Special Guest Remarks at Ocean-climate Ambition Summit

John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

Ocean-climate Ambition Summit

Friends Of The Ocean & Climate

Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin, Sweden: This is also the year when we welcome old friends back in the game. Last week, we were all pleased to hear that the United States will be rejoining the Paris Agreement. And it’s my great, great pleasure to introduce an old friend to the ocean, our special guest, the Honorable John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and a long-standing and passionate friend of ocean and climate action. Secretary Kerry, the floor is yours.

Secretary Kerry: Thank you so much. I really appreciate your generous introduction. I appreciate your great leadership and I begin by apologizing that we have been absent. I know you know that many of us are deeply upset about what happened over the last years, but it’s great to see that even in a virtual setting like this, you look at everyone gathered here and it underscores that stewardship of the ocean is not just the personal passion of a few nations or one nation. It’s a shared and mandatory responsibility for all of us. It’s about recognizing a simple proposition which I think we began to talk about at the first oceans conference that I had the privilege of hosting when I was secretary. And that proposition is that you cannot protect the oceans without solving climate change and you can’t solve climate change without protecting the oceans.

For far, far too long, an ocean meeting was an ocean meeting. And a climate negotiation was just that, a climate negotiation without people recognizing the interconnectedness and the majesty of the ecosystem. So, we need to say goodbye to silos. When you are meeting about the oceans, you are meeting about the climate. And it is critical for us to recognize that the level of protection that we give is going to depend on our capacity coming together in this kind of a meeting, which I want to emphasize, we do reenter with a genuine sense of humility because for four years, we’ve been absent from this vital dialogue, actually on the other side of it, I regret to say, as a nation. But not our people. Most of the states in the country have renewable portfolio laws. Most of the mayors in our country continue to abide by Paris.

But we do know that for all of our industrial capacity as a nation, close to 90 percent, about 88 I guess, of all emissions come from outside our borders too. So, the whole world has to come to this table together to solve this problem. I’m very proud we are back in the effort. I am pleased to say that we happily join together with you in this group of Friends of the Ocean. We look forward to being a new member and part of this effort going forward.

And, obviously, it is important to underscore as we do make this effort to go forward that even if every country on Earth, or other than us, moves separately, no one has the ability to solve this problem by themselves. China, which is 30% of all emissions, could go to zero tomorrow. It still doesn’t solve the problem.

So, we have to do this because they are so closely integrated, ocean and the climate generally. So, we have to do it not just for the future or marine life but literally for the future of all life. We know that the single best and most important way in which we can protect the oceans is by raising ambition. All nations need to raise ambition, but particularly, the major emitter countries. And that’s the single most important thing. It means getting to net-zero emissions as soon as we can because that’s the only way you create a global recovery that is both climate and ocean smart. All you have to do is to look at the impact of acidification as well as the warming of the ocean and together you have a catastrophic consequence on the rest of the world. It’s going to take a partnership. And it’s going to be up to all of us to decide whether or not we adopt the ocean policies and practices that we know are needed and whether or not in the end, we do it in time.

In the some thirty years or so that I have been working on this on all seven continents, I can regrettably have to say that mistakes have only grown. We have to get more ambitious to act against the rising carbon dioxide levels from emissions that increase the ocean acidity and devastate coral reefs and change fishing stocks and result in warming of the ocean as a whole which in its turn has a negative impact on most ocean life.

We have to get more ambitious to change the reality that a mere five percent of the ocean today, five percent only, has any form of protection. And frankly, sometimes, I’m not sure I am comfortable that it’s called “protection.” Because the reality is that really only about two percent is actually strongly protected.

So, solving climate change and saving the oceans is in fact the challenge of our time and I regret to say to everybody that if you need motivation, here’s the motivation. When we left Paris, we knew we weren’t promising the world and our citizens that we were holding the Earth’s temperature increase to 2 degrees centigrade let alone 1.5 – we knew that. It wasn’t that we hid it, it’s just that the best Paris could do was get every country to decide what it would do for itself.  No mandates, no penalties, no enforcement, and each country signed up, to the credit of 196 countries.

