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This election was a resounding victory for climate action. Americans were presented with the clearest choice yet on global warming, and they chose the presidential candidate who confronted the climate threat, not the one who turned it into a punch line. Voters made the same choice in Congressional races across the country. They overwhelmingly favored leaders who called for more clean energy and other climate solutions.

Let’s be clear here. The issue of climate change appeared throughout this election.  President Obama talked about it on the campaign trail, in his convention speech, and in his victory speech. And every time he discussed clean energy and energy efficiency, he was addressing climate change, because the way we power our economy will decide the fate of our climate.

Energy played a central role in this year’s campaigns. Candidates mentioned it frequently on the stump and it was among the top three topics discussed in ads. President Obama took these opportunities to talk about energy efficiency, renewable power, clean cars, and other low-carbon solutions that will defuse climate change and lead our country forward. Governor Romney simply offered more oil and gas drilling and coal-fired power.

Voters chose the clean energy future over the dirty past.

That makes big polluters the biggest losers of this election. Oil, gas, and coal companies and their allies spent more than $270 million on campaign ads in just the last two months and yet they have almost nothing to show for it. Most of the polluters’ preferred candidates lost up and down the ticket. Karl Rove and his Super PACs spent an additional $300 million pushing a pro-polluter, anti-safeguard agenda, but the majority of his candidates failed to win.

As President Obama said on Tuesday night, “Today is the clearest proof yet that, against the odds, ordinary Americans can overcome powerful interests.” Voters stood up to some of the wealthiest, most polluting industries in the world, and they won. The issue of clean energy has been decided: Americans want more of it and they favor leaders who will deliver it.

This support for clean energy and climate action reaches across the country. Just look at last night’s electoral map. President Obama won every truly swing state (pending Florida), and clean energy supporters won Senate races in Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Florida. Clean energy is not just popular on the coast, but in the Midwest and the Rockies, the North and the South.

Many of these places have already felt the sting of climate change, and residents want to protect their communities from even more intense drought, wildfires, storms, or other extreme weather events.

When climate change begins to make its presence know, people mobilize. The destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy—a taste of things to come—prompted Mayor Michael Bloomberg to endorse President Obama based on his climate leadership and inspired Governor Chris Christie to praise the president’s response to the crisis. Extreme storms like Sandy don’t distinguish between Republican and Democratic victims. Everyone is in harm’s way and everyone can band together.

Now is the time for America to come together and fight climate change. Poll after poll has shown the strong bipartisan support for clean energy solutions. Last month, Hart Research Associates found that nine out of 10 Americans say developing renewable energy should be a priority for the president and Congress, and that includes 85 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Independents. And two thirds of Americans want to extend tax incentives for clean energy.

The broad backing of clean energy—in the polls and in Tuesday’s results—gives our elected officials the freedom to lead on climate change. Congress should extend clean energy incentives, but even if gridlock continues, President Obama has the authority to clean up our air right now.

He has already used that authority to cut carbon pollution from cars in half—a move that will save consumers $1.7 trillion at the pump—and propose the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from new power plants. Now he must use that same authority to clean up existing power plants. The American people just gave him permission, and indeed the mandate, to move forward.

The tide is turning. Voters just rejected the most well funded attempt to hand over our government to polluters and their allies. Voters took the country’s future back into their own hands, rather than letting polluters run the country. They—we—put faith in clean energy and climate champions instead. Now it is time for our leaders to act on that resolve.

Source: Peter Lehner’s Blog

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Americans alone use and throw out 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour or over sixty million every single day. Six to ten million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year, choking the life out of sea creatures. Millions of seabirds are dying from ingesting this plastic. In the Pacific Ocean, the great Pacific garbage gyre is now a permanent whirlpool of plastic garbage bigger than Texas leaking toxins into the food chain. The unnecessary use of disposable plastic also adds to greenhouse gasses. There are many efforts going on to reduce plastic garbage.

One man has a simple idea that he thinks might make a big difference—a simple pledge that he hopes millions of people will take to refuse to use three things: Plastic water bottles, plastic straws and plastic shopping bags.

