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A Defining Moment In The Fight Against Climate Change

It is an honor to attend #COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt as an NGO observer and delegate with the American Sustainable Business Network (ASBN). COP27 is the biggest climate event of the year with over 33,000 in attendance during this defining moment in the fight against climate change.

A never-ending list of opportunities includes major venues, pavilions, negotiations and expo areas within the Blue Zone, plus Green Zone exhibits and programming and side events at the Innovation Zone / Sustainability Forum, plus Bloomberg Green round out COP27.

Through idea sharing, private meetings and public engagements, we hope to demonstrate business sector support for international action that will drive new economic opportunities not only for Wisconsin but throughout the country and create jobs in industries like energy efficiency, renewable energy, alternative transportation, advanced manufacturing, water use, food and agriculture.

Here are some highlights from week one of COP27:

Remarks by President Biden at COP27, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt on Nov. 11, 2022.

Remarks by Al Gore at the Opening of the COP27, World Leaders Summit, plus a slide show presentation describes how a global coalition of tech companies, NGOs, and universities are working together to combine satellite imagery and actionable data intelligence to make global GHG emissions more transparent and enable benchmarking of carbon-intensive industries.

Live interview with *Ali Zaidi, White House National Climate Advisor about the Administration’s agenda for COP27 and beyond.

*See The White House FACT SHEET: President Biden’s Leadership to Tackle the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad Galvanizes Unprecedented Momentum at Start of U.N. Climate Conference (COP27)

US. Climate Envoy John Kerry’s keynote and panel discussion, “The Decarbonization Challenge” focused on decarbonizing hard-to-abate sectors such as steel, cement, oil, and gas with the goal of drawing down global emissions.

Kerry also touted *green hydrogen and a plan to use carbon credits to fund the replacement of coal power with renewable energy in developing countries using tens of billions of dollars raised from the world’s companies.

*Green hydrogen is produced using renewable energy to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen to create clean sources of power for more climate challenging manufacturing processes such as steel, cement production, heavy transport, shipping and other sources.

The Climate Implementation Summit hosted more than 120 Heads of States and governments to create the political momentum needed for implementation. — See the full United Nations Climate Change Blue Zone proceedings.

Other notable actions:

Sustainable technology and manufacturing company and ASBN member #Okeanos shared their traceable products at COP27. By having a QR code on their product, you can trace it through the distribution chain to your own grocery cart.

ASBN member Climate Trade connects companies willing to offset their carbon emissions to many verified environmental projects. I offset my own travel emissions through Climate Trade investments in a renewable energy project.

International Emission Trading AssociationIETA BusinessHub programming included sessions on optimizing policies to protect standing forests through private investments and accelerating transportation solutions in the U.S. and around the world.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a regulation that would eliminate 36 million tons of *methane emissions from oil and gas operations by 2035 — more than the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from all coal-fired power plants in a single year!

*See ASBN’s latest report on the business case for methane regulation. 

The We Mean Business Coalition, which also includes Ceres, The B Team, CDP, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and other NGOs, issued a joint statement identifying priorities for COP27 including that companies must go “all in” to cut emissions, foster resilient communities and finance the global transition to net zero. WEI is a past participant and signer of the We Mean Business campaign coalition. 

US, Japan, Germany, UK and five other countries signed up to join a Global Offshore Wind Alliance to accelerate the build-out of renewables while enhancing energy security. 

Green Shipping Challenge encourages countries, ports, companies, and other actors in the shipping value chain to come forward with concrete announcements that align with global climate commitments.

Thematic days with focused programing, included:

#Agriculture focused on how to safeguard food security and strengthen resilience against climate change.

#Adaption Day featured a series of sessions and initiatives that shed light on pathways for a transformative adaptation agenda.

Making sure #Youth & Future Generations have a seat at the table is another priority.

Science Day featured panel discussions, events and engagements from scientists, researchers, government officials and academia.

The Green Zone is where the business community, youth, civil and indigenous societies, academia, artists and other communities from all over the world can express themselves and promote dialogue, awareness, education, and commitments via events, exhibitions, workshops, cultural performances, and talks. Among the sessions of interest during week one, included

  • Platform for the role of private sector in combating climate change
  • Sustainable Tourism - an untapped opportunity for green growth
  • Youth and Innovation: University Students and Climate Action
  • NGOs and private sector contribution to decarbonization and implementation of green technologies
  • Farmers as soil carbon stewards
  • U.S. Leadership on Water Reuse

Finally, the Innovation Zone and Sustainable Innovation Forum side events featured innovative programming and a hub of activity and investment opportunities that provide a unique environment to encourage inclusive public-private partnerships to address climate solutions. 

Thanks to the American Sustainable Business Network (ASBN) and Michael Green, Director of Climate & Energy Policy for the opportunity to join the COP27 delegation. For more on the ASBN Climate & Energy Working Group, click the link.

