Author Archives: GreenBiz.com

It’s not too late to address blind spots in the environmental movement

This is an excerpt from "Engage, Connect, Protect: Empowering Diverse Youth as Environmental Leaders" by Angelou Ezeilo. Reproduced with permission from New Society Publishers. It was released Nov. 11.Editor’s Note: Earlier in the book, Angelou Ezeilo describes a commercial for the "Keep America Beautiful”"campaign from the 1970s. It featured an actor from Italian American descent playing Native American man dressed in full regalia. After he rowed his canoe down a body of water that was littered with waste and stood near a roadway where someone threw trash out of a moving vehicle, a tear rolled down his cheek, letting viewers know that all the trash made him sad. Her experience watching that commercial is the jumping off point in this excerpt.When I reflect  on that commercial I saw when I was a child, of the Native American shedding a tear when he observed the heedless ignorance of the littering Americans, I can’t help but to ask myself what happened: How did we get so far away in the ensuing decades from that image of Indigenous peoples as the true stewards of the Earth? How did the teary-eyed chief morph into the wealthy white family shopping at REI? I would venture a guess that when most Americans think of Native Americans now, their thoughts are more likely to wander to casinos and, unfortunately, maybe even poverty and alcoholism. No longer are they seen as the original environmentalists. But how might the condition of the planet be different if the last few decades had gone in another direction: if we had decided as a community to lift up farmers (Black, White, and Latinx), migrant workers, scientists, botanists, even hunters as the true symbols of environmentalism — people whose life’s work, whose livelihood, whose passion is directly connected to the condition of the planet. With its blind adherence to homogeneity, the environmental movement has not been agile and forward-thinking enough to combat it. It would have been beautiful if things had evolved this way. I shake my head at the missed opportunity. It’s stunning to think that hunters likely see environmentalists as  the enemy, even as we toil to protect the habitats of the animals they hunt. Yes, of course, many environmentalists would balk at the idea of killing any living creature, for sport, for food, for anything. But there are certainly hunters within our movement, too. We should be a diverse and nuanced bunch. Our tent should be big enough to include everybody, but yet it feels like it actually has become narrower. The opposition forces have been able to keep us divided into separate camps. The conservatives will say they’re the ones that want you to have a job and be able to put food on your table while the environmentalists care more about polar bears and the black-footed ferret than you and your future. So they implore people to fight against us if they wish to have a real shot at a solid quality of life. It’s a ridiculous divide with a specious logic, but unfortunately it’s been wildly successful. With its blind adherence to homogeneity, the environmental movement has not been agile and forward-thinking enough to combat it.The point I’m making here is that the movement is damaged every day that its most prominent spokesman in the public’s eye is a wealthy white man. This may seem like an obvious point, yet it still seems to escape too many powerful and influential figures inside the circles where I spend a lot of my time. If I’m at a conference and the voices participating in the discussion are missing an enormous swath of the American public, then that discussion is necessarily going to be too stunted and limited to be as effective as it could be. There are going to be enormous blind spots. But it’s not too late. I guess that’s the message, too, because it’s going to have to happen eventually; that is, if we’re going to save this planet. Pivotal connections are being made with diverse groups of people of color, though we need many more. If you check the results of bond referenda on environmental issues, you will find that people of color are even more protective of the environment than white people — we instinctively understand that the survival of the planet is so much more crucial than some corporation’s revenue. And frankly, we are still watching in astonished disbelief when we see so many white people in the U.S. who don’t seem to get that. If white liberals don’t start making moves to embrace groups of color, they are going to become increasingly irrelevant, bulldozed by the more powerful forces that are motivated by greed and self-interest. There’s a little black girl who hasn’t been born yet. But she will be born one day in the future, emerging into a crazy, complicated world that seems unable to solve the problems of its own creation. My goal is to work so hard that I put myself out of business, to look up one day and realize that GYF [Greening Youth Foundation] is no longer necessary. How will I know when society has reached that point? There’s a little black girl who hasn’t been born yet — not yet even a twinkle in her mom’s and dad’s eye. But she will be born one day in the future, emerging into a crazy, complicated world that seems unable to solve the problems of its own creation. That little girl will decide that she is surrounded by wonder and beauty that needs to be protected, preserved, cherished. And she will make an instantaneous decision that it is her job to be the Earth’s protector.Her decision will feel organic, comfortable, well within her reach. Why? Because the society she is a part of will have sent her the message that the environment is something that belongs to everyone and that everyone bears an equal responsibility for protecting and preserving it. She will look in catalogues for outdoor retailers and see herself reflected in the pages. She will look at television commercials for vacationing at the Grand Canyon and see her family represented. She will look at Congress and see women who look like her mother and her auntie giving speeches from the floor of the Senate. This little girl will be no more likely to look for permission from white liberals to be enjoined in an environmental movement than she would ask them what she should eat for dinner. From the first day she emerges, she will be empowered. When that day comes, I can retire to my rocking chair — a nice glass of Malbec at my side, Stevie Wonder playing softly, a great book on my lap — and bask in the wonder of the glorious sunset.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Demystifying climate scenario analysis for financial stakeholders

