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Cyndi Tuell, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 444-6603
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club - Grand Canyon Chapter, (602) 253-8633 or (602) 999-570
Kim Crumbo, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, (928) 638-2304
Daniel Patterson, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, (520) 906-2159
Conservation groups appealed the Tusayan Ranger District's off-road vehicle plan
today, citing the fact that the plan puts the forest's archeological
sites and wildlife habitat at serious risk, as well as the nearby Grand
Canyon National Park. The Center for Biological Diversity, the Grand
Canyon Wildlands Council, Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility, and the Sierra Club have repeatedly asked the Forest
Service to protect this area, but the district instead moved ahead with
a decision that allows off-road vehicles to continue to damage the
"We are appealing this decision in order
to force the Forest Service to do its job. They should be focused on
protecting our public lands and ensuring that future generations have
the freedom to enjoy a quiet, healthy forest," said Cyndi Tuell,
Southwest conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.
"We are particularly concerned that this plan will allow off-road
driving throughout the majority of the forest, putting wildlife in
prime elk habitat in jeopardy. It just doesn't make sense."
Some of the Southwest's most valuable elk hunting is found in the
Tusayan Ranger District, which borders the Grand Canyon National Park
to the south. According to conservationists, allowing hunters to drive
for one mile off every open road to pick up their downed elk will not
only harm the hunting experience but also harm the habitat of sensitive
species such as the northern goshawk, American pronghorn, mountain lion, and black bear.
The Travel Management Rule
requires the Forest Service to ban cross-country motorized travel to
protect habitat for sensitive species and watershed quality.
Conservation groups proposed a plan that would have offered habitat
protection, increased quiet recreation opportunities, and allowed
hunters the chance at a classic, unspoiled elk-hunting experience.
"This plan fails to protect wildlife habitat and we are left with no
option but to appeal this poor decision," said Kim Crumbo, conservation
director for the Flagstaff-based Grand Canyon Wildlands Council. "We
are committed to do what it takes to ensure this forest is protected."
The groups are also concerned about the so-called "albedo effect": Dust from off-road vehicles has the potential to increase snow-melt rates,
decreasing critical water supplies in the already arid West. Dust also
has a localized impact on anyone who might be hiking, hunting,
backpacking, or wildlife viewing in the area. The coarse particulates
that make up dust are inhaled by those individuals and can affect the
heart and lungs and increase respiratory symptoms, irritation of the
airways, coughing, difficulty breathing, and more. The elderly,
children, and those with respiratory or other health issues are at
greatest risk from particulate pollution.
risks associated with off-road vehicle activities are well known and
well documented," said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for the Sierra
Club's Grand Canyon Chapter. "Our natural heritage is at risk with this
plan and it is incredibly unfortunate the Forest Service has chosen to
favor the off-road vehicle industry to the detriment of this and future
The lack of enforcement is also
well documented, yet the off-road plan for the Tusayan Ranger District
contains few provisions for ensuring compliance with the new rules
other than relying on the public to comply. A 2007 study
by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Rangers for
Responsible Recreation found that off-road violations account for most
law-enforcement problems on federal lands. The groups appealing this
decision are concerned that the Tusayan Ranger District will not be
able to prevent illegal off-road use from spilling into the Grand
Canyon National Park, which could destroy wildlife habitat, ancient
archeological sites and could disrupt visitors to the Grand Canyon.
"We tried to work with the Forest Service to develop a good plan that
would protect natural resources, but we were ignored. We can't support
a plan that doesn't comply with the law," said Tuell.
The conservation groups are appealing the decision on several bases,
including failure to comply with the Travel Management Rule and the
National Environmental Policy Act, failure to look at an alternative
that would offer resource protection, and failure to properly consider
the impacts of this project on wildlife, air and water quality, and
global climate change. The groups are asking the Forest Service to
withdraw its decision and develop appropriate analysis of the
environmental impacts of this project.
