News Article | April 27, 2017
Yesterday was a notable one in the efforts to improve working conditions for U.S. poultry processing workers. At a Perdue chicken processing plant in Salisbury, Maryland, faith leaders and worker advocates delivered some special packages to company officials. Thirteen hundred miles way in Springdale, Arkansas, the U.S. largest poultry company announced new initiatives to improve conditions for its poultry processing workforce. I tip my hat to the diverse coalition of worker advocates who set the stage for these event. More on their contribution below, but first the story from Salisbury, Maryland. The demonstration was organized by Oxfam America and the Comité de Apoyo a Los Trabajadores Agrícolas. The demonstrators held signs that read: “We stand with poultry workers to improve working conditions,” and “Jobs on the line shouldn’t put lives on the line,” and “I love chicken. I love justice.” Their demand to Perdue is to implement changes in their poultry plants to ensure their employees earn fair wages and are protected from injuries. A Perdue official met demonstrators outside the plant gates. Alex Galimberti with Oxfam America spoke to the official: The Perdue representative accepted the tall stack of familiar yellow Styrofoam packages. Instead of raw chicken, they held the names of more than 100,000 consumers. Perdue employs 20,000 workers at locations in 10 states. Very few of its workers are represented by a labor union. At just about the same time but in Springdale, Arkansas, Tyson Foods made an announcement. The U.S. largest poultry processing company said that worker health and safety is going to be integral to their goal of sustainable food production. The company’s COO released a statement saying: I’ve been skeptical of firms that tout their sustainability efforts because typically they focus on protection of natural resources but exclude the work environment. Former OSHA chief David Michaels, just before leaving office, urged employers to integrate occupational health and safety within their business sustainability program and metrics. In December 2016, Michaels joined with another former OSHA director, John Henshaw, to write: Is this what Tyson Foods has in mind? The statement they released yesterday includes a number of promises to its poultry plant workers, such as reducing worker injuries and turnover, hiring more trainers, and publicly sharing the results of third-party social responsibility compliance audits. Tyson describes these changes as part of its focus on sustainability. But Tyson saying something is quite different from Tyson doing it and doing it well. Poultry companies have a long, troubling record of employees suffering from disabling musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome and other injuries. I’ve written previously about Tyson’s alarming number of amputations. (I’ve probably written three dozen blog posts about other safety problems in U.S. poultry plants.) Tyson Foods says it wants to reduce injuries by 15 percent per year. What it must not do to achieve that goal is engage in recordkeeping gimmicks and medical management practices that distort the truth about worker injuries. Too many companies, especially poultry companies, game the injury recordkeeping system to deceive the public about working conditions. Tyson has also racked up hundreds of thousands of unpaid OSHA penalties for safety violations. When a company routinely challenges OSHA findings, I can’t help but be wonder whether their safety talk is just lip service. One thing Tyson could do immediately is to cooperate with OSHA on a corporate wide settlement agreement in which they commit to fix the hazards identified by OSHA—-and fix them in each and every one of their plants. But I’m an outsider. I’m not privy to Tyson’s sincerity about these commitments. A number of groups however have been talking with leadership at Tyson Foods. They are pleased with the company’s announcement. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) applauded Tyson for their pledge to create and expand initiatives on safety, compensation, and transparency. The union’s president Marc Perrone said: Magaly Licolli, the director of the Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center (NWAWJC) is optimistic, too. NWAWJC is a worker-led organization whose membership includes employees at Tyson poultry plants. She remarked: The UFCW and NWAWJC are part of a coalition of advocates who have been collaborating since 2012 to improve working conditions for poultry and meatpacking workers. Other groups in the coalition include the Southern Poverty Law Center, Nebraska Appleseed, Oxfam America, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, and Interfaith Worker Justice. These organizations and others began coordinating efforts five years ago to vigorously oppose the USDA’s plan to allow poultry plants to increase line speeds from 140 to 175 birds per minute. Since then—individually and collectively—the groups have issued reports, prepared petitions, briefed lawmakers, and held press calls and protests. Like the UFCW, Oxfam America staff have also met with Tyson Food officials. Their conversations took place following the release of Oxfam’s report “Lives on the Line: the Human Cost of Cheap Chicken” and accompanying social media campaign. Last year, Oxfam published an attention-getting report called “No Relief” about poultry workers being denied bathroom breaks. A hard-hitting two-minute Oxfam video calls on consumers to demand humane working conditions from the country’s