TBLI Weekly - August 15th, 2023


TBLI Weekly - August 15th, 2023

Your weekly guide to Sustainable Investment


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TBLI will bring back some of our best TBLI Events this summer. One event we liked was discussing a film produced by Michael Moore, called Planet of the Humans. No need to register. Freely available for all TBLi Circle Members.

Jeff Gibbs made a film about Renewable Energy, Growth, and Sustainability that surprised, angered, and received critical acclaim. The film argues that Renewable Energy uses a lot of carbon, we can't keep growing, and wind and solar won't save us. Is this true? We have a panel of experts discussing the film and the future of the Human Race. Join Wouter van Dieren, Jochen Wermuth, Kingsmill Bond, Hunter Lovins, and Sandrine Dixson-Declève.

Date & time: Fri, August 18 - 4:00pm - 6:00pm CEST

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Judge rules in favor of Montana youths in landmark climate decision

By: - The Washington Post

‘This is a monumental decision,’ said a lawyer for the young plaintiffs. The ruling could influence how judges handle similar cases in other states.

In the first ruling of its kind nationwide, a Montana state court decided Monday in favor of young people who alleged the state violated their right to a “clean and healthful environment” by promoting the use of fossil fuels.

The court determined that a provision in the Montana Environmental Policy Act has harmed the state’s environment and the young plaintiffs by preventing Montana from considering the climate impacts of energy projects. The provision is accordingly unconstitutional, the court said.

“This is a huge win for Montana, for youth, for democracy and for our climate,” said Julia Olson, the executive director of Our Children’s Trust, which brought the case. “More rulings like this will certainly come.”

The sweeping win, one of the strongest decisions on climate change ever issued by a court, could energize the environmental movement and usher in a wave of cases aimed at advancing action on climate change, experts say.

The ruling — which invalidates the provision blocking climate considerations — also represents a rare victory for climate activists who have tried to use the courts to push back against government policies and industrial activities they say are harming the planet. In this case, it involved 16 young Montanans, ranging in age from 5 to 22, who brought the nation’s first constitutional and first youth-led climate lawsuit to go to trial. Those youths are elated by the decision, according to Our Children’s Trust.

Though the cumulative number of climate cases around the world has more than doubled in the last five years, youth-led lawsuits in the United States have faced an uphill battle. Already, at least 14 of these cases have been dismissed, according to a July report from the U.N. Environment Program and Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. The report said about three-quarters of the approximately 2,200 ongoing or concluded cases were filed before courts in the United States.

But the number of successes internationally is growing, as is the diversity of those taking these cases to court, including a rise in legal action brought by youths, women’s groups, local communities and Indigenous people. Of the cases that have been decided, more than half have had outcomes favorable to climate action, according to a 2023 report from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

The Montana case will face an appeal to the state Supreme Court, Emily Flower, a spokesperson for Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen (R), confirmed Monday. She decried the ruling as “absurd” and said Montanans cannot be blamed for changing the climate.

“Their same legal theory has been thrown out of federal court and courts in more than a dozen states,” said Flower. “It should have been here as well.”Despite the track record of dismissals for youth-led climate cases in the United States, experts said the Montana youths had an advantage in the state’s constitution, which guarantees a right to a “clean and healthful environment.” Montana, a major coal producer, is home to the largest recoverable coal reserves in the country. The plaintiff’s attorneys say the state has never denied a permit for a fossil fuel project.

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Diverse values of nature for sustainability

Source: Nature.com


Twenty-five years since foundational publications on valuing ecosystem services for human well-being1,2, addressing the global biodiversity crisis3 still implies confronting barriers to incorporating nature’s diverse values into decision-making. These barriers include powerful interests supported by current norms and legal rules such as property rights, which determine whose values and which values of nature are acted on. A better understanding of how and why nature is (under)valued is more urgent than ever4. Notwithstanding agreements to incorporate nature’s values into actions, including the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF)5 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals6, predominant environmental and development policies still prioritize a subset of values, particularly those linked to markets, and ignore other ways people relate to and benefit from nature7.