Scenario analysis is an essential yet challenging component of understanding and preparing for the impacts of climate change on assets, markets and economies. When focusing on the short term, the warming and related impacts we already have committed to calls for scenarios that are decoupled from economic and policy activities and instead focus on the impacts that are already locked in.A new report explores which impacts are already locked in, identifies how Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios fit into the conversation, and describes an approach to setting up scenario analysis for near-term physical climate risks.As the effects of climate change increasingly threaten financial stability, investors and regulators are seeking to understand what impacts lie ahead, and calling for an increase in physical climate risk assessment and disclosure in line with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). To assess the scale of financial risk posed by physical climate change, it is important to quantify risks under different climate scenarios. How will changes in extreme weather patterns, longer droughts and rising seas differ under various scenarios? As climate change threatens financial stability, investors and regulators seek to understand what impacts lie ahead, and call for an increase in physical climate risk assessment and disclosure. Answering these questions through scenario analysis helps uncover the range of risks, allowing investors to identify assets and markets that are more likely to become stranded over time and to begin developing forward-looking resilience strategies. However, science-driven, decision-useful scenario analysis poses many challenges for businesses and financial stakeholders today, due to complex feedback loops, varying timescales, and multiple interacting factors that ultimately determine how global climate change manifests.The new report, "Demystifying Climate Scenario Analysis for Financial Stakeholders" (PDF), explores which physical impacts are already locked in, identifies how RCP scenarios apply, and describes an approach to setting up scenario analysis for near-term physical climate risks.Different approachScenario analysis is often approached from the perspective of transition risk, where policy developments and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets are the key drivers of risk pathways over the near-term, in the next 10 to 30 years. Physical risk, however, requires a different approach. Impacts over the coming decades are largely locked in, making the emissions scenarios less relevant. Unlike transition risk, GHG emission pathways play a minimal role in the behavior of the near-term climate and GHG emission pathways only begin to meaningfully influence global temperatures near mid-century. The uncertainty in physical climate risks in the near-term is driven by uncertainty in in physical processes, rather than in policy decisions.For organizations looking to construct physical climate risk scenarios for risk management and strategy purposes, it is critical to understand the scientific phenomena driving our plausible climate futures. The new report outlines an approach called percentile-based analysis, which allows users to explore the range of potential outcomes based on climate model outputs within a single RCP. This offers a flexible, data-driven approach, suitable for portfolio-level screenings, reporting and in some cases, direct engagement with asset managers.Key takeaways:Quantifying climate risks under different scenarios is a key element in understanding how physical climate risks pose financial risks.Scenario analysis is often approached from the perspective of transition risk, where policy developments and greenhouse gas emission targets are the key drivers of risk pathways in the next 10 to 30 years. However, physical climate impacts over the coming decades are largely locked in, so physical risk requires a different approach.Even if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide tomorrow, many physical climate impacts, such as increasing temperatures, more severe droughts and rising sea levels, already would be locked in because of the time carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere and the time it takes the atmosphere to respond.The uncertainty in how physical climate risks may manifest in the next few decades is driven by model uncertainty, which therefore should be the focus of scenario analysis for physical climate risks in the near-term.Percentile-based analysis offers a flexible, data-driven approach, suitable for portfolio-level screenings, reporting and in some cases, direct engagement with asset managers.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Home Depot’s circle in the box store

This article is adapted from GreenBiz's newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here  For millions of homeowners and DIYers across the country, Home Depot is the go-to spot for building supplies. The corporation is the sixth-largest retailer in the world, with almost 2,000 locations in the United States alone. That gives Home Depot tremendous influence over the sustainability — and education — of products used from hobbyists to contractors. The company says it’s been working hard to align the company to do its part on environmental social and governance — or ESG — targets, a fast-rising metric companies are using to communicate impacts to the public and investors.  Most recently, Home Depot has been thinking about how to design circular economy ideals into its operations. The company recently added "circularity" to Eco Options, a program that identifies products with less environmental impacts than comparable standard products, giving shoppers the ability to evaluate products based on attributes such as design, manufacturing and recyclability. At the front of this push is the company’s chief sustainability officer, Ron Jarvis. I caught up with Jarvis at the Greenbuild conference and talked to him about the company’s circular economy objectives and the store’s responsibility in influencing consumer behavior. (Full disclosure, Home Depot invited me to the conference and paid for the trip.) Below are excerpts of my conversation with Jarvis, edited for length and clarity. Sarah Golden: I know you’ve spoken to GreenBiz before and you’ve told us a little about Home Depot’s circularity goals and your vision around circularity. Since we spoke, what has been happening?Ron Jarvis: Well, first of all, we added circularity into our pillars inside of Eco Options, so now inside of Eco Options we have six pillars, and one of them is circularity. We are just young enough to know how naive we are in circularity. Understanding that there are a lot of different aspects inside of circularity. A lot of folks look at recycling and say, "OK, this is circularity." We know it’s not. It’s more about the design principles, manufacturing and the reuse of the product. So we’re deep into it, and learning every day.  Golden: How are you using your position as a buyer to help influence your supply chain and start to think about circularity from the beginning of the life cycle?  Jarvis: It’s not as hard as it used to be. It used to be more of a pull factor. Fortunately, a lot of our suppliers are all over this as well, and they have R&D groups that are working on the design, the manufacturing, the use and reuse of their products. So they’re coming to us as well, about us having pull, showing us projects they’re working on. We know this is a marathon and not a sprint, and it’s going to be years in the making. So the dialogue is probably the thing that is most important right now just to make sure that as engineers and architects and designers of the future, as they’re working on products, this is in the back of their mind. Golden: You mentioned Eco Options. I’d love to hear more about that program. How is that going, do you feel like consumers are responding to it? Jarvis: We’re at $10 billion in sales of Eco Options products. For us, it’s a strong internal program because it helps us identify products that we can put into a, not really a safe zone, but a zone we know someone is working on it, we’ve worked on it, we have criteria and indicators around those products. We consider it to be a huge success, or we wouldn’t add circular economy to it. Golden: What about the consumers? Are people responding to Eco Options?Jarvis: People respond to the environmental attributes of Eco Options. They walk in, they don’t want to see a sign down the plumbing aisle that says, "This toilet is great for the environment." They want to see a sign that says, this toilet saves you $100 a year and 4,000 gallons a year. And by the way, it’s Eco Options. Golden: In thinking about environmental attributes, how are you communicating to the consumers that the attributes are impactful?Jarvis: Some of the products have more attributes that are a bigger concern to the consumers, like saving money and saving water. We find that most of our consumers are looking at those attributes first. "If I buy this product, can I have less energy use in my store? Can I reduce the operating cost of my home on a monthly basis?" It’s interesting, when you look across America, people want to do the right thing; they are concerned about environmental attributes. But you have pockets of people who focus on specific attributes, like water savings. So they wanna know, for the product, what kind of water savings it has. We put that information on the website and places like that where they can find it. Golden: When I think about many DIYers and homeowners across the United States, Home Depot is probably the No. 1 interface they have with supplies that they’re building and living with. Do you feel a responsibility to nudge consumers? Jarvis: We’ve tried nudging, we’ve tried kicking, we’ve tried dragging. With Eco Options, we have labels, and it’s $10 billion. But we’re a $100 billion company, so that means 90 percent of the store has something else besides a certified label. We realized a lot of the customers, you shouldn’t have to nudge, you shouldn’t have to push — just change your assortment. Just give them the right product.  That’s why when you go into the plumbing aisle, 100 percent of our shower heads are WaterSense certified. You can’t buy a non-WaterSense certified shower head in our stores. So that takes the nudging out. Golden: So I know that Home Depot recently got some disappointing news around sales figures for Q3, and I know the company is reexamining sales targets. Would shifting targets potentially impact your sustainability targets? Jarvis: Home Depot has eight core values. You know, "taking care of the customers," "taking care of our associates." One of those is "doing the right thing." There’s not an asterisk next to "doing the right thing — only when you’re making a sales plans." So no, it doesn’t affect it. Editor’s note: Two weeks ago, I traveled to Atlanta (on Home Depot’s dime) to visit the Greenbuild conference, an event billed as the largest gathering of green building professionals. While I went to hunt down a couple of energy questions — I was keen to see how the movement to electrify gas appliances would be represented on the expo floor (it wasn’t) — I didn’t get many energy-oriented takeaways. The circular economy, however, made a strong showing at Greenbuild, with manufacturers understanding the framework in a way that felt new and profound; back to energy next week.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Episode 199: Home Depot’s circular blueprint, IBM CEO lines up behind carbon ‘dividend’