four major poultry companies: Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms. Oxfam’s video is one I show to my students. In fact, I used it in class on Tuesday night. I’ve no doubt that the negative publicity caused Tyson to pay attention. My colleague Peter Dooley with the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health and I were talking yesterday about both the Tyson announcement and the demonstration at the Perdue plant. Peter’s been around the block a few times fighting corporate giants who treat workers as disposable cogs in production. I asked for his view on whether the poultry worker coalition has made a difference. And ever the optimist of the power of good over greed, he added: Peter and I agree that neither the event at Perdue yesterday nor the announcement by Tyson Foods would have occurred without the coalition’s efforts. Attention alone doesn’t solve the problem of unfair and dangerous working conditions, but it’s a vital step. A key player in that coalition’s work has been Oliver Gottfried, senior campaign strategist at Oxfam. About Tyson’s announcement he said: And co-president of A Better Balance Dina Bakst said: I’d say these reactions to Tyson’s announcement as encouraged but with a good dose of healthy skepticism. For more than five years, a small, diverse coalition of labor and human rights groups have raised awareness about unsafe and unjust treatment of poultry workers. I’ve been part of the coalition and proud of each group’s contributions. Change is possible and as Peter Dooley says: “the sky’s the limit.”
News Article | April 22, 2017
The White House, lead by US President Donald Trump, doubts the reality of climate change, and has so far not ruled out exiting the Paris Agreement, urgently negotiated in 2015 to reduce countries' greenhouse gas emissions (AFP Photo/JIM WATSON) Washington (AFP) - The Trump administration's climate skepticism and its possible withdrawal from the landmark Paris Agreement of 2015 drew a cloud over this week's grand economic conclave in Washington. The regular meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund -- always accompanied by a gathering of G20 finance ministers -- have rung out with calls to action against global warming in recent years. But this week's lofty junket, which wraps up Saturday in the US capital, underscored the directional shift driven by Donald Trump's rise to the White House: climate is no longer a consensus matter. The United States had already succeeded in having any mention of the climate removed from a concluding statement at a G20 finance ministers' meeting in Baden-Baden, Germany, in mid-March. And on Friday, the news conference following a meeting of the G20 finance ministers virtually ignored a subject that had been crucial to the administration of former president Barack Obama. These days, the White House doubts the reality of climate change, and has so far not ruled out exiting the Paris Agreement, urgently negotiated in 2015 to reduce countries' greenhouse gas emissions. The possibility that the United States -- the world's largest economy and second-largest carbon emitter after China -- could exit the agreement was front and center on Saturday as protesters took the streets in Washington. Demonstrators gathered to denounce the Trump administration's pledged funding cuts for scientific research, no doubt causing some dyspepsia for the many ministers and other officials present at the IMF-World Bank spring meetings. Segolene Royal, France's environment minister, put the odds of US withdrawal at 50 percent. But former US Vice President Al Gore, who shared a Nobel Prize for his climate activism, was more optimistic, claiming there is an "excellent chance" the United States would remain a party to the agreement for one simple reason: the economy. "Solar jobs in the US are now growing 17 times faster than job growth in the economy," he said. Downplaying American skittishness, the World Bank -- which regularly sounds the alarm on the economic dangers of global warming -- said the funding available to fight climate change should not decrease. "The science of climate change didn't change with any particular election and I don't see that it will," the bank's president Jim Yong Kim said. Describing the need to invest in future clean technologies, he said financial costs are a central question. Large holders of conservatively invested capital may be interested in the climate, he said, "but they would need help with, you know, guarantees, risk mitigation etc., in investing in climate change activities in poor countries." On Friday, the World Bank announced the launch of a $2 billion "green" bond fund with the European asset manager Amundi to finance low-carbon investments in emerging markets. Some observers wonder whether Washington's retreat on the climate will not paradoxically strengthen climate action by shifting focus to the private sector. "Because of what we're seeing from that administration, there's now going to be even more pressure on the private sector not to be financially associated with projects or technology harmful for the environment," Oxfam America's climate and energy director Heather Coleman said. Meanwhile, France, which pushed to reach the climate agreement in Paris two years ago, hopes the Trump era will not see a decline in climate action. "It shouldn't be that a single individual, whom I won't name, suddenly calls this objective into doubt," French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said Saturday. "Because it is clear. We must fight global warming."
