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Global action is ‘very far’ from what is needed to avoid climate chaos

The global scientific consensus is clear: emissions of gases that warm the planet must be halved by almost half by 2030 if the world is to have a good chance of avoiding the worst climate disasters.

The global political response so far has been disappointing.

New climate targets submitted by countries to the United Nations would reduce emissions by less than 1%, according to the latest tally released Friday by the world body.

The head of the United Nations climate agency, Patricia Espinosa, said figures compiled by her office showed that “current levels of climate ambition are a long way from putting us on the path to achieving our goals. objectives of the Paris Agreement ”.

The numbers prove the reality of the many promises coming from global capitals and corporate boards that executives are taking climate change seriously.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called the report a “red alert”.

The tally is all the more damning as less than half of all countries submit new targets to the United Nations. The Paris climate agreement, intended to limit the increase in global temperatures, had urged them to do so by the end of 2020.

The United States, which has produced more greenhouse gas emissions than any other country in history, is still missing from the ledger. He joined the Paris Agreement last week, following the withdrawal of former President Donald J. Trump. It has yet to submit its 2030 targets and is under pressure from climate advocates to cut emissions by at least 50% from 2005 levels.

Likewise, China, which currently produces the largest share of emissions, has yet to submit new 2030 targets to the United Nations. Its president, Xi Jinping, said in December that China would generate more of its electricity from renewable sources (25%), cultivate more forests (six billion cubic meters) and reduce its carbon intensity by more than 65%. , which means that as the Chinese economy grows, its carbon emissions would increase at a slower rate than before.

Xi said China will be carbon neutral by 2060, which means it will remove global warming carbon emissions from the atmosphere, equal to how much it is still producing at this time – the.

The Biden administration has said it aspires to net zero emissions by 2050, but has yet to detail how it will achieve it.

All eyes are on an international climate summit that the White House is expected to host on April 22. The United States is expected to announce its climate goals for 2030 by then, and China may well make its own announcement.

Diplomacy culminates with the next round of UN climate talks, due to be held in Glasgow in November.

Some of the biggest emitting countries – including Australia, Brazil and Russia – have submitted new plans for 2030 without raising their ambitions. Mexico lowered its climate targets, which the Natural Resources Defense Council described as a signal that “Mexico is effectively withdrawing from its previous leadership on climate and clean energy.

In contrast, 36 countries – including Britain, Chile, Kenya, Nepal and the 27 countries of the European Union – have raised their climate targets.

The Paris Agreement is designed in such a way that the United Nations cannot dictate or enforce a country’s climate goals or so-called nationally determined contributions. Each country is expected to set its own goals, report regularly to the world on its progress, and set new goals every five years. Diplomatic peer pressure aims to persuade each country to be more ambitious.

The ultimate goal is to limit the increase in global temperature to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius from 1990 levels. Any warming beyond that, scientists have said in exhaustive studies, could make it worse. forest fires and droughts, growing food and water insecurity and the inundation of coastal towns and small islands.

The Alliance of Small Island States, a group of countries that are among the most threatened by climate change, released a scathing response to the report on Friday.

“This report confirms the shocking lack of urgency and real action,” Aubrey Webson, Antigua and Barbuda diplomat and president of the alliance, said in a statement. “We are dangerously flirting with the 1.5 degree Celsius warming limit that the world has agreed we must meet.”

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What is really behind corporate promises on climate change?

Companies with tough goals have made progress. In a report last month, Science Based Targets, which was launched by environmental groups and hundreds of companies united by the United Nations, said the 338 large companies around the world for which it had emissions data sufficient had collectively reduced their emissions by 25%. between 2015 and 2019.

Large companies in the same industry often have very different backgrounds.

For example, Walmart discloses its emission reduction targets and progress on the Carbon Disclosure Project, including a target for its supplier emissions, and its plan has been approved by Science Based Targets. But Costco doesn’t expect to commit to reducing emissions until the end of next year. Costco executives declined to comment.

Netflix is ​​often compared to tech giants like Google and Microsoft. But Netflix has yet to set a target for reducing emissions from its offices, production operations and the computer servers it uses. “Climate action is important and we will announce our plans in the spring, which will include targets based on climate science,” the company said in a statement.

