SCARY STUFF: The Fourth Official “Climate Science Special Report” by the U.S. Government’s “Global Change Research Program”

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

Whether you are an investor, company executive or board member, or an issue advocate, or civic leader, these “high probability” outcomes should keep you up at night:  more superstorms; more drought; increased risk of forest fires; more floods; rising sea levels; melting glaciers; ocean acidification; increasing atmospheric water vapor (thus, more powerful rainstorms)…and more.

How about a potential drop of 10% in the U.S.A. Gross Domestic Product by end of this century?

These are some of the subjects explored in depth in the fourth “Climate Science Special Report” of the U.S. Global Change Research Program.  That is a collaborative effort of more than a dozen Federal departments, such as NOAA, NASA, US EPA, and executive branch cabinet offices of Commerce, Agriculture, Energy, State, Transportation, and Defense; plus the OMB (Office of the President).

The experts gathered from these departments of the U.S. government plus a passel of university-based experts, reported last week (in over 1600 pages of related content) on the “state of science relating to climate change and its physical impacts.”

The CSSR (the Climate Science Special Report) serves as a foundation for efforts to assess climate-related risks and inform decision-makers…it does not include policy recommendations.  The results are not encouraging – at least not in November 2018.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the lead agency working with NASA and other governmental bodies to develop the report – which analyzes current trends in climate change and project major trends out to the end of this 21st Century.  The focus of the work is on human welfare, societal, economic, and environmental elements of climate change.

Each chapter of the report focuses on key findings and assigns a “confidence statement” for scientific uncertainties. There are 10 regional analyses of recent climate change (such as the Northeast, and Southern Great Plains).

Some highlights:

(1) This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization.

2) Thousands of studies have documented changes in surface, atmospheric and oceanic temps;

(3) glaciers are rapidly melting;

4) we have rising sea levels;

5) the incidence of daily tidal flooding is accelerating in more than 25 Atlantic and Gulf coast cities.

The various findings, the authors point out, are based on a large body of scientific, peer-reviewed research, evaluated observations and modeling data sets. In this report, we should note, experts and not politicians speak to us in clear terms.

Global climate is projected to change over this century (and beyond) – the report is replete with “likelihoods” of events) and the experts state that with major effort, temps could be limited to 3.6°F / 2°C or less – or else.  Without action, average global temperatures could increase 9°F / 5°C relative to pre-industrial times – spelling disaster at the end of the 2100s.

The Financial Stability Board’s  (FSB) Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (the “TCFD”) strongly recommendations that the financial sector companies and (initial) four business sectors begin to test scenarios against (to begin with) 2-degrees Centigrade (3.5°F) temp rise and increase from there.

The four industry groups in the Financial Sector are:  Banks, Insurance Companies, Asset Owners, Asset Managers.

The four non-financial business sectors are:  Agriculture. Food & Forest Products; Buildings & Materials; Transportation; Energy (Oil & Gas).

This new national assessment from the Federal government should be a valuable resource for investors, bankers, insurance carriers and a wide range of companies in their scenario planning (content related to alternative scenarios is in the report).

Click the links below for:

TCFD information is here: https://www.fsb-tcfd.org/

Our Top Story in Sustainability Highlights this week is The Washington Post’s take on the report and its issuance by the Federal government on what some officials considered to be a slow Thanksgiving Friday news period.  The news coverage that followed was anything but “slow”!

Washington Post – Climate story by Brady Dennis and Christ Mooney
Major Trump administration climate report says damage is ‘intensifying across the country’

(Friday November 23, 2018) Source: The Washington Post – Scientists are more certain than ever that climate change is already affecting the United States — and that it is going to be very expensive. The federal government on Friday released a long-awaited report with an unmistakable message: The effects of climate change, including deadly wildfires, increasingly debilitating hurricanes and heat waves, are already battering the United States, and the danger of more such catastrophes is worsening.

We Are “Out” of the Paris Accord — Really? What a Year! Signs of Great Progress in the Trump Denial Era

June 1, 2018

By Hank Boerner – Chair and Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

It was just one year ago – ah,, but it seems much longer…

WASHINGTON — The New York Times – June 1, 2017: “President Trump announced on Thursday that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, weakening efforts to combat global warming and embracing isolationist voices in his White House who argued that the agreement was a pernicious threat to the economy and American sovereignty.

In a speech from the Rose Garden, Mr. Trump said the landmark 2015 pact imposed wildly unfair environmental standards on American businesses and workers. He vowed to stand with the people of the United States against what he called a “draconian” international deal.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” the president said, drawing support from members of his Republican Party but widespread condemnation from political leaders, business executives and environmentalists around the globe.”

What was to follow?

A Year of Significant Progress!

Today — interesting perspectives are shared in The Washington Post on where we are one year after President Donald Trump “withdrew” from the Paris Climate Accord. The United States of America is the first – and perhaps will be the only – nation to join and then withdraw the Agreement. Sort of.

Participation in the agreement for the USA runs to year 2020 so we are “still in” (officially).  The withdrawal process will take the next three years.

By that time, there might be a new occupant in the White House. 

This nation is still in by examination of various other factors that are explained by writer Chris Mooney in the WaPo. (He covers climate change, energy and the environment, reported from the Paris negotiations in 2015, and has published four books on the the subjects he covers.)

