissions while the economy expands. From 2016 to 2017, California’s economy per capita grew 3.1 percent while each person’s emissions decreased.

And the authors said that the state still deserves a lot of credit. “California policies have made appliances more efficient, renewable energy cheaper, and given cars better gas mileage all across the country,” Perry said.

California just passed a bill that will make Uber and Lyft drivers employees

The move is a major blow for the ride-hailing firms—and a victory for gig workers in the state.

The news: California’s state senate has passed a bill that will make Uber and Lyft drivers, among other gig workers, employees instead of independent contractors. The bill, called AB5, will now head to Governor Gavin Newsom for approval. Newsom had previously said he would back the bill, so it is all but certain to be turned into law and then go into effect in 2020.

AB5 has received support from presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris. Though Uber and Lyft drivers are still considered independent contractors under federal law, experts say the bill is likely to influence other states to pass similar bills and set up a big fight over the future of work. Already, labor groups in New York have their eye on a similar bill.

ABCs: Ride-sharing companies insist that drivers aren’t employees because they own their own cars, set their own hours, and can work for competitors. The bill requires companies to instead use a legal standard called “the ABC test” to figure out whether someone is an employee or not. The three requirements are that the worker is “free from control” of the hiring company, the work is outside the company’s main business, and the worker has an independent business beyond this job.

AB5 has lots of exceptions—for example, freelance writers, real estate agents, and lawyers—but ride-share drivers are not exempted.  Uber, Lyft, and other gig economy firms would have to apply these three requirements to their drivers, and if they don’t pass, the drivers must be classed as employees. The two firms would then have to offer their drivers minimum wage and, among other benefits, overtime pay, sick leave and family leave, and contributions to Social Security and Medicare. Workers could also be reimbursed for mileage and for maintaining their vehicles.

Fighting back: In the weeks leading up to the vote, Uber and Lyft became increasingly desperate,  offering drivers a $21 minimum wage while on a trip. After it became clear that the bill was likely to pass, Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash said they would spend $90 million on a campaign to let residents vote on whether drivers should have a new, non-employee classification instead.

What’s next: It’s unclear. Companies have claimed that there will be fewer drivers on the road after the bill goes into effect, and Uber has said that it will continue to litigate employment cases. Gig workers usually agree not to be part of class action lawsuits against the company when they sign up, so it could be hard for cases to go to court—which means it’ll be hard to enforce the bill. Plus, details of the plan to make a third worker classification have not been made public. Passing the bill is a big deal, but a lot of questions remain.  SOURCE

Anitra Paris: Climate action across Cascadia—an op-ed on electrification in a time of crisis

On August 29, Justin Trudeau visited a B.C. Hydro facility in Surrey to make a joint announcement with Premier John Horgan about electrification initiatives in the extraction, processing, and liquefaction of natural gas.
On August 29, Justin Trudeau visited a B.C. Hydro facility in Surrey to make a joint announcement with Premier John Horgan about electrification initiatives in the extraction, processing, and liquefaction of natural gas.JUSTIN TRUDEAU

In 2019, there has been a global uprising of youth concerned about climate change. Examples like Extinction Rebellion hosting die-ins, a nonviolent protest that brings attention to the unprecedented mass extinction with one million species facing extinction. And, Greta Thunberg raising her voice and leaving an impression on many of her peers.

Many may also be familiar with the IPCC report stating that there are 12 years left to act. Now one year later, there are 11 years to mobilize and make change. There is a unified voice calling urgently for change.

Most of the headlines from our neighbours to the south are disheartening, ranging from tragic mass shootings to the myriad of atrocious Trump stories. However, there are some positive newsworthy stories spattered throughout. Certain states are pulling ahead and leading the way in decarbonization and fighting the climate crisis. I have been repeatedly impressed with two states: Washington and California.

Washington 

Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee has been paving the way and taking some serious climate action. The state is poised for carbon neutral electricity by 2030 and 100 percent clean energy by 2025. In March 2019, it went as far as banning hydraulic fracking for natural gas exploration.

California 

California is another state that has been taking climate action in strides. It is host to many innovative renewable energy, clean tech and storage companies. For example, Tesla and its recently developed utility-scale storage solution Megapack. The City of Berkeley recently banned natural gas in new buildings, becoming the first city in North America to embrace this clear step toward building electrification.

B.C.’s successes in electrification?

