Washington Insider-- Wednesday

Climate Already Changing, Administration Says

Here’s a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN’s well-placed observer.

USTR Details Law Changes Needed for TPP

Changes to laws which would be required to bring the US into compliance with obligations under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) were detailed in a release made by the Office of the US Trade Representative.

The release is in response to a requirement under the previously-passed Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that stipulated the administration had to provide a summary of legal changes needed, once TPP negotiations concluded.

Changes outlined were:

· A modification to the merchandise processing fee collected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection on merchandise entering the country. The U.S. could no longer base the amount of the fee on the value of the merchandise.

· The imposition of penalties on U.S. producers and exporters who falsify certifications that their goods qualify as originating goods under TPP.

· New record-keeping requirements for U.S. producers and exporters who issue certifications stating that a good qualifies as an originating good under TPP.

· Providing importers at least one year from the date they import goods to claim preferential tariff treatment for the goods under TPP.

· Allow the president to designate certain products from a TPP member state as eligible for the waiver of discriminatory purchasing requirements under US procurement law, often termed “Buy American” provisions.


Commerce Chief: Reversing Cuba Policy Difficult

Steps to ease trade and travel restrictions with Cuba taken by President Barack Obama would be very hard for the next administration to reverse, Commerce Secretary Pritzker said at an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations.

“More and more” constituencies in the U.S. will be invested in the changes stemming from Obama’s policies, Pritzker said. United Airlines and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. are among the U.S. businesses seeking opportunities in Cuba.

Pritzker said change in Cuba would take time, adding that “It’s not going to happen overnight.” Since Obama and President Raul Castro announced in late December of 2014 that they would pursue normalization of relations, the Obama administration has taken incremental steps to ease trade and travel restrictions on Cuba, which remains under a U.S. embargo that can only be lifted by Congress.


Washington Insider: Climate Already Changing, Administration Says

Bloomberg is reporting this week that worries about climate change are somewhat behind the times -- many important changes are already here and are having costly, negative public health impacts. The report concludes that these will only grow worse without significant additional efforts to combat them.

The administration says the report is “extensively peer-reviewed” and represents the work of eight federal agencies over three years, Bloomberg says. It emphasizes climate change impacts in terms of acute respiratory illnesses, aggravated water-borne diseases, disproportionate effects for vulnerable populations and spreading vector-borne illnesses like Lyme disease and West Nile virus.

“What might surprise people when they read this report is the breadth of pathways through which climate change affects health,” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told reporters. “If we don’t address climate change, then we will not be safeguarding the health of current and future generations.”

Officials, including Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and White House Science Adviser John Holdren, argued that the report provides further impetus for executive actions to combat problems from already-identified links between climate change and adverse public health impacts.

Among the greatest risks to public health from climate change is worsening air pollution that can fuel allergies and asthma cases. Such pollution, which includes fine particulate matter and ground-level ozone, will fuel “hundreds to thousands of premature deaths, hospital admissions and cases of acute respiratory illnesses” annually by 2030, according to the report.

In addition, climate change may cause “thousands to tens of thousands” of deaths each summer due to extreme heat conditions, which would far outpace any reduction in deaths from extreme cold, the report found.

Climate change will also enable the wider spread of ticks and mosquitoes known to carry diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile virus, according to the report. Extreme weather events linked to the problem could overwhelm the nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, causing the spread of water-borne illnesses, the report says, and it also links extreme weather to worsening nutritional value in food and emotional strain that could, in turn, exacerbate mental health problems.

“This document shows that the public health case for climate action is really compelling beyond words,” McCarthy said. “It’s not just about glaciers and polar bears.”

Vulnerable populations, including pregnant women, low-income residents, immigrants, citizens with disabilities and the elderly, are among those communities likely to feel the public health impacts most acutely.

“When you think about what we need to do to safeguard the health of current and future generations, climate change needs to be on that list as a high priority,” the report suggests, “Because if we do not act today to address climate change, my concern is that we are going to be seeing more illness, we’re going to be seeing more climate-related deaths, and that’s not a future we need to or should accept.”

Holdren said the report assumed some degree of action to address climate change, including the provisions of the president’s Climate Action Plan and the international Paris Agreement. Still, he cautioned, significant further action would be needed, especially after 2030 in terms of further, deep cuts in order to avoid many of the worst impacts described in this report, Holdren said. “There is a huge difference in magnitude of impacts if we fail to act and the much smaller magnitude we expect if we take aggressive actions as defined in the president’s Climate Action Plan.”

Eight federal agencies, led by the EPA, the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, contributed to the report, which included contributions from more than 100 experts.

Obama initially commissioned the report in his June 2013 Climate Action Plan and his administration has frequently sought to frame the need for action in public health terms since that time. In April 2015, the president participated in a public health roundtable in connection with the release of a draft version of this report.

At the current time, the U.S. population seems to be increasingly aware of sea level changes, more intense weather events and air quality deterioration in important areas of the globe. And, strong economic trends are rapidly diminishing coal’s longstanding economic advantage.

However, while there seems to be some, modest progress toward a “climate consensus,” the centerpiece of that effort is still caught up in fierce litigation. How all these vital issues will blend in with the current toxic national politics seems to be both increasingly important and increasingly uncertain, Washington Insider believes.

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