The key points we took away from Mooney’s excellent wrap up today:

  • The Trump Administration still has no consistent message about climate change,  and no clear policy, except for the antics of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, with his slash & burn attacks on environmental and climate-related regulations.
  • There is a positive development: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine embraced climate science.  (See notes at end.)
  • There has been unrelenting attack on President Barack Obama’s skilled moves to protect the country – and the planet! – such as the Clean Power Plan.
  • But, while the White House is the cheerleader for the coal industry, market forces reward renewable energy and natural gas as powerful drivers for change.
  • Other countries are sticking with the Paris Accord, but some of those countries may find it challenging to stay the course without U.S. leadership (says John Sterman of MIT).

BackgroundThe Obama Administration agreed in Paris with many other nations to the goals of a 26%-to-28% reduction of emissions below the 2005 levels — and today the U.S. and the whole world is off that metric, writes Chris Mooney.

Even if the commitments were realized, there would be a temperature rise of 3.3 degrees Celsius (almost 6% F) over time (according to MIT’s Sterman). So the USA would have to do even more than agreed-to in Paris. (The USA is the world’s second largest GhG emitter.)

Where are we? According to the Climate Action Tracker produced by NewClimate Institute and Ecofys, the USA is on track for an 11% to 13% decrease by year 2025, which is about halfway to the Obama Administration pledge.

What may interfere: the move to rollback auto fuel efficiency standards; an analysis by Rhodium Group projects adding 100 million tons (annually) by year 2035 for auto emissions alone if the rollbacks move forward.

The good news – from the “We Are Still In” front: the states of Virginia and New Jersey are making moves to cut emissions and the states of Colorado and California are developing new electric vehicle policies.

Vicky Arroyo (director of the Georgetown Climate Center is quoted:   At least we are not losing the momentum that was feared (one year ago today).

Kate Larsen, who directs climate change research at the Rhodium Group, thinks that the country is on track to meet or even exceed the Obama-era Clean Power Plan goals — thanks to the use of lower-cost renewable fuel sources and natural gas.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the United States are “hardly set to explode” and the country is moving toward lower GhG emissions over time, writes Mooney.

But. What the Trump announcement did last year on June 1 was to create fog about US national policy regarding climate change. The thing we all have to face: the slow progress exhibited and achieving climate change goals (those coming out of Paris) are not compatible.

The WaPo commentary is at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2018/06/01/trump-withdrew-from-the-paris-climate-plan-a-year-ago-heres-what-has-changed/?utm_term=.782d3cb38b3f&wpisrc=nl_most&wpmm=1

Counterpoint!

The EDF – a/k/a Environmental Defense Fund – today trumpeted the Year of Climate Progress (since June 1 2018).

EDF members and environmentalists immediately began the counter-attack in June 2017 and in EDF’s words, that led to a year of extraordinary climate progress. The organization presents a timeline on line.  Highlights:

  • June 5, 2018 – EDF helps launch a coalition of organizations, businesses and state and local civic and political leaders to pledge “We Are Still In!” – today there are 2,700 leaders participating.
  • On to July 2017 – California Governor Jerry Brown signs into law an extension of the state’s cap-and-trade program out to 2030.  The state is the sixth largest economy in all of the world!
  • September – North of the border, Ontario Province links its cap-and-trade program to the California-Quebec carbon market, creating a huge market covering 580 million tons of emissions. Sister province British Columbia intends to increase its carbon tax for April 2018 through 2021.
  • Nine Northeastern US States in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative complete their second program review and agree to reduce emissions by 30% from 2020 to 2030.
  • Halfway around the world in December 2017 China announced its national carbon market (to be largest in the world); this will start with electric power and expand to seven other industrial sectors. (So much for the Trumpian claim China is doing nothing to meet Paris Accord conditions.)
  • We move further into 2018 and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rejects the DOE coal and nuclear proposal.
  • Despite shouts and threats and Trumpian boasting, the U.S. Congress adopts the 2018 budget in March 2018 that leaves the EPA budget mostly intact (EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wanted to cut the agency’s budget by 30%. Other environmental / energy agencies see budget increases.)
  • April – the UN’s International Maritime Organization adopts a climate plan to lower emissions from container ships, bulk and oil carriers, by at least 50% below 2008 levels by 2050.
  • Also in April — In the key industrial State of Ohio, the Public Utilities Commission approves AEP’s Electric Security Plan – this, EDF points out, will enhance and diversify the state economy, unlock millions in funding, provide customers with clean energy options and overall, will reduce pollution.
  • Next door, in April, the Illinois Commerce Commission approves the state’s Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan to have a pathway for electric utilities to produce 25% of power from renewable sources by 2025 and put incentives in play for development of wind and power.
  • April — EDF President Fred Krupp gives a TED Talk, outlining the plan to launch methane-detecting satellites in orbit above Earth to map and measure oil and gas methane emissions. The data and information gathered will help countries and companies spot problems, identify savings opportunities and measure progress.
  • April sure was a busy month – Canada issued policies to cut oil and gas emissions by 40% to 45% at new and existing facilities. This was part of a pledge made in 2016 (when President Obama was in office) for the USA, Canada and Mexico to decreased such emissions in North America by that amount by 2025.
  • On to May – and recently-elected New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy – a former Goldman Sachs exec – signed into law the plan to cut GhG emissions by almost half by 2030 (hey, that’s twice what the Clean Power Plan would have required!). The Garden State will require 50% of NJ electric needs to be met from renewable sources.
  • And on to May – ExxonMobil announced plans to reduce oil and gas methane emissions by 15% and flared gas volume by 25% — worldwide – by 2020.

