HERITAGE FOUNDATION ON AGENDA 21
The following are articles from the Heritage Foundation - Agenda 21 hits the mainstream conservative movement.
Morning Bell: Agenda 21 and the Threat in Your Backyard
December 5, 2011 at 9:51 am
Ready to trade in your car for a bike, or maybe a subway instead? Interested in fewer choices for your home, paying more for housing, and being crammed into a denser neighborhood? You can have all this and more if radical environmentalists and “smart growth” advocates have their way and local, state, and the federal government impose the policies set forth in the United Nations’ Agenda 21.
You might have heard of this nefarious-sounding policy in a recent Republican presidential debate, but even if you haven’t, here’s some background information: Agenda 21 is a voluntary plan adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. It calls on governments to intervene and regulate nearly every potential impact that human activity could have on the environment. The end goal? Getting governments to “rethink economic development and find ways to halt the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources and pollution of the planet.”
As adopted, Agenda 21 was described as “a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.” That includes hundreds of specific goals and strategies that national and local governments are encouraged to adopt. And that translates into restrictive zoning policies that are aimed at deterring suburban growth. Ultimately, they suppress housing supply and drive up home prices, in turn imposing unnecessary costs, especially on middle- and lower-income households. These policies contributed to and aggravate the real estate bubble by putting inflationary pressures on housing prices.
But here’s the catch: Nothing about Agenda 21 is binding, and it’s not a threat in and of itself. Instead, the threat Americans need to be concerned about is the one that lies in their own backyard. In a new paper, “Focus on Agenda 21 Should Not Divert Attention from Homegrown Anti-Growth Policies,” Wendell Cox, Ronald Utt, Brett Schaefer explain:
Opponents of Agenda 21 should not be distracted from the more tangible manifestation of the smart-growth principles outlined in that document. If they focus excessively on Agenda 21, it is much more likely that homegrown smart-growth policies that date to the early 1970s and undermine the quality of life, personal choice, and property rights in American communities will be implemented by local, state, and federal authorities at the behest of environmental groups and other vested interests.
In the United States, smart-growth policies started in California and Oregon but then spread around the country to “deter suburban growth for all but the well-to-do,” as Cox, Utt, and Schaefer explain. They also write that those policies were not without detrimental impact:
As they became more prevalent and restrictive, their impact on housing prices and construction likewise expanded. An explosion of exclusionary zoning throughout the U.S. encouraged many communities to adopt zoning policies to ensure that they maintained a certain demographic ‘profile.’ Such zoning limited real estate development to higher-cost homes in order to ‘price out’ moderate-income households, which included a disproportionate share of minorities.
Where do these home-grown smart-growth policies stand today? The Obama Administration has embraced them while also increasing environmental regulations and restrictions on the use of natural resources. But the White House isn’t the only one behind the smart-growth movement. Local and state officials, along with interest groups, are promoting the policies at all levels of government.
And that’s where smart growth must also be thwarted. It’s not just a matter of standing against the implementation of Agenda 21 at the national level; it’s also about protecting our own backyards against the home-grown threat.
EPA’s “Sustainability” Agenda: Vast Power Grab
December 21, 2011 at 10:30 am
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is on a mission to further unilaterally expand its already vast regulatory powers in the name of “sustainable development.” Congress should take action to rein in the agency before it’s too late.
An EPA-requested report issued in August by the National Research Council (NRC), a private nonprofit, lays out “an operational framework for integrating sustainability as one of the key drivers within the regulatory responsibilities of EPA.” The NRC and the EPA held a meeting on the report just last week.
The exact meaning of the environmental buzzword in the context of the EPA’s agenda is vague. The report refers to a broad definition from President Obama’s Executive Order 13514:
Sustainability: “to create and maintain conditions, under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations.”
The EPA would carry out this broad agenda without congressional approval by claiming authority under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). According to the NRC Committee:
The 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) declared that the “continuing policy of the Federal Government” is to “create and maintain conditions, under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations” (42 U.S.C. 4331(a)). That policy expresses what is now described as sustainable development.
It is important to note that the committee quotes selectively from the act and omits a crucial component of the federal government’s responsibility to work in cooperation with state, local, and other private and public constituents:
it is the continuing policy of the Federal Government, in cooperation with State and local governments, and other concerned public and private organizations, to use all practicable means and measures, including financial and technical assistance, in a manner calculated to foster and promote the general welfare, to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans.
The NRC report places the EPA’s sustainability agenda in the context of Agenda 21, which, according to Heritage’s Wendell Cox, Ronald Utt, and Brett Schaefer:
would significantly expand the role of government in economic decision-making, impede development and economic growth, and undermine individual choice and policy flexibility for local communities. Opponents should be concerned about efforts by the U.S. government to implement these policies, both nationally and locally.
It is entirely unclear what limits, if any, would keep the EPA in check, and that is the biggest threat. And based on EPA’s insatiable hunger to extend its regulatory reach—from regulating CO2 emissions to its expansive Boiler MACT rules—the agency has time and time again demonstrated its willingness to circumvent Congress.
If the EPA were to succeed in this latest power grab, it could undermine economic growth and prosperity. “Sustainable development” or “smart-growth” policies have already had negative impacts on economic growth, competitiveness, and our standard of living.
Beyond the economic effects of “sustainability,” the agency should not be allowed to unilaterally rewrite the law. That is the prerogative of Congress, not the Executive Branch. Congress should rein in the EPA in its efforts to appropriate vast and sweeping new powers.