A vision for a Biden-Harris sustainable business agenda

November 17, 2020 by  
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A vision for a Biden-Harris sustainable business agenda Aron Cramer Tue, 11/17/2020 – 01:30 This article originally was published in the BSR Insight . Now that the results of the United States presidential election are in, it is time to focus on what business can do to promote a policy agenda that will accelerate the transformation needed to shift to a truly just and sustainable economy.  The U.S. government has been either absent or counterproductive on sustainability issues the past four years. This will change in a Biden-Harris administration. How much it changes will depend greatly on the actions and influence of the business community. BSR exists to catalyze business leadership to achieve a just and sustainable world. We believe strongly that sustainability is a primary source of strategic business advantage. We believe that comprehensive business action calls for companies to “act, enable, and influence,” creating change both through actions in the “real economy” and also in advocating for policy solutions. With a new government coming into power, now is the time for business to use its voice and influence to call for decisive action from a more receptive administration in Washington. With this in mind, here is the agenda that BSR urges businesses to call on the Biden administration to adopt, in the spirit of the campaign’s “build back better” mantra. It is time to focus on what business can do to promote a policy agenda that will accelerate the transformation needed to shift to a truly just and sustainable economy. Employment and economic Repairing the safety net:  It is time for business to engage with government in remaking the social safety net for the 21st century. 2020 has exposed the serious holes in the safety net, not least access to health care. It is also time to develop a consensus on portable benefits for people who change jobs or who work outside traditional jobs. Innovations such as the tax-deferred “401(j)” accounts proposed by Al Gore to allow employees to save for lifelong learning also would be a good step. These steps not only would enable economic security and mobility, they also would ensure opportunities for innovation and a dynamic workforce that businesses need. Income inequality: t is long past time for Americans to reverse the deep and widening inequality that plagues our country. While there are multiple reasons for this problem, three topics deserve to be made a priority. First is the need to raise the minimum wage to a level that is a genuine living wage. This would both enable families to support themselves and also reward labor in an economy in which capital has been rewarded more than it should be. Second is executive compensation, which has continued to rise far too fast. It is time for business leaders to take voluntary steps to reduce executive pay and for boards to commit to the same. Third, income inequality strikes communities of color especially hard and all pathways to prosperity need to address the wealth gap directly. Future of work: The changing nature of work is accelerating due to the confluence of COVID-19 and automation. Contingent or non-traditional work is the fastest growing category of work. There is no consensus on the rules governing such work or universal benefits people can access regardless of how their work is classified. Dialogue between business, government and workers’ representatives is needed to establish the rules of the road. Climate and environment Net zero target for the U.S.: Returning to the Paris Agreement will happen Jan. 20 — that is only the start. The U.S. should commit to a net-zero target the way that the European Union, China, Japan, South Korea and others — including many U.S. states and cities — have. The need for renewed climate diplomacy, with the U.S. playing a crucial role along with the EU, China and Japan, could not be more important in the run-up to COP 26. Climate justice/just transition: Awareness of the disparate impacts of climate — mainly hitting communities of color and those with less formal education — means that environmental justice should come to the forefront. The shift to net-zero is a generational opportunity for progress, not only removing the most toxic elements of the existing energy system but also generating economic opportunities in the clean energy economy as a means of combatting poverty and discrimination. Business should insist that the transition to net zero include policies that prioritize the phase out of toxic impacts on communities of color, incentives for investments that ensure that the clean energy economy delivers training, and employment for people who need opportunities the most, in both rural and urban communities. Green infrastructure:  Even with divided government, investment in green infrastructure is possible as a means of generating employment at a time when it is badly needed and to reduce the operating costs of U.S. infrastructure. Business should advocate for built environment and transport systems that accelerate and prepare for the net zero economy. The long debated Green Infrastructure Bank should become a reality, not least with the rise of green and “olive” bonds. And this is also the place where serious — and badly needed — resilience objectives can be achieved. Regenerative agriculture: At long last, there is mainstream recognition of the deep intersections of climate, human health and the vibrancy of America’s agricultural economy. What’s more, the political opportunity to bring the country together through heartland interest in thriving agriculture and coastal interest in climate action is one that could help unify a country that is divided against itself on climate action. It is time for business to make clear that it wants and needs strong support for human rights, with renewed action from the White House and State Department at a minimum. Social Racial justice: The Biden campaign made clear that racial justice was one of its four priorities, along with climate action, economic opportunity and public health. In fact, these four topics are interrelated and should be addressed as such. The business community should make sure that the many statements of support for Black Lives Matter in 2020 are strengthened by a long-term commitment to ensure that decisive action is taken to end the centuries-long scourge of systemic racism. As noted above, the wealth gap that exists in communities of color is a legacy of longstanding oppression. Steps taken to address climate, strengthen the social safety net, restore public health and invest in green infrastructure offer great promise in addressing the wealth gap, and business should support this objective vocally. In