Yes – a remarkable year, kicked off on June 1st 2017 by a vindictive head of state set on reversing the significant progress made under his predecessors.

But many individuals, companies, investors, civic organizations, NGOs proclaimed: We are still in.  The movement represents city halls, board room, college campuses, investors, and more…interests representing US$6.2 trillion (one-sixth of the entire American economy) have signed on to the We Are Still In declaration — https://www.wearestillin.com/we-are-still-declaration

Have you?

Notes:

The New York Times story by Michael Shear, June 1 2017 is at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/climate/trump-paris-climate-agreement.html

The American Institute of Physics info on NASA, embrace of climate change consensus: https://www.aip.org/fyi/2018/bridenstine-embraces-nasa-science-climate-change-consensus

We Are Still In information at: https://www.wearestillin.com/

Accountability Demonstrated by This Bank Board? Wells Fargo Directors Clawback $75 Million from 2 Former Execs

April 10, 2017

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

We often hear about bank industry un-accountability; is this the beginning of a turn toward greater accountability?  Time and actions taken will tell us…over time.

The Board of Directors of Wells Fargo has clawed back $75 million in compensation from two former executives — the CEO and the head of retail banking.  That’s a drop in the bucket to some governance experts and consumer protection advocates, but it’s a good sign that corporate accountability is being demonstrated by at least one bank board.

Former Chair/CEO John Stumpf gave up $41 million in comp when he resigned last October; he now is ordered to pay back an additional $28 million.

Former head of retailing Carrie Tolstedt gave up $19 million in comp, and now will lose $47 million in stock options.

This after a 6-month investigation ordered by a handful of independent board members and conducted by the Shearman & Sterling law firm. The bank has paid $185 million to date in regulatory fines.

Some 2 million (!) fraudulent accounts were opened in customer names to inflate sales claims (the retail banking operations were overseen by Tolstedt).  More than 5,000 employees have been fired, accused of participation in the scheme, which went on for more than a decade.

Wells Fargo is one of the “Big Four” commercial banks of the USA.  The familiar red stage coach hustling across the western prairies is the symbol of the venerable institution, founded in May 1852. But today’s bank is the result of the merger of the old Wells Fargo & Company with Norwest Bank back in 1998.

Strumpf joined Northwestern National Bank (banking arm of Norwest Corporation) in 1982 and had risen in Norwest operations / then the combined company over the years, becoming CEO in June 2007 and adding the board chair title in January 2010.

So — he was not a “newbie” perhaps not always familiar with the culture of the merged bank operations. His action seriously tarnished the reputation and brand value of the “stagecoach bank” founded so long ago by Messrs Wells and Fargo.

With this action, the Wells Fargo board of directors takes an important step in addressing the cultural woes of the merged bank.

As The Washington Post writer observed, this is an attempt to demonstrate that banks can hold themselves accountable (and so avoid regulatory action for mis-behaviors).

The new CEO?  That’s Timothy Sloan, who was the former COO and therefore the supervisor of retail bank head Tolsteadt!  The board members have all been re-nominated for re-election this year.  Let’s see how “accountable” shareholders think the board has been when they vote their proxies.

Culture — it’s all about culture!  Culture — good or bad – is the ultimate determinant of outcomes!

 

Global Warming – As the Phenomenon Ends, The Ice Begins? In Year 2060

by Hank Boerner – Chairman & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

Keep your eye on 2060, when the Ice Age begins and Global Warming ends, say the folks at Samsung Chemical Coating (“SCC”) in The New York Times advertisement…

Did the headline grab your attention? It sure caught mine.

The headline and some of the content from a full-page advertisement appearing today in The New York Times, is signed by Samsung Chemical Coating Co. Ltd. (for the record, they’ve also said this is material “copyrighted” and not for re-distribution). This is Fair Use reporting for you.

The ad is a full page display in the well-read Science Times Section of the Times; titled: “When Global Warming Ends, about the year 2060, The Ice Age will Begin”).

There are five main messages for you from Samsung:

(1) (Perspectives About) the Beginning of Global Warming

(2) There is No Relationship Between the Amount of Carbon Dioxide Emissions and the Global Warming

(3) (About the) Ice Age Environment

(4) Large Extinction of Living Things (like all of us humans)

(5) (Message to) The US Government and Scott Pruitt, US EPA

Highlights:

Global Warming, says Samsung (SCC) management, is one of the natural phenomena that occurs at the end of inter-glacial periods. There is more explanation for you (according to the ad) in The Washington Post on February 28th of a “study” by Samsung. *

There is no relationship between CO2 emissions and global warming. It’s about Earth wobbling (“precession*), certain star tracks, and seas warming and rising.

The Earth’s glaciers (today’s Big Ice) will be reduced by Year 2060 at, the end of the inter-glacial period we’re in, and then the Earth will begin to form new glaciers; earthquakes and tsunami’s will occur; radiation from the sun will pummel Earth; extreme temperatures will occur; really large hurricanes will occur.

And then – oh, boy! — the New Ice Age coming about 2060 will reach to New York City, growing ever-taller over 200 years, and everything living will become extinct!  The dead critturs will eventually drift down to decay and become coal and carbon/oil for future generations (if there any) to use. There may well be; Samsung’s paid message says creatures exposed to the sun’s radiation will mutate and new species will emerge.

