In the News…

In the News: Consultants Urge Congress To Use Sustainability For Environmental Policy

Inside EPA

by Dave Reynolds

June 24, 2019

A small panel of government and industry consultants is urging Congress to use sustainability as a framework for tackling environmental problems, saying the federal government is lagging behind on a coherent policy while companies advance sustainability’s goals of environmental protection, economic development and social justice.

The panel met with House and Senate staff June 10, but industry and public sector advisor Ira Feldman tells Inside EPA he is a planning a similar event for a broader audience in Washington, D.C. in the coming months.

The Hill briefing builds on Feldman’s ongoing efforts for the federal government to look to sustainability’s blend of environmental protection, economic development and social justice, as a framework for advancing the ideas encompassed in the Green New Deal.

“Properly understood, sustainability is a coherent framework for advancing the bundle of issues contained in the Green New Deal,” panelists said in a briefing presentation.

Feldman was joined by Alan Horowitz, principal and managing director of Trusted Companies LLC, who previously worked as an environmental health and safety compliance official at Microsoft and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals. Jeremy Symons, of Symons Public Affairs and formerly of the Environmental Defense Fund moderated the discussion.

Feldman said the briefing sought “to push a reset button on sustainability as it is understood on the Hill,” where he says people have not been talking about sustainability for some time.

Speakers provided staffers with a history of advances in sustainability in recent decades in the United States, which have occurred largely outside the federal government.

On sustainability, “the posture of business and industry has completely flipped from the mid to late 1990s, where business and industry are now the leading champions of sustainability in the U.S. market,” he tells Inside EPA.

Many advances have occurred in the financial sector, where environmental, social and governance (ES&G) concepts that consider companies’ environmental footprint or other business practices are guiding investors’ decision making. The presenters contended that similar concepts should also undergird federal policymaking.

In an invitation to the briefing on “Sustainability: Reviving the Federal Role” at the Rayburn House Office building, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) suggested that the federal government could learn from steps taken in industry and local government to better incorporate sustainability into efforts to plan for and respond to challenges.

“Business and industry are now our leading champions for sustainable business practices and corporate social responsibility (CSR) with an explosion of interest in sustainable supply chain management, sustainability reporting, and impactful initiatives that go well beyond legal compliance,” Raskin said in the invitation.

“Outside of the Beltway, the private and public sectors have been putting sustainability into practice,” Raskin said. “Sustainability thinking has permeated financial decision making under the banner of ES&G which embraces environment, social and governance factors/analytics.” — Dave Reynolds

In the News: American University conference on EPA and the Future of Environmental Protection

June 10 — Washington, DC — 40 staff from the House and Senate heard Ira Feldman offer ideas for advancing sustainability policy in the US. Feldman recapped the basics of sustainability for the attendees and traced the brief history of sustainability in the US beginning with the efforts of President’s Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) in the 1990s. He emphasized that, even without a national sustainability policy council for the last 20 years, much progress has occurred in the US and must inform the current discussions sparked by The Green New Deal proposal. Feldman was joined by Alan Horowitz of Trusted Companies, who shared perspectives from business and industry, and moderator Jeremy Symons of Symons Public Affairs. The presentation entitled “Sustainability — Reviving the Federal Role” followed interest in Feldman’s op-ed published in The Hill in February and follow-on conversations with Members and Staff, including Rep. Jaimie Raskin of Maryland who invited his colleagues to attend the June 10 session. See below.

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In the News: Ira Feldman profiled in Inside EPA’s new feature “Environment Next”

In the News: Ira’s op-ed on the Green New Deal and Sustainability was published Feb. 9, 2019 in The Hill, a Washington, DC based news organization focusing on issues before Congress.

Profile

Ira Feldman


Inside EPA
Environment Next
June 03, 2019


Former EPA official Ira Feldman for decades has pressed for the United States to adopt a federal approach to advancing sustainability that encompasses environmental protection, economic development and social justice.

At a June 10 briefing for House lawmakers, Feldman, a former EPA enforcement official and long-time industry consultant, will take his pitch to lawmakers seeking policies that refocus existing government infrastructure around sustainability.

Democrats’ Green New Deal, he says, is triggering renewed debate on the need for a national sustainability policy that was never fully realized after the President’s Council on Sustainable Development ended in 1999.

Yet Feldman says sustainability principles have continued to advance in the private sector and around the world.

At the House briefing, Feldman will re-up his pitch for an umbrella organization to champion federal sustainability policies, which he sees as the “weak link” in U.S. sustainability efforts, and to convene a cross-spectrum of stakeholders.

He will push for the federal government to back approaches similar to the environmental management systems (EMS) that he pushed to include in EPA settlements while special counsel to EPA’s enforcement office in the 1990s. EMS policies seek to reduce a company’s environmental footprint while also growing revenue.