All national forests are required to limit motorized cross-country travel by the Travel Management Rule of 2005
to protect natural resources after more than 30 years of unregulated
off-road vehicle use. National forests across the Southwest are
acknowledging that they can afford to maintain just a fraction of their
current road systems and in fact have billions of dollars worth of
backlogged maintenance. This places our public lands at risk for
habitat and watershed destruction and increases the risk to the public
of driving on unsafe, unmaintained roads, which are often made more
unsafe by off-road vehicle use.
National Forest can afford just 8 percent of its current system,
according to its own analysis, and has $43.5 million in maintenance
backlog. The Williams Ranger District
is expected to release an analysis of its plan later this year, along
with the Coconino National Forest. The North Kaibab Ranger District has
yet to begin its off-road vehicle planning. The Tusayan Ranger District
decision is available on the Forest Service Web site.
Off-road vehicles have had a negative impact on hunting experiences in Arizona. A 2005 Arizona Game and Fish Department study
found a majority of hunters (54 percent) thought off-road vehicles
disturbed their hunting experience. Failure to draw a tag,
urbanization, and lack of time were the only other barriers to hunting
that ranked above having a hunt ruined by off-road vehicles.
"You can't address poverty in a world of climate chaos," one advocacy group told Ajay Banga. "End fossil fuel finance now!"
Climate advocates on Friday held a demonstration outside the World Bank Group's headquarters in Washington, D.C., where they welcomed the bank's new president, Ajay Banga, and implored him to immediately begin pursuing a global just transition.
Campaigners from the Glasgow Actions Team, Global Citizen, Friends of the Earth, and Big Shift Global handed their "First 100 Days" demands to World Bank staffers as they entered the building, making the case on Banga's first day at the helm that he should prioritize four key goals over the next few months: end fossil fuel finance, ramp up clean energy funding, cancel debt for poor nations facing myriad crises, and align the bank's policies with the Paris agreement's goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.
"It's not often we feel hope in the climate movement, but today, with a new World Bank president having publicly committed to taking climate change seriously, we're feeling hopeful," Glasgow Actions Team director Andrew Nazdin said in a statement. "But President Banga doesn't have a moment to lose; the time is now to announce plans to move away from fossil fuels and help the globe transition to clean energy in a just and equitable manner."
Activists hand their "First 100 Days" demands to World Bank staffers in Washington, D.C. on June 2, 2023.(Photo: Eric Kayne/AP Images for Glasgow Actions Team)
Climate advocates cheered in February when former World Bank President David Malpass, nominated to lead the bank by then-U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019, said that he would step down this spring, nearly a year ahead of schedule.
The early resignation announcement followed a sustained pressure campaign against Malpass, who was condemned as a "climate denier" after refusing to acknowledge that burning fossil fuels causes the planet-heating pollution underlying increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather disasters.
U.S. President Joe Biden's ensuing decision to tap Banga for the role angered progressives, who argued that the erstwhile private equity executive and former Mastercard CEO is likely to advance the powerful international financial institution's historically pro-corporate and pro-fossil fuel agenda. When the World Bank's board of governors ratified Banga's presidency in early May—appointing the Biden nominee to a five-year term with a June 2 start date—the bank's new leader suggested that a "climate change shift" was coming.
On the eve of Banga's first day in office, Big Shift Global acknowledged that his stated belief in climate science is an improvement over the status quo. But whether he leads the World Bank in "the right direction on climate" remains an open question, the international campaign noted, reiterating its demands for "a phaseout of fossil fuel finance and support for a just, clean energy transition."
Luisa Abbott Galvao, senior international policy campaigner at Friends of the Earth U.S., pointed out that "Ajay Banga has spent his career chasing profits for shareholders rather than working in the public interest."
"But he could still commit to a different legacy from his climate change-denying predecessor, David Malpass," said Galvao. "We call on Banga to pledge an end to World Bank financing for fossil fuels on his first day in office. When science says new fossil fuel developments are incompatible with the 1.5°C pathway, a failure to act is effectively climate denial."