Finally — Samsung, while saying that nothing can be done about the catastrophe coming, thanks to the Law of Nature (and Earth wobble, stars aligning, oceans warming, pole ice disappearing, glaciers melting and then re-forming, radiation increasing, giant storms, and more) — and so,  Scott Pruitt, US EPA Administrator, “…should review the results of ]Samsung’s] study and find ALTERNATIVE (my emphasis) MEASURES to minimize the damage of the catastrophe that will occur…”

Oh, and the future of Mankind depends on Administrator Pruitt and President Donald Trump.

A key line in the ad:  “We can say that the cause of global warming is not from carbon dioxide emissions.”

The company – it’s a a privately-owned South Korean firm, according to Bloomberg LP  — has run somewhat similar ads in the past.  * We could find no mention of “the study” in The Washington Post edition of February 28, 2017 as mentioned in today’s ad.

We got to thinking: Is this a joke? (It’s not April 1st yet.)  Someone who gave up tweeting to write more long-form messages in the wee hours of the morning?  Something unusual to get us thinking? About?

Is this a planned distraction from the more pressing issues in Washington DC — like the former President spying on the new President when he was a candidate? Something really jarring to justify the drastic cuts proposed by the new administration at the US EPA?  Is this fodder for global warming deniers?

The ad is real:  I have a printed copy right here on the desk as it appears in the NYT ScienceTimes Section!

What to you think?  Let us know….

FINALLY — there is an email in the ad if you wanted to communicate with someone:

  • Heemun Kang – scck22@hanmail.net
  • or Jimin Kang or Josung Kang

** Precession:  changes that occur as equinoxes change in successive sidereal year (Oxford: sidereal — “as determined by stars”).

Dangerous Antics – Fiddling with the Future of US EPA and the Health and Safety of the American People

by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

The Trump Administration  — Making moves now on the US EPA to destroy its effectiveness through budget cuts and ideological attacks on its missions.

In his landmark work published in 1993 – “A Fierce Green Fire – The American Environment Movement” – former New York Times journalist Philip Shabecoff explained:  the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created by President Richard Nixon (a Republican) in December 1970 (two years into his first term) as part of an overall re-organization of the Federal government. The EPA was created without any benefit of statute by the U.S. Congress.

Parts of programs, departments and regulations were pulled from 15 different areas of the government and cobbled together a single environmental protection agency intended to be the watchdog, police officer and chief weapon against all forms of pollution, author Schabecoff explained to us.

The EPA quickly became the lightning rod for the nation’s hopes for cleaning up pollution and fears about intrusive Federal regulation.

As the first EPA Administrator, William Ruckelshaus (appointed by Richard Nixon) explained to the author in 1989: “The normal condition of the EPA was to be ground between two irresistible forces: the environmental movement, pushing very hard to get [pollution] emissions no matter where they were (air, water)…and another group on the side of industry pushing just as hard and trying to stop all of that stuff…” Both, Ruckelshaus pointed out, regardless of the seriousness of the problem.

We are a half-century and more beyond all of this back and forth, and the arguments about EPA’s role and importance rage on.

Today we in the sustainability movement are alarmed at the recklessness of the Trump White House and the key Administration officials now charged with responsibility to protect the environment and public health in two key cabinet departments: The EPA and the Department of Energy.

The ripple effects of the attacks on climate change science are in reality much larger: The Department of Defense (which has declared climate change to be a major threat long-term); the Department of Interior, overseeing the nation’s precious legacy of national parks and more; the Department of Agriculture (and oversight of tens of millions of acres of farmland); the Department of Commerce; the Department of Justice..and on and on.

The destruction could start early: The Washington Post (with its ear to the ground) is closely watching the administration and reported on February 17th that President Donald Trump planned to target the EPA with new Executive Orders (between two and five are coming) that would restrict the Agency’s oversight role and reverse some of the key actions that comprise the Obama Administration legacy on climate change and related issues.

Such as: rolling back the Clean Energy Plan (designed to limit power plant GhG emissions), which required states to develop their own plan as well. And, withdrawing from the critical agreement reached in Paris at COP 21 to limit the heating up of Planet Earth (which most of the other nations of the world have also adopted, notably China and India).

The destroyers now at the helm of the EPA also don’t like the Agency’s role in protecting wetlands, rivers etc. (The Post was expanding on coverage originally developed by investigative reporters at Mother Jones.)

Mother Jones quoted an official of the Trump transition team: “What I would like to see are executive orders implementing all of President Trump’s main campaign promises on environment and energy, including withdrawal from the Paris climate treaty.”

And, in the Washington Post/Mother Jones reportage: “The holy grail for conservatives would be reversing the Agency’s ‘so-called endangerment finding,’ which states that GhG emissions harm public health and must therefore be regulated [by EPA] under the Clean Air Act.”

Think about this statement by H. Sterling Burnett of the right-wing Heartland Institute: “I read the Constitution of the United States and the word ‘environmental protection’ does not appear there.” He cheered the early actions by the Trump-ians to give the green light to the Keystone Pipeline and Dakota Access Project.

On March 1st The Washington Post told us that the White House will cut the EPA staff by one-fifth — and eliminate dozens of programs.

A document obtained by the Post revealed that the cuts would help to offset the planned increase in military spending. Cutting the EPA budget from US$ 8.2 billion to $6.1 billion could have a significant [negative] impact on the Agency.

