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EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy on the Critical Role of Energy Efficiency

Posted By Meaghan Bresnahan, Association of Climate Change Officers, Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Energy efficiency is crucial to cutting the carbon pollution that’s fueling climate change. It will be better for our health, reduce consumer bills, boost the economy, and provide more jobs. Additionally, energy efficiency increases national security and improves the competitiveness of businesses.

If that isn’t enough incentive, being efficient with our energy expenditure now will allow us to be proud of the energy future we leave our children. “We have a moral obligation—as people and, most of all, as parents—to make sure the world we leave our children has a safe and healthy environment and a vibrant and sustainable economy,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy stated in a recent speech at the Energy Efficiency Forum in Washington, DC.

Reducing waste is a cause everybody can get behind, no matter their political affiliation, McCarthy noted. Framing the situation positively and considering her diverse audience has allowed her to emphasize efficiency as a viable path to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Electric power accounted for 38.1% of the United States’ energy consumption in 2012. Approximately 20% of that was renewable energy or nuclear electric power. The remaining 80% was the cause of nearly 100% of the CO2 emitted by the power sector that year.

Administrator McCarthy has been a driving force behind the Clean Power Plan, a new set of proposed EPA standards aimed at achieving a 30% national GHG reduction from 2005 levels by 2030. The Clean Power Plan is a vital piece of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. Released on June 2, 2014, the Clean Power Plan proposes to cut emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants. Electric power generation is the single largest source of carbon dioxide pollution in the United States.

The proposed Clean Power Plan utilized a radical new level of input from states and individuals. EPA individually tailored the plan according to each state’s existing infrastructure and future needs. The idea was to make the plan flexible because “there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. [States] can choose what’s best for them,” remarked McCarthy.

The proposal will also focus on efficiency at each level of production, from plant to plug. EPA recognized states’ concerns, but McCarthy stated that the plan will not increase the cost of the energy supply.

“Recent polls show that Americans overwhelmingly want carbon pollution to be under control,” McCarthy said, noting that many recognize the potential health benefits. “But they might not realize that the power plant proposal will reduce consumer bills [by 8%] by 2030.”

Administrator McCarthy continued by encouraging energy efficiency proponents to use common sense language when explaining what energy efficiency can do for people. Each voice can have a dramatic impact, she noted.

It may be wise to avoid talking about climate change itself, depending on the audience, but it is very important to “stop talking about the dangers of climate change and start doing something about it,” according to McCarthy. Supporting energy efficiency by becoming actively involved at the community and state levels is an effective way to have a tangible impact.

“It doesn’t need to be a negative story,” she stated. “We are trying to use [the progress] we already have and get more momentum behind it. Our proposal doesn’t prescribe – it propels progress underway.”

Tags:  Carbon  Clean Power Plan  Energy Efficiency 

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Liking Won’t Cut Climate Change Collaboration Needs

Posted By Valerie Patrick, Fulcrum Connection LLC, Friday, May 23, 2014

We tend to like people that are similar to ourselves. If you like someone, as in a friend at school or in the workplace, then you naturally and effortlessly collaborate with them to solve each other’s challenges and figure out things to do together. However, collaboration leads to the best results when there are multiple perspectives involved, perspectives different than our own from people not like us. Multiple perspectives are especially needed when confronting challenging topics. One of the most challenging topics we are confronting as a society today is addressing the impacts of climate change. I was reminded of this last week at ACCO’s Climate Strategies Forum in Washington DC. One thing in particular was made clear at the conference session on determining the best climate policy approach for your organization; time is too short to develop climate change action and adaptation plans without collaboration because we cannot afford to create plans that sit on shelves. So how do you collaborate with people who are not like you, who you may not like, and who may not like you?

