Archive | July, 2013

Getting the U.S.-China Climate Partnership Right

19 Jul

Op-Ed

John Kerry
Secretary of State

ThinkProgress

Washington, DC

July 19, 2013

Copied from http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/07/212219.htm

 

President Nixon once changed the world with a single handshake on a Beijing tarmac, beginning a new relationship with China.

Today, it’s not just our geopolitics that are changing — it’s the earth itself. And it requires a new partnership with China to meet the challenge.

Nothing less than a complete and collaborative transformation of the way we use and produce energy will be enough to tackle the urgent threat of climate change.

Of course, the future has a way of humbling those who try to predict it with any certainty. But here’s what the science is telling us: if we fail to connect the dots — if we fail to take action — the impacts of climate change will become unmanageable at catastrophic levels.

That’s the message Todd Stern, our Special Envoy for Climate Change here at the State Department, carried with him this week to the Major Economies Forum. Plain and simple, all nations have a responsibility to make near-term emissions reductions. The costs of inaction get more and more expensive the longer we wait — and the longer we wait, the less likely we are to avoid the worst and leave future generations with a sustainable planet.

We all know China and the United States have unique national circumstances. But we also have a special role. Together, we account for more than 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. While that’s a truly staggering reality, it also means our two nations can make a profound difference. The decisions we make today — right now — will determine the fate of our planet not just for our children and grandchildren but for generations to come.

So here’s the bottom line: For better or worse, the eyes of the world are upon us. Either we create the necessary momentum to galvanize a global response, or else we risk a global catastrophe. Either we set an example for the world, or the world will make an example out of us. After all, Mother Nature knows no boundaries.

The simple fact is that we have to act — and we can.

When I visited Beijing in April on my first trip to Asia as Secretary of State, we agreed to launch the Climate Change Working Group. We’re elevating our climate concerns to a new level in our bilateral relationship, because no nation can take on this global challenge alone — nor should they.

And let me tell you: we’re making progress. Our two nations just met again at the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, where our senior officials discuss the most pressing issues in the bilateral relationship. After roughly three months of hard work since our meeting in April, we agreed to accelerate our bilateral climate cooperation by approving five new joint initiatives to curb climate change. This is an important step forward.

While many measures — large and small — will be needed across our governments, two areas of focus will be reducing emissions from coal use and heavy and light-duty vehicles.

The United States and China are responsible for more than 40 percent of global coal consumption. What’s more, heavy-duty vehicles are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in the United States and account for more than half of transportation fuel consumed in China.

The pie is large enough for America and China to grow green together, even as we significantly reduce emissions in both these sectors.

Using the technologies we already have to capture, use and store carbon from coal plants, we’ve agreed to work together to overcome barriers and deploy these technologies through several large-scale, integrated demonstration projects. We’ve also agreed to advance transportation policies that improve fuel efficiency standards, promote cleaner fuels and vehicle emissions control technologies, and increase efficiency in clean freight.

And we didn’t stop there. We’re combining forces to promote energy efficiency in buildings, which account for over 30 percent of energy use in both countries. We’re assisting China in improving greenhouse gas data collection and management, the foundation for any effective climate policies. And, together, we’re promoting the growth of smart grids that are more resilient, more efficient, and capable of incorporating more renewable energy and distributed generation.

These climate measures will have all the more significance if we can help China diversify its fuel mix away from coal. That’s why our energy dialogue focused on helping China take the commercial steps needed to increase the use of natural gas. In the United States, our gas revolution has helped drive down our carbon emissions to their lowest levels in 16 years as we shift to renewable and lower carbon fuels. We stand ready to help China do the same as we pioneer the clean technologies of the future.

The opportunity is immense. And if we get it right, we will inspire more than 1.6 billion Americans and Chinese citizens to take ownership of this challenge, and to prove to the world that we can rise to meet it together.

And guess what? Putting the world on a path to a clean energy future will create millions of new jobs right here in America and around world.

Why? Because it will unleash market forces that reflect the very best of the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity of our two nations. Remember: we’re talking about a global energy market that’s valued at $6 trillion with four billion users worldwide — growing to nine billion in 40 years. And the fastest growing segment of that market is clean and renewable energy.

The discussions at the S&ED have continued to knit together a powerful collaboration between our two countries. By acting to address climate change, we can secure America’s place — and China’s — in the energy economy of the future. This isn’t about who wins and who loses. Revolutionizing the way we use and produce energy can be a “win, win, win” — a win for America, a win for China, and win for the world. Let’s seize the opportunity.