We should remember that in his hectic, frenetic campaigning, Donald Trump-the-candidate vowed to get rid of EPA in almost every present form – and his appointee, now EPA Administrator (Scott Pruitt) sued EPA over and over again when he was Attorney General of Oklahoma, challenging its authority to regulate mercury pollution, smog (fog/smoke), an power plant carbon emissions (the heart of the Obama Clean Energy Plan).

In practical terms, the Post explained, the massive Chesapeake Bay clean up project, now funded at $73 million, would be getting $5 million in the coming Fiscal Year (October 1st on). Three dozen programs would be eliminated (radon; grants to states; climate change initiatives; aid to Alaskan native villages); and the “U.S. Global Change Research Program” created by President George H.W. Bush back in 1989 would be gone.

Important elements of the American Society have tackled conservation, environmental, sustainability and related issues to reduce harm to human health and our physical home – Mother Earth – over the past five decades: Federal and state and local governments; NGOs; industry; investors; ordinary citizens; academia.

Today, the progress in protecting our nation’s resources and human health made since rivers caught fire and the atmosphere of our cities and towns could be seen and smelled, is under attack.

The good news is that for the most part, absent some elements of society, the alarms bells are going off and people are mobilizing to progress, not retreat, on environmental protection issues.

American Industry – Legacy of Three Decade Commitment to Environmental Protection – The Commitment Must Continue

The good news to look back on and then to project down to the 21st Century and Year 2017 includes  the comments by leaders of the largest chemical industry player of the day as the EPA was launched and key initial legislation passed (Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and many more)  – that is the DuPont deNemours Company.

Think about the importance of these critical arguments – which could be considered as foundational aspirations for today’s corporate sustainability movement:

Former DuPont CEO Irving Shapiro told author Philip Shabecoff: “You’ve have to be dumb and deaf not to recognize the public gives a damn about the environment and a business man who ignores it writes his out death warrant.”

The fact is, said CEO Shapiro (who was a lawyer), “DuPont has not been disadvantaged by the environmental laws. It is a stronger company today (in the early 1990s) than it was 25 years ago. Where the environment is on the public agenda depends on the public. If the public loses interest, corporate involvement will diminish…”

His predecessor as CEO, E. S. Woolard, had observed in 1989: “Environmentalism is now a mode of operation for every sector of society, industry included. We in industry have to develop a stronger awareness of ourselves as environmentalists…”

And:  remember, warned Dupont CEO Shapiro: “…if the public loses interest corporate involvement will diminish…”

Today let’s also consider the shared wisdom of a past administrator as she contemplated the news of the Trump Administration actions and intentions:

Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy (2013-2017) said to the Post: “The [proposed] budget is a fantasy if the Trump Administration believes it will preserve EPA’s mission to protect public health. It ignores the need to invest in science and to implement the law. It ignores the history that led to the EPA’s creation 46 years ago. It ignores the American People calling for its continued support.”

Consider the DuPont’ CEO’s comments above … if the American public loses interest.  At this time in our nation’s history, we must be diligent and in the streets (literally and metaphorically) protesting the moves of this administration and the connivance of the U.S. Congress if our representatives go along with EPA budget cuts as outlined to date.

# # #

About “A Fierce Green Fire: The American Environmental Movement,” by Philip Shabecoff; published 1993 by Harper Collins. I recommend a reading to gain a more complete understanding of the foundations of the environmental movement.

A decade ago I wrote a commentary on the 100-year evolvement of the conservation movement into the environmental movement and then on to today’s sustainability movement in my Corporate Finance Review column.  It’s still an interesting read:  http://www.hankboerner.com/library/Corporate%20Finance%20Review/Popular%20Movements%20-%20A%20Challenge%20for%20Institutions%20and%20Managers%2003&04-2005.pdf

 

 

News From the Sustainability Front as The Trump White House Makes Controversial Moves on ESG Issues — Actions and Reactions

by Hank Boerner – Chair/Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

February 23, 2017
Forward Momentum! – Sustainability 2017

Are you like many of us having sleepless nights and anxiety spells as you watch the antics of the Trump White House and the creeping (and similarly moving-backwards) effects into the offices of important Federal agencies that the Administration is taking over?

Consider then “other news” — and not fake news, mind you, or alt-news — but encouraging real news that is coming from OTHER THAN the Federal government.

We are on track to continue to move ahead in building a more sustainable nation and world — despite the roadblocks being discussed or erected that are designed to slow the corporate sustainability movement or the steady uptake of sustainable investing in the capital markets.

Consider the Power and Influence of the Shareowner and Asset Managers:

The CEO of the largest asset manager in the world — BlackRock’s Larry Fink — in his annual letters to the CEOs of the S&P 500 (R) companies in January said this: “Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors relevant to a company’s business can provide essential insights into management effectiveness and thus a company’s long-term prospects. We look to see that a company is attuned to the key factors that contribute to long-term growth:
(1) sustainability of the business model and its operations; (2) attention to external and environmental factors that could impact the company; (3) recognition of the company’s role as a member of the communities in which it operates.

A global company, CEO Fink wrote to the CEOs, needs to be “local” in every single one of its markets. And as BlackRock constructively engages with the S&P 500 corporate CEOs, it will be looking to see how the company’s strategic framework reflects the impact of last year’s changes in the global environment…in the ‘new world’ in which the company is operating.