First of all, liking is over-rated when it comes to collaboration. Liking has been tied to influencing as an approach to marketing products and services. Robert B. Cialdini discusses liking as one of six social techniques to influence in his 2003 book, Influence: Science and Practice. Cialdini explains that people are more likely to purchase products and services and agree to offers from someone they like than from someone they do not like. Cialdini further explains the factors involved in liking. For example, people tend to like those who make them laugh, who are similar to them, and who pay them compliments. He also described the “halo” effect when we perceive someone who is physically attractive as smarter and more talented than they actually are compared to others. Finally, he cites that people who are forced to cooperate to achieve a common goal tend to form a trusting relationship with eachother. Cialdini concludes that any one of these approaches to getting people to like you may not influence people; however, influence can be magnified by using these approaches in combination.

Collaborating with people who are not like you, who you may not like, and who may not like you gets to the emotional side of collaboration. The intellectual or cognitive side of collaboration typically comes more easily, and it is often the emotional or affective side of collaboration that is the challenge. Fortunately, emotional intelligence is far more important than liking when it comes to effective collaboration.

According to Bradberry and Greaves in The Emotional Intelligence Quickbook, emotional intelligence is the exchange that happens between the limbic system, where emotions are experienced, and sensation as it travels from the one end of the brain where it enters to the opposite end where complex thinking occurs. Bradberry and Greaves describe four skills that define the ability to manage emotional intelligence as follows:

  1. Self-Awareness: the skill to identify one’s emotions and be conscious of them as they happen, and to be able to manage one’s reaction to certain situations and people.
  2. Self-Management: the skill to stay alert of one’s emotions, to drive positive behavior towards those emotions, and to address all possible emotional reactions for all situations and for all people.
  3. Social Awareness: the skill to correctly recognize emotions of others and their possible effects in order to understand other people’s thoughts and sense their feelings.
  4. Relationship Management: the skill to successfully manage interactions by using awareness of one’s own emotions and those of others in order to provide clear communication to all involved and effectively handle conflict.

More recently in 2013, Christine Brooks in The Social Brain describes the strategies to develop social intelligence as follows:

Daniel Goleman (2006), a psychologist and science writer, popularized the concept of social intelligence or the skills and abilities that enable successful social interaction….Goleman breaks social awareness down into 4 qualities: primal empathy, attunement, empathic accuracy, and social cognition (location 1599). In short, these qualities mean that a person is able to tune into and read emotional expressions and cues from others and also understand how social interactions function. Social facility includes the abilities of synchrony, self-presentation, influence, and concern (location 1605), the qualities of smoothly and accurately navigating social interaction. While individuals are born with varying levels of these abilities, Goleman and others including Daniel Siegel, believe that through the cultivation of self awareness and mindfulness, or present-centered attention to our thoughts and feelings, we can improve our social interactions. Siegel popularized the utilization of the insight meditation technique of mindfulness as a process for understanding our own minds and gaining greater ability to regulate our emotions and thoughts in order to become more mindful. He refers to the skill of awareness as “mindsight” or the ability to perceive our own minds and relate to the minds of others. In light of recent research demonstrating the ongoing neuroplasticity of the human brain, individuals learn through imitation (Iacaboni, 2009) and cultivate self-awareness through techniques such as meditation and social mirroring (Siegel, 2010; Iacaboni, 2008), further tightening the links both within the individual brain, and, across brains within a social network.

From this body of work, it seems that emotional intelligence, or more recently social intelligence, is key to influencing others and engaging in rewarding interactions, such as collaboration, with others, whether or not you like them.

Antonio Damasio (1999), one of the founders of the Brain and Creativity Institute at University of Southern California, described consciousness as follows: “At its simplest and most basic level, consciousness lets us recognize an irresistible urge to stay alive and develop a concern for the self. At its most complex and elaborate level, consciousness helps us develop a concern for other selves and improve the art of life.” This definition describes the emotional maturity journey from survival, to concern for self, to concern for others, and, ultimately, to improving life for all. It seems only fitting that emotional intelligence is a key ingredient to improving life for all.

With emotional intelligence, you can get people together to discuss how taking action to mitigate and adapt to climate change will bring value to your organization. It will be more challenging to do this if the responsibility for climate change in your organization is within your environmental compliance department rather than in a separate business department. However, with emotional intelligence, I believe it is still possible. Collaboration harnesses the power of human connection to tackle any challenge. Contact Valerie Patrick at 412-742-9675 or for help or to learn more.