News Article | April 7, 2016
BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Reducing food waste around the world would help curb emissions of planet-warming gases, lessening some of the impacts of climate change such as more extreme weather and rising seas, scientists said on Thursday. Up to 14 percent of emissions from agriculture in 2050 could be avoided by managing food use and distribution better, according to a new study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). "Agriculture is a major driver of climate change, accounting for more than 20 percent of overall global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010," said co-author Prajal Pradhan. "Avoiding food loss and waste would therefore avoid unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and help mitigate climate change." Between 30 and 40 percent of food produced around the world is never eaten, because it is spoiled after harvest and during transportation, or thrown away by shops and consumers. The share of food wasted is expected to increase drastically if emerging economies like China and India adopt Western food habits, including a shift to eating more meat, the researchers warned. Richer countries tend to consume more food than is healthy or simply waste it, they noted. As poorer countries develop and the world's population grows, emissions associated with food waste could soar from 0.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year to between 1.9 and 2.5 gigatonnes annually by mid-century, showed the study published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal. It is widely argued that cutting food waste and distributing the world's surplus food where it is needed could help tackle hunger in places that do not have enough - especially given that land to expand farming is limited. But Jürgen Kropp, another of the study's co-authors and PIK's head of climate change and development, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation the potential for food waste curbs to reduce emissions should be given more attention. "It is not a strategy of governments at the moment," he said. The researchers analyzed food requirements in the past and for different future scenarios. They found that while global average food demand per person remains almost constant, in the last five decades food availability has rapidly increased - hiking the emissions related to growing surplus food by more than 300 percent. The paper did not look at how food waste could be shrunk, but initiatives to tackle the problem are already on the rise in both developed and developing countries. In January, for example, 30 company heads, government ministers, and executives with foundations, research groups and charities launched a coalition to work towards cutting food waste by half and reducing food loss significantly by 2030. The aims are in line with the new global development goals that took effect this year. "Champions 12.3", named after the food-waste goal number, includes the bosses of Tesco, Nestle, Rabobank, Unilever, Oxfam America, WWF International and the Rockefeller Foundation. Andrew Steer, another coalition member who heads the World Resources Institute, noted then that if food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. "Food loss and waste hurts people, costs money and harms the planet," he said in a statement. "Cutting (it) is a no-brainer."
News Article | March 2, 2017
BOSTON, March 2, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Food Tank (FoodTank.com), in collaboration with the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and Oxfam America, will hold a summit entitled "Investing in Discovery," on Saturday, April 1, from 9 am to 5 pm EDT. The summit...