BlackRock manages US$5.1 trillion in Assets Under Management. The S&P 500 companies represent about 85% of the total market cap of corporate equities.  Heavyweights, we would say, in shaping U.S. sustainability.

* * * * * * * *

As S&R investment pioneer Steve Viederman often wisely notes, “where you sit determines where you stand…” (on the issues of the day).  More and more commercial space users (tenants and owners) want to “sit” in green spaces — which demonstrates where they “stand” on sustainability issues.

Consider:  In the corporate sector, Retail and other tenants are demanding that landlords provide “green buildings,” according to Chris Noon (Builtech Services LLC CEO). The majority of his company’s construction projects today can easily achieve LEED status, he says (depending on whether the tenant wanted to pursue the certification, which has some cost involved). The company is Chicago-based.

This is thanks to advances in materials, local building codes, a range of technology, and rising customer-demand.

End users want to “sit” in “green buildings” — more than 40% of American tenants recently surveyed across property types expect now to have a “sustainable home.” The most common approaches include energy-saving HVAC systems, windows and plumbing. More stringent (local and state) building codes are also an important factor.

Municipalities — not the Federal government — are re-writing building codes, to reflect environmental and safety advances and concerns. Next week (Feb 28) real estatyer industry reps will gather in Chicago for the Bisnow’s 7th Annual Retail Event at the University Club of Chicago to learn more about these trends.

* * * * * * * *

Institutional investors managing US$17 trillion in assets have created a new Corporate Governance framework — this is the Investor Stewardship Group.

The organizers include such investment powerhouses as BlackRock, Fidelity and RBC Global Asset Management (a dozen in all are involved at the start). There are six (6) Principles advanced to companies by the group that including addressing (1) investment stewardship for institutional investors and (2) for public corporation C-suite and board room. These Principles would be effective on January 1 (2018), giving companies and investors time to adjust.

One of the Principles is for majority voting for director elections (no majority, the candidate does not go on board). Another is the right for investors to nominate directors with information posted on the candidate in the proxy materials.

Both of these moves when adopted by public companies would greatly enhance the activism of sustainable & responsible investors, such as those in key coalitions active in the proxy season, and year-round in engagements with companies (such as ICCR, INCR).

No waiting for SEC action here, if the Commission moves away from investor-friendly policies and practices as signaled so far. And perhaps – this activism will send strong messages to the SEC Commissioners on both sides of the aisle.

Remember:  $17 trillion in AUM at the start of the initiative — stay tuned to the new Investor Stewardship Group.  These are more “Universal Owners” with clout.

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Not really unexpected but disappointing nevertheless:  The Trump Administration made its moves on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), part of the Bakken Field project work, carrying out a campaign promise that caters to the project’s primary owners (Energy Transfer Partners**) and other industry interests, S&R investors are acting rapidly in response.

The company needed a key easement to complete construction across a comparatively small distance. Except that…

  • The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says the route would cross their drinking water source, impact their sacred sites, and threaten environmentally-sensitive areas;
  • would violate treaty territory without meeting international standards for their consent; (this is the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, which according to the U.S. Constitution, should be the supreme law of the land);
  • and ignore alleged shortcomings in the required environmental review (under the National Environmental Policy Act – NEPA).

These are “abuses”, and banks and financial services firms involved may be complicit in these violations by the nature of their financing, S&R investors note. Their involvement in the project financing could impact their brands and reputations and relationships with society. And so S&R shareholders are taking action.

Boston Common Asset Management, Storebrand Asset Management (in Norway) and First Peoples Worldwide developed an Investor Statement to Banks Financing the DAPL. The statement — being signed on to by other investors — is intended to encourage banks and lenders to support the Rock Sioux Tribe’s request for re-routing the pipeline to not violate — “invade” — their treaty-protected territory. The violations pose a clear risk, SRI shareholders are saying.

The banks involved include American, Dutch, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Canadian institutions.  They in turn are owned by shareholders, public sector agencies, and various fiduciaries — “Universal Owners,” we would say.

The banks include: Bayerische Landesbank (Germany); BBVA (Argentina); Credit Agricole (France); TD Securities (Canada); Wells Fargo; ABN AMRO (The Netherlands); Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ; and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and others.

The shareholders utilizing the Investor Statement say they recognize that banks have a contractual obligation with the respect to their transactions — but — they could use their influence to support the Tribe’s request for a re-route…and reach a “peaceful solution” acceptable to all parties.

As The Washington Post reported on January 24th, soon after the Trump Administration settled in, President Trump signed Executive Orders to revive the DAPL and the Keystone XL pipelines. “Another step in his effort to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s environmental legacy,” as the Post put it.

One Executive Order directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to “review and approve in an expedited manner” the DAPL. Days later the Corps made their controversial decision, on February 7th reversing course granting Energy Transfer Partners their easement. This week the remaining protestors were removed from the site (some being arrested).

The sustainable & responsible & impact investment community is not sitting by to watch these egregious events, as we see in the Investor Statements to the banks involved. The banks are on notice — there are risks here for you.

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May be what is happening in the asset management and project lending activities related to the project is the IBG / YBG worldview of some in the financial services world:  I’ll Be Gone / You’ll Be Gone when all of this hits the fan one day.  (Like the massive Ogalala Aquifer being contaminated by a pipeline break. The route of the extension is on the ground above and on the reservation’s lake bed.  Not to mention the threats to the above ground Missouri River, providing water downstream to U.S. states and cities.)

