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Not everything, definitely something

Who’s who, where’s where, and what’s what (and what’s not) from COP26

Last week’s headlines were full of the who, what (and for some where) as world leaders and climate activists convened in Glasgow for the UN Conference of Parties (COP). While US climate envoy John Kerry labeled the international convening as “our last best hope,” it’s important to define the week’s successes outside the binary of win or lose or who is and isn’t in attendance. The meetings and speeches are reverberating around the world with over 100,000 taking to the streets on every continent Saturday to protest for climate action and climate justice, with over 25,000 in Glasgow alone. So how much progress is really being made? Here’s a snapshot so far as the meeting heads into the second week:   

After the highly visible first week, the conference now moves to a more critical, behind doors phase of the negotiations. The context for COP26 is still clear—emissions are still rising and we need to act—and the International Energy Agency (IEA) said it’s critical that countries follow through on commitments made last week. 

It’s not everything, but it’s definitely something 

After many months, much hand wringing and wrangling, and exhaustive negotiations, House Democrats passed the $1 trillion infrastructure package late Friday night. With the larger social safety net and climate change bill on hold, this federal infrastructure package focuses largely on “traditional infrastructure” but represents historic and significant investments in climate resilience and investment in frontline communities. It includes billions in funding to support clean energy technologies and fight climate change through investments ranging from electric vehicle infrastructure to public transit. Hailed by some as a game-changing investment, many climate and environmental advocates acknowledge it as a “down payment” that omits billions of dollars of additional money and aggressive action to sharply reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Notably the climate spending was much higher in the original $2 trillion version before the long political stalemate—funding for electric vehicles was slashed 90 percent, funding for clean energy tax credits cut out entirely, and more. Climate Solutions’ Gregg Small discusses how two truths about congressional climate action are possible on the CS blog

Election bright spots: Renewables, buildings, and environmental justice

Voters went to the polls last week and while the majority of the headlines covered a drubbing of congressional and gubernatorial Democrats, a number of climate initiatives and other progressive issues were on ballots across the country with some bright spots of progress. New York’s Proposal 2, adding environmental justice to the state’s constitution, passed with over 60% of the vote. Mainers voted to reject high stakes energy policy, a $1 billion project to bring Canadian hydropower to the state. The project was controversial and the most expensive in state history—utilities poured more than $90 million into the battle over the referendum. And while Virginia voters elected Republican Glenn Youngkin as governor, much of the state’s landmark 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act (a 100% clean electricity law) is already underway as the state’s two primary utilities have already submitted plans to state regulators to comply with the deadlines. Notably all-electric buildings kept momentum with Ithaca, NY voting to decarbonize and electrify all buildings and voters will decide on a $20 million bond in Burlington, Vermont to help meet its net-zero goals. 

One Thing You Can Do 

At ClimateCast we look forward to positive clean energy and climate headlines that are becoming more and more common, but every once in a while something bigger catches our eye. Our OTYCD action this week might not have direct climate impact, but it may bring a smile to your face. Back after 40 years and recording in secret, ABBA returns with their album Voyage. Give it a listen to brighten up these darker, colder fall days; or listen to whatever music brings you joy!

Author Bio

Stephanie Noren

Washington Communications Manager, Climate Solutions

Stephanie believes the most effective communication is grounded in three main principles:

  1. Listening and asking questions,
  2. Coffee and snacks, and 
  3. Laughter.

She has a deep history of working in communications, environmental marketing, and behavior change on a variety of topics including climate, waste and recycling, energy efficiency, toxics management, stormwater pollution, and organizational culture. At Climate Solutions, Stephanie works with the Communications team and coalition partners to build interest, awareness, and momentum for issues and action on climate change in Washington State. She’s interested in trying on creative approaches and staying curious in the ideological battle for a fossil fuel free future.

Stephanie has worked in research, marketing, and consulting in a variety of environmental-related industries. She has a degree in Sociology from Gonzaga University, is a mom of two, and spends her spare time trying to find more time for stuff like reading, drinking coffee, cooking, and spending time with her family.