Week in ReviewCommentary of some of this week's stories begins at 5:30.4 key tasks for countries at COP25 in MadridThe promise of sustainable agriculture: A report from a townieHow actor Michelle Pfeiffer championed the world’s first circular fragrance lineFeaturesShare your voice (21:29)In the last GreenBiz 350 podcast of December (Dec. 20) and the first podcast of January (Jan. 10), we will feature the voices of the GreenBiz community, responding to the following two questions: What was the most important lesson you learned professionally in 2019? and/or What’s your biggest professional ambition for 2020? If you'd like to submit your thoughts for either, please alert us at [email protected], and we'll send you the recording and submission guidelines. The deadlines are Dec. 13 and Jan. 3, respectively.Home Depot constructs circularity options for DIYers (22:54)The retailer's Eco Options program, in place since 2007, has generated more than $10 billion of sales in products that aspire to stricter environmental standards for materials, water consumption, energy usage and more. The company's chief sustainability officer, Ron Jarvis, chats about a new initiative to add circular economy principles to the design criteria. Adoption of SASB reporting guidelines grows appreciably (29:14)More than 100 companies, from retailers Etsy and Gap to food company General Mills to tech firms Adobe and Intel, use guidelines from the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) to disclose the potential risks associated with "nonfinancial" issues related to environmental, social and governance concerns. The organization's new CEO, Janine Guillot, chats about adoption and the deeper role that data analytics and artificial intelligence will play in corporate reporting. IBM's CEO wants a carbon tax (38:42)Ginni Rometty was one of 75 chief executives, along with the largest U.S. labor union, the AFL-CIO, to sign a letter of "united" support for the Paris Agreement. IBM also endorsed a plan by the Climate Leadership Council that would put a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, with the proceeds of that "dividend" going back to citizens. Wayne Balta, vice president of environmental affairs for IBM, discusses this latest display of corporate leadership amid U.S. federal inaction on climate change.*Music in this episode by Lee Rosevere: "Try Anything Once," "4th Ave Walkup," "And So Then," "Late Night Tales" and "I'm Going For a Coffee"What's new at GreenBiz?How does ESG measure up? Mainstream investors are asking for more data on corporate climate risks and opportunities — and they're being forced to wade through the sea of metrics and standards used for reporting. Join this interactive webcast at 1 p.m. EST Dec. 17, about how to harmonize disclosure in a way that will speak to the investment community.Do we have a newsletter for you! We produce five weekly newsletters: GreenBuzz by Executive Editor Joel Makower (Monday), Transport Weekly by Senior Writer and Analyst Katie Fehrenbacher (Tuesday), VERGE Weekly by Executive Director Shana Rappaport and Editorial Director Heather Clancy (Wednesday), Energy Weekly by Senior Energy Analyst Sarah Golden (Thursday) and Circular Weekly by Director and Senior Analyst Lauren Phipps (Friday). You must subscribe to each newsletter in order to receive it. Please visit this page to choose the newsletters you want to receive.Check out our Center Stage podcast, which features the best of live interviews on sustainable business and clean technology, conducted on stage at GreenBiz and VERGE conferences.The GreenBiz Intelligence Panel is the survey body we poll regularly throughout the year on key trends and developments in sustainability. To become part of the panel, click here. Enrolling is free and should take two minutes.Stay connectedTo make sure you don't miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes. Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at [email protected].Let's block ads! (Why?)