But, if every country that signed up to do something did what it said it would do, we are still rising to a temperature increase on planet Earth of about 3.7 to 4.5 degrees. Even if we do everything in Paris, we’re still at 3.7. The problem is we’re not only not doing everything in Paris, we see countries going up in their emissions. And that’s why we are talking about temperatures in the 4 point something. It doesn’t matter whether you’re exact about it because anything above 2 begins to be catastrophic, and certainly 3 and 3.7 are completely catastrophic.

So, we have to build our own kind of current. The current of politics, the current of reasonableness, the current of common sense in order to keep for future generations the majestic blue jewel that covers three quarters of our planet and sustains life around the equator from pole to pole. A lot of citizens don’t know that 51% of the oxygen we breathe comes from the ocean. As Friends of the Ocean, we refuse, I think all of us, to be the prisoners of history and instead we are going to turn the tide of history. We need to go to Glasgow and make it absolutely clear that oceans are as integral a part of the effort to resolve the problem of climate and climate is integral to resolve the problem of ocean as any other things that we will choose to do.

So, we all have a job to do in this turning. It can be done. It is the greatest marketplace the world has ever known. And in the discovery of direct air capture or new battery storage that gets you 25, 30 days or more, in the discovery of new hydrogen fuels and all of these things that we build out now in the United States to make us more climate friendly and capable of transferring energy from one part of the nation to the other and building out charging stations and transitioning to electric vehicles. That future is worth millions upon millions of jobs and a remarkable plus up for our economies that need to recover from COVID-19. We can turn this current and create our own current. We can do what we need to do to get the job done.

It’s a privilege to be with you and I’m glad that the United States under the leadership of Joe Biden is back in Paris and back at this table.

Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin, Sweden: Thank you so much Secretary John Kerry for your inspiring and very important remarks. And welcome back to the Paris Agreement and we look forward to working together with you. And I think with your personal leadership, we will certainly make sure that the current will turn and that we will also include the ocean in the climate work.