The idea came to John Izzo, a business advisor and author, while writing his sixth book, Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything. He interviewed scores of people who had stepped up to create change including three women who tackled female poverty in Uganda to a group of ecologists and journalists who confronted the Russian whaling fleet leading to a ban on commercial whaling. “Here I was interviewing all these people who had stepped up to create change which got me thinking about what I could do about this plastic issue.”

But the tipping point came when Izzo watched the trailer for the forthcoming documentary, Midway Journey, a Chris Jordan film about thousands of albatross dying from ingesting plastic on Midway Island several thousand miles from any continent. “I was horrified as I watched the devastation. As I watched these newborn birds dying from eating plastic garbage I kept thinking there must be a simple way that the average person can do something and get engaged on this issue.”

Though Izzo admired people like Beth Terry, founder of www.myplasticfreelife.com whom he had written about in Stepping Up, he felt that going totally plastic free would be too much for most people as a starting point. “That is when I thought of the idea of this three part pledge, these three items that we use on a daily basis in the developed world that could easily be eliminated. First, I took the pledge myself and found that with a few metal water bottles, some cloth bags kept in my car and deciding not to use straws, I could easily make this change.”

Izzo funded the development of www.noplasticpledge.com which tracks the number of people who have taken the pledge, educates people about the issue of plastic garbage, and links people to other organizations that are tackling the issue. The site was launched on March 5th and he has already been joined by organizations like the Plastic Pollution Coalition, Beth Terry and the makers of the Midway film in promoting the pledge.

“In my book I try to counter the idea that one person can’t make a difference. One reason we think that one person doesn’t matter is because we forget the power of aggregate influence, which is what happens when one times many take a small action thereby making a huge difference,” Izzo says.

Izzo’s goal is ambitious—to get one million to take the pledge in 2012 and one hundred million by the end of 2013. “The hope is that entire schools, families and workplaces will choose to take the simple pledge. Even if people aren’t 100% pure, even if they reduce their use of these three products by 90% we can eliminate 170 billion pieces of plastic garbage every single year!”

We would love your support to help raise awareness and encourage others to take the pledge by blogging about this issue. www.myplasticfreelife.com  and the Plastic Pollution Coalition have joined us, but we can’t do it alone. Check out the www.noplasticpledge.com for information. And watch the Midway trailer (http://bit.ly/AdpkbG)  and visit their site http://www.midwayjourney.com to find out more about the documentary.

To interview Dr. John Izzo about the pledge, contact Linda Parsons at 778.737.4991

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By Warren Karlenzig – president of Common Current

Vancouver, Canada’s new mayor Gregor Robinson is making good on his campaign promise to make Vancouver “The Greenest City on the Planet.”

Forget trying to be Canada’s greenest city as Toronto has aspired to be, or North America’s greenest city as Portland, San Francisco and Chicago have vied for. If it succeeds beyond its plans, the Vancouver region will have the makings of the world’s first modern Eco City-State.

Mayor Robertson announced ambitious plans Tuesday at this week’s Resilient Cities conference.

Whatever the outcome, Vancouver will be transformed by the process in reputation and mindshare. This plan should provide the city of 615,000 with an opening to make significant sustainability improvements to its economic competitiveness, infrastructure and use of resources.

With the 2010 Winter Olympics coming to town next February, Vancouver will be able to use an international media platform that key sponsors such as Coca Cola and General Motors are targeting for launches of new “sustainability” products and messaging. Besides the release of GM’s forthcoming Chevy Volt, I’ve been told that Coca Cola is trying to completely reposition its brand in the face of climate change, bottled water rebellion and anti-soda obesity regulations.

As a result of such marketing, and with Olympic Village plans for operations under the Global Reporting Initiative on sustainability, the 2010 games might make history as the first international event associated with sustainability.