Week two recap:

The COP27 Green Buildings Pavilion provided a space for builders, businesses, and policymakers to interact and showcase solutions through events and exhibitions. Built environment initiatives showcased:

  • Buildings and construction as a heavy weight when it comes to climate change, employment, and wealth.
  • Buildings as a key driver of energy demand and emissions– Buildings and construction, led by residential building energy consumption represent 36% of final energy demand globally and almost 40% of global energy- and process-related emissions 
  • The buildings sector – a huge engine of the global economy – employs as much as 12% of the workforce in many countries. 
  • Buildings are massive, untapped opportunities to address climate change, increase prosperity and clean up our air.

C40 released a new video demanding clean construction actions.

Roof Over Our Heads: Delivering resilient, affordable low carbon homes for 2 billion people by 2050.

Global Roadmap for Buildings and Construction.

Other highlights:

Race to Zero: Includes companies, cities, regions, financial and educational institutions — taking rigorous and immediate action to halve global emissions by 2030 and deliver a healthier, fairer zero carbon world in time. 

First Movers Coalition announced the expansion of a coalition of global companies to commit $12 billion in 2030 purchase commitments for green technologies to decarbonize the cement and concrete industry and other *hard-to-abate sectors.

*U.S. greenhouse gas emissions climbed by 4.1 percent from major industrial sources in 2021, according to new data recently released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

Cities leadership and C40’s Clean Construction programs were recognized as supporting mechanisms to the new Buy Clean Initiative unveiled by the Biden administration in a White House Factsheet.

The Building System Carbon Framework.

For the first time, food and agriculture systems took center stage at the COP negotiations.

Food Security Solutions at COP27.

GreenBiz Founder & Chairman Joel Makower hosted conversations at the Innovation Zone *Climate Action Stage with four inspiring women: German climate youth activist Luisa Neubauer; former Irish president Mary Robinson and UN Youth Envoy Dr. Omnia El Omrani; and Climate Scientist Katharine Hayhoe. 

*Tapping into the hearts, heads, and hands of scientists and engineers, academics and business leaders, policymakers and community leaders, the Climate Action Stage offered over 75 unique sessions for Innovation Zone delegates to learn from.

ASBN's Michael Green moderated a panel with PlasticBank, Greenisheg, and ASBN member business Okeanos to discuss climate and plastic policy.

Business literally can’t afford to sit back and wait for politics to get its act together — Great COP27 recap by Paul Polman: Business leader, campaigner, and co-author of “Net Positive"

For more on Green Jobs and the New Clean Economy opportunity for Wisconsin, please see the background position paper we prepared for Climate Fast Forward.




Green Jobs & The New Economy

Addressing climate change will drive new economic opportunities and create jobs as traditional industries are reshaped. Green jobs are the kind of family-supporting jobs that once anchored the American middle class, but in industries like energy efficiency, renewable energy, alternative transportation, advanced manufacturing, water use, food, and agriculture.

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is a game changer, resulting in investments of $369 billion in energy security and climate initiatives over the next ten years. The law provides a historic opportunity for Wisconsin to accelerate the transition to affordable clean energy, electric vehicles and fleets, energy-efficient buildings, advanced manufacturing, agricultural innovation, and environmental justice to significantly reduce emissions, create thousands of jobs, cut costs for consumers, strengthen energy supply chains, and improve the health of our communities.

As Track Leaders for the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters’ Climate Fast Forward event on Monday, Oct. 17th at Monona Terrace, our job is to bring diverse stakeholders together and identify the key actions that will reduce emissions by tens of millions of tons while creating thousands of family-supporting jobs.

Fortunately, Wisconsin has the goods to be a leader in green jobs and the new economy.

Our strong work ethic, particularly good infrastructure, research capabilities, outstanding natural resources (including agriculture and forest products), plus a manufacturing heritage and environmental leadership tradition can all be harnessed to accelerate actions to become a national leader. For example:

  • Clean energy projects, including 8,000 megawatts of solar (MW), 1,500 MW of wind, and nearly 3,000 MW of advanced battery storage are already in the offering, ready to be fast-tracked.
  • So is low-cost, community solar for all, including small businesses, municipalities, educational institutions, hospitals, churches, and other nonprofit organizations that will benefit from provisions in the IRA law.
  • Smart grid technology upgrades to the transmission network plus undergrounding high voltage, direct current transmission in highway rights-of-way will reduce land use conflicts and environmental impacts of traditional powerlines. 
  • Our nationally recognized Focus on Energy program can tap and quickly distribute Wisconsin’s share of $10 billion in rebates, grants, and other incentives to make housing, including affordable multifamily housing healthier and more energy efficient.
  • Expanded green job training and apprenticeship programs will train and connect a new generation of young people for work within the growing clean energy economy.
  • Research and business development of clean energy technologies, electric vehicle manufacturing, energy efficiency, and sustainable practices will stimulate additional capital expenditures and job creation that helps attract and keep young talent in Wisconsin.
  • Fast-Tracking the $79 million WIEV plan will establish an electric vehicle corridor of fast-charging stations to give Wisconsin a competitive, first-mover advantage.
    Investing Wisconsin’s fair share of the $30 billion in IRA funds in agricultural conservation programs and renewable energy will incentivize sustainable practices, reduce greenhouse gases like methane, capture carbon, and benefit farmers’ and rural cooperatives’ bottom lines.