addition, business also should make clear its support for criminal legal system reform, starting with policing, but also including access to the court system and incarceration rates. Finally, business should call for mandatory disclosure of employee demographic information, which leverages transparency in support of greater equity. Technology and human rights/privacy: It is well understood that policy moves more slowly than technology. At a high level, the U.S. government should establish the principle that new technologies should adhere to international human rights standards in their design, development and use. In addition, the U.S. government can introduce a federal privacy law along similar lines to the GDPR, ensure that any revisions to Section 230 of the Telecommunications Decency Act of 1996 are consistent with the protection of human rights, and introduce sector-based approaches to regulating disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and biometric technologies. Companies from all industries should advocate for a technology policy and regulatory context that protects interdependent rights such as freedom of expression, privacy, security, freedom of assembly, non-discrimination, public health and access to remedy. Restoring support for human rights and democracy: The U.S. government has provided implicit and explicit support for some of the governments most responsible for the worst human rights abuses over the past few years. The business community shied away from calling this out the way they challenged the Trump administration’s approach to climate. It is time for business to make clear that it wants and needs strong support for human rights, with renewed action from the White House and State Department at a minimum. Human migration and refugee policies: The xenophobia unleashed in the first days of the Trump years must be relegated to the past. Business consistently has called for immigration policies that enable the U.S. to welcome the breadth of human capacity that comes from literally every corner of the world. This is needed both for humanitarian reasons, which speak for themselves, but also because of the positive impact open societies have on economic vitality and innovation. What’s more, this will also help to restore America’s soft power around the world, something that benefits U.S. businesses and which has been seriously damaged since 2016. Governance Corporate governance reforms and listing requirements: It is time for boards to reflect more fully the world in which business actually operates. This means diversifying board composition. It also requires that so-called “non-financial” considerations be embedded in corporate governance and listing requirements. A good first step towards integration of ESG into corporate governance would be business advocacy for making the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) mandatory. This then can be extended to other steps including mandatory human rights diligence, executive compensation and workplace diversity. All these steps will strengthen the resilience of business and bring America’s trading rules in sync with advances in Europe and elsewhere. Restoring democracy: 2020 has made clear, yet again, of significant structural flaws in American democracy. Business associations stepped up to call publicly for democratic processes to be honored — and have continued to call for this post-election. This remains important as many have chosen not to honor the clear outcome of the election. Despite this, American democracy appears poised to survive in the wake of this unusual election, but issues remain. Business should use its voice to call for reforms that address voter suppression, campaign finance, gerrymandering and a judicial system infected by hyper-partisanship. This is an issue that many CEOs will seek to avoid for fear of appearing to pick sides, and that is understandable. But the reforms called for here should not be seen that way, as they are necessary for our system to function, for all people to have their voices heard and for faith in the system be restored. 2020 has made clear, yet again, that there are significant structural flaws in American democracy. Rules-based trading system with multilateral agreements: The U.S. was the primary architect of the rules-based trading system in the wake of World War II and the primary protector of that system over the past 75 years. While this system certainly needs significant reforms, the past four years have taken a scorched-earth approach that leaves us no hope of managing an interdependent world well and fairly. Business could not have more of a stake in restoring support for the concept of multilateralism and more of a need to make sure it is fit for purpose in the 21st century. Procurement: Finally, business should call on government to partner more aggressively on procurement policies. The U.S. government has immense purchasing power and it is not being used as fully as it could be to promote the creation and efficiency of markets for sustainable products and services. This is also a uniquely valuable way to address the wealth gap, with government partnering with BIPOC-owned businesses as suppliers. There will be a time to get more specific on policy solutions. For now, however, it is essential to define the areas where progress is necessary. Much of what is advocated here is also found in BSR’s call for business action to promote a 21st century social contract . The temptation to “go back to business as usual” will be strong for many, but that would be a mistake. Building a just and sustainable world never has been about opposing any single political leader. It always has been about building a future in which we can all thrive. It is about what we are for, not what we are against. After four years when the U.S. government failed to embrace — and often thwarted — the achievement of sustainable business, the business voice remains a powerful tool in creating an economy that works for all. Pull Quote It is time to focus on what business can do to promote a policy agenda that will accelerate the transformation needed to shift to a truly just and sustainable economy. It is time for business to make clear that it wants and needs strong support for human rights, with renewed action from the White House and State Department at a minimum. 2020 has made clear, yet again, that there are significant structural flaws in American democracy. Topics Policy & Politics Policy & Politics Paris Agreement Climate Justice Resilience Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off President-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris on stage at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware during the 2020 election campaign. Photo by  Stratos Brilakis  on Shutterstock.