Corn syrupy water and automobiles aside, Vancouver is putting forward some serious plans and goals in its quest. Yesterday, I chatted with Melina Scholefield, Vancouver’s Sustainability Group manager, and learned that the city as part of its Greenest City Plan will:

  • Set up a low-carbon economic development zone to attract private equity investment in the green economy, with the goal of creating 20,000 new jobs.
  • Try to increase its walkability, bikability and public transit ridership to more than 50 percent. The city currently has a rate of about 20 percent combined walking and cycling for commuting, one of the highest such rates in North America. Boston, for example, has a combined walking/cycling commute rate of 16 percent, the highest in the US.
  • Develop its own green building standards, which are stricter and more thorough than existing standards such the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating system or the US EPA’s Energy Star rating system. The goal is to have all construction in Vancouver be carbon neutral by 2020.
  • Reduce the amount of solid waste that goes to landfills or is incinerated by 40 percent.
  • Provide all city residents with easy access to green space, so that by 2020 everyone would be within a five-minute walk of a park, beach or greenway.
  • Reduce the per capita consumption of water by 33 percent.
  • Reduce the carbon footprint of food production by 33 percent.
  • The big one: reduce the ecological footprint of Vancouver by 33 percent. This means reducing the amount of arable land needed to support each citizen from 7 hectares to 5.7 hectares by 2020.

Eventually Vancouver wants to reduce its “four planet” Ecological Footprint down to “one planet.” (Tuesday night, I gave a talk on urban resilience at the conference with the co-founder of the Ecological Footprint, William Rees, a professor at the University of British Columbia: our Post Carbon Institute-sponsored talk will be broadcast on 15 radio stations and available here on an MP3 at the EcoShock radio site.)

Vancouver’s performance-based goals are impressive in that they are tangible and measureable. Having measured the sustainability performance, projects and capabilities of the largest 50 US cities in my book, How Green is Your City? The SustainLane US City Rankings, I am looking forward to seeing how Vancouver will pull off developing transparent and verifiable results.

Already the city claims the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per capita of any city in North America, at just under 5 metric tons, with New York City being at about 7 metric tons and the US average being close to 25 metric tons. Vancouver claims 90 percent use of renewable energy, with much of it in hydropower, though I was unable to verify whether that hydropower is small-scale enough to qualify for accepted renewable energy standards, such as that used by the state of California.

Now comes the real test. How will Vancouver plan, manage, construct and fashion a more sustainable future so it can complement its already world-famous quality of life with new technology jobs and opportunities in urban agriculture and food production?

Vancouver will have to compete with clean tech clusters emerging in California, Boston, Austin and Toledo, Ohio, creating green job growth in renewables, green building and advanced materials, advanced transportation (beyond its already-leading fuel cell industry cluster), and water/ energy efficiency.

A final challenge surfaced yesterday afternoon during a panel discussion at the Resilient Cities conference with Scholefield and other members of the Greenest City Action Team (including Gordon Price, Robert Safrata, and Moura Quayle).

Vancouver’s Greenest City Plan has yet to provide details on the participation of its surrounding metropolitan area, though the leadership of West Vancouver, a suburb of 44,000 appeared to be on board when I discussed the plan with its mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones and councillor Trish Panz.

Regional collaboration will be vital to ensuring effective land use and transportation planning, not to mention scaling up regional food and regional energy production, particularly biomass, wind, biofuels and small-scale hydro power.

“We’ll start at the core with the hope that action in the core city will move the outer area along” said Price, Director of the SFU City program, in response to a question about the lack of sign-on from Metro Vancouver, a group of 22 communities in the region.

That strategy might work to kick things off. At some point soon, however, Vancouver will need to more fully enlist the metro area and the Cascadia bioregion to take on an active partnership and even select ownership of Greenest City plan elements. Mayor Robinson did meet with Portland, Oregon mayor Sam Adams, who came to Vancouver this week with a contingent to the Resilient Cities event–the two were said to hit it off well and spent much time together privately.

If Vancouver accomplishes its formidable goals, it would within ten years begin to more closely resembles the Eco City-State concept devised by William Rees.

The city would then be at the center of a regional economy capable of producing most of its own energy, along with a significant amount of its goods, services and food, while protecting its water, wildlife, biodiversity and cultural resources. And this would be without contributing further to the acceleration of global climate change.

Call it resilience, sustainability, or just getting ready for what’s to come.

SOURCE: Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current, an international consultancy focused on  urban sustainability strategy and metrics.

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