Tags:  Collaboration 

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Argues in Favor of ‘Clean Capitalism’

Posted By Melissa Lembke, Association of Climate Change Officers, Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Clean energy technology holds the promise for a more sustainable, less carbon intensive economic future. But policies and programs to stimulate investment in such technologies need to be expanded.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an internationally recognized environmentalist, has long championed the need for changes in public policy that would enhance clean technology investment, arguing that market security is crucial for sustained growth in the renewable energy and clean technology sectors.

Venture capitalist Wal van Lierop shares Kennedy's passion for clean energy and joined him on stage at Globe 2014 for a dialogue on how to bridge the investment world with the clean energy movement.

For Kennedy one message was clear on how to move forward with clean energy and technology. "We need a national marketplace that allows us to send energy back to the grid."

And when looking at milestones that need to be achieved by the end of the decade Kennedy said there were two areas of focus: (1) rewrite regulations in order to reward people for conserving energy and (2) construct a national grid to encourage good behavior as at it relates to personal and local business innovations.

"We need to have a smart grid so when you plug in more than six Prius cars you don't blackout the neighborhood," Kennedy said. He believes the world should skip straight to renewables instead of building more pipelines, saying we need to build more transmission lines along with a smart grid to store, save and send clean energy.

Van Lierop countered these statements with a dose of reality drawing attention to the high upfront investment costs that are making sustainable investments prohibitive despite an understanding of long term payoffs. The venture capitalist went on to say that in order to meet milestones by 2020 we need a welcoming environment for new technology. Governments must create a level playing field for energy resources and facilitate greater collaboration between energy companies and clean technology innovators.

Van Lierop continued by saying that while sustainable innovations can reduce costs and environmental footprints, "it’s not just a magical switch we can turn. I haven’t seen one study that says in one switch we can go to clean energy, so we need a transition period."

Kennedy believes the transition to a cleaner environment can be faster. "I think we can do this much quicker. We can't listen to people who say we have to move slowly."

Kennedy noted that electric cars only cost about three cents a mile to run, compared to 24 cents for a gasoline-powered car. The cost savings over 10 years, he said, is about $20,000.

"We'll see a very fast free market adaptation to electric cars. And when it happens, we'll see a lot of oil stranded," he said.

As an example of how costs for new technology fall quickly, Kennedy cited the huge drop in prices for flatscreen televisions.

"The pace of innovations is much quicker in our lifetimes. Last year, every single American auto company had an electric car," he said. "And you're seeing prices come down. It will strand the internal combustion engine. You won't see Edison light bulbs in five years."

From the debate it is clear that this revolution is happening, and it is happening fast. The transition to a low carbon economy is already creating huge business opportunities—General Electric, Siemens and others are making a lot of money with clean tech—and these will only grow for companies that lead the way by adding clean technologies and renewable energy to the marketplace as well as their own business operations.

Tags:  Clean Technology  Grid  Renewable Energy 

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Leveraging Results Based Carbon Finance to Deliver Water Stewardship

Posted By Rebecca Fay, The CarbonNeutral Company, Thursday, March 27, 2014
The World Economic Forum Global Risks study highlighted water supply as one of the top three risks affecting future economic growth. With water scarcity generating significant problems for human health, social stability, ecosystems and businesses, there’s a compelling requirement for business to take action, but it’s a highly complex issue covering quantity, access and quality. So how can corporates be sure that their programs are delivering meaningful water outcomes?

When planning a programme it’s important not to consider water in isolation. An integrated approach to carbon and water management avoids potential trade-offs between these two crucial environmental activities and can uncover synergies. Without that aligned thinking, activities such as sourcing commodities more locally to save carbon could have a negative impact on water stress in the local area, outweighing the carbon benefits.

There are of course, some areas where water and carbon are fundamentally different: greenhouse gases have a similar impact wherever they are emitted, while water impacts vary greatly at a local level, and the concept of ‘neutrality’ is not as relevant to water management. However many of the approaches learned through the corporate carbon management journey are relevant for a water programme, for instance, the need to have both an internal operational focus and an external focus. With water, the internal operational focus is called water management and covers the sustainable use of water resources within corporate operations. While the external value chain focus is termed ‘water stewardship’ and concerns the protection and enhancement of water resources for people and nature.

