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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)

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The Flamboyant Plastic Waste Boat Reminds The Global Policy-Makers The Urgency To Address Impact Of Plastics on The World’s Marine Environment

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The plastic waste was melted, shaped and carved by the team of traditional dhow builders exactly as they would do with wood. Pixabay

This flamboyant nine-metre-long dhow, made from 10 tonnes of plastic waste collected from Kenyan beaches and roadsides, sailed more than 500 km from the idyllic island of Lamu to Zanzibar this year with a message to eliminate single-use plastics.

And it also reminds the global policy-makers the urgency to address and lessen the growing impact of plastics on the world’s marine environment.

The Flipflopi dhow was positioned right at the entrance of the conference venue in the UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi where over 4,700 delegates from 170 countries gathered for the week-long UN Environment Assembly, the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment.

“Marine plastic litter pollution is already affecting more than 800 marine species through ingestion, entanglement and habitat change,” UN Environment’s coral reef unit head Jerker Tamelander said.

“Waste continues to leak from land and coral reefs are at the receiving end. They also trap a lot of fishing gear as well as plastic lost from aquaculture. With the impacts of climate change on coral reef ecosystems already significant, the additional threat of plastics must be taken seriously.”

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“Marine plastic litter pollution is already affecting more than 800 marine species through ingestion, entanglement and habitat change,” UN Environment’s coral reef unit head Jerker Tamelander said.
Pixabay

The majority of marine litter – between 60-80 per cent – is composed of plastic.

Only nine per cent of the nine billion tonnes of plastic the world has so far produced has been recycled.

The overwhelming majority of plastics – comprising drinking bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, grocery bags, lids and straws – are designed to be thrown away after a single use, ultimately ending up in landfills and polluting the environment.

“The first leg of the journey is over, but the journey continues,” Kenyan entrepreneur and Flipflopi project leader Dipesh Pabari told reporters here.

“When you are on the boat and you come to know that it’s made from your toothbrushes and Pet bottles. You will ask how and that is the real story,” he said.

Coming from a family of carpenters and dhow builders in Lamu, an island off the North Coast of Kenya, Ali Skanda is intimately familiar with what goes into building a dhow – a sailboat that has been used in East Africa for more than a thousand years.

On its maiden 500-km-long sojourn, supported by the UN Environment’s Clean Seas campaign, the Flipflopi stopped at towns and cities to sensitize the communities on ways to cut down use of single-use plastics.

A report, Plastics and Shallow Water Coral Reefs, released at this UN Environment Assembly, which focus on innovative solutions for environmental challenges, identifies a number of knowledge gaps that must be addressed to strengthen the scientific evidence base for action on marine plastics that impact coral reefs.

Inspired by 15-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, activist Rebecca Freitag, 26, a UN delegate for sustainable development from Germany, told IANS that the youth should be given participation in environment talks as they comprised 25 per cent of the global population.

Before coming to the UN summit, she collected the plastic waste from roadsides of Kenya, which introduced the world’s toughest laws on single-use plastic bags two years ago, and got her dress stitched to spotlight solutions for the growing impact of plastics on the world’s marine environment.

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“Waste continues to leak from land and coral reefs are at the receiving end. They also trap a lot of fishing gear as well as plastic lost from aquaculture. With the impacts of climate change on coral reef ecosystems already significant, the additional threat of plastics must be taken seriously.” Pixabay

The Flipflopi is now ready for a voyage next month for a greater political and social awareness of the issue of plastic pollution.

“Now we want to build a 20-m long boat that is capable of sailing to South Africa and beyond,” Pabari said.

For this, $1.5 million is required.

The Flipflopi team has had to pioneer new techniques to craft the dhow’s various components.

Also Read: Biotechnology Can Meet The Growing Energy Needs Of Rural India

The plastic waste was melted, shaped and carved by the team of traditional dhow builders exactly as they would do with wood.

Every single element of the boat has been constructed by hand and the whole boat has been clad in colourful sheets of recycled flipflops.

These flipflops have been collected on beach cleanups on Lamu’s beaches, where they are among the most prolific items found. (IANS)