in Applied Earth Systems Management:
On April 27th 2011, students from the Master of Public Administration Program in Environmental Science and Policy (MPA ESP) presented their final briefings for the spring semester of the Workshop in Applied Policy Analysis. This workshop, a culmination of the students’ year-long program of study in the MPA program, gives students the opportunity to work with public agencies and non-profit organizations discussing real-world environmental issues.
During their final briefings, students presented their findings and solutions from months of research and discussion, both in the classroom and in meetings with their clients. "These presentations showcase the synthesis of scientific and managerial solutions that lies at the core of the MPA program. What the students have accomplished here is impressive and important” said Professor Steven Cohen, Director of the MPA ESP program.
Faculty advisers worked with individual groups throughout the summer, fall, and spring semesters. Because of the broad-ranging professional experience of the faculty, students acquired a sense of the challenges that they will face as future administrators and policy analysts, along with concrete methods to overcome these challenges. The faculty Kathleen Callahan, Executive Director of the International Research Institute for Climate Change and Society (IRI), Lecturer at SIPA and former Deputy Regional Administrator of U.S. EPA Region II; Steve Cohen, Director of the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program and Executive Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University; Nancy Degnan, Executive Director of Columbia University’s Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC); Gail Suchman, Adjunct Professor at SIPA and Columbia Law School, and an environmental lawyer in private practice; and Sara Tjossem, Lecturer and Associate Director for Faculty and Curriculum for the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program.
Clients included the Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRN), the New York City Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, The New York City Department of Education, the Mississippi Center for Justice and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
Descriptions of the workshop briefings and topics are below.
The Evolving Role a REDD+ Mechanism in National Development Plans
Client: Coalition for Rainforest Nations; Federica Bietta, Deputy Director
Faculty Advisor: Kathleen Callahan
Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRN) is a non-profit intergovernmental organization that promotes environmental sustainability while creating opportunities for economic advancement within tropically forested developing nations. CfRN partners stakeholders, industrialized nations, and the private sector with developing countries to drive the paradigm-shifting idea: to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, while recognizing the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
CfRN supports country-led REDD+ initiatives in developing countries that lead to a national accounting and monitoring system. The Coalition notes that a REDD+ mechanism must differ from sub-national models such as the United Nations’ clean development mechanism if it is to achieve the necessary capital scale to implement their national emission reduction strategies. Therefore, creating a successful REDD+ mechanism will require countries to consider overall greenhouse gas emissions in addition to those from deforestation and degradation. Deforestation can no longer be addressed in isolation, since other sectors like agriculture, industry, manufacturing, and mining are drivers of deforestation. The challenge is to alleviate the economic pressure to deforest by developing low-carbon plans for the primary deforestation drivers in a prescribed set of developing countries.
Enhancing the Feasibility of Electric Vehicles in New York City
Client: Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability; Ari Kahn, Electric Vehicle Policy Advisor
Faculty Advisor: Steve Cohen
The Long-Term Planning and Sustainability Office coordinates and oversees efforts to develop and implement a strategic vision for the City's future working with City agencies and the Mayor's Advisory Board for Sustainability. Mayor Bloomberg has challenged all New Yorkers to take part in a conversation about how to transform New York City into a sustainable city by 2030 - an effort called PlaNYC. Workshop participants worked with the Planning and Sustainability Office in an attempt to better understand and address the policy and infrastructure obstacles facing the adoption of electric vehicles by New York City’s residents. The project will be centered on two major feasibility issues: the cost of electric vehicles, and the relative inconvenience of maintaining them in New York.
As electric cars become more common, New York’s utility systems need to ensure grid stability while also treating car owners fairly. With current gas prices, Con Edison’s flat electricity rate actually makes the fuel costs of an electric vehicle higher than those of a Prius or other high achieving hybrids. Well-designed time of use pricing can benefit both Con Edison and drivers. Lower priced late evening charging will make electric vehicles more affordable while increasing Con Edison’s net revenue. To make parking and charging electric cars more feasible, the Mayor’s Office can encourage local businesses in Downtown Brooklyn and West Queens to create charging locations, because projections indicate these areas as potential growth areas for electric car ownership.
