Environmental Initiatives

Our Story

Pew’s environmental activities have grown steadily over the past two decades, as has our staff of scientists, campaign advocates, economists, communications professionals and attorneys throughout the United States and in Canada, Europe, South America, Australia, New Zealand, the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean.


Public Land and Wilderness Protection

Over the past two decades, Pew has played a prominent role in preserving wilderness and other wild and biologically diverse public land in the United States, Canada and, most recently, Australia. Since 1990, Pew’s campaigns have resulted in permanent protections of more than 265 million acres—an area 2.5 times larger than the state of California.our-story-forest-350-mfk.jpg

In the United States, our work is focused on securing protective status for ecologically significant areas in Alaska and the lower 48 states that are open to development, which we have identified as prime candidates for preservation through legislative or administrative designation. Largely overseen by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, these vast and varied landscapes include old-growth forests, grasslands, sagebrush steppes, high deserts, great basins, Arctic tundra and mountains.

A cornerstone of our work is to give America’s wildest and most biologically diverse areas the nation’s highest form of protection by adding them to the National Wilderness Preservation System. Since 2002, campaigns by Pew and its partners have resulted in the designation by Congress of 4.6 million acres of additional wilderness in 14 states and Puerto Rico. Pew also has been instrumental in protecting our last undeveloped national forests through the landmark Roadless Area Conservation Rule, an administrative policy issued in 2001 that restricts most commercial logging and road-building on these pristine lands.

In Canada, we focus on protecting the country’s boreal forest, one of the world’s largest remaining expanses of old growth that teems with wildlife and provides critical nesting grounds for almost half of all North American migratory songbirds and waterfowl. Canada's boreal forest rivals the Amazon Rain Forest in size and ecological importance, capturing and absorbing twice as much carbon dioxide as tropical forests, which helps fight climate change.

Since 2002, Pew has worked closely with Canadian and international environmental organizations, corporations and aboriginal First Nations to develop the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework, a visionary plan to protect and sustain this globally important ecosystem through the creation of parks, refuges and sustainable development. In 2010, Pew played a critical role in brokering a historic agreement between environmental groups and the forest products industry to protect more than 185 million acres of forestland—twice the size of the U.S. National Park System—through designation and sustainable development.

Australia contains some of the world’s last great wilderness areas, with nearly a billion acres still largely intact. From lush savannahs to arid deserts, its multiple ecosystems are home to an astonishing and exotic array of species found nowhere else on Earth. Through its Wild Australia program, Pew is involved in an ambitious effort to protect millions of acres of the continent’s most important wildlands and tens of thousands of square miles of its oceans that hold globally significant biodiversity.


Clean Energy

For two decades, Pew has been dedicated to the dual issues of energy supply and demand, as well as climate change. As one of the first organizations to recognize the need to address these issues, Pew hour-story-solar-panel-energy-350-mfk.jpgas advocated for the adoption of policies to increase energy efficiency, encourage the deployment of renewable forms of energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Our work began in the early 1990s with an effort that targeted utilities and electricity generation. By working at the state level with other advocates to advance the emerging concept of “demand-side management,” Pew helped encourage utilities and state regulators to develop reward programs for reductions in the amount of electricity produced through conservation and efficiency programs. It is estimated that those efforts helped spur about $15 billion in utility energy-efficiency programs, saving 360 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 177,000 megawatts of capacity, the amount produced by 350 large coal-fired power plants.

Building on the success of our energy efficiency work, in the mid-1990s, Pew began to promote policies that encouraged states to obtain clean, renewable sources of energy. This was aimed at ensuring that utility deregulation endeavors were accompanied by the adoption of renewable energy sources. Today, more than half of U.S. states have renewable electricity standards in place that require a percentage of electricity to be generated from clean energy sources such as wind, solar or geothermal.