Reducing emissions is difficult. Businesses need to reliably measure the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases for which they are responsible. Next, businesses need to find cleaner sources of energy without hurting their operations. When they can’t find cleaner substitutes, companies often pay others to reduce emissions or remove carbon from the atmosphere.

The task becomes even more difficult when companies begin the process of reducing so-called Scope 3 emissions – pollution caused by suppliers and customers. In oil companies, for example, Scope 3 would include emissions from gasoline-powered cars.

BlackRock, with $ 8.7 trillion in assets under management, including stakes in many companies, clearly faces a daunting task. The company doesn’t directly own most of the stocks or bonds it buys – it manages them for pension funds, other companies, and individual investors – which limits the degree of climate activism it can pursue. Additionally, most of its investment products track indexes like the S&P 500, which inevitably ends up managing stocks of fossil fuel companies.

Many Wall Street companies have pledged to achieve net zero emissions from their loans and other financial activities, but have not clarified whether this target applies to stocks and bonds they manage for their clients. BlackRock’s decision to include all the assets it manages could put pressure on other financial giants to make similar commitments, but it could put the fossil fuel industries and their political supporters at the forefront of Congress.

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Climate threats could lead to sharp increases in insurance costs this year

Earlier efforts to increase flood insurance rates have been delayed or canceled in the face of public pressure. In 2012, Congress passed a law that would have brought rates in line with all of the risks people face; two years later, lawmakers backed off, replacing those changes with more modest increases.

FEMA’s new flood insurance system has raised similar concerns. The new tariffs were originally supposed to go into effect last October, but members of Congress have warned FEMA about the effect the increases would have on their constituents. The Trump administration has delayed the new rates until this year, partly fearing that the increase in premiums shortly before the election will politically harm President Trump, according to a person familiar with the talks.

According to Roy Wright, who ran the insurance program until 2018, the agency could theoretically find ways to further mitigate those rate increases. For example, FEMA could decide that insurance premiums should be tied to a structure rather than a homeowner, so annual limits on price increases would still be in effect even if the home changed owners.

And experience suggests that home values ​​continue to rise in the most desirable coastal areas despite rising insurance costs, Wright said, as people’s desire to live near water doesn’t is often unaffected by whether it makes financial sense.

“Is that going to drive down property values?” said Wright, who now heads the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, a research group. “In attractive real estate markets, we haven’t seen this.”

Eli Lehrer, president of the R Street Institute, a research organization in Washington that advocates market-based policies, said the government cannot ignore the financial burden faced by people who already live in flood-prone homes. .

But rather than protect these people by keeping insurance rates low, Mr Lehrer argued that Congress should offer direct subsidies, and only for low-income people who would otherwise have difficulty staying at home. Everyone, he said, should bear the full cost of the risk they face.

“We are subsidizing people to live in areas that were dangerous when they moved there and which have become more dangerous,” said Lehrer.

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Video: United States joins the Paris Climate Agreement

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United States joins Paris climate agreement

President Biden told leaders of the Group of 7 nations that climate change is a priority for his administration as the United States officially joined the Paris climate agreement on Friday.

We can no longer delay or do the bare minimum to tackle climate change. It is a global existential crisis. And we will all suffer, we will all suffer the consequences if we fail. We need to quickly step up our commitments to aggressively reduce our emissions and hold each other accountable for achieving our goals and increasing our ambitions. This is why, as president, I immediately joined the Paris agreement. And from today, the United States is officially, once again, a party to the Paris Agreement, which we helped put in place. On Earth Day, I will host a leaders’ summit to help drive more ambitious actions among major emitters, including national climate action here in the United States. I am grateful and grateful for Europe’s continued leadership on climate issues over the past four years. Together, we must invest in the technological innovations that will fuel our clean energy future and enable us to create clean energy solutions in global markets.

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A glimpse into America’s future: climate change is a problem for power grids

Huge winter storms plunged large parts of the central and southern United States into an energy crisis this week as frigid explosions in arctic weather crippled power grids and left millions of Americans without electricity in high temperatures dangerously cold.

The network outages were most severe in Texas, where more than four million people woke up to power outages Tuesday morning. Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday called for emergency reform of the Texas Electricity Reliability Council, saying the state’s power grid operator “has been anything but reliable for the past 48 hours.”