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Energy Transfer Partners, L.P:  (NYSE:ETP)  This is a Master Limited Partnership based in Texas.  Founded in 1995, the company has 71,000 miles of pipelines carrying various products. The company plans to build other major pipelines — the Rover Project — to carry product from the shale regions (Marcellus and Utica) across the Northern U.S. state east of the Mississippi.  ETP LP acquired Sunoco (remember them?).

Mutual Funds – Bond Holders – other key fiduciaries with brands of their own to protect — are funding the operations of ETP LP.

Brand names of equity holders include Oppenheimer; Goldman Sachs Asset Management; CalPERS; JPMorgan Chase.  Bond holders include Lord Abbett, PIMCO, Vanguard.  There are 567 institutional owners — fiduciaries — with some 45% of ownership, according to Morningstar. Partners include Marathon Petroleum Company (NYSE:MPC) and Enbridge (NYSE:ENB). (Bloomberg News – August 2, 2016 – both firms put $2 billion in the project and related work.)

The Partnership used to have an “Ownership” explanation on its web site — now it’s disappeared. But you can review some of it in Google’s archived web site pages here: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.energytransfer.com/ownership_overview.aspx&num=1&strip=1&vwsrc=0

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We are seeing in developments every day (like these above with non-governmental strategies and actions) that hold out promise for corporate and societal sustainability advocates and sustainable investment professionals that with — or without — public sector support, the Forward Momentum continue to build.

We’ll share news and opinion with you — let us know your thoughts, and the actions that you / your organization is taking, to continue the momentum toward building a better future…a more sustainable nation and world.

Out the Seventh Generation, as the Native American tribes are doing out in the American West in protecting their Treaty lands.  In that regard we could say, a promise is a promise — the Federal and state governments should uphold promises made in treaties.  Which are covered as a “guarantee” by the U.S. Constitution that some folk in politics like to wave around for effect.

FYI — this is Article VI:  “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land, and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby…”

Quo Vadis, The Peoples’ U.S. EPA — Where Now in the Trumpian Era?

by Hank Boerner – Chair/Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

February 22, 2017

Quo Vadis (where are we going) with our Environmental Protection Agency?

The leader’s baton is passed and the U.S. EPA has a new head of agency.  E. Scott Pruitt got passed the opposition mounted to his nomination by President Trump and is now the 14th Administrator of the Agency. He was the Attorney General of the State of Oklahoma.

Where he mounted more than a dozen attacks in the courts against the Federal protector of land, air, water and more.  The cases are still pending; Administrator Pruitt has not yet  said he would recuse himself from the proceedings.

The lawsuits challenged EPA on various rules dealing with mercury pollution, carbon emissions, smog, protecting of waters and wetlands, and more.

The EPA Highlights outreach today proclaimed that Scott Pruitt “…believes promoting and protecting a strong and healthy environment is one of the lifeblood priorities of the government…and EPA is a vital part of that mission…”

And — “…as Administrator, Mr. Pruitt will lead EPA in a way that our future generations inherit a better and healthier environment while advancing America’s economic interests…”  We are on notice, I would say.

Meanwhile, hundreds of current and former EPA employees had urged the U.S. Senate NOT to ratify the nomination (450-plus signed on).  In Chicago, at lunch time, possibly imperiling their careers at the Agency, EPA Region 5 employees poured out of the office and into the streets at lunch time in protest.

More than two dozen environmental groups also challenged his qualifications.

The Washington Post yesterday reported that on his first day in office Administrator Pruitt “made clear that he intends to step back from what he sees as the Agency’s over-reach during the [President Barack] Obama years.  “The only authority that any agency has,” he told a noontime gathering at EPA, “is the authority given to it by Congress.  We need to respect that…”

Oh yes, Administrator Pruitt was speaking in the Rachel Carson Green Room at EPA (named for the author of Silent Spring, which helped to launch the modern environmental movement).  Perhaps someone passed along her book to the new leader.

The Administrator did say, according to the Post, that the EPA and the nation could do a better job of being both pro-energy and pro-environment.  Time will tell, we could say, as the actions and proclamations and loud and whispered orders come down from on high at EPA in the days ahead.

* * * * * * * *

for clues as to what may be ahead with Scott Pruitt at the helm, we could look to a commentary that the new EPA Administrator published on Public Utilities Fortnightly — ” The Methane Myth”  Incompetence and overreach at the EPA… (July 2012).

He wrote:  “,.,,my views on energy policy might be discounted as a simple ploy to bolster the energy industry at the expense of environmental stewardship and responsibility. That perspective would be misguided. I do strongly support energy producers and their role in the nation’s economic sustainability, but this issue isn’t about oil. Nor is it about natural gas or hydraulic fracturing. This is about a wayward federal agency arbitrarily using unsubstantiated, inaccurate, and flawed data to achieve a specific policy objective…”

And…”…The agency’s actions are at best incompetent, and at worst reprehensible. They have a very real effect on families, businesses, communities, and state economies. Without justification, they erode the states’ ability to self-regulate, and they stifle exploration of domestic energy sources, putting our national energy security at risk..”.

