In the wake of a long presidential campaign, many groups are wondering what President-Elect Trump and a new collection of close advisors, advocates and staffers will bring—especially when it comes to environmental issues. From the first 100 days plan to the appointment of the transition team, the federal energy and climate landscape is changing and giving the environmental community much to consider.
December’s Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable was moderated by Southface’s Policy Director, Lisa Bianchi-Fossati, and the panelists were:
- Kurt Ebersbach – Senior Attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center;
- Thomas Farmer – Senior Policy Advisor, The Nature Conservancy;
- Nell Fry – Climate Change and Sustainability Services, EY.
The discussion centered on what to expect from energy policy and environmental regulation in a new political era. The takeaway is that 2017—as with every other year—is a time to seek opportunities for involvement and engagement. An incoming federal administration seemingly at odds with the energy and environment community isn’t unknown territory for us. Environmental advocates have worked together to fight this battle before, prevailed and enacted policy change. The speakers suggested two action items: to engage with local and state government, and to support businesses driving change.
Local and state governments can impact environmental issues more quickly than federal agencies. A great way to encourage change is to let your local officials and state representatives know your concerns and to hold them accountable. Thomas Farmer reminded the audience that cities are where innovation is most likely to happen. They are often large contributors to carbon emissions but are also likely to be more progressive. Atlanta is stepping up not only on a state and regional scale, but globally as well. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has joined the board for the Global Covenant of Mayors – a coalition of over 7,000 cities committed to advancing climate action. In his press release Mayor Reed stated, “As a representative for the citizens and cities across the United States, I will work with the Global Covenant of Mayors leadership to set the course for future climate action and ensure that local communities have a seat at the table and the support they need. Now more than ever, local voices must be heard, and it is up to this coalition to unlock the full potential of city action to secure a sustainable urban future for all.”
Businesses and corporations are an often underappreciated ally to the environmental cause. Nell Fry highlighted the fact that consumers, employees, and investors are leading the charge in most instances – not federal regulation. Businesses and corporations are also acting because of issues in their supply chains. They see the impact climate change has on their ability to continue producing and delivering their goods and services, and they are taking active steps to protect the environment in order to protect the health of their organization. Fry also mentioned that many companies are taking a stand on the incoming administration’s potential to abandon the Paris Agreement to address climate change. More than 300 U.S. companies, including DuPont, Nike and Patagonia, have signed a letter stating: “We want the U.S. economy to be energy-efficient and powered by low-carbon energy… Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk.”