News Article | November 6, 2016
International negotiators are coming together on Monday in Marrakech, Morocco, for the most highly anticipated climate gathering of the year. But they’ll spend the first couple of days doing exactly the same thing as the rest of the world: holding their breath as they nervously watch to see how the U.S. presidential election turns out. Yes, America’s 2016 electoral dumpster fire will loom large at this year’s U.N. Climate Change Conference, aka COP22. The main goal of the Marrakech meeting is to hash out more specific plans for putting last year’s landmark Paris climate agreement into action. Donald Trump has said he would “cancel” the agreement, so if he’s elected, negotiators are likely to panic. If an antagonistic American president moved to pull the U.S. out of the deal, implementing it around the globe would become a whole lot more difficult. If, on the other hand, Hillary Clinton is elected, then conferees will feel more confident in getting down to work. U.S. election aside, there’s a lot of positive momentum heading into COP22. The Paris Agreement formally entered into force on Nov. 4, much earlier than anticipated. That’s because leaders of other countries wanted to make sure the deal was done before American voters had a chance to throw it off-course, so they kicked their normally lethargic ratification processes into high gear. That says a lot about the unprecedented level of international commitment to this deal. The month leading up to Marrakech saw two other notable steps toward climate progress. On Oct. 6, more than 190 nations reached the world’s first agreement to cut emissions from international flights. And on Oct. 15, over 170 countries pledged to rid air conditioners and refrigerators of hydrofluorocarbons — which can have warming potential thousands of times higher than carbon dioxide — in a legally binding accord, potentially cutting warming by 0.5 degrees C. So negotiators are landing in Morocco on a wave of optimism. At the same time, they know there’s a great deal that still needs to be done. Says Yamide Dagnet of the World Resources Institute, “The COP is about celebrating, but it’s not about complacency.” At last year’s Paris climate conference, 195 countries made a nonbinding agreement to keep warming below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, with a stretch goal of limiting it to 1.5 degrees. Each nation made an action pledge to cut or curb its greenhouse gas emissions, and agreed to ratchet up its commitment in the future. The Paris signatories also agreed to raise more funds to help poorer countries adapt to a warming world. Now, in Marrakech, negotiators will try to figure out how to turn those promises into action. They won’t be able to sort everything out, so some of the work will roll into 2018. But here are the three big issues on the agenda: One of the most contentious topics in Paris was money — big surprise — and you can expect the same in Marrakech. In 2009, wealthier nations agreed to mobilize $100 billion in climate finance yearly by 2020 to aid poorer nations. In Paris, the rich countries reconfirmed that commitment, and in mid-October, released a plan for how they’d get there. But many leaders from developing nations and policy advocates say $100 billion falls far short of what’s needed for countries to create programs that stave off climate change and build infrastructure that can withstand it, while working to improve quality of life for their citizens and grow jobs and GDP. “My organization and many others remain concerned that this is nowhere near enough the amount of money that is needed to help the most vulnerable communities,” says Annaka Peterson, who works on injustice and poverty issues with Oxfam America. “About 20 percent of the $100 billion promised would support adaptation. However, a lot of estimates suggest that by 2030 developing countries could face costs from $140 billion to $300 billion a year.” And actually, rich countries are not planning to come up with $100 billion a year themselves. They’re counting on sizable contributions from private companies to help meet that goal, which has some negotiators and activists wary about conflicts of interest. If nations are to fully invest in the Paris process, they need to be able to trust that other nations are working toward their goals and accurately reporting their progress. The Paris Agreement asks countries to publish national data on emissions as well as submit their data to a review body. But how will that work in practice? Will the process be different for rich and poor countries? Negotiators in Marrakech will be working on creating those systems. “What is the structure of how we look at transparency from now on?” asks Mariana Panuncio-Feldman, senior director of international climate cooperation at World Wildlife Fund. “Will there be flexibility for countries in how they’re reporting?” Countries also need to start getting specific about how they’ll fulfill their pledges, known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs. Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, says countries should be bringing detailed plans to Marrakech to demonstrate their progress. “What we need to see is NDCs turning from aspirational to roadmap and investment plans,” he says, “the sort of soup to nuts.” Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the Paris Agreement is that it sets the world on a path to 2.7 to 3 degrees of warming above pre-industrial levels — significantly higher than the 1.5–2 degree ceiling called for in the actual text of the agreement, and needed to avert drastic climate change. But that more aggressive goal will play an important role in Marrakech, where another critical task is setting a plan to ratchet up the ambition of countries’ pledges every few years. The Paris deal calls for countries to assess progress in 2018 and return to the table in 2020 to revisit and ideally toughen their action plans. Diplomats need to create a system that can spur cuts every five years, while increasing the expectation of how drastic those cuts will be. Based on the agreement’s swift ratification, climate advocates are hoping countries will be able to toughen their plans even earlier than called for, in 2018, as part of a “global fact check,” says Mohamed Adow, co-chair of Climate Action Network International. “The question is: How fast and how deep is the green transformation going to be? This is why Marrakech is going to be important,” says Dagnet. “Marrakech needs to pave the way for more ambitious action.” While the Paris conference was a flashy affair fit for celebrities and political wheelers and dealers, Marrakech is one for the wonks to sort out the nitty-gritty. The proceedings won’t be as glamorous, but they’re still critically important.
