Domestic Policy Action Network Newsletter Dec. 2014
Domestic Policy Action Network Newsletter
Merry Christmas from the Domestic Policy Action Network (DPAN), your go-to news primer for current domestic issues related to Episcopal Church policy! December's newsletter will detail administrative actions to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, explain new developments in carbon emission reduction, explore possibilities for criminal justice reform in the next Congress, and review domestic food assistance funding for 2015.
Climate Collaboration and the Pathway to Paris
In November's DPAN newsletter, we learned about the President's Clean Power Plan to limit carbon emissions within the United States. Now, DPAN is excited to share an additional climate change breakthrough that occurred last month: President Xi Jinping of China and President Obama publicly announced an agreement to collaborate on carbon emission reduction, and stated specific targets to meet their goals. As two of the world's greatest carbon emitters, China and the United States' agreement is incredibly timely, and this announcement has already generated optimism among parties involved in international carbon emissions negotiations through the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC).
UNFCC members are striving to reach an international agreement that would require states to limit their carbon emissions so as to prevent the world's temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius (a temperature rise that scientists agree would cause significant and irreparable damage to human communities and the environment). To this end, member states convene this month in Lima, Peru to craft an agreement that will culminate exactly one year from now in Paris, France.
In addition to mitigating the impact of climate change, negotiators are also working on a Green Climate Fund to raise money for vulnerable communities that are disproportionately affected by climate change. Through mitigation and adaptation assistance, member states are striving for an ambitious and effective agreement which accounts for communities that are most likely to suffer climate-related hardship.
The President's Clean Power Plan is a domestic policy initiative that provides additional bargaining leverage at these international negotiations. An international agreement would, in turn, directly impact our domestic policies. Thus, it is impossible to fully understand our domestic efforts without also accounting for the concurrent international negotiations.
Resources on Carbon Reduction and Climate Change:
A Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the Arctic
As iterated in November's DPAN newsletter, The Episcopal Church has long supported permanently protecting of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's Coastal Plain. We advocate permanent protection of the Coastal Plain both to conserve God's creation and to uphold the subsistence rights of the Gwich'in, a native Alaskan people (the majority of whom are Episcopalian).
While we continue to advocate for the passage of a congressional bill that would ensure permanent wilderness designation for this pristine landscape, there is an additional advocacy channel that can further our mission to protect the Arctic. Namely, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), a body under the authority of the Administration, is expected to release a comprehensive conservation plan for the Coastal Plain in the coming months.
According to the USFWS: "A comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) is the result of a mandatory planning process that provides long-range guidance and management direction for a national wildlife refuge." While this plan in itself is an essential step toward carefully conserving the incredible biological habitat of the Arctic, there may be an added bonus included within it. Specifically, it will likely contain a Wilderness recommendation for the Coastal Plain, which President Obama can then forward to Congress.
A Wilderness recommendation from the Administration cannot be used to permanently protect the Arctic unless Congress passes official legislation approving it. Still, a Wilderness endorsement alone would give real momentum to the cause through providing a scientifically-based recommendation to policymakers. This recommendation may be just the push legislators need to move a stalled wilderness bill.
Take Action: The long-awaited Fish and Wildlife Service Arctic CCP report still has not been released. Write President Obama today and ask him to release this report along with a formal Wilderness recommendation for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge!
Resources on Protecting the Arctic:
Criminal Justice Reform and the New Congress
We advocated for impactful criminal justice reform bills in the 113th Congress, including the Smarter Sentencing Act (S 1410/HR 3382) and the Second Chance Reauthorization Act (S 1690/HR 3465). Unfortunately, both bills remain stalled in the 113th Congress, and now we must look ahead to the 114th Congress and prepare for a new legislative landscape.
It's impossible to determine exactly what criminal justice policy we'll see in the next congress, but it's safe to say that this is an issue of concern for many members, and criminal justice reform has the potential to be a major policy theme over the next two years. While new legislation may not exactly mirror the bills of the 113th Congress, new policy will likely contain components of bills we've seen in the past, and may even be combinations of 113th Congressional legislation. As there are a number of new members arriving Washington in January, reaching out to and educating the new staff on our criminal justice reform concerns will be a priority for The Episcopal Church.
Take Action: Do you have a new member this Congress? If so, contact their office in January and let them know that as an Episcopalian, criminal justice reform is important to you. Check out the resources below to help you get started.
Domestic Food Assistance and Government Spending
This month, Congress reached an agreement on a $1. 1 trillion spending package that will keep the government funded through September 2015. While the package includes funding levels for a number of government programs ranging from criminal justice reform to financial regulation, this DPAN issue will specifically examine how Congress plans to meet the needs of vulnerable populations through domestic food programs.
The Episcopal Church has long supported child nutrition programs and we were pleased to see $21.3 billion in mandatory funding allocated to child nutrition in the agriculture appropriations bill. These funding levels include $16 million for summer food demonstration projects and $25 million for competitive grants that will help schools to provide more nutritious meals, increase food safety, and maintain or expand their school breakfast program. We also welcome Congress's support of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), as this program was a focus of our May 2014 Advocacy to Challenge Domestic Poverty conference and lobby day.
Unfortunately, the bill also contains provisions that will allow some schools to sidestep a whole grain nutritional meal requirement. This requirement is based on scientifically evaluated research and helps to bolster the health and educational achievement of young students. The Episcopal Church will continue to advocate for policies rooted in scientific evidence that improve the livelihoods of young people, and looking ahead to 2015, the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act will be an advocacy priority for us.
Take Action: Read up on the Child Nutrition and WIC Authorization Act to prepare for advocacy in 2015
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