In British Columbia, our electricity generation is relatively low-carbon. However, one-third of our energy consumption still relies on fossil fuels. We need to permeate our energy consumption with clean electricity and stop using fossil fuels for transportation, the built environment, and industrial processes. This idea was echoed in the province’s CleanBC plan, released in December 2018. MORE

California Gov. Jerry Brown casually unveils history’s most ambitious climate target

Full carbon neutrality is now on the table for the world’s fifth largest economy.

California Governor Jerry Brown Speaks At The National Press Club
California Gov. Jerry Brown is going out with a bang. Alex Wong/Getty Images

California Gov. Jerry Brown kicked off a week full of climate change news with an announcement, and boy was it a doozy: at once surprising, strange, and stunning. It was so out of left field and yet so profound in its implications that few in the media, or even in California, seem to have fully absorbed it yet.

To explain, we must begin with a little backstory.

This week, from September 12 to 14, the Global Climate Action Summit will take over San Francisco. The big climate shindig — three days of meetings, exhibitions, and glad-handing with big names in climate policy from around the world — will, among other things, serve as a kind of capstone celebration of Brown’s climate legacy.

Brown had hoped to begin the week by signing a high-profile package of energy bills. The one he most wanted to sign, into which he had poured the most political capital, was a bill that would link California’s energy grid to a larger Western power market. The one for which he had shown the least enthusiasm, into which he had put the least capital, was a bill that would commit California to 100 percent use of zero-carbon electricity by 2045.

That is big news in and of itself; 100 percent clean electricity is a difficult and worthy challenge.

But Brown didn’t stop there. Much to everyone’s surprise, on the same day, he also signed an executive order (B-55-18) committing California to total, economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2045.

Wait, whaaat? Zeroing out carbon entirely in California? In just over 20 years? In my expert opinion, that is … holy shit.

Let’s remember that this is only an executive order, not a law, and there are reasons to greet it with some skepticism, or at least hedged expectations. We’ll get to them in a second.

But y’all: If California really did this — if the world’s fifth-largest economy really targeted economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2045 — it would be the most significant carbon policy commitment ever. Anywhere. Period. It would yank the Overton window open, radically expanding the space of climate policy possibilities.

Economy-wide carbon neutrality, explained

The key to understanding the significance of the goal is grokking the difference between “electricity” and “energy,” which has continually been blurred by the mainstream press (and by some enthusiastic environmentalists).

SB 100, the bill Brown signed on Monday, commits the state to clean electricity by 2045, but electricity only accounts for about 16 percent of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. Brown’s executive order would commit the state to doing something about the other 84 percent — transportation, building heating and cooling, industry, all the many and varied energy services that rely on direct fossil fuel combustion rather than electricity.

This is the holy grail of climate policy: a large, modern economy getting to zero net carbon. It came into view faster than I ever would have predicted 10 years ago. Or five years ago. Or, uh, 24 hours ago! MORE

Canada to collaborate with California on vehicle emissions standards

Canada has agreed to collaborate with California on vehicle emissions standards, setting the stage for a split with Washington if the Trump administration follows through on a proposal to weaken the national standards for fuel economy in the United States.

OTTAWA—Canada has cast its lot with California on vehicle emissions regulations, setting the stage for a split with the U.S. federal government if the Trump administration follows through on a proposal to weaken rules that dictate the fuel economy of vehicles sold in North America over the coming years.

In a joint conference call with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announced a new agreement to collaborate with the state on regulations to slash greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles in the two jurisdictions.

The deal comes as the United States federal government considers whether to weaken national vehicle emissions standards that have been in harmony with Canadian regulations since 2011. The prospect has alarmed environmentalists who consider the standards a key climate achievement of Barack Obama’s presidency, and has raised concerns of a regulatory rift in an auto industry that has been integrated across the Canada-U.S. border since the 1960s.

“It looks like there will be two standards in effect in the U.S. That’s certainly not anybody’s first choice. Competitiveness is incredibly important, and I think having an integrated market with one standard would be preferable,” McKenna said Wednesday.

“But, you know, look — if there are two choices in the U.S., our focus is really how about how do we get meaningful cuts to climate pollution.”

The federal governments in Canada and the U.S. have worked together on vehicle emissions rules for more than a decade. Since 2011, regulations for emissions from new automobiles and light trucks have been aligned, creating a uniform standard for those vehicles across the Canada-U.S. auto industry.