Collaborative resource planning by utilities and customers benefits both

The path forward for rapid decarbonization in the United States is complex and varies by region. In each state, utilities, their customers and regulators are considering how new large-scale renewable projects, energy storage, energy efficiency, demand response and customer actions can further drive the transition to a low-carbon grid.At times, it seems the decarbonization challenge is a massive equation to solve, with each party focused on only one portion of the math problem. As both utilities and their customers set ambitious renewable energy and carbon goals, they should partner to plan for the resources needed to achieve those targets, a process that can result in benefits for both.A prominent example of this is the recent thought leadership demonstrated by six major utilities and their large corporate customers as part of the World Resources Institute’s Special Clean Power Council, a two-year initiative focused on simplifying access to low-cost, clean energy options that maximize benefits to the grid.The initiative recently released a new paper, "Pathways to Integrating Customer Clean Energy Demand in Utility Planning" (PDF) describing the benefits of and strategies for joint planning. Corporate customers and utilities often share goals, including a desire to address emissions, an interest in having a local impact, a need to make the transition as smooth as possible and a motivation to share what works (and what doesn’t) to help accelerate action.As customers’ 100 percent clean energy goals proliferate, states, utilities and customers are coordinating their efforts to ensure that clean energy development is efficient and impactful. More than 190 companies have joined RE100, a global corporate leadership initiative for 100 percent renewable electricity commitments, and more than 200 U.S. cities, townships and counties (PDF) have adopted 100 percent clean energy targets. Stronger alignment can inspire more efficient clean energy procurement and integration, and will help accelerate decarbonization as parties achieve their goals faster, all while fostering stronger relationships between utilities and their customers.Collaboration also prepares utilities to better anticipate and plan for additional renewable energy demand and helps minimize the actions that corporate or municipal customers independently must take to meet their goals. By finding solutions together, utilities and customers can approach regulators as partners, gaining approvals more easily. Increasing one-on-one, informal collaboration between customers and utilities around resource planning early in the utility planning process could be the key to aligning both parties’ work. Today, many utilities across the United States manage their long-term strategies through integrated resource planning. Integrated resource plans (IRPs) are developed to set the long-term vision for how a utility will meet future demand in its territory. IRP processes often incorporate feedback from stakeholders such as cities and companies to capture customer input and preferences. Stakeholders also formally can participate in the proceedings that state regulators use to review and accept or deny these plans. By this stage, however, much of the utility planning process is already complete.Increasing one-on-one, informal collaboration between customers and utilities around resource planning early in the utility planning process could be the key to aligning both parties’ work. But the first step is education.Customers who understand the resource planning process they’re trying to participate in are better able to assess the impact of the utility’s plans on their goals, enabling them to make more concrete requests of the utility. Utilities that understand the goals and concerns of their customers are more capable of articulating their efforts to address customer concerns and provide important information.Xcel Energy, for example, has been able to engage earlier with its customers in its utility planning through the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition. It also kicked off an extensive stakeholder engagement process a full year ahead of filing its draft plan with its state regulator.As part of this process, Xcel Energy engaged with several environmental organizations and labor groups to make decisions on topics ranging from renewable energy capacity to coal power plant shutdowns. Establishing ongoing relationships, giving customers the opportunity to review proposals early and using innovative agreements all can lead to a draft IRP that reflects stakeholder support on key issues ahead of the initial filing.The future of resource planning should include customer and utility collaboration, early and often. The earlier customer demand and input are integrated in the planning process, the more likely that customer needs will be captured in the draft plan submitted to the regulator. In cases where direct engagement with their utility is not an option, customers can overcome educational and resource barriers by finding forums or joining coalitions with stakeholders who have similar goals. Robust stakeholder processes and transparency within IRP planning also support engagement and help customers understand how their demand is being met.If customers and utilities can become effective partners in resource planning, they may able to bring even more value to the energy transition by collaborating on renewable integration, storage deployment, demand aggregation and managed charging of electric vehicles. Together, they can address complex questions about the future of clean energy goals, bringing innovation to the IRP process and improving planning for all.Let's block ads! (Why?)