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A vision for a Biden-Harris sustainable business agenda

Here’s how Joe Biden could cultivate a more sustainable food system

November 13, 2020 by  
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Here’s how Joe Biden could cultivate a more sustainable food system Jim Giles Fri, 11/13/2020 – 00:14 Let’s do a quick thought experiment. Imagine stepping into an elevator and realizing that the man next to you is President-elect Joe Biden. You have 30 seconds to urge him to focus on a particular issue. What would it be? Earlier this week, I invited leaders from food and agriculture to play that game. Specifically, I asked them what Biden’s administration should do to accelerate progress toward a more sustainable food system. I got more responses than I can share in a single newsletter, so I’ll be rolling out answers weekly until the end of the year. Here are three — spanning farm spending, technical support and farmers of color — to get the conversation started. No need to wait for Congress One of the most encouraging responses emphasized that there’s a lot Biden can do without additional support from Congress.  “The U.S. Department of Agriculture can take advantage of tools and money it already has to help farmers transition to more climate-friendly practices that can also lead to improved farm economic resilience in the long term,” said Chris Adamo, vice president of federal and industry affairs at Danone North America. “Via the Farm Bill, the department spends approximately $6 billion annually on conservation practices. As part of its conservation funding, the USDA could prioritize soil health through cover crops, crop diversification and other regenerative practices, and partner with the private sector to leverage resources.” Adamo added: “The current administration has also spent over $30 billion compensating farmers for COVID and trade-related losses. However, many farmers may not be in a better situation in the short term. If we’re going to continue to pay for market losses, it may be better to invest with diversity, equity and climate in mind.” Boots on the ground The federal government also can help support ongoing private sector projects in food and ag, where many companies are already working to cut greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and to regenerate farmland and waterways.  “To support this transition, the USDA should boost farmer and rancher program service delivery through more boots-on-the-ground technical assistance,” said Debbie Reed, executive director of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium . “There continues to be a real need for technical assistance to transfer knowledge, outcomes and benefits to working farmers and ranchers.” If we’re going to continue to pay for market losses, it may be better to invest with diversity, equity and climate in mind. Particularly when it comes to conservation programs, this support needs to recognize that different farmers have different needs, Reed added. In practice, this means it needs to be place-based and flexible enough to allow farmers and ranchers to improve environmental impacts without incurring excessive risk. One way to deliver this, suggested Reed, would be to rebuild the ranks of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, which have fallen dramatically over the past two decades. Protect farmers of color Black farmers sometimes refer to the USDA as “the last plantation” due to the agency’s long history of discriminating against farmers of color. The results of this lack of support have been devastating. A century ago, there were a million Black farmers in the United States. Now just 45,000 remain, each earning, on average, one-fifth of what white farmers do.  That history is why Leah Penniman, co-director and manager of Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York, is urging Biden to enact protections and support for farmers of color. These include expanded access to credit, crop insurance and technical assistance; independent review of farmland foreclosures; and debt forgiveness programs where discrimination has been proven. (If you’re interested in learning more about this issue, Penniman helped create Elizabeth Warren’s policy proposals in this area , which remain some of the most ambitious.) What would you say to Biden during your shared elevator ride? Let me know at jg@greenbiz.com . I’ll include as many responses as possible in Food Weekly during the transition period. This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote If we’re going to continue to pay for market losses, it may be better to invest with diversity, equity and climate in mind. Topics Food & Agriculture Policy & Politics Social Justice Regenerative Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Biden-Harris supporters gather at a farm market in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for a “get out the vote” event on the eve of the 2020 presidential election. Shutterstock Ben Von Klemperer Close Authorship

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Here’s how Joe Biden could cultivate a more sustainable food system