He is also eyeing changes at other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which he says could change its regulations to embrace environmental and social governance.

Feldman tells Inside EPA in a recent interview that “Sustainability is not ‘going green’ — that is dumbing down a robust framework.” Instead, he says sustainability is a way of thinking focused on “the integration of environmental protection, economic development and social justice.”

He adds, “Climate change is understandably front and center of the agenda that frames [sustainability] but it has to be broader if we’re going to make any progress.”

The GND floats proposal such as setting renewable energy goals for the power sector and bolstering building efficiency, while increasing investments in education, healthcare and clean air and water.

“Most ideas of the ideas in the Green New Deal have been under discussion for years,” Feldman says.

“Everybody else [around the world] signed on to the [United Nations’] Sustainable Development Goals voluntarily. What’s going on here [in US policy]? Not too much.”

In the News: The Second Poly Prep Sustainability Lecture

PolyPrep Director of Sustainability Brian Filiatraut was joined by Ken Berlin, CEO of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and second annual Poly Prep Sustainability Lecturer, and Ira Feldman ‘75 in awarding Shania Smith ‘19 the Nathan and Estelle Feldman Sustainability Prize. The Poly Prep Sustainability Lecture is a component of the Nathan & Estelle Feldman Sustainability Education Initiative established by Ira Feldman to honor his parents. It also supports faculty in their sustainability professional development and a Sustainable Societies Academy at Poly each August.

In the News: The Inaugural Poly Prep Sustainability Lecture on May 7, 2018

The Inaugural Poly Prep Sustainability Lecture on May 7, 2018, part of the Nathan & Estelle Feldman Sustainability Education Initiative, with invited guest speaker Gil Friend and student winner of the annual Sustainability Prize, Armin Kerminshah, Poly ’18.

In the News: Ira Feldman ’75 presented the new Nathan and Estelle Feldman Sustainability Prize

#PolyPrep alum Ira Feldman ’75 presented the new Nathan and Estelle Feldman Sustainability Prize, honoring his parents, to Head of School Audrius Barzdukas P’20 and Director of Sustainability Brian Filiatraut. The Nathan and Estelle Feldman Sustainability Prize will be awarded to the student who best understands the foundational knowledge of sustainability, how sustainability interweaves with various disciplines and facets of life, how he/she acts on this knowledge as an agent of change to better the Poly community, and exhibits great potential in applying the sustainability framework to his/her chosen career/profession.

In the News: Law & Governance Day at COP 22 Marrakech

During CoP22, the Climate Law and Governance Initiative welcomed Université Privée de Marrakech, Hassan 1er University, and Cadi Ayyad University into its worldwide partnership of leading universities, law associations, judicial institutes, inter-governmental organizations and foundations, to advance implementation of the Paris Agreement. Together with these new partners, the coalition of CLGI partners hosted a series of seminars, conferences and symposia world-wide, culminating in the second annual Climate Law and Governance Day on Friday 11 November 2016, as an official CoP22 side event. The event drew an audience of over 260 government delegates, law and policy practitioners, academics, and students. Through intergovernmental plenaries, plenary keynotes, expert roundtables and participatory workshops, the participants discussed the law and policy reform elements of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and the Paris Agreement, the Climate SDG, and the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol. A one-day capacity building course was also offered to local students and government delegates on Sunday 13th November in partnership with Université Hassan 1er de Settat.  Ira Feldman organized and moderated the panel on the use of voluntary international standards to implement the Paris Agreement and presented a segment of the capacity building course. More on the Climate Law and Governance Initiative available at: www.climatelawgovernance.org/.

Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger (Climate Law & Governance Initiative) with Ira Feldman in Marrakech

On November 11, 2015 the Sustainable Development Law & Policy brief at Washington College of Law hosted its annual symposium and this year’s timely topic was “All Eyes on Paris: The Global Agreement on Climate Change” given the upcoming international UNFCCC negotiations in Paris in December.

The final panel of the day (pictured) was moderated by Professor David Hunter and focused on adaptation and compensation. Ira Feldman gave an overview of adaptation strategies and the need for large-scale adaptation policies, and he was followed by Alan Miller who discussed the challenges of adaptation projects. Then Adaptation Fund Secretariat Manager Marcia Levaggi (and current ILSP LL.M student) gave an overview of the various UNFCCC funds and highlighted how the Adaptation Fund works. The discussion then shifted to compensation for climate change harm. Columbia Law Professor Michael Burger noted the challenges of climate change lawsuits using several in the U.S. as examples. Then Greenpeace lawyer Naomi Ages, who heads its climate liability project, discussed both the negotiations around loss and damage and climate liability of countries and companies.