What we know so far about countries’ 2020 climate commitments

This article originally appeared on World Resources Institute.When countries adopted the 2015 Paris Agreement, they designed it to steer the world onto a pathway that would limit temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, while striving for the 1.5 degrees C goal. To ensure that countries take on greater climate action over time, the agreement requires each country to prepare and communicate nationally determined contributions (NDCs) every five years.These cycles begin in 2020, five years after countries submitted their first NDCs in 2015. The current set of NDCs falls short of aligning with the temperature thresholds in the Paris Agreement. Countries now need to deliver a measurable step up in ambition to start closing the gap between current emissions and where they need to be.With 2020 just over the horizon, WRI’s 2020 NDC tracker reveals that 68 countries have indicated they will enhance the ambition or action of their NDCs next year — but they represent only 8 percent of global emissions. This includes 59 countries that were part of the Climate Ambition Alliance announced by Chile, the COP25 Presidency, during the recent United Nations Climate Action Summit (UNCAS). One country — the Republic of the Marshall Islands — already has submitted an enhanced NDC. Forty-one countries (including the European Union, representing its member states) have said they will update their NDCs in 2020, although this might mean only providing more information or clarifying actions to implement their initial NDCs. Early indication that countries are ready to enhance their NDCs is encouraging, but those are mainly small- and medium-size countries, many quite vulnerable to climate change impacts. Early indication that countries are ready to enhance their NDCs is encouraging, but those are mainly small- and medium-size countries, many quite vulnerable to climate change impacts. Meanwhile, most major emitters have not yet announced whether they will submit new NDCs in 2020.So what changes will 2020 bring for national climate commitments? Will the countries that have said they will do more do enough? Here is the current state of play based on 2020 NDC tracker.The enhancersA total of 33 small island developing states (SIDS), where climate change poses an existential threat, have signaled their intent to enhance climate ambition. These countries understand the threat posed if countries do not take strengthened action and want to lead the way. For example, the SIDS aspire to shift to 100 percent renewable energy (PDF) and map the way to carbon neutrality. Some of these countries may be ready to submit their NDCs in early 2020.Twenty African countries — including South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Morocco — have indicated that they will enhance their NDCs in 2020 (four of these African countries are also SIDS). As with many SIDS, many African countries already face significant impacts from climate change and aim to build stronger clean energy and climate-resilient economies. South Africa, where coal is a dominant energy source, was an encouraging surprise among those that indicated their intent to enhance, which President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in a written statement during UNCAS. The government recently approved an electricity infrastructure development plan but there are unclear signals in it about the climate path South Africa may choose to take.Norway was a welcome addition to the enhancers in the 2020 NDC Tracker. It aims to become a low-carbon society by 2050, requiring 80 to 90 percent emissions reductions below 1990 levels, although oil and gas remain the country’s most important commodities. The country’s intention to enhance its 2020 NDC is a positive signal that might inspire the EU to do the same.Some Latin American countries also may be a source of leadership, as the COP25 co-presidents, Chile and Costa Rica, have both moved toward adoption of net-zero emissions targets for 2050 and have indicated that they plan to enhance their NDCs in line with those targets. Norway’s intention to enhance its 2020 NDC is a positive signal that might inspire the EU to do the same. The updaters As one of the blocs that has indicated it will at least update its NDC, the European Union shows signs of promise. In September, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen instructed (PDF) her executive vice president to lead work on the European Green Deal and efforts to strengthen the EU’s NDC, by strengthening the current emissions reduction target to 50 or 55 percent by 2030. In October, the EU Council stated (PDF) that it would update its NDC by 2020 but noted that this would focus on increasing transparency. The EU’s adoption of its 2050 carbon neutrality target at its next council meeting in December would be a positive signal for NDC enhancement, and the EU-China Summit planned for September could provide an important moment for the EU to demonstrate the leadership on climate that it often has provided.Other important countries such as South Korea, the world’s 13th largest emitter and a member of both the G20 and the OECD, and New Zealand have also indicated they intend to update their NDCs and should be watched for their readiness to make their NDCs more ambitious. Encouragingly, New Zealand just passed a Zero-Carbon Bill aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050. It needs to align its near-term efforts to achieve that longer-term goal.The no-signalersA number of major emitters have so far failed to indicate that they plan to enhance their NDC.There are significant uncertainties regarding China’s plans for its NDC next year. It is concerning that China is planning significant additions of coal capacity. But there are some clear ways for China to enhance its targets. In addition to an earlier peaking date for emissions and a stronger carbon intensity target, China could add non-greenhouse gases to the targets in its NDC, given that these substantial sources of emissions are not included in the top-line commitments in its current NDC. Chinese climate plans could be affected by the process of developing the country’s next Five Year Plan. China also may submit its long-term mid-century climate strategy this coming year, and there are opportunities to green the vast Belt and Road Initiative, but those steps should not replace NDC enhancement. Brazil has shown no signs of readiness to enhance its NDC, given President Jair Bolsonaro’s climate skepticism. The U.S. also presents a major challenge. Just before UNCAS, the Indian governmen stated that it may elaborate only on its climate actions already pledged in the current NDC. However, energy transitions are in full swing in India, and if well-managed, could support India’s national priorities of energy security and access. The severe air pollution in most Indian cities offers another motivation to phase out coal. At UNCAS, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India would raise its renewable energy target to 450 gigawatts (GW) from the 74 GW of renewable energy (PDF) installed capacity as of March 2019 — a promising sign that India could build on in its 2020 NDC.In Indonesia, there are clear opportunities to takes steps on increasing ambition, building on the Low Carbon Development Initiative report (LCDI) released by Bappenas, the Indonesian Ministry of Planning. The report identifies low-carbon growth paths that would deliver stronger economic growth than BAU, as well as net employment and poverty reduction, and the government is working to integrate these strategies into its next five-year economic plan. It will be crucial to bring all ministries on board in order to align the 2020 NDC with this high ambition scenario.Other countries to watch include Japan and Canada. Following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s re-election, the country substantially could build on progress made in the last four years.Brazil and the United States both have difficult political landscapes. Brazil has shown no signs of readiness to enhance its NDC, given President Jair Bolsonaro’s climate skepticism. The United States also presents a major challenge, having officially started the process to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and with the presidential election scheduled right before next year’s climate summit, COP26. However, important opportunities to enhance climate ambition do exist through U.S. business, state, city and other actors who remain committed to the Paris Agreement and represent 70 percent of U.S. GDP and 65 percent of the population. A U.S. subnational delegation will attend COP25 to demonstrate American climate leadership.How can we ensure the new NDCs raise confidence that we are on track to a 1.5 C world? While all countries have a role to play, much hinges on the major emitters. The stakes are high, because where we land in 2020 either will put us on track or undermine efforts to achieve the main international mechanism we have to fight climate change: the Paris Agreement.Let's block ads! (Why?)