How to ensure circular fashion is good for people and the environment

October 9, 2020 by  
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How to ensure circular fashion is good for people and the environment Annelise Thim Fri, 10/09/2020 – 00:15 This article originally was published in the BSR Insight . The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the fashion industry into disarray, leaving supply chain workers without wages and causing major global brands to file for bankruptcy. In the United States alone, 2.1 million retail workers lost their jobs due to the crisis. In Bangladesh, the garment sector is expected to lose over a million jobs by December, with over 70,000 workers already laid off. While many underlying issues are not new to the industry, the unprecedented situation has made us acutely aware of the fragilities of our current economic system and of just how vulnerable people — especially workers and their communities — are to significant business disruption. As our society looks to build back better by emerging from the crisis with a more resilient and sustainable system, many industries are planning to integrate circularity into their recovery plans. Indeed, even before the COVID-19 outbreak, circular economic models had been sprouting up at increasing speed in the fashion industry, both to counter its enormous environmental impact and to respond to economic opportunities. The textile industry alone produces 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year and accounts for around 20 percent of global industrial water pollution . Companies, brands and designers are increasingly looking to circular fashion models, including resale, rental and repair, to mitigate these impacts. A strong signal of the circular fashion opportunity: Resale grew 25 times faster than the overall retail apparel market in 2019. While the potential positive environmental impact of a shift to a circular economy is enormous, few organizations are considering the social implications for the more than 60 million people in its value chain . Given the sheer size of the industry and the many ways people intersect throughout production and consumption, social implications, whether positive or negative, are unavoidable. Women, who comprise between 60 to 90 percent of total apparel workers, of whom an estimated 80 percent are women of color , likely will take the brunt of the impact due to their precarious working conditions and existing gender-based discrimination. BSR’s new brief, ” Taking a People-Centered Approach to a Circular Fashion Economy ,” explores the potential social impacts that may emerge from a mainstream shift to circular fashion . The textile industry alone produces 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year and accounts for around 20 percent of global industrial water pollution. Informed by BSR’s research and stakeholder engagement supported by Laudes Foundation , an independent foundation tackling the dual crises of climate change and inequality, the brief proposes opportunities for businesses, policymakers and advisers to design circular fashion business models to be inclusive and fair from the outset. In addition, we provide a set of guiding questions for companies and organizations to practically think through the social impacts of their shifts to circular fashion models, aiming to avoid and mitigate negative social impacts and more consciously target positive social impacts. “The vision of ‘circular economy’ presents an economy that is compatible with nature, but we cannot take for granted that it will be inclusive,” said Megan McGill, senior program manager at Laudes Foundation. “BSR’s work is enabling us to ensure that in our pursuit for a regenerative and restorative economy, we are actively managing and promoting the rights and equity of people touched by the fashion sector.” This current period of complex disruption presents a unique opportunity to leverage the shift to circularity to address some of the global fashion industry’s persistent and pervasive environmental and social issues. By taking a people-centered approach, we can build a more resilient industry and respond to the calls from stakeholders — through safer inputs that increase the health and safety of workers and production communities, enabling creative and dignified employment, and building inclusive models adapted to the needs of a diverse consumer base. Supported by Laudes Foundation, BSR is continuing to explore the impacts of the shift to circular fashion on job opportunities and quality — a topic largely ignored in the circular transition to date and which we begin to delve into in this brief. Our current work aims to explore and develop responses to these impacts in collaboration with fashion companies and broader industry stakeholders. In addition, we will leverage strategic foresight in developing and testing practical recommendations with special focus on the U.S., Europe and India. This brief was developed by Cliodhnagh Conlon and Annelise Thim, with input from Laura Macias and Magali Barraja and with the support of Laudes Foundation. As we delve deeper into this topic, we are keen to hear feedback and learn from others who are working to ensure that the circular fashion transition delivers benefits for people. If you are currently working on circular fashion or would like to learn more about our work, please reach out to connect with the team. Pull Quote The textile industry alone produces 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year and accounts for around 20 percent of global industrial water pollution. Contributors Cliodhnagh Conlon Topics Circular Economy Supply Chain Fashion Supply Chain Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Garment worker in Bangladesh, where the garment sector is expected to lose over a million jobs by December 2020, with over 70,000 workers already laid off. Photo by Jahangir Alam Onuchcha on Shutterstock.

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Seven ways to inform better decisions with TCFD reporting