Analysts have started to identify some key factors behind the Texas network outages. Record-breaking cold weather prompted residents to ramp up their electric heaters and pushed demand for electricity beyond the worst-case scenarios predicted by network operators. At the same time, many of the state’s gas-fired power plants have been shut down in freezing conditions, and some factories appear to be suffering from fuel shortages as demand for natural gas has increased across the country. Many Texas wind turbines also froze and stopped working, although that was only a small part of the problem.

The resulting power shortages have forced grid operators in Texas to impose rotating power cuts on homes and businesses, starting Monday, to prevent a wider system collapse. Separate regional networks in the Southwest and Midwest are also under serious strain this week.

The crisis has highlighted a deeper warning for power systems across the country. Power grids can be designed to cope with a wide range of harsh conditions – provided that grid operators can reliably predict future dangers. But as climate change accelerates, many power grids will face new and extreme weather events that go beyond the historical conditions for which these grids were designed, putting systems at risk of catastrophic failure.

Building resilient power grids in the face of increasingly wild and unpredictable weather conditions will be a huge challenge, experts said. In many cases, this can prove to be costly, although, as Texas shows, the costs of a network outage can also be extremely expensive.

“It’s basically a matter of how much insurance you want to buy,” said Jesse Jenkins, an energy systems engineer at Princeton University. “What makes this problem even more difficult is that we are now in a world where, especially with climate change, the past is no longer a good guide for the future. We need to prepare much better for the unexpected. “

Texas’ main power grid, which operates largely independently from the rest of the country, is primarily designed to deal with the state’s most predictable weather extremes: soaring summer temperatures that prompts millions of Texans to turn on their air conditioners at the same time.

Although freezing temperatures are rarer, grid operators in Texas have long known that demand for electricity can increase in the winter as well, especially after severe cold spells in 2011 and 2018 that drove millions of Texans to mount their electric heaters and put a strain on the system.

But this week’s winter storms, which buried the state in snow and ice, and led to record high temperatures, exceeded all expectations – and pushed the grid to its breaking point.

Texas grid operators had predicted that in a worst-case scenario, the state might need 67 gigawatts of electricity to handle a winter peak. But by Sunday evening, demand for electricity had exceeded 69 gigawatts. As temperatures dropped, many homes depended on older, inefficient electric resistance heaters, which used more energy.

The problems worsened from there, as freezing weather shut down power plants with a capacity of more than 30 gigawatts by Monday night. The vast majority of these outages occurred in thermal power plants, such as natural gas generators, as falling temperatures crippled plant operations and growing nationwide demand for natural gas seemed to leave some factories find it difficult to procure fuel. A number of state power plants were also offline for scheduled maintenance in preparation for the peak summer.

At times, the state’s wind farm fleet has also lost up to 5 gigawatts of capacity as many turbines froze in freezing conditions and stopped working.

“No power system model imagined that all 254 Texas counties would be subject to a winter storm warning at the same time,” said Joshua Rhodes, a state power grid expert at the University of Texas at Austin . “This puts a strain on the electricity grid and the gas grid, which supply both electricity and heat.”

In theory, experts say, there are technical solutions that can avoid such problems. But their installation can be expensive and the difficulty is to anticipate exactly when and where such solutions will be needed.

Wind turbines, for example, can be fitted with heaters and other devices so they can operate in freezing conditions – as is often done in the upper Midwest, where the cold is more common. Gas plants can be built to store the oil on site and burn the fuel if needed, as is often done in the Northeast, where natural gas shortages are more common. Grid regulators can design markets that pay extra to keep a fleet of standby power plants in reserve for emergencies, as is often the case in the Mid-Atlantic.

But all of these solutions cost money, and network operators are often reluctant to force consumers to pay extra for warranties if they don’t think it will be necessary.

“Building resilience often comes at a cost, and there is a risk of both underpaying but also overpaying,” said Daniel Cohan, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University. “It’s a difficult balancing act.”

In the coming months, as network operators and policymakers in Texas study this week’s winter storm, they may begin to wonder how and if the network could be hardened to withstand extremely cold temperatures. Are there aging infrastructures that are in urgent need of repair? Would it make sense to create more connections between the Texas power grid and other parts of the country to balance electricity supplies – a move the state has long resisted? Should homeowners be encouraged to install expensive backup batteries or more efficient heat pumps that consume less electricity? Should state electricity markets be altered to keep additional power plants in reserve?

One of the challenges is that climate change makes preparation more difficult. Overall, the state is warming as global temperatures rise, and cold weather extremes are becoming, on average, less frequent over time.