Those standards were set to increase each year until 2025, so that new models would have to keep getting more fuel efficient. McKenna said Wednesday that, according to the current standards, a new light duty vehicle in 2025 will need to burn 50 per cent less fuel than a 2008 model.

McKenna said Wednesday’s agreement with California is meant to ensure emissions standards continue to get more stringent every year, but she and Newsom did not rule out the possibility that the U.S. federal changes could match their ambitions and still allow for a regulatory harmony across the two countries. They said 13 other U.S. states have signalled they intend to stick with California on stricter standards, even if the Trump administration pulls back on the federal regulations. MORE

RELATED:

The Canadian government is making smart investments in electric vehicles

Ban on plastic bags comes close to reality in a 3rd state


Plastic bags are seen stuck to the branches of a tree in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, on Wednesday, March 27, 2019. Photo by The Associated Press/Mary Altaffer

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and fellow Democrats who control the Legislature have reached a deal to make New York the third state with a ban on single-use plastic grocery bags as they worked to finalize budget agreements, officials said Friday.

The ban would prohibit grocery stores from providing plastic bags for most purchases, something California has been doing since a statewide ban was approved in 2016. Hawaii has an effective statewide ban, with all its counties imposing their own restrictions.

Supporters of such bans say they keep plastic bags from entering the environment and causing damage to ecosystems and waterways.

“With this smart, multi-pronged action New York will be leading the way to protect our natural resources now and for future generations of New Yorkers,” Cuomo, who proposed a ban in his $175 billion budget proposal, said in a statement Friday. MORE

EXCLUSIVE: OTTAWA LEANS TOWARD CALIFORNIA ON FUEL ECONOMY RULES, WILL SEEK FEEDBACK ON FOSSIL SUBSIDIES


Catherine McKenna/Twitter

The federal government is leaning toward supporting tougher fuel economy standards against Trump administration rollbacks, and is about to announce incremental progress on curbing fossil fuel subsidies, The Energy Mix learned Thursday evening, during a town hall hosted by Environment and Climate Minister Catherine McKenna.

Ottawa is planning two releases next week, McKenna told the public session in her home riding of Ottawa Centre: a call for input on some of the detailed issues arising in the discussion of a subsidy phaseout, and a major science report on climate impacts in Canada.

The report will show that “we need to adapt right now,” she said, citing flooding as the biggest short-term climate risk the country faces. “City planners need to think about these things. What happens if we have more power outages because it’s so hot? What are the impacts on vulnerable populations? What is the impact of flooding? What are the impacts of Zika (virus)?” Canadians face a “huge number of impacts of climate change, and we need to be more resilient and build in a more resilient way.” MORE

A Corporate “Person” May Now Face Felony Murder Charges: Time For The Corporate Death Penalty?

In California, the concept of “corporate personhood” will be tested if PG&E faces charges of aggravated murder, as many media sources now speculate. Although California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says that the extent of PG&E’s liability in this year’s deadly wildfires has yet to be determined, there has been discussion of inflicting the death penalty on a corporate “person” that has repeatedly proven itself to be a criminal recidivist.

In this case, the “execution” of PG&E would consist of revoking the company’s charter and breaking it up, and selling off its assets to new, smaller power companies that would hopefully be more responsible in the way they maintain their equipment and serve their ratepayers. Alternatively, the state of California could step in and take over, turning PG&E into a public, not-for-profit utility.

All of that is speculation, for the time being. What is becoming clear is that, at the very least, PG&E was criminally negligent by failing to follow state regulations on maintaining its power lines. In a document obtained by CNBC News this past November, PG&E acknowledged that it may bear responsibility for the Camp Fire in which 88 people perished and nearly 14,000 buildings were destroyed. MORE

The Story of Sustainability in 2018: “We Have About 12 Years Left”

The big question now is whether businesses will push back and go down a cleaner path on their own. It’s easy to see why multinationals might as they face pressure from sub-national regions — California Gov. Jerry Brown held a Global Climate Action Summit which produced many aggressive climate goes from cities and state, for example.

Gov. Brown also signed aggressive new laws committing to carbon-free electricity statewide by 2045 and requiring solar on all new homes. So even if U.S. action sputters, governors and mayors who influence local and regional business conditions will be pushing the clean economy and pro-climate agendas. MORE