Equilibrium/Sustainability — Activists accuse COP27 host of human rights abuses

As world leaders gathered in Egypt on Monday for the United Nations climate conference, activists called upon the host country to address its human rights record, NBC News reported.

Outside the summit, known as COP27, groups are accusing Egypt of “greenwashing” — or claiming to be climate friendly to strengthen its reputation in the face of such allegations, according to NBC.

The same activists are demanding that delegates attending the event confront the Egyptian government over its treatment of political prisoners in particular, NBC reported.

One such prisoner is British national Alaa Abdel-Fattah, a software developer jailed on charges of spreading fake news. Abdel-Fattah has been on a hunger strike for 200 days and on Sunday ceased drinking water, family members told NBC.

Celebrities such as actress Emma Thompson and Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro have supported the family, as has Greta Thunberg, who joined their protest in London last month and is boycotting COP27, according to NBC.

Abdel-Fattah’s sister, Mona Seif, told NBC she was hoping that COP27 — where U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrived on Monday — would be used as a platform to highlight the struggle of Egypt’s political prisoners.

Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter that tracks the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. I’m Sharon Udasin.

Today we’ll begin at COP27, where heads of state from around the world delivered both words of caution and promises of progress. Then we’ll return to the U.S., where online re-sellers are hoping to reverse a new tax reporting rule after the midterms.

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COP27 kicks off with dire warnings, windows of hope

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the world is on a “highway to climate hell” while speaking at the COP27 climate change summit on Monday, our colleague Brad Dress reported.

Nearing a ‘tipping point’: Guterres stressed that the clock is ticking with regards to fighting climate change, stressing that the world is “losing” as global temperatures surge.

  • “Our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible,” the secretary-general said.  

  • “It is unacceptable, outrageous and self-defeating to put it on the back burner,” he added.

Making good on promises: World leaders are gathering in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, this week to discuss how to limit greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate global warming.

  • The COP26 conference held in Glasgow last year saw promises made to slash emissions from leading nations.  

  • But few policies are in place to achieve these goals, and 90 percent of large companies with net-zero targets said they wouldn’t attain them, our colleague Zack Budryk reported.

Climate reparations on the agenda: Countries for the first time have put reparation funds for climate damage on the negotiation agenda at COP27, our colleague Rachel Frazin reported.

  • Leaders will be discussing the provision of funds for countries that have suffered a disproportionate amount of “loss and damage” from climate change.

  • Both geographical and financial factors have made many developing countries more vulnerable, despite their historically low fossil fuel use.

‘A moral imperative’: Guterres said that addressing such losses was a “moral imperative,” Frazin noted.

  • “The deadly impacts of climate change are here and now. Loss and damage can no longer be swept under the rug,” the secretary-general continued.

  • “Those who contributed least to the climate crisis are reaping the whirlwind sown by others,” he added.

SUNAK: PUTIN’S WAR ‘A REASON TO ACT FASTER’ ON CLIMATE

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday framed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as motivation for accelerating global action against climate change.

“Putin’s abhorrent war in Ukraine and rising energy prices across the world are not a reason to go slow on climate change. They are a reason to act faster,” Sunak said during his COP27 address.

Tension back home: The prime minister, who took office on Oct. 25, generated widespread criticism for initially declaring that he would not attend COP27.

He eventually reversed course, with Downing Street confirming his attendance last week.

A security imperative: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz likewise cited Russia’s war in Ukraine as an impetus for quickening the renewable energy transition.

“This is not only a necessity in forward-looking climate, economic and environmental policy, it is also an imperative in terms of security policy,” Scholz said in his address.

Temporary setbacks: “Russia’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine forces us to use coal fired power plants again for a short period of time,” the German chancellor continued.

  • “But we are firmly committed to phase out coal,” he added.

  • Germany recently decided to shut down some coal fired plants earlier than had previously been planned, according to Scholz.

Sunak pitches public-private climate approach

Rishi Sunak, the U.K.’s new prime minister, called upon countries to harness public and private financing to protect the planet while fostering growth in developing countries.

  • The British leader urged nations at COP27 to diversify their clean energy supplies and invest in renewables as insurance “against the risk of energy dependency.”

  • Doing so, he continued, would generate a robust source of jobs and economic growth.

A disproportionate burden: The prime minister stressed the importance of ensuring that developing countries are not “being unfairly burdened with a carbon debt of richer nations.”

The world’s richest countries have received abundant criticism for their failure to live up to a promise made in 2009 to provide $100 billion annually to less wealthy nations by 2020.

Living up to commitments: Nonetheless, Sunak touted the U.K.’s progress.

  • “We are helping those countries deliver their own fast track to clean growth,” the prime minister continued. 

  • He said that the country will be tripling its funding on adaptation efforts to
    1.5 billion pounds ($1.7 billion) by 2025.

Public, private funds: Scholz, Germany’s chancellor, said that his country has increased public funding for international climate financing by more than a third in the past three years.

