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Environment Gets A Helping Hand From Philanthropists

The Paris climate agreement, adopted by almost 200 nations in 2015, set a goal of limiting warming to "well below" a rise of 2 degrees Celsius.

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Scattered trees dot the once densely forested land, seen from an airplane, in South Sudan. VOA

Leading philanthropists pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to rescue shrinking tropical forests that suck heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, on the eve of a global climate change summit in San Francisco.

Nine foundations announced the $459 million commitment, to be delivered over the next four years, a day ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit, which is expected to draw about 4,500 delegates from city and regional governments.

“While the world heats up, many of our governments have been slow — slow to act. And so we in philanthropy must step up,” Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, told journalists at an event announcing the pledge.

The commitment roughly doubles the funds the groups currently dedicate to forest protection, said David Kaimowitz, a director at the Ford Foundation, one of the donors.

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The Lonar Lake is an exceptional ‘bowl of biodiversity’ and a wildlife sanctuary. Wikimedia Commons

Charlotte Streck, director of Amsterdam-based think tank Climate Focus, said the size of the commitment makes the groups major players in supporting anti-deforestation programs.

Norway has led donor efforts by pledging up to $500 million a year to help tropical nations protect their forests, Streck said.

But the new money committed by foundations could prove more “flexible and nimble” than money from governments, she said.

“The money that has been pledged by the governments like Norway and Germany, the UK, sits mostly in trust funds with the World Bank and the U.N. and it doesn’t get out so quickly,” she said.

Often “there is $20,000 missing here or $50,000 missing here, just to do one thing or develop one study or work with one person or have one consultation — and that the foundations can do,” Streck said.

Other groups that are part of the new initiative include the MacArthur Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.

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Climate Change Fuels California Fires. Flickr

Help for indigenous people

Funds will mostly assist indigenous people who are forest dwellers, including by helping them secure titles to land they live on so it cannot be sold to private companies without their agreement, said Walker.

“Companies come to our village, our forests and say: ‘You have to leave because I have the license from the government,'” said Rukka Sombolinggi, who heads the Indonesia-based Indigenous People’s Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN).

The world loses the equivalent of 50 soccer fields’ worth of forest every minute, organizers said.

Yet forests absorb a third of the annual planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions produced — and those emissions need to be slashed substantially more to meet the goals set in the Paris agreement.

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The Mangroves of Sunderbans Forests. Wikimedia

The Paris climate agreement, adopted by almost 200 nations in 2015, set a goal of limiting warming to “well below” a rise of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times while “pursuing efforts” for the tougher goal of 1.5 degrees C.

Also Read: IWC Shuts Down A Proposal To Create a Sanctuary For South Atlantic Whales

The three-day Global Climate Action Summit was organized by Californian authorities and the United Nations to support the leadership of mayors, governors and other sub-national authorities in curbing climate change. (VOA)

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Leader of New Climate Panel Calls For ‘Bold Action’

The climate panel is separate from an effort by Democrats to launch a Green New Deal to transform the U.S. economy and create thousands of jobs in renewable energy.

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In this April 1, 2014 file photo, Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., talks during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

It does not yet have office space, staff or even Republican members, but Florida Rep. Kathy Castor is confident that a special House committee on climate change will play a leading role on one of the most daunting challenges facing the planet.

Castor, who chairs the new panel, says those early obstacles can be overcome as lawmakers move to reduce carbon pollution and create clean-energy jobs.

“The Democratic caucus is unified under the belief we have to take bold action on the climate crisis,” Castor said in an interview.

While that can take many forms, the transition to renewable energy such as wind and solar power is “job one,” she said.

Castor, who’s in her seventh term representing the Tampa Bay area, said Congress has a “moral obligation” to protect future generations from the costly effects of climate change, including more severe hurricanes, a longer wildfire season and a dangerous sea-level rise.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named Castor to lead the panel in December, saying she brings experience, energy and urgency to what Pelosi called “the existential threat of the climate crisis” facing the United States and the world.

The climate panel is similar to one Pelosi created when Democrats last controlled the House from 2007 to 2010. The panel was eliminated when Republicans took the majority in 2011.

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“The Democratic caucus is unified under the belief we have to take bold action on the climate crisis,” Castor said in an interview. Pixabay

While the previous panel played a key role in House approval of a landmark 2009 bill to address global warming, Castor said the new panel is likely to focus on a variety of actions rather than a single piece of legislation.

She and the eight other Democrats named to the panel “are ready to stand up to corporate polluters and special interests” as they press for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move toward a clean-energy economy, Castor said.

“Climate deniers, fossil fuel companies and other special interests have had an outsized influence” in Congress in recent years, she said, promising to “stand up” to those forces to protect the environment and create green jobs.

The climate panel is separate from an effort by Democrats to launch a Green New Deal to transform the U.S. economy and create thousands of jobs in renewable energy.

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Pelosi agreed, saying in a statement that the climate panel will “spearhead Democrats’ work to develop innovative, effective solutions to prevent and reverse the climate crisis.” Pixabay

Castor dismissed the idea that the Green New Deal — put forth by freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and veteran Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts — will conflict with the climate panel.

“My job and the committee’s job is to take the general concepts (of the Green New Deal) and turn them into a real policy framework and legislative language and eventually law,” she said.

Pelosi agreed, saying in a statement that the climate panel will “spearhead Democrats’ work to develop innovative, effective solutions to prevent and reverse the climate crisis.”

Pelosi invited Ocasio-Cortez, a social media star and the best-known member of the large class of freshman Democrats, to join the climate panel, but she declined, saying she wants to focus on the Green New Deal and other committee assignments.

Three freshmen — Sean Casten of Illinois, Mike Levin of California and Joe Neguse of Colorado — serve on the panel, along with veteran lawmakers such as Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, and Californians Julia Brownley and Jared Huffman, both close Pelosi allies.

“We need their passion and energy, and we need support from all corners all across the country,” Castor said of the freshmen members. “It’s all hands on deck right now.”

Republicans have not named anyone to the climate committee, but six GOP members are expected to join the panel this month.

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While the earlier climate panel focused on establishing the threat posed by climate change, Castor said the time to debate climate science is long past.

While she would have preferred that the committee be given subpoena power and legislative authority to draft their own bills, the panel’s more limited power “is not going to hamper us,” Castor said. Most invited witnesses will be eager to testify, she said, and those who resist — including members of the Trump administration — can be compelled to appear by other committees such as Energy and Commerce or Natural Resources.

Also Read: Researchers Identify Gene To Prevent And Treat Alcoholism

While the earlier climate panel focused on establishing the threat posed by climate change, Castor said the time to debate climate science is long past.

“People understand the problems,” she said. “They see the effects of sea rise and more dangerous storms. They understand it. They look at Washington and kind of throw up their hands and say, ‘Why don’t you guys do something?’ ”

The committee’s challenge, she added, will be “to restore the faith of people and show them Washington can do some things.” (VOA)