There’s more for you to read and process at: https://www.fortnightly.com/fortnightly/2012/07/methane-myth?page=0%2C0

The post is by  E. Scott Pruitt – Attorney General of Oklahoma

and Chair, Republican Attorneys General Association

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One of the pioneer environmental protection associations is the NRDC – founded in 1970 as the Natural Resources Defense Council by attorneys and students.  There are now 2 million members in the group.  The group explained its opposition to AG Pruitt’s appointment in a post on its web site:

Pete Altman:  “It could be his consistent record of siding with industry over public health, frequently choosing positions which benefited companies funneling money to Pruitt’s campaign, his PAC or groups he was raising money for (see here, here and here.) Or that he’s a climate denier. Or that his record includes no positive environmental achievements—as colleague John Walke tweeted yesterday, out of more than 700 press releases from Pruitt’s office, not one touts any action to enforce environmental laws…”

NRDC and other of its peer NGOs and SRI investors and state officials will be watching the EPA actions VERY CLOSELY in the days ahead, we can say with some assurance.

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Late afternoon – Feb 22 — No sooner did I finish and post the above then the news came in —The Washington Post today (2-22-17) is reporting that “thousands of emails detail EPA head’s close ties to fossil fuel industry.”

In response to a legal action by the Center for Media and Democracy, thousands of the AG’s emails were released.  The communications highlight, the Post report says, close relationships between AG Pruitt and fossil fuel interests.

“The emails show Pruitt and his office were in touch with a network of ultra-conservative groups…many receiving backing from billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, owners of Koch Industries, a major oil company…”

More in the late breaking story for you at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/02/22/oklahoma-attorney-generals-office-releases-7500-pages-of-emails-between-scott-pruitt-and-fossil-fuel-industry/?utm_term=.7f34f5c67cd1&wpisrc=nl_evening&wpmm=1

 

Philanthropy Over Policy Equals Plutocracy

LarryChecco_Photo_LargeGuest commentary by Larry Checco

Philanthropy verses policy. What’s at stake? In the United States of America, perhaps our entire democratic process.

At a recent Brookings Institution event that focused on income inequality, John Prideaux, Washington correspondent for The Economist, was asked what a “good unequal society” would look like.

Prideaux replied that “a lot of the things we think are public goods would be provided for privately…in a sort of philanthropic way.” He added that this would entail a revival “of the 18th century idea of the obligation of those at the top of the income spectrum towards those at the bottom. (my emphasis)”

Prideaux gave an off-handed example of how the Gates Foundation perhaps — his fingers crossed — could provide better “welfare” to the people than “any government bureaucracy.”

Fast forward to a recent op ed piece in The Washington Post, written by a husband and wife team of obvious affluence, influence, and good will.

John and Carol Saeman, both devout Catholics, give generously of their time and treasure to the charitable works of their church (John is president of an investment and management company), as well as to other more laic (nonclerical, lay) organizations, including those run by people such as the billionaire Koch Brothers.

“Helping the poor…requires a fundamental change in how our society—and government—understands and seeks to address poverty,” they say in their op ed piece. “For us, promoting limited government alongside the Kochs” is in keeping with “Pope Francis’ call to love and serve the poor.”

The Koch organization that the Saeman’s ardently support is called Freedom Partners, a nonprofit organization composed of around 200 members, each paying a minimum US$100,000 in annual dues.

In 2012, Freedom Partners raised $256 million, making grants worth a total of $236 million to conservative organizations prior to the midterm elections, including Tea Party groups and organizations opposed to The Affordable Care Act. Your average middle class guy is probably not a member.

Regardless of the politics they embrace, wittingly or unwittingly, both Prideaux and the Saeman’s put forth the perfect scenario for a plutocracy—namely a society where wealthy people like the Koch brothers, the Gateses and others should determine and finance the common good verses employing the democratic process of the people.

In short, they are advocating philanthropy over policy, which leads us down a very slippery slope, folks.

When government works, policy reflects the will of We, the People. We elect political leaders whose job it is to pass laws and appropriate funds that promote the common good. If we don’t like the laws they pass or the funds they appropriate we have the opportunity, privilege and right to vote them out.

When it comes to philanthropy, as someone who has worked in the nonprofit sector for the better part of four decades, I can say with great confidence we run the real and great risk of relying on the kindness—and whimsy—of strangers.

If a huge philanthropic organization like the Gates Foundation decides to change course, what recourse do we, the people, have? Nada.

As imperfect and dysfunctional as our government is, I’m not willing to hand it over to the rich, regardless of their noble and good intentions—especially when it comes to defining the common good. Over the past 30 years or so, we’ve witnessed how that good has often translated into less taxes for them and less good for the rest of us.

One last point.

In their op ed piece, the Saeman’s make the argument that our welfare system encourages dependency and denies dignity to the poor. They leave out the fact that many people who work 40 hours a week at minimum wage for major corporations like Wal-Mart, McDonalds and many other large, well-heeled corporations lose dignity by having to rely on government programs to make ends meet, including food stamps.

BTW– in 2012, Forbes reported that just six Walmart heirs have as much wealth as 42 percent of all Americans. Say what!

Want to give people dignity? Rather than philanthropy, let’s pay hardworking folks a wage they can live and raise a family on. I guarantee you that people like the Waltons, Kochs and others in their economic stratosphere won’t miss a meal by doing so—and we won’t have to rely as much on their philanthropy.

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Larry Checco is principal of Checco Communications, a consulting firm that helps organizations define who they are, what they do, how they do it–and why anyone should care. Contact:  www.checcocomm.net

Contents © 2014 by Larry Checco – All Rights Reserved