News Article | April 25, 2016
"I'm on the front line of the suffering" from climate change, Assaad Razzouk told me at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on Friday. Razzouk, the sharp-eyed CEO of Sindicatum, a sustainable energy developer based in Singapore, had just finished excoriating Wall Street for sticking its head in the sand with regards to the costly impact of climate change. But the venue—an anonymous press conference room deep in the bowels of the institutional labyrinth that is the UN headquarters—stood in stark contrast to the grandiosity on the other side of the building, as scores of world leaders, dignitaries, and assorted A-listers celebrated Earth Day by standing in front of each other in a cathedral-like space and pledging to not let the world burn. This is where we stand in the race to limit the catastrophic effects of climate change: World leaders have finally signed a historic climate agreement. Now all we have to do is fundamentally reshape the global economy. On Friday, representatives from 175 nations signed the Paris Agreement, which outlines voluntary carbon emissions and climate targets. It's doubtlessly a momentous step in the climate conversation: After decades of the climate-conscious pinning their hopes on a series of stepping-stone treaties that sound like Robert Ludlum novels—the Kyoto Protocol, the Copenhagen Accord, the Bali Action Plan, and so forth—the Paris Agreement is notable because it marks the first time the vast majority of the world's nations have all signed a document saying that we must limit "global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels" with a goal of keeping it below 1.5 ºC, or face disastrous consequences. I went to check out the conversation surrounding the UN signature event, which itself was enough of a scrum that I didn't even attempt to attend; I'm disappointed I missed Leonardo DiCaprio's remarks. I was, however, invited to a "high-level luncheon" where I had the surreal experience of eating sea bass one table over from Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, who earlier had frowned, back turned, as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made jokes about hosting the world's elite. This is the diplomatic circus as usual: handshakes, grand pronouncements from one powerful person to a room full of other powerful people, early afternoon wine. While the lasting image of the event is that of 175 world leaders giving brief remarks and signing a page, the discussion in small conferences and hallways around the UN revolved less around the symbolism of the event and more on what underpins both the climate problem and its solution: money. "For the countries at the forefront of climate change, the current view is that COP21 and COP22 are thought of on Wall Street as an HBO miniseries," said Razzouk, suggesting that two major climate conferences hadn't quite made waves in the investment community. "There’s a tremendous investment gap between the aspirational goals from a record number of countries around the world and the equity funds deployed and the cost of building clean energy infrastructure worldwide." Razzouk's remarks represent that of a vocal business contingent pushing for more investment in sustainable infrastructure in the markets that are transforming the fastest, before they get locked into dirty, carbon-intensive business as usual. While their collective view has always been central to pragmatic climate discussions, it's notable that the people stating the obvious—if we're going to build regardless, we should build sustainably—were doing so in a small press room during one of the biggest climate moments of the year. For as powerful a message it is for the world to agree on how much warming is dangerous, it's clear that actually doing something about that warming means reworking how the world does business. But what's fuzzier is how and when that will happen. In short, the Paris Agreement will never work if the business and finance sectors don't get on board. "It is a victory for a multitude of reasons, a victory for all of us," Ban said in remarks to the luncheon attendees. "Now we must move from climate aspirations to implementation and action. That's why we are here today." Naturally, public officials thus focused on pitching the Paris Agreement as an opportunity. Later, standing in front of dozens of eminently powerful people poking at salads in the UN's Delegate Dining Room, former Vice President Al Gore stood at a dais and joked about keeping his remarks short so we could all get on to lunch. He followed by admitting, as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and France President Françoise Hollande also did, that governments need to do more to support and