But some climatologists have also suggested that global warming could, paradoxically, lead to more winter storms like this week’s. Some research suggests that the warming of the Arctic is weakening the jet stream, the high-level air current that circles northern latitudes and generally holds back the icy polar vortex. This allows cold air to escape southward, especially when an additional warming explosion hits the stratosphere and warps the vortex. The result can be episodes of plunging temperatures, even in places rarely suffocated by frost.

But this remains an active topic of debate among climatologists, with some experts less convinced that polar vortex disturbances are more and more frequent, which makes it even more difficult for network planners to anticipate the dangers ahead.

Power utilities and grid operators across the country face similar issues as climate change threatens to intensify heat waves, droughts, floods, water shortages and other calamities, all of which could create new and unforeseen risks to the country’s power systems. Dealing with these risks will come at a cost: A recent study found that the South East alone may need 35% more electrical capacity by 2050 just to cope with the known dangers of climate change.

And the task of building resilience is becoming increasingly urgent. Many policymakers are increasingly promoting electric cars and electric heaters as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But as more of the national economy depends on reliable electricity flows, the cost of blackouts will become increasingly dire.

“It’s going to be a tall order,” said Emily Grubert, electrical systems expert at Georgia Tech. “We need to decarbonize our power systems so that climate change doesn’t get worse, but we also need to adapt to changing conditions at the same time. And the latter alone is going to be very expensive. We can already see that the systems we have today don’t handle this very well.

John Schwartz and Dave montgomery contribution to reports.

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Do you have climate anxiety? These people do something about it

Dr. Atkinson, hoping to assuage her feelings and those of her students, has designed a seminar on eco-grief and climate anxiety.

According to Dr Van Susteren, eco-distress can manifest itself in different ways, from angst over what the future holds to extreme guilt over purchases and individual behaviors. Although her symptoms sometimes mirror those of clinical anxiety, she said she views eco-distress as a reasonable reaction to scientific fact – a reaction that in mild cases should be treated but not pathologized. (In cases of extreme anxiety, Dr Van Susteren said it’s important to seek professional help.)

For many Americans, climate distress counseling is relatively accessible. In some communities, however, especially in less wealthy countries, this may seem rather a rare privilege.

Kritee, senior climatologist at the Environmental Defense Fund, has feet in both worlds. Based in Boulder, Colorado, Dr. Kritee (she has only one name) leads workshops and retreats for people experiencing climate mourning. She also works with Indian farmers whose livelihoods are directly threatened by the extreme droughts and floods that accompany climate change.

Dr Kritee, who has a doctorate in biochemistry and microbiology, said she believes people from all walks of life should take their feelings about climate change into account. She makes her services affordable through scholarships, installment payments, and donation-based courses. Some of her sessions are open only to people of color, who are often on the front lines of climate change, and whose ecological grief, she says, is often compounded by racial trauma.

As for whites and the better-off, who are unlikely to feel the worst effects of climate change, Dr Kritee said it was crucial that they also face their grief. In doing so, she says, they can begin to think about questions like, “If I am in so much pain, what happens to less privileged people?”

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Automakers drop efforts to derail California climate rules

WASHINGTON – Toyota, Fiat Chrysler and several other major automakers said on Tuesday they would no longer try to stop California from setting its own strict fuel economy standards, signaling that the auto industry is ready to work with President Biden on his greatest effort to reduce greenhouse effects. gas emission.

The corporate move was widely anticipated, after General Motors dropped its support for the Trump-era efforts just weeks after the presidential election. But the change could help the Biden administration move quickly to restore national fuel efficiency standards that would control the global warming automobile pollution, this time with the backing of industry giants who have fought these regulations for years. .

“After four years of going backwards, it’s time to reboot and build a sustainable future, expand domestic manufacturing and deliver clean cars for America,” said Gina McCarthy, Senior Advisor on climate change at the White House. “We have to move forward – and quickly.”

The auto giants’ announcements come on top of a pledge from five other companies – Ford, Honda, BMW, Volkswagen and Volvo – to meet California’s strict standards. And last week, GM pledged to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2035, a move that would bring the company into line with another recent California policy banning the sale of internal combustion vehicles by 2035. this year.