In 1998, the Trusts established the Pew Center on Global Climate Change for the purpose of providing credible information, straight answers and innovative solutions to address global climate change. At the inception, the Business Environmental Leadership Council was created to engage the businesses community in the climate debate. The council included 46 companies, mainly Fortune 500 firms with combined revenue of more than $2 trillion and over 4 million employees. In 2007, the Pew Center played a major role in launching the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, an unprecedented alliance of nonprofit organizations and leading businesses—including General Electric and all three major U.S. automobile manufacturers—in support of federal emissions-reduction legislation.

Pew played a critical role in achieving the first congressionally mandated increase in fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks in more than 30 years—the provision raised the standards applying to cars, SUVs and pickups by about 40 percent—to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Additionally, Pew has developed a groundbreaking research portfolio that analyzes the economic impact of policies aimed at reducing energy use and emissions.

Today, our program seeks to accelerate the clean energy economy through national policy initiatives that increase fuel economy for our cars and encourage the adoption of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids; ensure that the electric utility and industrial sectors are cleaner and more efficient; and foster innovation through expanded energy research and development. With long-term national policies in place, the United States can reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create opportunities for job growth, enhance American competitiveness and advance the adoption of low-carbon energy sources.


Protecting Ocean Life

Over the past 15 years, Pew has been a leader in promoting policies that protect the ocean environment and the life it contains. We have played a prominent role in bringing about many improvements to fisheries management and marine conservation in the United States. In recent years, we've also worked more globally—initiating efforts in Europe and Australia and developing focused campaigns to conserve and protect marine life in international waters.

The cornerstone of our marine program has always been to encourage the sustainable management of fisheries. To accomplish this goal, we focus primarily on influencing fisheries policy and related management decisions in ways that halt overfishing; significantly reduce the incidental catch and killing of fish and other marine life; prevent the destruction of marine habitat; and encourage an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management.our-story-ocean-kelp-350-mfk.jpg

In the past five years, we have encouraged the establishment of marine reserves where extractive activities are prohibited or severely limited in order to protect critical ocean habitat and support thriving marine ecosystems. We are also actively engaging in efforts to reform ocean governance and specific management regimes worldwide so that our oceans and the life they sustain are healthy and viable for generations to come.

Our marine efforts are grounded in three principal areas: science, public education and policy advocacy. The science work is designed to inform, guide and support the public education and policy advocacy aspects of our program. Pew has sponsored groundbreaking research published over the past decade in leading peer-reviewed scientific journals, such as Science and Nature, which has shed new light on the problems facing the global marine environment. Additionally, we have played an important role as a national convener of policy research, having sponsored the first comprehensive assessment of U.S. marine policy since the late 1960s. The combination of science and policy reviews has vastly increased the understanding of ocean issues by scientists, policymakers, the media and the public.

Much of our fisheries, marine reserves and ocean governance work is conducted through public education campaigns. These intensive efforts, lasting one to four years, are aimed at influencing specific policy or management decisions. Embedded within each campaign is a direct effort to educate and involve the public in activities focused on improving ocean health. Through this approach, Pew has engaged countless members of the public to make their voices heard on a wide range of debates over polices that impact the health of our oceans.

In the United States, we have helped secure passage of some of the strongest conservation policies ever enacted to protect our nation's marine resources. These efforts include leading advocacy campaigns that played a key role in establishing a national ocean policy based on higher standards for safeguarding ocean life; creating the nation’s largest fully protected marine reserve in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands―the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument; and enacting the U.S. Shark Conservation Act, one of the most comprehensive policies to protect sharks in American history.

Internationally, Pew's advocacy efforts have grown dramatically in both scope and size, utilizing seasoned experts on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as staff based in Australia and the Pacific Islands. We have helped to establish the world’s largest highly protected marine reserve around the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean; create marine mammal sanctuaries in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea; safeguard whales in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary; and secure restrictions at the U.N. General Assembly on highly destructive deep-sea bottom fishing in the world’s high seas.

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