fund a shift towards a carbon-neutral economy. At some point later on, the 92-year-old Mugabe toasted his table. The Paris Agreement will only be put into place once at least 55 nations representing 55 percent of global carbon emissions ratify it; 15 mostly small island nations have done so already, while the US and China, which total around 38 percent of global carbon emissions, have pledged to do so this year. (While President Obama could ratify the agreement by executive order, congressional Republicans have already grumbled about fighting the treaty. Should a Republican win the presidency at the end of this year, US involvement in the Paris Agreement could potentially be reversed. China, meanwhile, has pledged to ratify the agreement, at least according to the state-run Xinhua news service.) Now comes the task of waiting for those nations to actually ratify the agreement, which requires local politicking and discussion as nations decide what their contribution to carbon reduction will be. And even then, turning the Paris Agreement into meaningful climate action means not only weaning the world's largest economies off fossil fuel-based infrastructure and investment, but also preventing the world's developing economies from doing the same. The sentiment of leaders and spectators at the signing ceremony and surrounding events on Friday was aspirational, for it's clear that until it's formally put into effect, the Paris Agreement is largely symbolic. And even if ratified, it only requires binding nations to set their own non-binding carbon targets, which sounds like the usual climate politics plugging away, even as the world's developing economies race to close the wealth gap with richer nations—a race that threatens to further spur climate change unless those economies are supported in doing something developed nations did not have to do: grow with carbon output in mind. Even with US oil production expected to fall along with its use of coal, and China pushing to reduce its own dependence on coal, staying "well below" a 2ºC increase by 2100 means not only drastically reducing carbon emissions from current peak producers, but also preventing developing economies from becoming significant producers of their own. "Let us bear in mind that there is a stark injustice to climate change which affects more significantly and more immediately the countries and communities that are least responsible for emissions," Mary Robinson, one of the world's most powerful voices for climate justice, said. According to the leaders on hand Friday, slowing climate change means the two things that have traditionally been the hardest for markets to rally behind: setting a uniform price on carbon—preferably $100 per metric tonne, according to UN Global Compact executive director Lise Kingo—as well as unlocking significant public and private investment for sustainable infrastructure development worldwide. The Paris Agreement is “a clear signal to markets that we need 100 percent participation from businesses and the investment communities," Kingo said at a press conference. Many developing nations not only face outsized exposure to the deleterious effects—food security, natural disasters, weather shifts—of climate change, but they also are now working to grow without being able to rely on significant investment support from wealthier nations while also being urged to avoid the cheap fossil fuel-based infrastructure the world's leading nations built themselves upon. (That the finance world has ignored the monetary risks of climate change is hardly a new idea; last year the World Bank warned that the "carbon bubble" could tank the world economy.) “Some of the countries here are building 2440 coal fired plants today. Seventy-five percent of these are in India, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines," Razzouk said. (The US, meanwhile, still gets two-thirds of its energy from fossil fuels.) "Again, some of the countries most likely to suffer first and hardest from climate change. This type of behavior, which basically cheerleads every aspect of the energy system, really needs to change.” WHO IS SAVING WHO? But even if the Paris Agreement makes it through ratification intact, there's no guarantee that it will serve as a carrot to corporations and banks in the US and Europe, who heretofore have not appropriately valued the risk of climate change or the opportunity of sustainable development worldwide, according to multiple speakers on Friday. "We are on the brink of an enormous climate wealth, but the proponents of this climate wealth are invariably small and poor," Razzouk said. "If you’re small and poor, you need technical innovation and you need a cost of capital that allows you to compete. Hopefully all