Arguably, a ‘values crisis’ underpins the intertwined crises of biodiversity loss and climate change8, pandemic emergence9 and socio-environmental injustices10. On the basis of more than 50,000 scientific publications, policy documents and Indigenous and local knowledge sources, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) assessed knowledge on nature’s diverse values and valuation methods to gain insights into their role in policymaking and fuller integration into decisions7,11. Applying this evidence, combinations of values-centred approaches are proposed to improve valuation and address barriers to uptake, ultimately leveraging transformative changes towards more just (that is, fair treatment of people and nature, including inter- and intragenerational equity) and sustainable futures.

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A renewable energy battery plant will rise in US where a steel mill once stood


Communities hope good new jobs will come from Biden’s historic climate investment in cities like Weirton, West Virginia

A cutting-edge energy storage company is building its main manufacturing plant where a once-thriving West Virginia steel mill once stood in the city of Weirton. According to lawmakers, the much-lauded project was made possible by incentives from 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed by President Biden one year ago this Wednesday.

For supporters, it’s a sign that climate policies can also breathe life back into deindustrialized coal and steel communities with green jobs. The symbolism is compelling but how much those communities benefit will depend on a wide array of factors.

Form Energy, a Massachusetts-based company helmed by a former Tesla vice-president, broke ground on its iron-air battery manufacturing plant this past May. Workers will produce batteries capable of storing electricity for 100 hours, which will run on iron, water and air instead of the more common but less-abundant metal lithium. The $760m project will create 750 well-paying permanent jobs, the company said.

The plant is being constructed on the ashes of the old Weirton steel mill, once the beating heart of the steel economy in the Ohio River valley. At its height in the 1940s, the mill was West Virginia’s number one taxpayer and its largest employer, boasting a 13,000-strong workforce.

“You could literally graduate one day from high school and be hired at the steel mill making very good money,” said Mark Glyptis, president of the United Steelworkers Local 2911 and a third-generation steelworker from Weirton.

But Weirton’s economy began to wither in the 1970s. Local industry slowly declined as the market began to prefer cheaper foreign steel – and, Glyptis said, stopped enforcing regulations on the material.

The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2003. The fallout, said Glyptis, has been “heartbreaking”.

“It changed the landscape and the community has suffered significantly,” said Glyptis. “Our children, many of whom were planning on staying and living in the valley, have had to leave the valley to seek employment somewhere else.”

After the decline of domestic coal and steel, West Virginia transitioned from a production-based economy to a service-based one. This was a major blow to residents’ economic wellbeing, said Ted Boettner, senior researcher with the Ohio River Valley Institute.

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Buying Local Isn’t Easy In Puerto Rico — But The Fight For Food Sovereignty Is Brewing

By: Victoria Leandra - Huffpost

Meet the visionaries combating the island's food import dependency.

Growing up in Puerto Rico, “apoya lo local” echoed as an anthem. It was and still is a homage to our ancestral resilience in the face of Spanish dominion and American influence. Yet within the supermarket’s aisle, we all faced a conundrum. In the meticulously arranged produce section, the yuca and ñame marked with “Hecho en Puerto Rico,” the seal of our homeland’s sweat and toil, competed against the far more affordably priced imports.

On the island, the simple act of grocery shopping metamorphosed into a decision fraught with economic implications. Backing our roots was often a very expensive form of activism.

Puerto Rico faces a sobering reality today: Even with a tropical climate that allows farmers to grow food year-round, the island imports more than 80% of its food, leaving its people, including farmers and chefs, at the mercy of outside powers, such as the Jones Act. Established in the 1920s, this law mandates that maritime cargo transport be exclusively handled by ships owned and operated by the U.S., resulting in increased shipping costs to Puerto Rico and other non-continental U.S. lands that rely on these imports. The act has been cited repeatedly over the years as a factor in the island’s economic and budgetary troubles.