More from: John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

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Certain types of health coverage arrangements that can be sold directly to consumers do not have to comply with some or all of PPACA's individual market requirements and, as a result, may be less expensive, but also offer more limited benefits compared to PPACA-compliant plans. Recent changes to federal law and regulations could result in the increased use of PPACA-exempt health coverage arrangements as alternatives to PPACA-compliant plans in the individual market. For example, in 2018, federal regulations expanded the availability of short term, limited duration insurance (STLDI) plans, a type of PPACA-exempt arrangement. In addition, starting January 1, 2019, individuals who fail to maintain "minimum essential coverage," as required by PPACA, no longer face a tax penalty. Further, the devastating economic effects of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic could create additional demand for affordable health coverage, including PPACA-exempt plans.  With these changes, and because of their lower relative costs, PPACA-exempt health coverage arrangements may be attractive to consumers, particularly those who find it difficult to afford PPACA-compliant plans. However, such arrangements generally do not need to follow PPACA's requirement that plans in the individual market be presented to consumers in defined categories outlining the extent to which they are expected to cover medical care. As a result, depending on how they are marketed and sold, PPACA-exempt arrangements could present risks for consumers, if, for example, they buy them mistakenly believing that coverage is as comprehensive as for PPACA-compliant plans. GAO was asked to obtain insights on the marketing and sales practices of insurance sales representatives who sell PPACA-exempt plans. In this report, GAO describes the results of covert tests we conducted involving selected sales representatives, when contacted by individuals stating that they had pre-existing conditions. In this regard, GAO agents performed a number of covert tests (i.e., undercover phone calls) from November 2019 through January 2020 posing as individuals needing to purchase health insurance to cover pre-existing conditions. GAO also discussed the marketing and oversight of PPACA-exempt arrangements with senior officials from federal agencies, including the FTC, and Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)5. GAO provided a draft of this product to FTC, HHS, and NAIC for review and comment. FTC, HHS, and NAIC provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. HHS provided additional written comments on a draft of this report. For more information, contact Seto Bagdoyan at (202)-6722 or bagdoyans@gao.gov.
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    In U.S GAO News
    GAO identified 59 for-profit college conversions that occurred from January 2011 through August 2020, almost all of which involved the college's sale to a tax-exempt organization. In about one-third of the conversions, GAO found that former owners or other officials were insiders to the conversion—for example, by creating the tax-exempt organization that purchased the college or retaining the presidency of the college after its sale (see figure). While leadership continuity can benefit a college, insider involvement in a conversion poses a risk that insiders may improperly benefit—for example, by influencing the tax-exempt purchaser to pay more for the college than it is worth. Once a conversion has ended a college's for-profit ownership and transferred ownership to an organization the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognizes as tax-exempt, the college must seek Department of Education (Education) approval to participate in federal student aid programs as a nonprofit college. Since January 2011, Education has approved 35 colleges as nonprofit colleges and denied two; nine are under review and 13 closed prior to Education reaching a decision. Figure: Example of a For-Profit College Conversion with Officials in Insider Roles IRS guidance directs staff to closely scrutinize whether significant transactions with insiders reported by an applicant for tax-exempt status will exceed fair-market value and improperly benefit insiders. If an application contains insufficient information to make that assessment, guidance says that staff may need to request additional information. In two of 11 planned or final conversions involving insiders that were disclosed in an application, GAO found that IRS approved the application without certain information, such as the college's planned purchase price or an appraisal report estimating the college's value. Without such information, IRS staff could not assess whether the price was inflated to improperly benefit insiders, which would be grounds to deny the application. If IRS staff do not consistently apply guidance, they may miss indications of improper benefit. Education has strengthened its reviews of for-profit college applications for nonprofit status, but it does not monitor newly converted colleges to assess ongoing risk of improper benefit. In two of three cases GAO reviewed in depth, college financial statements disclosed transactions with insiders that could indicate the risk of improper benefit. Education officials agreed that they could assess this risk through its audited financial statement review process and could develop procedures to do so. Until Education develops and implements such procedures for new conversions, potential improper benefit may go undetected. A for-profit college may convert to nonprofit status for a variety of reasons, such as wanting to align its status and mission. However, in some cases, former owners or other insiders could improperly benefit from the conversion, which is impermissible under the Internal Revenue Code and Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. GAO was asked to examine for-profit college conversions. This report reviews what is known about insider involvement in conversions and to what extent IRS and Education identify and respond to the risk of improper benefit. GAO identified converted for-profit colleges and reviewed their public IRS filings. GAO also examined IRS and Education processes for overseeing conversions, interviewed agency officials, and reviewed federal laws, regulations and agency guidance. GAO selected five case study colleges based on certain risk factors, obtained information from college officials, and reviewed their audited financial statements. In three cases, GAO also reviewed Education case files. Because of the focus on IRS and Education oversight, GAO did not audit any college in this review to determine whether its conversion improperly benefitted insiders. GAO is making three recommendations, including that IRS assess and improve conversion application reviews and that Education develop and implement procedures to monitor newly converted colleges. IRS said it will assess its review process and will evaluate GAO's other recommendation, as discussed in the report. Education agreed with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Melissa Emrey-Arras at (617) 788-0534 or emreyarrasm@gao.gov.
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    In U.S GAO News