Other important steps to making New York a more electric car friendly city are educating consumers, encouraging collaboration between all stakeholders, implementing complementary electricity initiatives (to encourage the purchase of sustainable electricity options), and collecting data about the use of electric cars in New York.
Creating a Strategic Plan for the High-School for Sustainability
Clients: New York City Department of Education’s Division of School Facilities, Sustainability Initiative Committee; John Shea, Chief Executive, Division of School Facilities (DSF), Ozgem Ornektekin, Director Sustainability
Faculty Advisor: Nancy Degnan
The New York City Department of Education is the largest public education system in the United States and is responsible for the education and safety of 1.1 million children in approximately 1600 public schools throughout the five boroughs of the city. As a municipal government agency, the Department of Education is part of the efforts of New York City to engage in environmentally sustainable practice through PLaNYC. In 2007, our clients John Shea (Chief Executive) and Ozgem Ornektekin (Director of Sustainability) of the Division of School Facilities (DSF) instituted widespread effort entitled the DOE Sustainability Initiative, as part of a number of goals the DSF will achieve by 2017. Headed by Ms. Ornektekin, the Initiative’s mission is to position the DOE to be the nation’s leader in the operation of sustainable school facilities and integrated sustainability education.
The DSF is considering a plan to create The High School for Sustainability as part of an overarching set of education and training efforts. The High School would be the first of its kind created in New York City and by a division (DSF) from within the Department of Education. The High School would be founded on the principles of leading current and future generations to a more sustainable future and would incorporate the issues of urban ecosystems of water, energy and biodiversity within national standards for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and STEM ICT (Information, Communication and Technology). Members of this workshop team produced a strategic plan for the DSF to accomplish its goal of opening the High School for Sustainability in September 2012. The plan includes guides to the curriculum, facility, and implementation aspects of the project. If followed, the timeline and guidelines produced from this project could result in the opening of the High School for Sustainability in Fall 2012.
Post-Katrina Restoration of the Port of Gulfport: Incorporating Sustainable Development Practices
Client: Mississippi Center for Justice, Reilly Morse, Esq.
Faculty Advisor: Gail Suchman
The Mississippi Center for Justice is a non-profit public interest organization that pursues racial and economic justice through advocacy for systemic change. The Center has been working with communities along the Gulf Coast to rebuild after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. In particular, the Center has focused on the redevelopment of the Port of Gulfport and the inland area of North Gulfport to assure that the Port is developed in the most environmentally and economically sustainable manner and not just to provide another casino venue as some have projected.
The Mississippi Development Authority and the Mississippi State Port Authority have announced a redevelopment plan for the Port of Gulfport, using federal Katrina Recovery monies. The task of this project was to provide a comprehensive environmental report for the client organization that can be utilized during the planning and expansion phases. This report consisted of two components: port sustainability guidelines, and case studies. The guidelines were comprised of key categories that should be focused on during planning in order to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the port. The case studies involved examining five leading sustainable ports in Portland, Charleston, Savannah, Houston, and Rotterdam to serve as examples for the expansion of the Gulfport port. This report has been submitted to the client organization as a third-party evaluation, to be used during the planning and expansion process.
The Problem with Ecosystem Services: Promoting Private Investment in the Protection of Wetlands
Client: Environmental Defense Fund; Britt Groosman, Senior Economic Policy Analyst
Faculty Advisor: Sara Tjossem
With world attention increasingly focused on the relationship between environmental and economic well-being, Environmental Defense Fund is where policy makers and business leaders turn for win-win, pragmatic and non-partisan solutions. Founded in 1967, this leading national environmental advocacy organization has tripled in size over the past decade by using sound science to identify critical environmental challenges and sound economics to develop the most efficient solutions — solutions that harness market forces, build uncommon partnerships, and strengthen both the environment and the economy.
For this project, the group focused on the EDF’s policies and initiatives surrounding wetlands restoration and preservation. The first step was to identify the role of wetlands within communities, which they did by identifying tangible benefits that the wetlands provide to the surrounding populations. Wetlands (within the context of a watershed) can filter water, minimizing the additional processing that needs to take place to make water potable. Also, wetlands can mitigate the effects of floods, because of their ability to soak up large amounts of water. Positive effects like these, however, are often forgotten because they are free and available to everyone, which causes them to be both exploited by overuse and forgotten about.