Tuesday’s decision also marked a brutal reversal of California’s influence on policymaking in Washington. After President Donald J. Trump rescinded the Obama-era auto pollution rules that were modeled on the California state-level rules, he then blocked the state authority from establish such rules. Mr Biden is now expected to use California as a model to quickly restore national rules.

“We will continue to play an important role in pushing the federal government and the automakers,” promised Jared Blumenfeld, California’s secretary of environmental protection, who added that Biden had recently spoken with Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, on using state auto emissions policies as a guide for federal policies.

In a statement, the automakers, represented by the industry group Coalition for Sustainable Automotive Regulation, said the Trump administration’s lawsuit to block California’s fuel economy rules was no longer supported: ” We are aligned with the goals of the Biden administration to be achieved. Year-over-year improvements in fuel economy standards that provide significant climate benefits and national energy security.

They added: “In a gesture of good faith and to find a constructive way forward, the CSAR decided to withdraw from this trial in order to unify the automotive industry behind a single national program with ambitious and achievable standards.

Mr. Trump had made the rollback of Obama-era fuel economy standards the centerpiece of his deregulation agenda. The Obama-era standards, modeled after those in California, would have required automakers to manufacture and sell vehicles that achieved an average fuel economy of about 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The standards , which would have wiped out roughly six billion tonnes of the planet – the lifelong warming carbon dioxide pollution of vehicles is the biggest federal policy ever to reduce climate change.

Last year, the Trump administration lowered that standard to around 40 miles per gallon by 2026 – a move that would have effectively allowed most of that carbon dioxide to return to the atmosphere. California, however, has a separate deal with the five automakers, in which they agreed to reach a standard of 51 miles per gallon by 2026. The Trump administration, backed by GM and other automakers , has blocked California’s legal authority to set these standards.

Now that GM, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler have walked out of this lawsuit, officials in the Biden administration have one less retarder before a new federal standard. The White House is also expected to explore ways to adopt California’s policy requiring all new vehicles sold after 2035 to be zero-emissions.

The Biden administration is already working quickly to develop this new standard, which will be jointly published by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation. On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed the new Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg. At his confirmation hearing, Mr Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., And 2020 presidential candidate, pledged to make tackling climate change one of the guiding principles of his tenure – a first for a transport secretary.

And he will be aided by a new senior official who helped negotiate the California deal with the five automakers: Steven Cliff, formerly deputy managing director of the California Air Resources Board, has been appointed by Mr Biden to lead the National Highway. transport department. and Traffic Safety Administration, the body that will oversee the rewrite of the new automotive fuel economy standards.

“He’s probably the most knowledgeable person in the world about how these automakers are aligning on this and how we’re pushing it,” Blumenfeld said.

McCarthy is expected to meet this week with heads of several major auto companies and representatives of the United Auto Workers and other unions as she begins to sketch out the details of the new rules.

Although the agreement with California sets a standard of 51 miles per gallon for the 2026 model year, the upcoming Biden Rule will likely take a year or more. Its first targets will therefore be later, 2028 or 2029. California and environmental groups are likely to push for even more aggressive standards to help achieve the goal of ending sales of gasoline and diesel cars by now. 2035.

Developing such rules could be a long and complex process, but several people close to the administration say they expect the EPA and the Department of Transportation to issue a “Notice of Proposed Settlement” – essentially, a document that launches the one-to-two – one year legal process of drafting and implementing these rules – by March.

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Two Biden priorities, climate and inequality, meet on black-owned farms

Sedrick Rowe was a running back for Fort Valley State University in Georgia when he stumbled upon an unexpected oasis: an organic farm on historically black school grounds.

He now grows organic peanuts on two tiny plots in southwest Georgia, one of the few African American farmers in a state that has lost more than 98% of its black farmers over the past century.

“It weighs on my mind,” he said of the history of discrimination and violence that drove so many of his predecessors to leave their farms. “Growing our own food seems like the first step in getting more African Americans back into farming.”

Two of the Biden administration’s biggest priorities – tackling racial inequality and tackling climate change – converge in the lives of farmers like Mr Rowe.

The administration has pledged to make agriculture the cornerstone of its ambitious climate agenda, asking farmers to adopt farming methods that could keep the warming carbon dioxide locked in the ground and out of the earth. atmosphere. At the same time, President Biden pledged to fight the legacy of discrimination that has driven generations of black Americans from their farms, by taking steps to improve access for black farmers and other farmers. from minorities to land, loans and other forms of assistance, including “climate-smart”. production.