    Why This Matters Air quality sensors are essential to measuring and studying pollutants that can harm public health and the environment. Technological improvements have led to smaller, more affordable sensors as well as satellite-based sensors with new capabilities. However, ensuring the quality and appropriate interpretation of sensor data can be challenging. The Technology What is it? Air quality sensors monitor gases, such as ozone, and particulate matter, which can harm human health and the environment. Federal, state, and local agencies jointly manage networks of stationary air quality monitors that make use of sensors. These monitors are expensive and require supporting infrastructure. Officials use the resulting data to decide how to address pollution or for air quality alerts, including alerts during wildfires or on days with unhealthy ozone levels. However, these networks can miss pollution at smaller scales and in rural areas. They generally do not measure air toxics—more localized pollutants that may cause cancer and chronic health effects—such as ethylene oxide and toxic metals. Two advances in sensor technologies may help close these gaps. First, newer low-cost sensors can now be deployed virtually anywhere, including on fences, cars, drones, and clothing (see fig. 1). Researchers, individuals, community groups, and private companies have started to deploy these more affordable sensors to improve their understanding of a variety of environmental and public health concerns. Second, federal agencies have for decades operated satellites with sensors that monitor air quality to understand weather patterns and inform research. Recent satellite launches deployed sensors with enhanced air monitoring capabilities, which researchers have begun to use in studies of pollution over large areas. Figure 1. There are many types of air quality sensors, including government-operated ground-level and satellite-based sensors, as well as low-cost commercially available sensors that can now be used on a variety of platforms, such as bicycles, cars, trucks, and drones. How does it work? Low-cost sensors use a variety of methods to measure air quality, including lasers to estimate the number and size of particles passing through a chamber and meters to estimate the amount of a gas passing through the sensor. The sensors generally use algorithms to convert raw data into useful measurements (see fig. 2). The algorithms may also adjust for temperature, humidity and other conditions that affect sensor measurements. Higher-quality devices can have other features that improve results, such as controlling the temperature of the air in the sensors to ensure measurements are consistent over time. Sensors can measure different aspects of air quality depending on how they are deployed. For example, stationary sensors measure pollution in one location, while mobile sensors, such as wearable sensors carried by an individual, reflect exposure at multiple locations. Satellite-based sensors generally measure energy reflected or emitted from the earth and the atmosphere to identify pollutants between the satellite and the ground. Some sensors observe one location continuously, while others observe different parts of the earth over time. Multiple sensors can be deployed in a network to track the formation, movement, and variability of pollutants and to improve the reliability of measurements. Combining data from multiple sensors can increase their usefulness, but it also increases the expertise needed to interpret the measurements, especially if data come from different types of sensors. Figure 2. A low-cost sensor pulls air in to measure pollutants and stores information for further study. How mature is it? Sensors originally developed for specific applications, such as monitoring air inside a building, are now smaller and more affordable. As a result, they can now be used in many ways to close gaps in monitoring and research. For example, local governments can use them to monitor multiple sources of air pollution affecting a community, and scientists can use wearable sensors to study the exposure of research volunteers. However, low-cost sensors have limitations. They operate with fewer quality assurance measures than government-operated sensors and vary in the quality of data they produce. It is not yet clear how newer sensors should be deployed to provide the most benefit or how the data should be interpreted. Some low-cost sensors carry out calculations using artificial intelligence algorithms that the designers cannot always explain, making it difficult to interpret varying sensor performance. Further, they typically measure common pollutants, such as ozone and particulate matter. There are hundreds of air toxics for which additional monitoring using sensors could be beneficial. However, there may be technical or other challenges that make it impractical to do so. Older satellite-based sensors typically provided infrequent and less detailed data. But newer sensors offer better data for monitoring air quality, which could help with monitoring rural areas and pollution transport, among other benefits. However, satellite-based sensor data can be difficult to interpret, especially for pollution at ground level. In addition, deployed satellite-based sensor technologies currently only measure a few pollutants, including particulate matter, ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide. Opportunities Improved research on health effects. The ability to track personal exposure and highly localized pollution could improve assessments of public health risks. Expanded monitoring. More dense and widespread monitoring could help identify pollution sources and hot spots, in both urban and rural areas. Enhanced air quality management. Combined measurements from stationary, mobile, and satellite-based sensors can help officials understand and mitigate major pollution issues, such as ground-level ozone and wildfire smoke. Community engagement. Lower cost sensors open up new possibilities for community engagement and citizen science, which is when the public conducts or participates in the scientific process, such as by making observations, collecting and sharing data, and conducting experiments. Challenges Performance. Low-cost sensors have highly variable performance that is not well understood, and their algorithms may not be transparent. Low-cost sensors operated by different users or across different locations may have inconsistent measurements. Interpretation. Expertise may be needed to interpret sensor data. For example, sensors produce data in real time that may be difficult to interpret without health standards for short-term exposures. Data management. Expanded monitoring will create large amounts of data with inconsistent formatting, which will have to be stored and managed. Alignment with needs. Few of the current low-cost and satellite-based sensors measure air toxics. In addition, low-income communities, which studies show are disproportionally harmed by air pollution, may still face challenges deploying low-cost sensors. Policy Context and Questions How can policymakers leverage new opportunities for widespread monitoring, such as citizen science, while also promoting appropriate use and interpretation of data? How can data from a variety of sensors be integrated to better understand air quality issues, such as environmental justice concerns, wildfires, and persistent ozone problems? How can research and development efforts be aligned to produce sensors to monitor key pollutants that are not widely monitored, such as certain air toxics? For more information, contact Karen Howard at (202) 512-6888 or HowardK@gao.gov.
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