of these agreements, the Paris Agreement, the work done by the UN global compact, will crystallize a picture primarily for Wall Street, which at the end of the day is $150 trillion of capital that needs to go to the right places but is still primarily in the wrong places." Even if weaning ourselves off carbon means massive and dramatic shifts in how the world does its business, it does not mean that people can't get rich off the carbon economy. Both Razzouk and Anne Stausboll, the CEO of CALPers, the massive Californian investment fund that has had a major influence in the carbon divestment movement and climate financing, said that sustainable infrastructure development will be worth at least a trillion dollars a year for years to come. Laurent Fabius, former French prime minister and chair of the 2015 COP 21 conference for which the Paris Agreement is named, was a hit with the French press before President Hollande gave a press conference. Image: Derek Mead Is that enough to attract a significant response to climate change? That's a question the Paris Agreement has raised, to its credit, but cannot answer. There is certainly momentum around the agreement: Heather Coleman, who leads climate policy for Oxfam America, said that “developed countries committed to putting forward $140 billion" for sustainable infrastructure development, while Stausboll said that "this week, more than 100 companies here in the US signed a statement in support of the agreement and quick follow-on action." And, again, there has been a slow-but-steady shift in the world's leading economies towards more emphasis on sustainability and better addressing the massive financial risk that climate change poses. Yet even then, the fate of the climate—and, well, the current state of the world, if we want to stop kidding ourselves for a second—rests on ratification of the Paris Agreement by nations that traditionally have eschewed climate concern for quick growth, and even then the agreement must be a gateway to implementing global and local economic change. It's easy to get caught up in the pomp of diplomacy when you find yourself on an escalator accidentally squeezed in between the tens of thousands of dollars of suits that make up a dignitary's entourage. Then you remember that the task at hand requires entirely rewriting the economic playbook we've all come to rely on. “We are actually embarking on a new era of development pursuits," said Emmanuel M. de Guzman, the secretary and vice chairperson of the Philippine Climate Change Commission. "It's an enormous challenge to everyone, every stakeholder group. When you got to a rural area, a rural community, they’re still using firewood for cooking. They’re exposed to indoor pollution, harmful carbon that causes cancer. There’s a lot of work to do. Without civil society action, without civil society support at the local level, it’s very difficult to achieve what we’re trying for.”
Gneiting U.,Oxfam America |
Schmitz H.P.,University of San Diego
Health Policy and Planning | Year: 2016
Smoking and drinking constitute two risk factors contributing to the rising burden of non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries. Both issues have gained increased international attention, but tobacco control has made more sustained progress in terms of international and domestic policy commitments, resources dedicated to reducing harm, and reduction of tobacco use in many high-income countries. The research presented here offers insights into why risk factors with comparable levels of harm experience different trajectories of global attention. The analysis focuses particular attention on the role of dedicated global health networks composed of individuals and organizations producing research and engaging in advocacy on a given health problem. Variation in issue characteristics and the policy environment shape the opportunities and challenges of global health networks focused on reducing the burden of disease. What sets the tobacco case apart was the ability of tobacco control advocates to create and maintain a consensus on policy solutions, expand their reach in low- and middle-income countries and combine evidence-based research with advocacy reaching beyond the public health-centered focus of the core network. In contrast, a similar network in the alcohol case struggled with expanding its reach and has yet to overcome divisions based on competing problem definitions and solutions to alcohol harm. The tobacco control network evolved from a group of dedicated individuals to a global coalition of membership-based organizations, whereas the alcohol control network remains at the stage of a collection of dedicated and like-minded individuals. © 2016 The Author; all rights reserved.