African-American-run farms represent less than 2 percent of all farms in the country today, up from 14 percent in 1920, due to decades of racial violence and unfair lending and land ownership policies.

Mr Biden’s promises follow a year in which demands for racial justice have erupted across America and a deadly pandemic has revealed serious health disparities. Mr Biden is also seeking to reverse the dismantling of environmental regulations by former President Donald J. Trump.

Land trusts and other local groups, many of them in the South, have long sought to bring more black Americans back to farming. Mr Rowe acquired 30 acres of farmland outside of Albany, Georgia, after training at a land trust called New Communities, one of the few in the country to have sought to help more African farmers – Americans earn a living by cultivating the land.

Many of these trusts have also placed sustainability at the heart of their work with local farmers, drawing on the legacy of black scientists like George Washington Carver. His work on cover crops, which are planted to help nourish the soil, sought to reverse the damage caused by the cotton monoculture in the South, carried out at the expense of slaves.

Between planting and harvest, Mr. Rowe is pursuing a doctorate. in soil health, looking for ways to retain nutrients, reduce pesticides and sequester more carbon in the soil.

“There is so much knowledge out there, both what was altered by our African ancestors and what was created in the South.,Said Mr. Jahi Chappell, who heads the Southeastern African-American Farmers Organic Network, a group of black farmers committed to environmentally sustainable agriculture. But for a long time, he said, “the voices of African-American farmers have not really been heard.. “

It’s a difficult story to overcome.

For a brief period after emancipation, free black communities spread across the rural south, growing all kinds of agricultural products: pecans, peanuts, pork. In 1920, there were 925,000 black farmers, a quarter of whom were able to secure their own land.

The Jim Crow era sparked a backlash from white landowners, and black farmers and sharecroppers became targets of intimidation, bombings, and other attacks. Racist discrimination and violence drove many black farmers to flee the North, often to cities, as part of the Great Migration.

Disparities in access to loans and aid, as well as well-documented discrimination at the Agriculture Ministry, have also led black farmers to leave their land. Even as the civil rights era began to bring black Americans to equal rights before the law, the rural exodus accelerated as councils of white Southern citizens, wary of a surge in numbers. of black voters, explicitly targeted black farmers to kick them out of their communities.

“We waited year after year. We fought for change, ”said Shirley Sherrod, former Georgia state director for rural development at the Department of Agriculture and co-founder of New Communities, the land trust. “Now this agency, and this country, really needs to figure out how to do the right thing for black people.”

Today, there are fewer than 35,000 black farmers left, according to the latest agricultural census. (And some experts say the number is even lower.) According to the Land Loss and Reparations Project, land owned by black farmers has shrunk by about 90% from the peak of the early 20th century, even as area belonging to whites fell only 2 percent.

Black farmers who lost their land lost more than the property itself; they also lost the ability to use it for things like guaranteeing loans, for example, to send kids to college. A first estimate of the overall economic damage to black Americans from the historic loss of rural land, calculated by researchers including Thomas W. Mitchell, professor of law at Texas A&M University, is $ 350 billion.

“These are the economic consequences of this massive and precipitous loss of land which resulted in a significant way from systemic racial discrimination,” he said.

Efforts to remedy the loss have so far been comparatively small. Beginning in the 1990s, a series of regulations paid an estimated $ 2 billion, in total, to a handful of farmers who could prove direct discrimination.

Black farmers continue to face discrimination. As recently as 2015, black farmers obtained only about $ 11 million in microloans for smallholder farmers in 2015, less than 0.2% of the roughly $ 5.7 billion in loans administered or guaranteed by the Department of Agriculture that year, according to researchers Nathan Rosenberg and Bryce. Wilson Stucki.

The most recent agricultural census, from 2017, found that farms operated by black people tend to be disproportionately smaller, and only 7% of these farms had an income of over $ 50,000, compared to 25% of all farms.

Efforts to address past injustices are gaining momentum.

A Senate bill, sponsored by Democrats Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, would allow black farmers to reclaim up to 160 acres each through federal land grants. The House agriculture committee is expected to welcome its first black chair, Congressman David Scott from Georgia, who plans to invite black farmers to testify about racial discrimination in federal aid. And this week, a wave of executive climate action led the agency to explore ways to encourage “climate smart” farming practices while creating new sources of income for rural Americans.