We’ll be exploring these strategies and more during the WI Academy conference. The result we hope will provide a path forward on emission reduction goals and commitments including the cost-effective early closure of legacy coal facilities in Wisconsin. This alone would reduce carbon emissions and other pollutants by many tens of millions of tons while creating new economic opportunities and many thousands of family-supporting jobs.

We can have a clean economy that works for everyone, invests in innovation, and rewards those that lead on creating a more just and sustainable world. By investing in clean energy, clean transportation, clean manufacturing, and natural carbon solutions while we green our infrastructure and electrify our building stock, we can address climate change and create a more resilient, vibrant, and thriving Wisconsin.

John Imes is Co-founder & Director of Wisconsin Environmental Initiative. Tom Eggert is the Founder and Emeritus Executive Director of the WI Sustainable Business Council and Emeritus Faculty at UW Madison.
To see the background paper, click here.

Infrastructure Bills Will Broaden Wisconsin's Prosperity

I recently participated with the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) during virtual D.C. fly-in meetings with ten members of Congress including Rep. Mark Pocan (WI) and legislative staff from offices on both sides of the aisle.

I’m working with ASBC because they are the leading organization representing the policy interests of responsible companies and their stakeholders. ASBC makes the business case for policies that enable a more just, resilient, and sustainable economy that works for all.

That’s why ASBC members are urging Congress to pass both the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and the $3.5 trillion Reconciliation Bill to strengthen the middle class, address climate change, update our infrastructure, ensure income equality, and support clean water, and regenerative agriculture.

For example, ASBC strongly advocates for national paid family & medical leave and guaranteed childcare to provide working families with the support they need to participate fully in today’s economy.

Addressing climate change is another priority by boosting renewables and energy efficiency under a strict Clean Energy Standard, plus advancing electric vehicles, and modernized high-speed rail. An “electric vehicle highway” of fast-charging stations across the state, for example, would give Wisconsin a competitive “Travel Green” tourism advantage. 

Workforce development provisions include a Climate Conservation Corps and green job training that provides more opportunities for low-income communities and communities of color. Workers at Wisconsin’s 354 clean energy supply companies would also benefit, including electricians, pipefitters, construction laborers and factory workers. 

We also urged that the bills include provisions for regenerative agriculture and regional food systems that can help revitalize rural Wisconsin with more funding for conservation, research, forestry, supply chain resilience and programs that advance more equitable agriculture. Improving soil health can improve farmer’s profits per acre, improve farm resiliency during extreme weather and reduce economic and environmental risks.

Making critical water infrastructure investments to improve access to clean water is another priority, including low-income water assistance. Milwaukee’s position as a global water hub would be enhanced as it brings together industry, research, and academia to foster new technologies and more sustainable water use. Projections show that making the necessary water infrastructure investments could increase water related business by $5.6 trillion over the next 20 years and create approximately 1.3 million jobs each year.

Finally, the bills provide over $6 billion to repair and rebuild Wisconsin roads and bridges, making our transportation infrastructure more resilient and safer for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians and helps provide funding to expand broadband coverage across the state to bridge the digital divide, particularly in rural and underserved urban areas.

We can’t afford business as usual and politics as usual when it comes to building back a better Wisconsin and a more resilient economy that works for all. For the sake of Wisconsin’s future, please urge your representatives to pass both the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework and the Budget Reconciliation Plan.

John Imes is executive director of Wisconsin Environmental Initiative and a member of the ASBC Climate and Energy Working Group.

From Crisis to Opportunity

John Imes, Testimony for Joint Committee on Finance 4-28-21

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Committee. As a non-profit leader, locally elected official, and small business owner in Madison, I have had the pleasure of working with community leaders and diverse stakeholders on many statewide initiatives over the years.

This past year, I worked with the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), the leading organization representing the policy interests of responsible companies and their stakeholders in a wide range of industries. ASBC’s comprehensive policy initiatives address economic, environmental, workplace, and social issues that can benefit Wisconsin’s broader prosperity. 

From strengthening the middle class, addressing climate change, updating our infrastructure, ensuring income equality, and supporting clean water, and regenerative agriculture – all actions you can take in this budget to advance a more resilient and sustainable economic recovery. – That includes:

In short, with the economic health of our state still reeling from COVID-19, business as usual and politics as usual is no longer an option. 

You can help lay the groundwork for a stronger, more sustainable, and resilient recovery — one that values-based businesses and stakeholder groups across Wisconsin will support. Thank you very much for your consideration.

John Imes is Executive Director for Wisconsin Environmental Initiative and serves on the ASBC Climate & Energy working group.

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