COP25: Diving into the first Blue COP

This article is adapted from GreenBiz's newsletter VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe here. This week, at COP25 in Spain, there’s a new tide of global awareness rising about the critical role of our oceans in climate mitigation and adaptation. Despite turbulent times in Chile, and the civil unrest that led the nation to withdraw from hosting COP25 in Santiago, the country not only continues to preside over the summit, as originally planned, but also to uphold the mantle of the first Blue COP — elevating the protection and restoration of our oceans as vital to climate progress.If ever there were a time to risk being hyperbolic in framing the urgency of transformative climate action, it’s now."The point of no return is no longer over the horizon," said U.N Secretary-General António Guterres in his remarks the evening before COP25 kicked off. "It is in sight and hurtling toward us."Here’s the problem: The initial set of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) drafted by participating countries to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement aren’t going to cut it, and those prepared to set more aggressive targets before submitting their NDCs in 2020 represent less than 10 percent of CO2 emissions globally. That’s why, if you’re not yet tracking the Climate Ambition Alliance, you ought to be. Launched by Chile’s president, Sebastián Piñera, at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in September, the multi-stakeholder alliance will be center stage at COP25, leading efforts to enhance the ambition of countries’ NDCs and that of subnationals, more broadly. This is where our oceans come in, and why Chile is pushing global leaders to protect them in order to heal the climate. While the alliance’s scope includes strong actions on adaptation and active involvement of the private sector, its efforts aim towards a focused goal: to ensure that as many countries as possible submit NDCs that are adequate in their ambition to stabilize global temperature rise.This is where our oceans come in, and why Chile is pushing global leaders to protect them in order to heal the climate.First, a little background. The global ocean plays a tremendously important role in regulating Earth’s climate. Its currents distribute heat from the tropics to the poles, all the way down into the deep blue sea. This determines everything from rainfall patterns and surface temperatures to daily weather on land. Beyond regulation, the ocean is our greatest sink of both carbon and heat. Since the 1970s, it has absorbed up to half of humanity’s excess greenhouse gas emissions and about 93 percent of excess heat (PDF) from those emissions. This is leading to dramatic changes in ocean circulation, rising acidification and increasing ice-melt and sea-level rise.On the other end of the spectrum, ocean-based climate action could deliver a fifth of the emissions cuts needed to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsus, according to a recent report (PDF) published by the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, part of the World Resources Institute. All to say: if it seems strange that ocean health and management have remained largely sidelined in COP convenings, it should — and it’s why Chile, along with other nations, are out to change this at COP25.Here are three key things floating just under the surface of most mainstream media coverage:Because the Ocean. An initiative launched at COP21 in Paris, led by 23 countries and a host of NGO partners. Over the last five years, the initiative has published two declarations and mobilized a global coalition, encouraging incorporation of oceans into the climate change policy agenda and to achieve the 14th Sustainable Development Goal: to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.Because the NDCs matter. Nations’ climate strategies could incorporate the ocean in two main ways: protecting and regenerating coastal ecosystems to sequester "blue" carbon; and harnessing tides, waves and offshore wind to generate carbon-free electricity. This and more will be covered at the 2020 UN Ocean Conference, being convened in Lisbon in June.Because business has a role to play. The UN Global Compact created an Action Platform for Sustainable Ocean Business. The set of Sustainable Ocean Principles on which it’s based is well worth skimming (PDF), no matter the value chain in which you operate. Every company has a role to play in achieving ocean sustainability, starting with assessing the short- and long-term impact of your company’s activities on ocean health, and incorporating these considerations into your strategy and policies. "There are few domains where the risks of failure and rewards of success are more pronounced than the ocean," wrote Lise Kingo, CEO and executive director of the UN Global Compact, in June. "Companies that work to secure a healthy, productive and well-governed ocean are not only meeting their responsibilities to people and planet, but are indeed acting in their own best interest."I’ll be diving into this week’s summit, including #Virtual Blue COP25, and continuing to report back on this vital issue and opportunity.Let's block ads! (Why?)

After Cyber Monday, here comes a new spotlight on e-commerce shipping

This article is adapted from GreenBiz's newsletter, Transport Weekly, running Tuesdays. Subscribe here.How many Amazon packages were rapidly shipped to your home this week thanks to Black Friday and Cyber Monday?For many of us, plenty. And those big cardboard boxes with tiny items inside are just one of the more visceral problems associated with the rapid rise of on-demand online shopping. The carbon emissions associated with e-commerce shipping — which largely come from fossil fuel-powered trucks and planes that move goods across states and within cities — are growing rapidly. And many of us are starting to actually become a lot more concerned about it.According to a study from Accenture published in October, half of the respondents said that they would opt for delivery options with a lower environmental impact, such as slower shipping or in-store pick-up, because of the negative environmental effects of fast-shipping options. Companies such as Etsy have experimented with ways to nudge buyers to use lower-carbon ways to ship goods, but messing with users' streamlined check-out carts is tricky. But no matter how much advance planning you're doing for your holiday shopping (slower shipping generally means lower emissions), at the end of the day it's not really a problem that buyers can tackle on their own. "It’s not on consumers to investigate every decision of their lives and weigh the environmental impact. Leadership needs to come from companies," said Aileen Nowland, senior manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, in an interview.Thankfully there's some good news on that front, too. Expect 2020 to be a big breakout year for shining a spotlight on the shipping supply chain for moving e-commerce goods from where they were produced to your front door — across seas, roads and air. In particular, the last mile of that route is ready for change now. EDF just started a campaign to collect signatures and put pressure on the last mile of the shipping supply chain, where delivery trucks owned by companies such as Amazon, UPS, DHL and FedEx slowly move through neighborhoods, idling, blocking traffic and dropping off your packages. Many of these shippers are starting to buy electric delivery trucks in greater numbers. In the biggest move, Amazon plans to buy 100,000 of them from a startup called Rivian, representing the world's biggest order for electric delivery vans.While startups have dominated manufacturing these electric vehicles in small volumes, more of the big automakers finally are getting their act in gear. For example, Volvo Trucks just started selling its FE (shown above) and FL electric trucks in larger volumes across cities in Europe. Next year, Volvo Trucks North America will start commercially selling its VNR electric truck in the United States.Cities in Europe — such as London, Berlin and Madrid — are driving those sales with strong regulations looking to phase out diesel and fossil fuel vehicles from city centers. Paris Mayor Anne Hildago recently said that she intends to charge companies such as Amazon for urban deliveries to offset the ills it creates such as congestion and pollution. In the United States, with fewer city and state regulations around low-carbon urban delivery, it's more about "strong customer requests for socially responsible products," said Brett Pope, director of electric vehicles at Volvo Trucks North America, in an interview.But in California, cities are getting ambitious, too. Last week, Los Angeles released one of the most aggressive low-emissions urban transportation plans in America, pledging to dramatically boost the amount of electric passenger cars, buses and electric vehicle chargers, while investing in public transportation and exploring congestion pricing. If 2020 is the year that the spotlight starts to shine on the emissions from last-mile delivery, cities will be the ones controlling the illumination. Let's block ads! (Why?)