Yet Tom Vilsack, who, if confirmed, will head the Agriculture Department and return to a post he held under former President Barack Obama, has drawn criticism from some groups for his record on the matter. anti-discrimination campaign at the agency. During its previous stint with the department, critics say, the agency promoted misleading data to portray a revival of black agriculture, even as black farmers continued to struggle for federal aid or attention for them. civil rights.

“There is a very systemic civil rights issue at USDA, and Tom Vilsack is not the one to tackle it and fix it,” said Lawrence Lucas, a former agency official who heads the Justice for Black Farmers group. “He had been there for eight years and didn’t fix it. So what makes us think he’s going to fix it now?

Late last month, Mr. Vilsack met with civil rights groups, pledging to provide assistance and “a seat at the table” to black farmers. And the Biden administration has appointed Jewel H. Bronaugh, Virginia’s commissioner for agriculture and consumer services, as Mr. Vilsack’s deputy. If confirmed, Dr Bronaugh would be the first woman of color to serve as the USDA Assistant Secretary.

In an interview, Matt Herrick, the agency’s senior spokesperson, acknowledged a legacy of discrimination in federal farm policy.

“The reality is that there are barriers and hereditary practices that have prevented black farmers and other socially disadvantaged producers from accessing Department of Agriculture programs,” Herrick said. “We will do all we can – the secretary has pledged to do so – to remove these obstacles.

These concerns threaten to eclipse the Biden administration’s rollout of agricultural policies that put farmers at the forefront of the fight against climate change.

One of the early ideas of Biden’s transition team is a federal soil “carbon bank” that would offer credits to farmers for the carbon they sequester in the soil through sustainable farming methods. The plan would allocate $ 1 billion to buy carbon credits from farmers at $ 20 per tonne of carbon they trap in the soil. Biden’s transition team claimed it could reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 50 megatonnes, which is equivalent to the emissions of more than 10 million cars driven for a year.

Scientists warn that uncertainties remain about the ability of farmers to sequester carbon in their soil. Yet such a policy could, in theory, benefit farmers like Mr. Rowe. Recent studies have shown that organic farming, in particular, can help retain carbon in the soil.

For Mr. Rowe, organic farming is practical on his modest 30 acres are also an economic imperative: its harvest reaches several times the price of standard peanuts on the market. This helps him compete in a business landscape dominated by predominantly white farmers who enjoy huge economies of scale and subsidies.

“It’s a good start,” Rowe said of Mr. Biden’s plan. “You take care of your soil, the soil takes care of you.”

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Video: John Kerry discusses his new role as US climate envoy

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John Kerry on New Role as US Climate Envoy

John Kerry, the new US climate change envoy, said on Wednesday that the United States would once again become a world leader in the fight against climate change, thanks to agreements such as the Paris Agreement.

The stakes of climate change simply could not be higher than they are now. It’s existential. We use this word too easily – we throw it away – but we have a great agenda ahead of us on a global scale. And President Biden is deeply committed. As he pledged to do during the election campaign, the president announces he will host a leaders’ summit on climate change in less than three months, on April 22, Earth Day, which will include a reconvocation to the level of leaders of major economies. forum. Intellectual Property Theft and Market Access, South China Sea. I mean, run the list. We all know them. These questions will never be traded for anything to do with the climate. It’s not going to happen. But the climate is a critical stand-alone problem that we must tackle, in the sense that China accounts for 30% of global emissions, or about 15% of global emissions. You add the EU to that and you have three entities that are over 55% or so. It is therefore urgent to find a way to compartmentalize, to move forward, and we will wait and see.

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Video: Biden signs decrees to fight climate change

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Biden signs executive orders to deal with climate change

On Wednesday, President Biden signed a series of executive orders aimed at tackling climate change through job creation, and included a “ pause ” in leasing fossil fuels.

To summarize this decree, it is about jobs, well paid union jobs. It’s about workers, about rebuilding our economy better than before. It’s a whole-of-government approach. Place climate change at the center of our domestic, national and foreign security policy. It advances conservation, revitalizes communities and cities and on farmland, and ensures environmental justice. Our plans are ambitious, but we are America. The first order I sign is to fight the climate crisis at home and abroad. The next, restoring confidence in government through science and integrity and evidence-based policy making. And the latter is the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology – establishing.

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