Morning Sustainability Preview

Jun 15, 2020 by

POLITICO

Infrastructure in focus

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QUICK FIX

 It’s infrastructure week again — or is it? The House will move forward with Democrats vision for a greener transportation system, while negotiations continue over the next round of stimulus.

A message from Morgan Stanley:

The Financial Opportunity of Plastic Waste Reduction – Every year, between $80 billion and $120 billion of economic value is thrown away in the form of single use plastic packaging. According to Morgan Stanley’s Chief Sustainability Officer Audrey Choi, recapturing that value could be a significant economic opportunity.

— Essential workers are increasingly trying to organize to demand better working conditionsas the pandemic has proven how vital they are.

— The World Bank’s push for cities to prepare themselves for climate change has increased fears of a return to a controversial development strategy from its past.

 

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DRIVING THE DAY

IS IT INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK? — Call it Schrödinger’s calendar. In Washington, any given seven-day stretch could be Infrastructure Week. Looking ahead from Monday, there are some encouraging signs — a top White House adviser on Sunday called for $2 trillion in new economic stimulus, and House Democrats are advancing legislation that would spend billions of dollars on highways and transit. However, Washington’s dysfunction remains a powerful and tempting poison. We may get to Friday and find another dead cat in the box.

Green goals remain a key hang-up in the negotiations. Democrats want to push spending toward priorities like electric vehicles and new bike lanes to keep reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Republicans are more interested in spurring new demand for fossil fuels, which would have the opposite effect on emissions but could aid struggling oil companies.

What’s on tap: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meets Wednesday to mark up a $494 billion surface transportation bill that Democrats unveiled earlier this month. This is the same type of omnibus surface transportation bill Congress has to reauthorize every five years, but the latest proposal has been written with an eye toward post-coronavirus recovery efforts, such as helping transit agencies make up for lost revenue. Republicans attacked the bill as overly partisan for focusing so heavily on things like climate change, but Democrats have said they are open to GOP ideas that could make the bill bipartisan.

It is unlikely that Congress passes a new standalone highway bill before the election, but there are signs a new infrastructure-focused stimulus bill could come together this summer as lawmakers look to pump more money into the economy and put people back to work. Pressure is growing on Democratic leaders to add more for clean energy in the next stimulus, but they have not included much to date amid pushback from Senate Republicans and the White House.

$2 trillion: White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said President Donald Trump would like to see “something on the order of at least $2 trillion” in a new stimulus bill, which would be the fourth such package since the start of the pandemic. But Navarro again signaled the White House’s opposition to Democratic climate proposals in the Friday interview on Fox Business, accusing them of wanting to “get rid of all our oil and natural gas.”

ROOM FOR A DEAL?While Trump has resisted efforts to extend wind and solar tax credits or otherwise aid the clean energy sector, some Republicans see more room for compromise. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the chair of the Energy Committee and the Appropriations environment subcommittee, is one of them. “We need to look at where we have lost those jobs and how we can work to regain or to breathe some light into these and we absolutely have opportunities when it comes to the clean energy space,” she told POLITICO’s Anthony Adragna last week.

Murkowski, who successfully pushed the Treasury Department to extend key deadlines for the tax credits, said she expected to see bipartisan support for more clean energy aid in a fourth-round stimulus. And she pointed to her preexisting, bipartisan energy bill as one good place to start. Read their chat in full for more on her legislative priorities (and what she thinks of Trump’s promise to campaign against her in two years).

THE WORKFORCE

ENERGY’S DIVERSITY RECKONING — Energy companies joined the world in condemning racism and promising to diversify their ranks, but it will take more than statements for the industry to overcome its predominantly white, male image. In the oil industry, nearly three in four employees are white, and while the rank-and-file is more diverse in the renewable energy spce, executive jobs are still overwhelmingly held by white men, POLITICO’s Gavin Bade reports. Paula Glover, head of American Association of Blacks in Energy, told Gavin that supportive words from companies have been welcome, “but from where I sit, what we want to know is what happens after your statement.… [I]f you do nothing to back that up by making change in your organization, then it’s just words on the page.”

ESSENTIAL ORGANIZING — Workers in traditionally low-wage industries are increasingly looking for ways to band together to demand better treatment from their employers now that the pandemic has revealed how essential everyone was Interest in organizing is on the rise in workplaces that traditionally have not had them, such as Amazon warehouses and fast-food franchises, although the efforts face numerous hurdles, POLITICO’s Shia Kapos reports from Chicago. “There’s a disconnect in what people think of workers — they’re heroes — and what they’re being paid,” said Zach Koutsky, a local union organizer.

AROUND THE WORLD

CLIMATE DEBT — The World Bank and other financial institutions are encouraging cities in developing nations to take on more debt to prepare themselves for the effects of climate change. But some researchers worry the push resembles controversial structural adjustments programs the bank implemented in the 1980s and 90s, which led to rapid urbanization and controversial hydroelectric dams. POLITICO’s Ryan Heath took a look at the debate in his Global Translations newsletter.

 The European Union is looking for ways to grow its green-bond market by setting a uniform standard for the types of eligible projects, POLITICO’s Hannah Brenton reports from Brussels. “Companies issuing green bonds would face mandatory reporting requirements and external verification that the money is being used for sustainable projects,” Hannah writes.

 Coronavirus outbreaks at some Central European coal mines led to temporary closures of the facilities, “putting pressure on a sector already reeling from financial difficulties and struggling to keep its footing in a bloc determined to go green,” POLITICO’s Aitor Hernández-Morales reports.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: NICK JULIANO

Nick JulianoNick Juliano is POLITICO and POLITICO Pro’s sustainability policy editor. He previously served as the deputy energy editor, helping to oversee coverage of oil and gas, utilities, renewable energy and climate change among other topics. Before joining POLITICO in June 2015, Juliano was a Capitol Hill reporter for Environment & Energy Publishing’s E&E Daily and Greenwire; he previously worked for Platts’ Inside Energy and Inside Washington Publishers’ Inside EPA as well as several local newspapers. An Ohio native, Juliano holds an undergraduate degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University and a masters’ in political science from American University’s School of Public Affairs. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and dog.

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