Slack K.,Oxfam America
Resources Policy | Year: 2012
Corporations in the extractive industries often state their commitment to "corporate social responsibility" principles, but their actual implementation of these principles, particularly in developing countries, is questionable. This contradiction between rhetoric and reality is attributable to the fact that these companies have not fully integrated CSR into their business models. This can been seen in assessments of projects' costs and benefits, project and technology selection, respect for community consent, and performance incentive structures. The Marlin gold mine in Guatemala provides a concrete example of these sharp contradictions between stated CSR commitments and actual performance. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
Gneiting U.,Oxfam America
Health Policy and Planning | Year: 2016
Global policy attention to tobacco control has increased significantly since the 1990s and culminated in the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization - the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Although the political process that led to the creation of the FCTC has been extensively researched, the FCTC's progression from an aspirational treaty towards a global health governance framework with tangible policy effects within FCTC member countries has not been well-understood to date. This article analyses the role of the global health network of tobacco control advocates and scientists, which formed during the FCTC negotiations during the late 1990s, in translating countries' commitment to the FCTC into domestic policy change. By comparing the network's influence around two central tobacco control interventions (smoke-free environments and taxation), the study identifies several scope conditions, which have shaped the network's effectiveness around the FCTC's implementation: the complexity of the policy issue and the relative importance of non-health expertise, the required scope of domestic political buy-in, the role of the general public as network allies, and the strength of policy opposition. These political factors had a greater influence on the network's success than the evidence base for the effectiveness of tobacco control interventions. The network's variable success points to a trade-off faced by global health networks between their need to maintain internal cohesion and their ability to form alliances with actors in their social environment. © 2015 The Author; all rights reserved.
News Article | December 17, 2016
A new study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) and Oxfam America finds that more than one in four employed women in the United States are concentrated in low-wage “women’s work”—such as teaching young children, cleaning, serving, and caring for elders—jobs that are done primarily by women, pay less than $15 per hour, and provide few benefits. Workers in these female-dominated jobs, who are disproportionately women of color, earn less than men working in jobs with similar requirements for education, skills, stamina, and hours. For instance, maids and housekeepers, who earn $9.94 per hour, are 90 percent female, while janitors, who are mostly men, earn 22 percent more, at $12.13 per hour. Workers in low-wage, female-dominated occupations are better educated than those in other low-wage occupations, yet earn less than workers in mixed or male-dominated fields. More than half (52.3 percent) of workers in low-wage, “women’s work” fields have education beyond a high school diploma, compared with only 38 percent of workers in all other low-wage jobs. Yet, workers in female-dominated, low-wage jobs—4 in 5 of whom are women—make $11.30 per hour on average, while workers in all other low-wage jobs—one in three of whom are women—make $0.51 more per hour. Despite growing levels of education and training among its workers, low-wage women’s work does not sustain families. About four in ten women working full time in these jobs live in or near poverty and three in five mothers in these jobs depend on subsidized lunch programs for their children. Rates of public assistance program use, such as food stamps (SNAP benefits) and Medicaid, are higher than those in other low-wage occupations. ”Our society needs to recognize the economic and social value of the work that women perform in predominantly female, low-wage jobs, which includes caring for the elderly and young children. Policy must address the continuing stark segregation of women, and especially women of color, into jobs that are underpaid for their skill levels, despite being crucial to our nation’s economy. Improving the quality of these low wage jobs, and creating pathways to stable careers, is a critical part of strengthening our nation’s infrastructure,” said IWPR Vice President and Executive Director Barbara Gault, Ph.D. Other findings from the study, Undervalued and Underpaid in America: Women in Low-Wage, Female-Dominated Jobs, include: As the population ages and the demand for care workers increases, employment in these jobs is projected to grow faster than the economy as a whole. By 2024, one in six jobs (15.5 percent) will be in these low-wage, female-dominated occupations, an increase of more than 25 percent since 1994. “While much of the discussion post-election has focused on the economic anxiety that plagues American workers who’ve seen their wages steadily erode over the years, it’s women who are getting the raw end of the economic deal,” said Mary Babic, an Oxfam America spokesperson and author of the policy brief. “Millions of women find themselves compelled to take jobs involving ‘women’s work’-tasks carried over from the home. Nearly one in four women is segregated into these jobs that undervalue their education and skills, undercompensate their contributions, and exact heavy physical and emotional costs.” The report and accompanying policy brief from Oxfam America includes recommendations to improve conditions for workers in these jobs, invest in the caregiving infrastructure, and build ladders to higher-paying occupations. Read IWPR’s full report, Undervalued and Underpaid in America: Women in Low-Wage, Female-Dominated Jobs at IWPR.org. Read Oxfam America’s companion brief, “Undervalued and Underpaid in America: The Deck is Stacked Against Millions of Working Women,” at http://www.oxfamamerica.org/undervalued.