September 28, 2020 by  
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Seven ways to inform better decisions with TCFD reporting Steven Bullock Mon, 09/28/2020 – 00:00 This article is sponsored by Trucost, part of S&P Global . The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) is helping to bring transparency to climate risk throughout capital markets, with the aim of making markets more efficient and economies more stable and resilient.  Many stakeholders are involved in the initiative, across corporations and financial institutions. Each can apply TCFD reporting intelligence to inform better decisions in different ways. Image of seven stakeholders; Source: Trucost, part of S&P Global. 1. Finance director: Developing a business case to increase capital expenditure on carbon-mitigation projects  A global manufacturing company wanted to undertake a carbon pricing risk assessment to understand the current and potential future financial implications of carbon regulation and related price increases on operating margins. The finance director felt the results could strengthen the business case for investment in low-carbon innovation at operational sites around the world. He used the carbon pricing risk assessment in Figure 1 to illustrate the differences the company might see in its operating margins under different climate change scenarios and highlight where investment in carbon-mitigation projects would matter most.  2. Purchasing manager: Minimizing supply chain disruption by identifying suppliers vulnerable to physical risks A global energy company wanted to undertake a physical risk assessment to understand the firm’s potential exposure to climate hazards, such as heatwaves, wildfires, droughts and sea-level rise that could lead to supply chain disruptions and increased operating costs for the business. The purchasing manager felt the results could help identify raw material suppliers that may be affected by these hazards and provide an opportunity to speak with them about steps they are taking to address these risks. As shown in Figure 2, a physical risk assessment can pinpoint vulnerable sites that could cause problems down the road.  3. Sustainability manager: Setting science-based targets for company greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions  A global beverage company wanted to quantify its carbon footprint for its own operations and global supply chain. The sustainability manager saw this as an excellent starting point to set science-based targets for a reduction in emissions, with the targets reflecting the Paris Agreement and carbon reduction plans for countries in which the company did business. As shown in Figure 3, targets could help the company understand the reduction in emissions needed to move to a low-carbon economy and enhance innovation. 4. Investor relations manager: Publishing a TCFD-aligned report  A large consumer goods company wanted to assess the firm’s climate-related risks and opportunities in accordance with the recommendations of the TCFD. Using four core elements — governance, strategy, risk management and metrics and targets — the TCFD assessment helps quantify the financial impacts of climate-related risks and opportunities. The investor relations team wanted to report these findings alongside traditional financial metrics to publicize that the company was taking steps to manage climate-related issues. To illustrate what could be done, the team pointed to the TCFD report shown in Figure 4 completed by S&P Global for its own operations.   5. Portfolio manager: Screening a portfolio for carbon earnings at risk using scenario analysis An asset management firm wanted to test its investment strategy by assessing the current ability of companies to absorb future carbon prices so its analysts could estimate potential earnings at risk. Integral to this analysis is the calculation of the Unpriced Carbon Cost (UCC), the difference between what a company pays for carbon today and what it may pay at a given future date based on its sector, operations and carbon price scenario. A portfolio manager wanted to use the findings, such as those shown in Figure 5, to report these estimates of financial risk to stakeholders and engage with portfolio constituents on their preparedness for policy changes and strategies for adaptation.  6. Chief investment officer (CIO): Using TCFD-aligned reporting as a way to engage asset managers on climate issues A large pension plan wanted to undertake a climate change alignment assessment of its global equity and bond portfolios to understand how in sync it was with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and where there could be potential future carbon risk exposure. The CIO wanted to publish the results and use the findings, such as those shown in Figure 6, to engage with the firm’s asset managers to determine how they were integrating climate risk into investment decisions. 7. Risk officer: Assessing exposure to climate-linked credit risk  A large commercial bank wanted to estimate the impact of a carbon tax on the credit risk of companies in their loan book. The Risk Officer felt this would add an important dimension to the assessment of creditworthiness. Figure 7 highlights the changes that might be seen in quantitatively derived credit scores for the materials sector under a fast-transition scenario. This shows a rapid increase in carbon tax, with companies reacting in various ways. Some invest in greener technology to meet the reduction targets in 2050 (green bars), while others do not invest and pay a high carbon tax or experience lost revenue resulting from bans on the use of certain materials (red bars). There are many more examples of how TCFD reporting is helping organizations inform better decision-making and capture new opportunities in the transition to a low-carbon economy.   Please visit spglobal.com/marketintelligence/tcfd or watch our on-demand webinar to learn more.   Topics Finance & Investing Risk & Resilience Sponsored Trucost, S&P Global Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article On Taking action to keep the world green; Source: Trucost, part of S&P Global.

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There’s a big appetite for farm-to-consumer shopping

August 21, 2020 by  
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There’s a big appetite for farm-to-consumer shopping Jim Giles Fri, 08/21/2020 – 01:45 Avrom Farm sits in the hills above Green Lake in central Wisconsin. With 5,000 chickens, 200 pigs and six acres of vegetables, it’s a minnow in an industry dominated by an increasingly small number of producers and processors.  In March, a stay-at-home order hit the region. In just a week, the restaurants the farm sold to shut up shop, and local farmers’ markets closed. That might have been the end for Avrom. But then something interesting happened. Owner Hayden Holbert cleared space in a corner of his barn and created a tiny fulfillment center, the back-end operation for an online store and delivery service that he had quickly set up. Then he added products from nearby farms to the site.  Soon his digital business outgrew the barn and had to be moved into a newly constructed hoop house. In a few weeks, business online had pretty much compensated for the losses from restaurants and markets. Now Holbert is raising money to outfit an even larger space nearby, complete with a retail store, which will allow him to sell direct to local people year round. Stories such as Holbert’s have popped up repeatedly in the five months since the coronavirus pandemic forced the United States into varying degrees of lockdown. “There’s been a big uptick in demand — probably 3X,” Joe Heitzeberg, CEO of Crowd Cow , which connects consumers with small producers, told me this week. The demand to buy direct from producers existed before COVID. Consumers like to connect directly with farmers and to feel more confident about what they’re buying. But a combination of broken supply chains, reluctance to visit supermarkets and more time spent cooking at home has accelerated this trend.   This won’t go away any time soon. It’s really entrenched. “The consumer during COVID has been willing to explore the fastest way to secure healthy, fresh food in their home,” said Anne Greven , head of food and ag innovation at Rabobank, which highlighted the rise of farm-to-consumer channels in its latest trends report . “This won’t go away any time soon. It’s really entrenched.” I get this. One of the delights of summer here in San Francisco is my local farmers market, where the peaches and plums and kale taste so much better than supermarket options, which often arrive via lengthy supply chains. It’s also great to see new ways for farms to prosper. Yet I think that we should be careful not to assume that farm-to-consumer channels are clearly better than alternatives.  Price is one issue. A whole organic free range chicken on Crowd Cow costs $5 per pound; the equivalent non-organic product in Safeway goes for $1.49 per pound. Don’t get me wrong: I know there are multiple good reasons for this difference, including animal welfare standards. My point isn’t to question the value of organic methods. I’m raising the issue of price to note that low-income families can’t necessarily participate in this trend. It goes back to something I raised a few weeks back in the context of race : We all agree that we need a better food system, but we don’t always ask for whom it’s better. (To be fair to Heitzeberg, he was well aware of this issue and said he was working hard to reduce the price of everyday essentials. Crowd Cow prices for some products, such as ground beef, come closer to those at Whole Foods and other premium supermarkets.)  There’s a second question about sustainability. How do you know your local small-scale producer has a lower environmental impact than a distant mega-farm? As I noted last week, our intuitions about the industrialization of food aren’t necessarily correct. We need to consider the amount of land required for production, the methods used on the farms and the transport costs. It’s a complicated comparison to make, and we urgently need more data to guide us. The good news is that progress is being made on both fronts. On the equity side, the pandemic has promoted companies and nonprofits to partner on projects that provide farm produce directly to food-insecure communities . Several research groups are looking at scale and sustainability in food systems, including one major think tank, whose report I hope to write about soon. I’ll close with an intriguing aside about Hayden Holbert and Avrom Farm. I came across his story via Steward, an investment platform that lets regular people — not just well-heeled, accredited investors — put money into sustainable agriculture projects. This means that you and anyone else can help Holbert build out his new business, and earn a projected 6 to 8 percent return in the process. (You know the drill: Projections are not guarantees of future results.) More details at Steward . This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote This won’t go away any time soon. It’s really entrenched. Topics Food & Agriculture Social Justice Farmers Food & Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Avrom Farm owner Hayden Holbert cleared space in a corner of his barn and created a tiny fulfillment center, the back-end operation for an online store and delivery service. He quickly outgrew that space. Courtesy of Avrom Farm Close Authorship