What to expect from the UN’s COP25 climate change conference

This article originally appeared on Ensia.In 2015, 195 countries adopted an international treaty aiming to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above average preindustrial temperatures in order to avert the worst of Earth’s climate emergency.How exactly will these countries implement that treaty, the Paris Agreement? That’s a key question for the thousands of people slated to attend the COP 25 negotiations, the 25th annual Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that started this week in Spain despite a last-minute change of location from Chile to Spain. Representatives of countries around the world are preparing to negotiate rules for international carbon markets, finalize details on climate finance and ready the world for the crucial next decade of action on the climate crisis. Chilean environmental minister Carolina Schmidt will preside over the negotiations.Double counting strikes backAccording to Schmidt, "COP 25 will be the COP of implementation." The main goal is to fill in the legal and technical details of the Paris agreement. That work began at COP 24, held last year in Poland. Finishing the work of COP 24, this year’s negotiations should finalize the details of the Paris agreement. But consensus could be difficult to reach. Left unresolved last year were the rules for voluntary carbon emissions markets, which would let nations meet their pledged emissions cuts by trading reductions with other countries. In a June interview, Schmidt said that these rules, covered under Article 6 of the Paris treaty, would be a major focus of COP 25.Finishing the work of COP 24, this year’s negotiations should finalize the details of the Paris agreement. But consensus could be difficult to reach. During the last climate talks, according to Carbon Brief, draft rules for the carbon markets would have prohibited double counting of emissions, a scenario in which reductions would be counted by both the country that achieved them and the country purchasing those reductions as emissions offsets. But the delegation from Brazil rejected that prohibition, pushing the conversation off to this year.Other issuesOther issues will be on the table, too. Countries at COP 25 will discuss details for climate finance to support countries designated as developing as they adapt to climate change and mitigate their carbon emissions.Outside the halls of power, COP 25 could see street demonstrations and other protests. Last year’s talks coincided with protests worldwide, including 3,000 who marched in Katowice, Poland, where the talks were held.U.S. diplomats will be among the negotiators — potentially for the last time. President Donald Trump notified the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on Nov. 4 that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris agreement. The United States is scheduled be officially out of the deal by Nov. 4, 2020, less than a week before COP 26 will begin in Glasgow, Scotland. A U.S. delegation will still be invited to attend the conference — but not to negotiate, in an official capacity, the future of the Paris accord.Let's block ads! (Why?)