  • “By 2025, we will expand our public funding for international climate financing to 6 billion euros [$6 billion] a year,” the chancellor continued.  

  • “In parallel to this we will mobilize additional private funds,” he added.

Supporting those hit hardest: Mark Rutte, prime minister of the Netherlands, said that his country would increase its annual contribution to the $100 billion pledge to 1.8 billion euros ($1.8 billion) by 2025.

“All this money needs to go to those hit hardest by climate change,” Rutte added.

Online re-sellers balk at new tax reporting threshold

Melissa Williams has been buying and reselling her children’s clothing on a variety of online platforms for more than a decade.

But a new tax barrier may force her to pause her accounts and abandon what she calls a sustainable economic solution for her family.

A big-box alternative: “If I couldn’t do what I do and buy hand-me-downs from other sellers, then we’re headed to big box department stores, especially where I live,” said Williams, a stay-at-home mom from Walla Walla, Wash.

  • The obstacle comes from a revised portion of the tax code included in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan of 2021.  

  • That provision requires sellers to report transactions over third-party networks that exceed $600 — a considerable shift from the previous $20,000 threshold.

Sellers must fill out a 1099-K form for such transactions.

Major shift: While the IRS says the change affects only tax reporting rules — rather than broader taxability of income — for smaller re-sellers like Williams, it’s a big change.

She said she has already exceeded the $600 threshold on children’s fashion marketplace Kidizen and on e-commerce site Mercari, so she’s considering putting holds on both accounts.

Seeking a return to $20,000: Now, a coalition of online retailers including Kidizen, eBay, Etsy and Poshmark is pushing for a return to the higher threshold.

  • About 69 percent of American resellers polled in February 2022 said now intended to sell less or stop selling, according to the Coalition for 1099-K Fairness.  

  • And 54 percent said they would likely dispose of preowned goods, potentially dealing blows to both the online market and reuse-based sustainability efforts.

Avoiding the landfill: “If you’re someone like me, you’re finding this stuff in your closet when you clean out for spring, or you’ve got stuff in your garage,” Renée Morin, chief sustainability officer for eBay, told The Hill.

“You want to participate online and put these goods into e-commerce and avoid sending them to a landfill,” Morin said.

Impact on small sellers: The downgrade from a $20,000 to $600 reporting threshold “is affecting millions of online sellers,” added Mary Fallon, Kidizen co-founder and chief creative officer.

Fallon said that more than 75 percent of the site’s sales this year were from sellers whose transactions exceeded the $600 threshold.

CONGRESS TAKES NOTICE

Several introduced bills from both sides of the aisle propose either returning to the $20,000 limit or settling on a compromise number.

Open to negotiations: A spokeswoman for Miller said she intends to push her bill’s passage in the post-election season, noting the congresswoman “supports restoring the threshold to its original levels.”

“However, she is certainly open to negotiating if Democrats have a reasonable proposal to save taxpayers from their own liberal, burdensome taxes and red tape,” the spokeswoman said.

A second life: Pappas, who proposed the $5,000 threshold, described the issue as “absolutely important to settle before the end of the year.”

“Selling online has helped my constituents supplement their income and find a second life for used goods,” he said in a statement.

Raising the bar: A spokesperson for the Coalition for 1099-K Fairness said the group “supports any legislation to raise the threshold.”

The House Ways and Means Committee — the committee of jurisdiction for this section of the American Rescue Plan — did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

‘Dressing our kids’: Williams said she hopes that Congress will decide to return to the $20,000 threshold.

  • “I’d know that I would never have to be worried or question that,” she said.  

  • “We’re not trying to weasel our way out of paying taxes,” Williams added. “We’re trying to dress our kids.”

To read the full story, please click here.

Monday Miscellanies

Heavy precipitation could hamper midterm voter turnout, hurricane could form on Florida’s east coast and perennial rice crop helps sustain small farmers.

Rain, snow could dampen US election turnout

  • Forecasts of rain and snow could influence voter turnout as millions of Americans head to the polls on Tuesday, our colleague Zach Schonfeld reported. An area of low pressure is slated to move into California on Tuesday, also bringing precipitation into Washington and Oregon — both of which are hosting competitive congressional races.

Hurricane watch issued for Florida’s eastern seaboard 

  • Hurricane watches have been issue for the northwestern Bahamas and the east coast of Florida, after Subtropical Storm Nicole was named early Monday, The Washington Post reported. Nicole could approach hurricane strength as it nears Florida on Thursday, before continuing along the southeastern U.S. seaboard, according to the Post.

High-yield, perennial rice improves livelihoods of China, Uganda farmers

  • Annual paddy rice is now available as a perennial crop — enabling farmers to plant just once and get eight harvests without sacrificing yield, according to a University of Illinois study, published in Nature Sustainability. This crop has helped more than 55,752 small farmers in China and Uganda, the authors found in a broad agronomic analysis.

Please visit The Hill’s Sustainability section online for more stories. See you tomorrow.

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