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Why e-commerce retailers should increase transparency about their products

August 21, 2020 by  
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Why e-commerce retailers should increase transparency about their products Deonna Anderson Fri, 08/21/2020 – 01:15 When shopping online, consumers are able to see a lot of information about a product. There’s the product description and specifications of an item. For a bottle of perfume, the listing would declare the fluid ounces and describe the scent. A piece of clothing would show the material makeup and available sizes. A page for a bookshelf would have information about the dimensions. And of course, all of these would display the cost. But even with so much information at the ready, it is still rare to see details about the impact the product has on the climate or the chemical makeup of an item. The Environmental Defense Fund is calling for change. “You have this greater real estate available to share this information about products right on the product page, just like you would the size of a product or colors or product reviews and you have the ability to tell more of the sustainability story, because you essentially have endless shelf space online,” said Boma Brown-West, senior manager of EDF+Business at the Environmental Defense Fund, the arm of EDF focused on corporate sustainability. In late July, EDF+Business released a report called ” The Roadmap to Sustainable E-commerce ” that pushes companies to do better by their customers and the environment by sharing more information about the products they offer. “We want to call attention to how the biggest environmental impacts and the biggest health impact of products is really due to the products themselves and the creation and the use of a product,” Brown-West said. As the COVID-19 crisis rages on in the United States, some people are relying on e-commerce retailers for their needs — from household goods to food. Making these goods and transporting them has a cost to the environment. And as my colleague Joel Makower wrote at the beginning of the pandemic, “This is exactly the right time to be talking about climate change.” The EDF+Business report outlines how the world’s biggest e-commerce retailers — such as Amazon, eBay and Walmart — could use their influence to benefit the environment and their bottom lines.  In addition to calling on e-commerce retailers to step up, the report outlines seven steps to do just that: Assessing chemical and carbon footprints of the products they sell. This would help e-commerce companies understand the prevalence of toxic chemicals in their product assortment as well as their contribution to global climate change. Setting ambitious goals to address footprints. This step could set retailers on the path to offer products with safer chemicals and reduce their climate impact. To improve their chemicals footprint, e-commerce businesses are encouraged to establish a chemicals policy with specific, time-bound goals that incentivize their suppliers to use safer ingredients in their products. Regarding retailers’ climate impact, the report suggests setting specific, time-bound goals that reduce their Scope 3 emissions. That could look like setting a waste goal that prioritizes eliminating single-use plastics or one that encourages the growth of reuse and recycling infrastructures. Align business operations with sustainability goals. E-commerce retailers would need to integrate sustainability goals into their organization and operations. Engaging product suppliers and sellers to meet goals. E-commerce companies should establish new expectations with their suppliers and incentivize them to lead. Help consumers make sustainable choices. This step could look like translating product data into compelling consumer terms. Measure progress and share it publicly. Companies should regularly report and share on their sustainability goals with employees, consumers and investors. In this effort, leaders should include both their successes and lessons learned in their reporting. Lead the industry forward on sustainability. By stepping up, e-commerce industry leaders can recruit other parts of the value chain to participate in relevant industry groups, commitments and coalitions. Some retailers already are doing this work, although not specifically in the context of e-commerce. For example, back in 2013, Target launched its Sustainable Product Index , which tasked vendors with assessing the sustainability of product ingredients as well as their health and environmental impacts.  “We definitely see some movement in [companies] trying to communicate to consumers some more information about environmental or health impacts of products,” said Brown-West, who authored the report. “But we haven’t seen a full, we haven’t seen the full experience.” Screenshot of a page from SustainaBuy, a prototype of an e-commerce website that shows how a company can display information about a product’s climate and chemical footprint Transparency from companies is key to ensuring consumers know about the work a company is doing to improve (or not improve) on its sustainability efforts, Brown-West said. In addition to the report, EDF+ Business launched SustainaBuy , a prototype of an e-commerce website that shows how a company can display information about a product’s climate and chemical footprint. EDF+Business envisioned SustainaBuy as a way to weave sustainability into the entire shopping experience, Brown-West said. There are numerous reasons for companies to employ this type of approach to transparency. For one, there is consumer demand for this type of information. The report notes a Nielsen projection that estimates consumers are projected to spend $150 billion on sustainable products by 2021. “Consumers want to buy sustainable products and e-commerce retailers can help them do so by sharing environmental and social data on their online platforms,” said Tensie Whelan, professor and director of the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, and author of the report’s foreword, in a statement. “Whether companies choose to jump at this opportunity will determine their ability to cultivate the consumer and remain competitive over the long-run.” Brown-West noted that since releasing the report, EDF+Business already has started having conversations with some e-commerce retailers about how to improve their transparency, which is key for accountability of their sustainability goals. Topics Retail Transparency E-commerce Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Credit:  Jacob Lund