4 key tasks for countries at COP25 in Madrid

This article originally ran on World Resources Institute.It has been a tumultuous time for the United Nations climate talks. The mass protests against social inequality in Chile prompted the country to give up its plan to host COP25 just a month before the annual talks were scheduled to begin in December.But within a week, Spain offered to organize the event in Madrid on the same dates, an offer which the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) quickly endorsed — the fastest decision made about a venue in UNFCCC history. This sudden solution to an unprecedented challenge was an inspiring display of friendship and recognition that climate change is an urgent priority. The recent trio of reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delivered a stark and powerful warning: our lands, our ocean and all of humanity are at grave risk if we don’t rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.The world must continue to build momentum ahead of 2020 so that all countries offer more ambitious national climate commitments next year. Spain and Chile have demonstrated a "can-do" approach to the climate challenge that should inspire the world and shape what is accomplished at COP25.Here are four key tasks for countries at COP25:1. Step up ambitionThe Chilean presidency defined COP25 as an Ambition COP. At COP21 in Paris in 2015, countries were asked to bring forward updated national climate commitments by 2020 (known in the U.N. as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs). And at the September U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York, many small and medium-sized countries sent a clear signal that they will strengthen their commitments next year. As of now, 68 countries have indicated that they intend to enhance their NDCs. As we move toward 2020, the world will be watching to see whether large emitters will follow that example. COP25 will be a moment to highlight those who are clearly ready to enhance their commitments and shine a spotlight on what’s needed from others next year. The world must continue to build momentum ahead of 2020 so that all countries offer more ambitious national climate commitments next year. While the Trump administration has rejected the Paris Agreement and established the United States as a climate loner, this is no excuse for other countries to dial back their climate efforts. The U.S. states, cities and businesses that remain committed to the Paris Agreement represent nearly 70 percent of U.S. GDP and nearly two-thirds of the country’s population; if they were a country, they’d be the second-largest economy in the world, second only to the full United States and larger than China.At COP25, high-level events are expected to bring ministers of energy, finance and environment together to align policies that will accelerate and scale up action and investments toward a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy. Countries should leave the summit with a good sense of key milestones for next year, with an indication of when the next round of national climate commitments are expected to be submitted, and when the UNFCCC Secretariat will produce a synthesis report of these NDCs that can help assess collective progress toward the Paris Agreement goals.2. Make progress on outstanding rulesWhile the big deliverable of last year’s COP in Katowice, Poland was the adoption of a 300-page set of guidelines to facilitate the implementation of the Paris Agreement, two issues could not be resolved: the use of international carbon markets — covered in Article 6 of the climate accord — and the length of the implementing period for countries’ NDCs, also referred to as the common time frame.Carbon marketsEstablishing rules for carbon markets will be a priority for COP25. Fifty-one percent of all NDCs include markets as one of the means to achieve countries’ emissions-reduction goals. These approaches have the potential to drive cheaper emissions reductions while generating financing to transition to renewable energy and bolster resilience to climate impacts. But those rules must be designed so that they protect the environmental integrity of countries’ national climate commitments.Without proper oversight and robust rules, Article 6 could severely undercut climate action. One way this could happen is through double counting, in which both the buyer and seller of carbon credits would claim the same emissions reduction in their national emissions records, and thus paint a false picture of overall carbon cuts. Another concern is that pre-2020 emissions reductions under the Kyoto Protocol could be allowed to be carried forward and counted toward countries’ climate commitments after 2020, weakening efforts to reduce emissions further.Parties also will discuss the scope and amount of proceeds from carbon trading that will be set aside to assist vulnerable developing countries to help them adapt to a changing climate. Negotiators should ensure that the new system provides a reliable flow of finance to the Adaptation Fund.At COP25 negotiators should make significant progress on rules for Article 6, but the top priority should be to ensure that they are environmentally sound, not to finalize them at all costs. Agreeing to weak or bad rules to meet an artificial deadline could do more damage in undermining climate ambition than delaying the rules another year.Common time frameNegotiators also should aim to reach agreement on how long the implementation period of NDCs should be. The initial NDCs submitted in 2015 covered different time frames, with some running from 2020 until 2025 and others from 2020 through 2030. Last year, countries agreed to have a common time frame for future rounds of climate commitments (for an implementation period starting in 2031), but they could not agree on the length of the implementation period. As we face a climate emergency, we need to set a rapid pace with tight deadlines to prompt countries to ratchet up their efforts more frequently and facilitate the effective implementation of other provisions of the Paris Agreement.In Madrid, negotiators should agree to a common time frame that requires all countries to execute their new NDCs during an implementation period of 2031 to 2035. This aligns with the five-year ambition cycle set in the Paris Agreement, and will provide greater predictability going forward. In addition, countries should be allowed to indicate plans requiring a longer (such as 10-year) time frame.3. Assess loss and damageAnother sensitive issue that negotiators will grapple with in Madrid is the review of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM), established in 2013 to address loss and damage associated with impacts of climate change in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. This includes losses and damages that go beyond what countries and communities can adapt to or recover from, such as loss of cultural heritage, land, lives and livelihoods.  At COP25, Parties will review the WIM’s performance: what lessons have been learned, what are the gaps and opportunities, is the WIM effective and efficient, is it useful and responsive to developing countries, is it catalyzing collaboration and partnership, and is it properly resourced? They also will review the long-term vision for the WIM, which has implications for ways in which it may be enhanced and strengthened. Parties no doubt will pay particular attention to how the WIM has, over the past six years, enhanced action and support for averting, reducing and addressing loss and damage associated with the impacts of climate change — and what can be done to strengthen this particular function of the WIM, including through the possible establishment of a taskforce on loss and damage finance.4. Advance finance and capacity-buildingDeveloping countries — particularly those most vulnerable to climate change — cannot step up climate action without financial support from developed ones. So far, 28 countries have confirmed $9.7 billion in pledges to the Green Climate Fund’s replenishment; 12 of those countries have at least doubled their contributions compared to 2014. This is a positive step, but many more countries should contribute, including Australia, the United States and wealthy oil-producing states. Developed countries that have not yet doubled their contributions should do so. Additional financial commitments at COP25 would build trust and empower more countries to strengthen their climate commitments in 2020. By embracing the 'can do' spirit, COP25 can be a springboard to COP26, when the world will be watching and expecting to see a collective increase of ambition of climate action and support. Decisions on capacity-building are also expected at COP25. In 2015, countries established the Paris Committee on Capacity-building to enable countries to fulfill their more ambitious and stringent commitments and foster their transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy. This year, countries will need to decide whether and how the Paris Committee and other UNFCCC bodies will continue to help countries close the gap between potential and reality.Addressing the intersection of climate action and social equity may draw much greater attention at these U.N. climate talks than in the past. This is partly the result of the social unrest in Chile (and increasingly many other countries, too), but also an outgrowth of rising attention to these issues more broadly in climate discussions, including the focus on just transitions, health impacts and gender at the recent U.N. Climate Action Summit. Too often, countries have not considered how their climate actions could affect equity in their societies. If designed well, climate policies can improve equity — but they must be designed with that in mind, or they risk exacerbating inequities rather than reducing them. As countries progress toward ever more ambitious climate commitments, the importance of ensuring that no one is left behind in the transition will be even more essential. A positive outcome at COP25The Madrid climate talks provide an opportunity for climate leaders to articulate how their efforts to combat the climate crisis will both support their broader sustainable development agendas and specifically address social inequity. By embracing the "can do" spirit, COP25 can be a springboard to COP26, when the world will be watching and expecting to see a collective increase of ambition of climate action and support.Christina Chan, Joe Thwaites, Kelly Levin and Nathan Cogswell also contributed to this article.Let's block ads! (Why?)