Global environmental fund is inappropriate for economic climate: Projects to be sponsored by United Nations would be better handled locally

Does "going green" now refer to cash money instead of environmentalism? The United Nations (UN) recently announced plans to put $750 billion toward "green" investments. But in light of the fact that the Department of the Treasury just announced plans for investing or spending trillions of dollars in order to help alleviate the nation's economic crisis, is the UN's plan the most appropriate or effective effort to make during this time?

Green shouldn't mean gaudy - throwing money at a "green" situation does not automatically suggest a sensible or effective sensitivity to environmentalism. The UN's Environment Program (UNEP) plans to contribute one percent of global GDP, or about $750 billion, to a "Global Green New Deal." The Green New Deal would split the money among more energy efficient buildings, renewable energies, better transport, improved agriculture, and measures to safeguard nature. Not to say that this isn't an ambitious and well-intended project, but $750 billion from global GDP during a time of displacement and unemployment crises seems difficult to accept as timely and appropriate. The projects that the Green New Deal would promote are all accessible and perhaps more effectively managed through regional and national programs.

The Green New Deal's focus on jump-starting renewable energy and sustainable agriculture projects is admirable, but countries need to promote their own individualized projects in order to develop a commitment to a sustainable mindset. With the UNEP watching over, the local regions may not actually remain committed to the plans and projects. The local mindset needs to be intertwined with the objectives of UNEP's goals.

Regional environmental plans have already been proven to be more effective and less difficult to implement than the global plans. Last Friday, 10 states on the East Coast raised more than $117 million in the third auction of permits for power plants to emit carbon dioxide. These 10 states are part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a coalition that regulates carbon emissions from power plants. Despite the economic downturn, the RGGI raised a surprising amount from permit auctions. Power plants under the cap-and-trade pacts must hold permits for every ton of carbon dioxide emitted; unused permits are sold in the market. The pact encourages utility companies to cut their emissions through efficiency or to switch to cleaner fuels and technology. Furthermore, most of the funds acquired from the permits go toward energy efficiency, renewable energy, and consumer benefits within the region. Not one dollar came from a rich uncle (as in Sam) or a global uncle (UNEP).

The 10 states that make up RGGI - Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont - exemplify the power that regional programs can have. This East Coast region has limited carbon emissions by power generators to 188 million tons per year and aims to cut them 10 percent by 2018. The $177 million this region has raised will stay within the region as opposed to going directly toward the global economy.

The Cleveland area can benefit greatly from a program similar to the RGGI. Though a regional pact as strong as the RGGI's does not exist in the Midwest, Cleveland on its own can focus on achieving similar goals. Just recently the Cleveland Foundation created the Cleveland Carbon Fund, the world's first open-access community carbon fund. The fund allows individuals and organizations to contribute for the purpose of mitigating their carbon emissions from traveling, commuting, their houses, or their businesses. The purpose of the fund is to promote formation and implementation of environmental projects. So far, the fund is piloting projects for compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) installation, showerhead replacement, and home weatherization projects.

Circulating money within communities and regions helps to build motivation toward a greener outlook - both environmentally and financially. Our Cleveland community can benefit from its own Green New Deal by motivating businesses to think environmentally and promote sustainability projects. Go ahead and be selfish - keep it local!


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