For corporates who understand their impacts and want to get involved in activities that deliver water stewardship outcomes, accessing such initiatives can be a challenge. Even if they share the same ambition, few corporates have the resources of Coca-Cola when it comes to developing water stewardship strategies. However, a carbon offset programme can offer a logical access point for corporates who want to reduce and manage their environmental impacts through a combined water and carbon approach. By adding water focused carbon projects to the portfolio a corporate can deliver water stewardship outcomes through the established results-based framework of the carbon market.

Water focused carbon projects typically fit within three methodology groups (1) water purification (2) water productivity and (3) watershed protection.

Water purification is focused on clean drinking water for humans, primarily through domestic water filtration devices where the carbon saving comes from avoided fuel burned to boil water, for example the Gold Standard methodology: low GHG emitting water purification systems. Water productivity concerns efficient water use, through devices such as solar hot water or aerated shower heads. The carbon saving comes from avoiding energy to heat water, for example, the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) methodology focused on energy efficiency from shower aeration technology. Watershed protection is about the enhancement and protection of natural water ecosystems through conservation and active land management. Here the carbon benefit comes from biogenic carbon sequestration, as under the Climate Action Reserve methodology focused on tidal wetlands restoration.

For corporates who want to demonstrate a commitment to delivering water stewardship impacts, a water co-benefit carbon project portfolio gives the assurance that the expected outputs of the programme are delivered, be that the purification of a certain volume of water for human consumption, saving a volume of water through efficiency, or restoring or protecting a specific area of watershed.

But why look to the carbon market to achieve this? Because of the results-based finance framework whereby the funds are only delivered to projects which are performing. Carbon projects have their outcomes independently audited on a regular basis, and each successful audit leads to the issuance of credits sold to provide ongoing finance to the project. This approach provides incentives for sustainable project operation and the achievement of outcomes. This is in stark contrast to the traditional approach of financing water projects. As an example, the organisation Sustainable WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene), estimates that over the last 20 years, around 800,000 hand pumps have been installed in Sub-Saharan Africa, of which some 30% are known to fail prematurely, less than five percent of projects are revisited after project conclusion and less than one percent have any long term monitoring.

This power of the carbon market to link funding to measurable and verifiable water outcomes is what enables corporates to ensure they are delivering impact. And there are already moves within the carbon market to apply the results-based finance model to generate dedicated water outcomes in addition to the water co-benefits from some carbon projects. The Gold Standard’s Water Programme has developed a whole new currency: the Water Benefit Certificate and this will be the subject of my next blog. In the mean-time start to think about the water stewardship outcomes you want your carbon project portfolio to deliver.

The Guatemala Water Treatment and Cookstoves Project
2013 Rodney Rascona for The Paradigm Project

Read about filtration in Guatemala, delivering clean water to households and reducing indoor air pollution through efficient cookstoves.

Written By: Oliver Crouch, Head of Strategic Development, The CarbonNeutral Company

Tags:  Carbon Offsets  Water Stewardship 

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Microgrids to Play a Major Role in Federal Government Energy Strategy

Posted By Lou Hutchinson, Constellation Energy, Friday, March 14, 2014

Our nation’s ability to defend and protect itself is directly tied to our nation’s ability to secure stable and reliable sources of energy.  For this reason, federal agencies are focused on investing in long-term energy strategies that include microgrids, localized energy systems that can sustain energy independence separate of the grid by connecting and disconnecting when needed.

Recently, during the Association of Climate Change Officers’ Defense, National Security & Climate Change Symposium, I joined energy leaders from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP to participate in a panel discussion on energy resiliency and the role of microgrids. The clear takeaway from the discussion was that microgrids provide an incredible opportunity for the federal government to help meet their energy goals and public-private partnerships are central to these efforts.

