Posted by on January 25, 2023 6:47 pm
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South Africa, Treasury form anti-poaching task force

South Africa and the United States will collaborate to track and cut off the financial flows that connect organized crime to wildlife trafficking, the U.S. Treasury Department announced Wednesday.

“To help save wildlife populations from further approaching and disrupt the associated illicit trade, we must ‘follow the money’ in the same way we do other serious crimes,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said a statement.

Yellen has spent the past week on a tour of Africa, where she has sought to bolster U.S. ties with the region as well as counter overwhelming Chinese influence on the continent, Reuters reported. 

China is the primary destination for poached wildlife, U.S. officials told Reuters. 

Illegal wildlife trafficking is the fourth largest organized crime sector in the world, raking in up to $23 billion a year, according to the Conservation Strategy Fund. 

While wildlife trafficking would seem outside the Treasury Department’s mandate, the global importance of the U.S. dollar means “the illegal wildlife trade presents a unique money-laundering threat” to the United States, according to the Treasury statement. 

Treasury described wildlife trafficking as an issue which drew together diverse administration priorities, from slowing climate change to combating transnational organized crime.

Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter that tracks the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. We’re Saul Elbein and Sharon Udasin. Subscribe here.

Today, we’ll look at a new ESG-related caucus in Congress. Then, we’ll explore the disputed fate of electric vehicle tax credits, followed by a look at how kids are using potentially toxic cosmetics.

House Dems create ‘sustainable investment’ caucus

A group of House Democrats has formed a new caucus to advocate for sustainable investing — a rapidly growing sector that already accounts for trillions in global investment. 

Reps. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) announced Wednesday they would co-chair the group. 

Other members of the initiative include Reps. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). 

Industry demand: The caucus will advocate for policies sought by the sustainable investment industry, sometimes called environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment.

ESG investing has drawn broad interest in the financial sector. 

But it has also encountered rising opposition from GOP-led states like Texas, Kentucky, Florida and West Virginia and some Republicans in Congress.

Read more here.

Manchin targets Treasury amid EV tax credit dispute

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has introduced a bill that would eliminate a delay in setting stricter limits on electric vehicle (EV) tax credits, our colleague Rachel Frazin reported for The Hill. 

His bill would close a loophole that has temporarily left a wide range of EVs eligible for tax credits — which would not be the case under the forthcoming restrictions. 

Disputed delays: The legislation targets a Treasury Department move to temporarily delay the restrictions in question.  

These limits are expected to hinder the ability of consumers to get federal subsidies for EVs included in the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act. 

The law expanded tax credits available to new EV customers, allowing them to get up to $7,500 split into two categories.   

What’s the catch? The restrictions in question mandated that by the start of this year, 50 percent of the value of an EV’s battery components must be manufactured or assembled in North America to be eligible for a $3,750 tax credit.

To get the other $3,750 credit, 40 percent of the value of the minerals contained in a car’s battery would need to be mined or processed in countries with which the U.S. has a free trade agreement. 

In lieu of this requirement, minerals could instead be recycled in North America. 

When will these take effect? The Treasury Department in December moved to delay the effective date of the restrictions, Frazin reported at the time.  
 

By law, the stipulations cannot take effect until the Treasury issues guidance for their implementation — which the department pushed back until March.  

How would Manchin’s bill change this? The legislation would make the new EV tax credits — and their stringent requirements — take effect without waiting for the Treasury Department to issue its guidance, The Detroit News reported. 

Such a situation would dramatically decrease the number of vehicles that qualify for subsidies, according to the News.  

Does the legislation stand a chance? The legislation is unlikely to become law, as it would require President Biden’s signature. 

But Frazin described the effort as “the latest flashpoint in tensions that the West Virginia senator has with the administration.” 

Most kids using potentially toxic makeup, face paints

Most U.S. children are using cosmetics and body care products that could contain carcinogens and other toxic chemicals, a new study has found. 

Lured by lip gloss: About 70 percent of parents surveyed said their children use items such as glitter, face paint and lip gloss marketed for kids, according to the study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 

Such products often feature bright colors, animals and cartoon characters that serve “to attract the attention of children,” the authors noted. 

Looks can be deceiving: Research has shown that many of these products contain toxins such as lead, asbestos, phthalates, formaldehyde and “forever chemicals,” the authors warned. 

Such toxins can be particularly harmful to infants and children, with some linked to cancer, neurodevelopment harm and other irreversible health consequences.

Divulging how such products are used can therefore help “characterize risk and improve safety,” wrote the authors, from Columbia University’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health and the Washington, D.C.-based group Earthjustice.   

What did they find? The researchers administered a 39-question survey via social media nationwide and by distributing flyers to parents and guardians of kids ages 12 and under. 

Among the 312 children included, 219 said they have used such products. 

Fifty-four percent of children said they used these items at least monthly, while 12 percent reported utilizing them daily.  

Twenty-two percent of kids said that they use the products for more than eight hours at a time. 

What products are kids using? The product most popular among children was face paint — with 60 percent of respondents reporting use.  

Approximately 44 percent of the kids said they used hair products, while 41 percent used other facial cosmetics, 32 percent utilized nail polish and 30 percent wore lip makeup, according to the study. 

Disparities among communities: The researchers also identified differences in the use of makeup and body products among children from different communities and cultures.   

Children of Hispanic/Latinx parents and guardians used makeup and body products more often and for shorter durations than children of non-Hispanic parents and guardians. 

“Childhood exposure to harmful makeup and body product ingredients can also be considered an environmental justice issue, as communities of color may be more likely to use these products,” the authors stated.   

To read the rest of the story, please click here

Wednesday Wheels

Tesla scales up its electric vehicle (EV) production, why first-class air passengers may not be responsible for extra emissions and a natural graphite shortage threatens EV growth. 

Tesla adding 3,000 workers to Nevada plant 

Tesla announced on Tuesday that it will be hiring an additional 3,000 workers as part of expansion plans for its Nevada plant, our colleague Jared Gans reported. The EV giant said it intends to invest $3.6 billion in the expansion — enabling the firm to produce enough batteries for 1.5 million light duty vehicles annually. 

Airfares, rather than cabin class, better determine passenger emissions: study 

Airfare may be a better indicator than cabin class when evaluating passenger emissions, according to a new study in Environmental Research Letters. University College London scientists observed that last-minute economy bookings, often made by business or by high-income travelers, can exceed the cost of premium seats — meaning that high airfare is what fills up a plane and enables it to fly.

Key EV mineral in short supply 

Rising demand for natural graphite is threatening to bottleneck the EV industry, which relies on the mineral for batteries, according to The Wall Street Journal. While synthetic graphite is plentiful, it is produced from fossil fuels in a carbon intensive product, making it unsuitable for EV supply chains, the Journal reported. 

Please visit The Hill’s Sustainability section online for more and check out other newsletters here. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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