\u201cWe gathered at @WorldBank with a message to the Bank's new president, Ajay Banga\ud83d\udce2\n\nIt's not too late to change your legacy from chasing profits to leading the Bank toward real climate action.\n\nDon't be like your climate-denying predecessor, David Malpass!\u201d— Friends of the Earth (Action) (@Friends of the Earth (Action)) 1685727500
For its part, the Glasgow Actions Team tweeted, "While Ajay Banga is inside addressing his staff, we're outside showing him how easy it is to truly shift the World Bank to act on climate change!"
"You can't address poverty in a world of climate chaos," the group added. "End fossil fuel finance now!"
Big Shift Global showed in a recent report that the World Bank has directly financed at least $14.8 billion in fossil fuel production since the signing of the Paris agreement in 2015—reneging on its 2017 pledge to stop supporting oil and gas projects within two years.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency have made clear that fossil fuel expansion will cause the climate emergency's consequences to grow even deadlier, especially for humanity's poorest members who have done the least to cause the crisis.
Global Citizen noted Friday that impoverished countries on the frontlines of mounting socio-ecological catastrophes "can't tackle climate change when they're drowning in debt" and urged Banga to implement a debt jubilee in addition to subsidizing a green overhaul of the global economy.
The group also took out a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal, calling on Banga to begin transforming the World Bank into an instrument for genuinely sustainable development on his first day.
\u201c@GlblCtzn placed this in today\u2019s @WSJ to coincide with Ajay Banga\u2019s first day as the new head of the @WorldBank\u2b55\ufe0f\u201d— Global Citizen Impact (@Global Citizen Impact) 1685721724
"As the new president, what will your legacy be?" the ad asks. "In the face of the triple climate, poverty, and hunger crises, the world's biggest development bank stands at a critical juncture."
"Under your guidance, the World Bank could serve as an invaluable partner for low-income countries and those vulnerable to climate change," it continues. "The solutions are on the table."
"Make your first steps bold," says the ad. "Working alongside other multilateral development banks, help mobilize $1 trillion more in financing to help the world's poorest and most vulnerable countries quicken their transition to clean energy, withstand disasters, and power our planet."
"Essentially, whatever they call climate finance is climate finance," said one developing nation's lead climate negotiator.
Wealthy nations are spending money under the guise of "climate finance" to fund projects that have little or nothing to do with tackling the climate crisis and—as in the case of three Japanese-backed coal plants—are sometimes fueling the planetary emergency, according to a Reutersinvestigation published Thursday.
While media outlets including Reuters have recently reported that rich countries are on track—albeit long overdue—to finally meet their 2009 pledge to invest $100 billion annually in climate financing by 2020, the new Reuters investigation shows that governments are funding climate-harming projects and counting the expenditures toward their giving total.
"This is the wild, wild West of finance," Mark Joven, an undersecretary in the Philippines Department of Finance and the country's lead climate negotiator, told Reuters. "Essentially, whatever they call climate finance is climate finance."
\u201cWealthy countries have pledged $100 billion a year to help end the #climatecrisis. \n\nBut it turns out that large sums have ended up in strange projects - including a coal plant, a hotel and chocolate shops \ud83e\udd2f https://t.co/LkDtXRCNsz\u201d— Greenpeace International (@Greenpeace International) 1685718012
The Japanese government has lent at least $9 billion for projects that are dependent upon fossil fuels. These include a 1,200-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Matarbari, Bangladesh, coal plants in Vietnam and Indonesia, and a new terminal at Egypt's Borg al-Arab Airport. The Matarbari plant is expected to add 6.8 million tons of carbon dioxide to the Earth's atmosphere every year, while the airport terminal is forecast to increase outbound flight emissions by about 50% over 2013 levels.