Federal agencies face major challenges today as they must meet energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation mandates while achieving their overall mission. The federal government must significantly reduce energy consumption by 2020 and adding to this pressure is the fact that federal agencies are working with limited budgets and fewer resources.

While the panelists all agreed that the benefits of deploying microgrids are vast, the challenges in executing a well thought-out and comprehensive plan with limited budgets are just as great.

Many of the challenges related to microgrid implementation are not on the technical side of the project but in the procurement process. The contracting vehicles that allow for these projects to be built are complex and hard to navigate. In order to create a secure and energy efficient microgrid, energy contractors must work cross-sector and get approval from many different departments, all of whom use and consume energy differently, and bring them together under one holistic microgrid strategy.

That is why it is essential to engage all stakeholders, from the financers, to private sector partners, to the energy contractors, early on in the process. In fact, from the perspective of a private sector partner for the federal government, it is best to approach these energy contracts as a marriage because we must look at the long-term goals of the project with a holistic approach versus the short-term goals of one-off projects. These longer term public-private partnerships have a renewed importance today, as the federal government faces leaner budgets and the need to look outside the government for funding options.

One of the more popular funding options for implementing innovative energy technologies like microgrids is a Purchase Power Agreement, which provides the government up to 30 years to pay back its private investors. Purchase Power Agreements along with Energy Savings Performance Contracts and Utility Energy Service Contracts (all long-term contract options) allow for more creativity and flexibility in how funds are used and ensure that the microgrid operates at its most efficient and secure capacity.

These long term contracting vehicles are in the government’s financial best interest. The DOD’s Siting Clearing House estimates that on average, after about 7 years, the cost of the performance based contracts and the savings from the installed microgrids are about equal. More importantly, after 8-20 years (post payback period) the government actually starts saving money.

Other inherent savings comes from a properly designed infrastructure, where the equipment and operation systems in place outlive the contracts and continue to provide cost and energy savings long after the contract is over. In fact, a recent study by the Oak Ridge National Lab that was cited during the panel saw that the ancillary benefits associated with performance contracts tend to be about 1.75 times the actual contract value.

It is this long-term savings ability that makes microgrids such an appealing solution to government agencies, especially when you examine both sides of the energy balance sheet: conservation and revenue generation. Microgrids provide energy savings because they harness the collective power of distributed generation and can thoughtfully distribute energy back into the network. More than that, microgrids with proper storage capabilities can even sell their access energy to other utilities or save for the future. It is this ability to maintain a constant, independent, and reliable supply of energy that not only makes for a more efficient energy system, but also makes for a more secure infrastructure.

Every energy project Constellation works on for the federal government must be weighed against the yardstick of defense and security; every improvement and efficiency measure we take must also make the system more secure and resilient to attacks. There are three tiers to ensure resiliency: shoring up the existing grid infrastructure, providing the capability to be independent as a grid and managing other independent secure generation assets from private partner entities (like Constellation).

While there are many challenges to deploying microgrids in the federal government, the benefits for the government are clear. Microgrids are providing the public sector the ability to sustain energy independent of the electrical grid, posing a solution for the many energy challenges they face.

As a stable and reliable source of energy, microgrids are the future for the government.

Tags:  Energy  Grid  Purchase Power Agreement  Technology 

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Senate Reviews Obama’s Climate Action Plan

Posted By Philip Santiago, Association of Climate Change Officers, Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing Thursday, January 16, 2014 to review the President’s Climate Action Plan (CAP), the series of climate-focused Executive Orders that Obama announced in his speech at Georgetown University in June 2013.  The hearing included testimony from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, White House CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley, GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini, and Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe.  Panelists fielded questions ranging from basic climate science to impacts of climate change and policy actions involved in the CAP.   