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What the urban exodus in San Francisco bodes for car dependency and public transit

August 19, 2020 by  
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What the urban exodus in San Francisco bodes for car dependency and public transit Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 08/19/2020 – 01:45 For someone living in San Francisco for over a decade, the latest numbers showing an exodus from the notoriously hard-to-live-in city are jaw-dropping. Housing vacancies are skyrocketing. Rent prices are dropping. Parking spots in my neighborhood are suddenly empty. The numbers are complicated but also worrisome when it comes to encouraging car-dominant housing in a state that has seen the relentless rise (until very recently) of transportation-related carbon emissions.  San Francisco is unique in that the city had some of the highest housing prices in the nation, combined with serious urban issues such as an entrenched homeless crisis and a difficult school system. Many residents were already on the edge of ditching the city before the pandemic, and the squeeze of the public health crisis — and its negative affect on transit, nightlife and density worries — have become too much for many. Other high-priced cities, such as New York, are facing similar trends. I get it. I, too, have longed for greener pastures. And who knows, maybe I’ll join in the farewell.  But anecdotal evidence suggests that former San Francisco residents are fleeing for the suburbs and even more rural areas in the state. Tens of thousands of tech workers employed by Google, Apple, Twitter and more are planning to work from home until at least summer 2021 and maybe permanently.   A rise in the traditional suburbs built around car ownership is not the answer to any state’s ingrained housing and transportation problems. They can theoretically live wherever they want while working online. Homes in Tahoe — San Francisco’s northern mountain paradise — are flying off the shelves .  A strong demographic trend of families moving from regions where they don’t need to rely on car ownership to regions where they do could exacerbate California’s transportation emissions issues. Car sales in the Bay Area already have been on the rise in recent months as families buy “COVID cars” and avoid transit, ride-hailing and carpooling.  But the shifting demographic numbers are also complicated. If many workers are no longer commuting at all, will that result in a sustained, long-term dampening of California’s transportation emissions? It sure did during the shelter-in-place period this spring.  We just don’t know yet what the bigger picture looks like, how city services such as transit will adapt to our new world and just how long this whole thing will last. In addition, some smaller cities, not nearly as expensive as San Francisco and New York, have not seen the same type of exodus. Seattle, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Miami haven’t yet seen a sizable shift from urban to nearby suburban housing. I’m also hoping tech and innovation could provide new tools that could help. Fast broadband connections and services such as Zoom, of course, are enabling telework. But a substantial rise in electric vehicles also could help combat the emissions associated with a growth in car ownership. Perhaps we might see more new car-free communities , such as Culdesac Tempe in Arizona, prove popular for residents and lucrative for developers. What we do know is that a rise in the traditional suburbs built around car ownership is not the answer to California’s or other states’ ingrained housing and transportation problems. We need to think of new solutions that prioritize residents’ needs but also don’t embrace a car-dominant future. This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, Transport Weekly, running Tuesdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote A rise in the traditional suburbs built around car ownership is not the answer to any state’s ingrained housing and transportation problems. Topics Transportation & Mobility Public Transit Featured Column Driving Change Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Why the District of Columbia is a leader in energy efficiency