Japanese officials have attempted to justify the investments by portraying the coal plant as an improvement because it uses Japanese technology that generates more energy with less coal, while calling the new terminal an "Eco-Airport" replete with energy-saving solar panels, high-efficiency air conditioning, and LED light bulbs.
However, Wayne King, director of climate change for the Cook Islands—a self-governing South Pacific nation in free association with New Zealand—took exception with Japan's characterization.
"Basically, that's a development project," King said of the Egyptian airport project. "You can't count it, because the motivation is wrong."
\u201cThis is utterly absurd! \n\u201cWealthy countries have pledged $100 billion a year to help reduce the effects of global warming. But Reuters found large sums going to projects including a coal plant, a hotel and chocolate shops\u201d\n#ClimateJustice #LossAndDamage\nhttps://t.co/Mnb2mzZG2C\u201d— Prof. Farhana Sultana (@Prof. Farhana Sultana) 1685675967
Other examples of questionable climate financing in the Reuters report include an agreement by the United States to loan $19.5 million to the developers of a Marriot hotel in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti; a Belgian backing of an Argentinian film about a man who works to destroy forests for a paper company before falling in love with an environmental activist; and a $4.7 million Italian investment in a chain of chocolate and gelato shops across Asia.
According to the report:
Some countries count projects that never happened toward climate finance goals. France reported a $118.1 million loan to a Chinese bank for environmental initiatives, as well as loans totaling $267.5 million for upgrades to a metro system in Mexico and $107.6 million for port improvements in Kenya. Each project was subsequently canceled with no funds paid out, according to the French Development Agency. Similarly, the U.S. reported $7 million in insurance coverage for a hydropower project in South Africa that never happened.
Iqbal Kabir, an official in the Bangladeshi Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, told Reuters that "people deserve more" than the misallocation of climate funds for projects like coal plants, while criticizing countries that are "spending [climate funds] on other projects, depriving the issues like women's health, children's health, and salinity intrusion."
Matthew Samuda, a minister in Jamaica's Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, added that "if we are telling ourselves we are spending money and investing in our future in a way that we are not, then we are courting disaster."
"For too long, EPA has allowed pesticide-coated seeds to jeopardize threatened and endangered species across the country," said one advocate.
Two public health groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, demanding that the agency close a regulatory loophole that has allowed insecticide-coated seeds to proliferate across 150 million acres of cropland in the United States.
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, which pertains to seeds coated in neonicotinoids, often called neonics.
The EPA has long failed to regulate neonics, denying a rulemaking petition filed by CFS in 2017 which asked them to close the loophole which allows neonic-coated seeds to be used to grow corn, soy, and other crops across the country.
The agency only regulates pesticides that are directly sprayed on crops, allowing companies to continue using the coatings.
The EPA ignored CFS's petition until 2021, when the group sued to force a response, only to have the petition denied. PANNA joined CFS in the new lawsuit on Thursday, arguing that the denial was unlawful.
"Despite knowing the ongoing grave harms caused by coated seeds, EPA has still unlawfully refused to close the loophole allowing them to escape any regulation," said Amy van Saun, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety. "That decision is as unlawful as it is irresponsible. EPA is supposed to protect these species and habitats, not enable their peril, and we are asking the court to tell the agency to do its job."
Toxic neonicotinoids can cause paralysis and death in crucial pollinators including bees and butterflies.
"Ingesting one of these seeds can cause serious harm or death to a songbird," said CFS on social media.
\u201cWe join @pesticideaction to sue the @EPA for failing to close a loophole that has allowed insecticide-coated seeds to proliferate across 150 million acres of US crop land (unregulated) causing widespread harm to essential pollinators like birds and bees, beneficial insects, and\u2026\u201d— Center for Food Safety (@Center for Food Safety) 1685670031
"For too long, EPA has allowed pesticide-coated seeds to jeopardize threatened and endangered species across the country," said Margaret Reeves, senior scientist at PANNA. "EPA must close the regulatory loophole for toxic pesticide-coated seeds to prevent further harm to wildlife, ecosystems, and people."