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the EPW Committee, began the hearing saying that "Climate change is a catastrophe that is unfolding before our very eyes,” and praising the move by the Obama administration for taking solid steps forward on the issue.  "It’s a moral obligation, it’s good for the economy, and it’s good for human health,” she added.  Democratic Senators including Boxer, Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Tom Carper (D-DE) made arguments in support of the President’s CAP and climate action in general.  Freshman Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) gave an impassioned speech focusing on social inequality and climate impacts on NJ cities and the poor.  Noting that polluting companies are not yet required to pay for the externalized climate costs of their businesses, Booker remarked "This idea of privatizing profits and socializing costs has got to stop.”  Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) spoke with urgency as well, noting the irrefutability of climate impacts his constituents are already seeing in Rhode Island.  "Our sea levels are rising, you measure that with a yardstick.  Our temperatures are rising, you measure that with a thermometer.”  

The hearing also contained much of the theatrics typical of bipartisan climate debate in Washington.  Republican Senators ran through standard predictions of economic gloom and doom, job losses and energy price increases.  These claims run counter to a 2011 report from the Office of Management and Budget demonstrating that every dollar spent on Clean Air Act compliance yields on average $4-8 in benefits.  Senator Boxer pointed out in response that many major corporations have expressed support for the CAP (including Nike, Symantec, Intel, Unilever, and Starbucks) and many view climate change as a substantial business opportunity rather than a financial burden.  Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was frequently combative — at one point yelling at Administrator McCarthy — particularly after Senator Whitehouse indicated that Sessions had cherry-picked his data in his attempt to deny that global temperatures are rising.  Sessions made claims that under the new proposed rules "the EPA can go into Americans’ backyards, get rid of their barbecue, and eliminate their lawnmower.”  Senators Sessions, John Barrasso (R-WY), and James Inhoffe (R-OK) also accused the EPA of "collusion with extremist environmental groups” to solicit positive comments on the proposed new rules to regulate emissions of new coal-fired power plants.   

A separate and much more sparsely attended afternoon panel included Bill Ritter, Director of the Center for the New Economy at Colorado State University and former Governor of Colorado, Dr. Dan Lashof, Climate and Clean Air Program Director at the National Resources Defense Council, and Dr. Andrew Dessler, Professor of Atmospheric Science at Texas A&M.  Senate minority invitees included Dr. Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Kathleen Hartnett White, Director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank with funding ties to Koch Industries.  

In his closing remarks, Senator Whitehouse said "I urge you all to keep faith with reality, truth, and science.  Armor yourselves against the slings and arrows of the deniers.”

Tags:  Climate Action Plan  Congressional Hearing 

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2013 Rising Seas Summit

Posted By Melissa Lembke, Association of Climate Change Officers, Thursday, September 12, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 12, 2013

On June 19th and 20th, more than 180 people met in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to discuss and exchange information on climate change and one of its most immediate impacts, sea level rise.

ACCO's inaugural Rising Seas Summit brought together professionals from national and local government, industry, academic institutions and environmental NGOs to highlight the interrelationships between sea level rise, climate change and extreme events.  Understanding, anticipating and adapting to water related threats is critical to national security and a stable economy.  Sea level rise will continue to damage coastal ecosystems and inland water systems, and the recent catastrophic impacts of Hurricane Sandy have demonstrated the risks faced by all coastal communities on the U.S. eastern seaboard.  These new environmental challenges require that stakeholders share knowledge and work together to reduce and mitigate environmental and social degradation induced by climate change.

Those who were unable to attend the Summit can catch a portion of the discussion through C-SPAN's coverage of the June 20th plenary session.  White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairman Nancy Sutley talked about the federal government’s efforts to help state and local communities, and officials from Florida spoke about how fresh water supplies and property are being threatened by sea level rise.


Introductory Remarks:

  • Katy Sorenson — President and CEO, The Good Government Initiative (Former Miami-Dade County, Florida, Commissioner)

A Conversation with Federal and Local Leaders: 

  • Nancy Sutley — Chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality    
  • Mayor Kristin Jacobs — Broward County, Florida    
  • Representative Mark S. Pafford — District 86 (West Palm Beach), Florida House of Representatives    
  • Moderator: Daniel Kreeger — Executive Director, Association of Climate Change Officers

Presentation materials from other sessions are available online and a Summit recap report will be published.

The 2014 Rising Seas Summit will be held in New York — Program details will be updated at:

Tags:  Sea Level Rise 

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