“Locavesting” is a book and a movement promoting investment in local businesses

1 Jul
Authored by economics and business journalist Amy Cortese and copyrighted in 2011 the book “Locavesting” paints a grim picture of funding available for small businesses.  She describes many efforts being made to create funding sources and thereby build “resilient, sustainable and healthy communities”.  She says, “Today, we are buying local and eating local, but we still aren’t investing local.  There just hasn’t been an easy way for individuals to put money into worthy small businesses in need of capital.”
   “…[O]ur financial markets have evolved to serve big business.  Of all the trillions of dollars madly flying through the financial markets, less than 1 percent goes to … provide capital to companies that will use it to hire, expand, or develop new products… When small businesses create three out of every four jobs and generate half of GDP, that is not an efficient allocation of capital.”
   The book argues that “as a society, we are failing our small businesses, through everything from government policies that favor big business to gross misallocation of capital” and details “how securities regulations have evolved to hamper local investment and how the financial industry has come to dominate our economy to a dangerous degree.”
   The later chapters of the book provide descriptions of types of funding sources for small businesses that the author feels will be of growing importance.  The first of these is community banks, especially those that build personal relationships with their borrowers.  As pillars of the local community credit unions play much the same role as local banks.  Another possibility is state banks such as the Bank of North Dakota, which has attracted the interest of several other states.
   Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) may be banks, credit unions, venture capital funds or loan funds.  They serve underserved and low-income communities.  Community development loan funds provide money for loans to consumers (as an alternative to predatory loans), local nonprofits, affordable housing, first-time entrepreneurs, microbusinesses, and local small businesses.  The Opportunity Finance Network, http://www.opportunityfinance.net/, is a network of over 200 CDFIs.
   Port Townsend, Washington is the birthplace of the original Local Investment Opportunity Network (LION), connecting potential investors with potential borrowers in Port Townsend and East Jefferson County, https://l2020.org/LION.  It has a growing number of imitators.  Madison, Wisconsin and surrounding Dale County have such a network, http://lioninvesting.com/ourstory/the-concept/.
   “Community Capital” is the term Amy Cortese uses to designate investments by local residences to rescue or sustain a local enterprise that they value.  Her first example is all nine policemen in the town of Clare, Michigan, who purchased a bakery that was going out of business.  They secured a continuing supply of doughnuts and also gave life to a business that soon came to employ 19 full-time workers.
   Cortese gives several examples of well-loved book stores that have been saved by local investors as well as other kinds of shops, cafes and businesses.
   Cortese also describes social networking and “crowdfunding” as ways to inject capital into appealing ventures.  Her examples include Kiva.com, Kickstarter and IndieGoGo and consumer lending sites such as Prosper.com and LendingClub.com.  Two others are FundingCircle.com and ProFounder.com (which has now shut down).
   The book “Locavesting” also has a chapter called “Slow Money”.  It is about a national nonprofit organization made up of “semi-autonomous local chapters dedicated to creating financing solutions for small food and agriculture producers”.  “Slow Foods vision is to create a new type of entrepreneurial finance, one that respects the land and the farmer, connects investors to their local economies, and enlarges our definition of fiduciary responsibility.”  The chapter introduces the term “foodshed” which it explains as “Similar to a watershed – a geographical area’s life-sustaining source and flow of water – a foodshed refers to a region’s food production and distribution system.  It encompasses the farm, the table, and everything in between.  Like watersheds, foodsheds are vital to the health and security of a region”. It notes, “Farmers markets have increased threefold in the past decade.  CSAs – community-supported  agriculture – in which customers prepay for a share in the season’s harvest – have grown from 60 in 1990 to more than 2,000.”  Slow Money has a website, http://slowmoney.org/.
   The book has an extensive chapter on co-ops.  Websites include the National Cooperative Business Association, http://www.ncba.coop/, the International Cooperative Alliance, http://ica.coop/, and the Organic Valley co-op, http://www.organicvalley.coop/.
   The last two chapters are about Direct Public Offerings (which are less expensive than Initial Public Offerings (IPOs)), see http://dfdpo.com/, and local stock exchanges, see http://missionmarkets.com/.
    Amy Cortese has a Locavesting website, http://locavesting.com/Locavesting_homepage.html.

U.S. Farm Bill

1 Jul

Although the Farm Bill does not receive much public or media attention, it is a very important legislation.  The United States and nations of the world need agreements, policies and programs that will alleviate hunger, protect soil, water supplies and climatic conditions, and provide better nutrition for peoples everywhere.  The legislative process that is currently shaping the U.S. Farm Bill appears to be falling far short of meeting what is needed.  The Senate has passed a Farm Bill that is mostly forward looking but includes $4.1 billion in cuts to SNAP (formerly, the food stamp program) which supplements the food supply for the poor.  The House is drafted a Farm Bill that included a cut of $21 billion from SNAP.  When the House bill was brought to a vote it was defeated.  It remains to be seen whether a new bill will be brought before the House or whether both houses will vote for a continuation of the current bill (which will expire September 30, 2013).

Bread for the World, “a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad”, has a wide range of information about hunger   nationally and globally, http://www.bread.org/hunger/

The New York Times had an article on June 10 about Senate passage of a farm bill and the state of the House bill, link.

Questions and Answers about the Farm Bill from the Associated Press dated June 3, link.

A May 22 article from the New York Times illustrates the financial motivations behind the political controversy caused by the Farm Bill, link

Blog posts on the Farm Bill from Bread for the World may be found at http://blog.bread.org/farm-bill/