In addition, the higher shipping costs associated with the Jones Act have put Puerto Rican farmers at a competitive disadvantage, straining the economic viability of local agriculture and leading to reduced production and higher prices for consumers on the island. Many Boricuas (Puerto Ricans) can’t afford to “apoyar lo local” (support local) or, more transparently, pay a premium to buy from the local producers. The island has been in an economic recession since 2006.

Though agriculture once thrived, employing a significant portion of the workforce on the island, it now accounts for less than 1% of Puerto Rico’s gross domestic product (GDP). Natural disasters, such as hurricanes Maria and Irma, as well as multiple earthquakes further exposed the vulnerability of the island’s imported food supply chains, propelling the need for a more sustainable approach.

Boricuas have never sat idly by, especially during the challenges that the last decade has brought. In fact, visionary Puerto Rican farmers and chefs across various sectors are leading a transformative movement to combat the island’s food import dependency.

At Cocina Abierta, a restaurant in San Juan, chef Manuel Massa is leading the charge in showcasing the potential of local ingredients, such as seafood, pineapple, avocado and an array of root vegetables. Committed to sourcing 80% to 92% of the restaurant’s ingredients from the island, Massa and his team create innovative dishes that celebrate Puerto Rico’s agricultural bounty.

“Including a local product on the menu, on a consistent level, is a challenge. Even on an island, fishing is very volatile due to the climate conditions. Even connecting with the local producers is quite tedious,” Massa says. “The imported produce would be easier and more cost effective, but that’s exactly why [sourcing locally] is a priority for us: Although it’s not the easiest path, it does have the most impact long-term.”

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ESG Investing Laws Diverge in Red and Blue States: Explained

By: Brenna Goth - Bloomberg Law

More than a dozen states across the country are implementing new ESG laws that in most cases curb use of the factors in investments, contracts, and other areas.

Most of the action is in Republican-led states, where lawmakers have restricted environmental, social, and governance considerations—such as addressing climate change—in a range of state and corporate actions. Meanwhile, Democrat-led states including Illinois and Colorado enacted laws requiring additional disclosures on investment risks and sustainability.

The laws create a range of new requirements for asset managers and other businesses in addition to public pension administrators and state agencies. Other state proposals related to ESG faltered this year, making it likely that the legislative push will continue into 2024.

1. How did state legislatures restrict the use of ESG factors this year?

New state laws vary in their approach to limiting ESG considerations in decision-making. Most requirements focus on state pension plans or other investments, proxy voting, and state contracts. Some laws, in states such as Montana, require that investment decisions only be made based on financial factors. Laws in Utah and elsewhere penalize companies deemed to boycott certain industries based on ESG factors.

Proponents argued the use of ESG factors unfairly disadvantages industries such as oil and gas, while opponents warned about unintended consequences in limiting ESG considerations and encroaching on private business decisions. Some states watered down their initial proposals, particularly in cases where state pension plans projected losses.

In notable new laws, Florida enacted sweeping anti-ESG requirements—including for public and state-controlled funds—that took effect July 1. Texas limited the use of ESG in the insurance industry with a law that takes effect Sept. 1.

Groups opposing the new requirements have tracked coordination in anti-ESG legislation among conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation. New laws are in addition to actions by state attorneys general, treasurers, and other officials against ESG.

2. Where will anti-ESG laws go into effect?

More than a dozen states enacted anti-ESG laws this year, and many took effect in recent months. States with new laws include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia, according to a report by Pleiades Strategy, a research and advisory firm that tracked anti-ESG bills.

Among the new laws, measures in Kansas and Kentucky limit the use of ESG in public retirement system investments. An Indiana law took effect July 1 to prohibit the public retirement system from contracting with service providers that make ESG commitments.

An Idaho law that took effect July 1 prohibits banks and credit unions that hold state funds from boycotting certain industries, including fossil fuels and guns. The law defines a boycott as penalizing or limiting services in some sectors without a “reasonable business purpose.”

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