Water and ESG: Rhetoric, Reality, and Opportunities

Building on the ongoing theme of “What does good water governance look like for the United States?,” the objective of the 2023 Aspen-Nicholas Water Forum was to explore why, despite the centrality of water to the environment, as well as to communities and society broadly, water has simply been overlooked in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goal-setting processes, analyses, or frameworks. The forum also asked what might be the opportunities, or risks, of greater inclusion of water into ESG generally. This report highlights the discussions at the forum on how ESG does, and does not intersect with water, and what the challenges or opportunities might be.

Tackling Debt, Biodiversity Loss, and Climate Change

Debt distress, biodiversity loss and climate change are interconnected crises for developing countries. A task force of multilateral development banks and environmental institutions is convening a task force to establish a framework to ameliorate these crises by reforming debt-for-nature swaps. The authors of this Policy Forum identify four reforms that should underpin the new framework.

From Concept to Practice: Financing Sustainable Blue Economy in Small Island Developing States, Lessons Learnt from the Seychelles Experience

Despite international enthusiasm, private-sector finance for sustainable development and the blue economy still makes up a very small percentage of global investment. Repurposed bonds and debt-for-nature swaps have gained support with policymakers, international organizations, and investors keen to align their investment with global goals and borrowing countries with large ocean domains seeking new sources of finance.

A Geopolitical-Economy of Distant Water Fisheries Access Arrangements

Fishing fleets and effort have grown throughout the waters of lower-income coastal countries in recent decades, much of which is carried out by vessels registered in higher-income countries. Fisheries access arrangements underpin this key trend in ocean fisheries and have their origins in United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea's (UNCLOS’s) goal to establish resource ownership as a mechanism to increase benefits to newly independent coastal and island states.

Development and Deployment of a Lead Service Line Inventory Application for North Carolina Water Utilities

This white paper presents an application designed to help North Carolina water utilities complete federally required lead service line inventories. Using available datasets, the application simplifies the inventory process, reduces software barriers,  details development and utility engagements, and proposes enhancements for broader use. The paper highlights methods and future improvements, aiming to extend the tool's reach to help utilities nationwide manage lead contamination efficiently. 

North Carolina Heat Action Plan Toolkit

With climate change driving more frequent and intense heat events, North Carolina's Heat Action Plan Toolkit aims to help communities adapt and build resilience to extreme heat. Primarily targeted for use by local governments, including health and emergency management departments, the toolkit focuses on approaches to reduce the human health impacts of increasing temperatures and heat waves.

Adapting to the Impacts of Climate Change: A Comparative Study of Governance Processes in Australia, China, and the United States

In 2023, UN climate proceedings (COP 28) made clear that challenges of adapting to climate impacts are now a priority comparable to the focus on mitigation (greenhouse gas reduction). Floods, wildfires, drought, and heat are causing great damage in the United States and other highly developed countries which, on paper, were prepared. The report explains that in contrast to mitigation (greenhouse gas reduction) and further now longstanding environmental governance approaches, adaptation may call for transformation of core governance structures, tools and resources.

Building an EV Workforce: A Review of Southeast Transportation Electrification Workforce Development Training Programs

With the advancement of the electric vehicle (EV) industry in the southeastern United States, from vehicle and battery manufacturing, to on-road EVs and accelerated deployment of charging stations, there is a substantial need for a skilled workforce to build and service these vehicles as well as install and maintain charging infrastructure. This study seeks to understand existing EV-specific workforce development efforts across ten states in the Southeast, and provide policy and program options for State Energy Offices, State Departments of Transportation, and other state agencies.

Evidence Library for Mangrove Degradation and Recovery

Mangrove ecosystems provide numerous benefits to both people and nature, including providing important habitat for wildlife species, nursery habitat for fish and shellfish, recreational opportunities, and protection for coastal communities. This evidence library synthesizes the scientific literature and expert knowledge to share information on what is known—and not known—about how storm-induced changes to mangrove ecosystems might impact mangrove ecosystem services.

Discrimination During Eviction Moratoria

Using data collected from an experiment that involved more than 25,000 inquiries of landlords in the 50 largest cities in the United States in the spring and summer of 2020, this analysis shows that the implementation of an eviction moratorium significantly disadvantaged African Americans in the housing search process. A housing search model explains this result, showing that discrimination is worsened when landlords cannot evict tenants for the duration of the eviction moratorium.