August 19, 2020 by  
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Why the District of Columbia is a leader in energy efficiency Catherine Nabukalu Wed, 08/19/2020 – 01:30 One of my favorite sessions from VERGE 2019 was a presentation by Amory Lovins on the expanding energy efficiency cornucopia . Among several things, he discussed the vital benefit of energy efficiency in working toward environmental sustainability through emissions reductions without harming or slowing economic growth.  In various international climate plans, energy efficiency is increasingly prominent . In fact, more cities and the private sector are tapping into its direct economic benefits, such as job creation and its potential to improve people’s livelihoods. The technical fixes register considerable energy savings, prevent energy waste and demonstrate there is still so much we can do to reduce pollution, especially within old existing infrastructure, such as data centers, commercial real estate and transportation systems. In the 2019 scorecard by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Washington, D.C., was named as one of the best cities for energy efficiency and for scaling up local generation of clean energy in the country. As a project coordinator, my day-to-day work at the District of Columbia’s Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) involves supporting energy projects around the city.  Here is my take on why the district consistently has been a leader in this domain, and what other cities can learn from it as they prioritize commitments to reserve energy for the tasks it is most needed for with the aim of attaining more — as Lovins would say — “negawatts.” 1. There’s a strong focus on buildings Buildings are a major aspect of energy conservation because they consume nearly three-quarters of the electricity in the U.S. and represent over a third of greenhouse gas emissions . Besides the strong commitment to increasing localized generation of renewable energy from solar for the local real estate, the Clean Energy Act ( CEDC ) of 2018 has prioritized energy efficiency in the U.S. capital’s buildings.  To work towards this goal, the act contains a Building Energy Performance Standard (BEPS) for commercial and multifamily buildings. Most real estate has been stratified based on a range of unique factors, such as square footage and their purpose, as these determine occupancy and energy use. Prescriptive guidelines to reduce energy use resulting from energy audits will be shared with building operators, with requirements to improve energy performance over five years, based on localized historical baselines. Moreover, all buildings 50,000 square feet and above will need to benchmark and meet minimum efficiency standards in the first phase of new guidelines published in January. More buildings in Washington are attaining retrofits even before these regulations take effect because operators are realizing the benefits of energy efficiency. This year, I visited the headquarters of the American Geophysical Union, one of the city’s remarkable sites for transformative energy management. It is the first to attain the net-zero standard as a retrofit building in the city.  All components from its demolition were recycled and reclaimed as construction materials on the site. The building also generates solar from over 700 panels on-site, and its windows calibrate to let in natural light, reflect heat while keeping the indoors cool. This building is replicable model for existing building owners to close the loop on building materials while incorporating new technologies to conserve energy. A green wall in the American Geophysical Union lobby. Photo courtesy of Beth Bagley/AGU 2. Energy efficiency programs are designed with people in mind The programs in Washington have an intense focus on people’s well-being. For instance, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Income Qualified Efficiency Funds (IQEF) initiative are both specifically designed to upgrade energy equipment for single and multifamily buildings occupied by low-income residents.  This is important because besides the greater comfort from improved HVAC systems and better security from improved exterior lighting, the projects reduce household energy expenditures, leaving people with more money to spend on what it more important to them.  In healthcare facilities, where operating hours are long, the technical fixes improve air quality and create a healthier environment for patients. The George Washington University Hospital for example, has retrofitted a wide range of its buildings, by installing LED lighting, occupancy sensors through the Eco-Building Program in a multi-year Climate Action Plan . The Sibley Memorial Hospital’s recent expansion is also designed to meet LEED Silver standards, including 23,000 square feet of green roofs and ” healing gardens .” 3. Washington is making it easier to quantify benefits  The benefits of energy efficiency are often hard to quantify. Perhaps because its very nature is counterfactual — how does one measure “savings” that one never used? Nonetheless, while many of energy efficiency’s rewards are intangible, customers, regulators and the local utilities mostly know they exist, and they want these efforts to succeed.  Some benefits can be estimated over time, as baselines are reviewed to evaluate energy consumption in buildings before and after installation of new equipment. In more prescriptive programs involving particular technical upgrades, standard rebates are derived for customers depending on the technology and the quantity of upgrades done to switch.  4. Everyone contributes to financing efficiency Under CEDC, all of Washington’s local rate payers contribute through a surcharge per energy billing cycle, on electricity and natural gas consumption. This fee goes into the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund (SETF) and the Energy Assistance Trust Fund (EATF), a financial reserve to facilitate energy efficiency projects around the city through rebates. Most recently, the Green Bank and the DC Property Assessed Clean Energy ( PACE ) program were launched to leverage long term private investments and lower upfront costs of adopting energy efficiency and distributed energy projects using public funds. While many of energy efficiency’s rewards are intangible, customers, regulators and the local utilities mostly know they exist, and they want these efforts to succeed. The funds, around $20 million annually, are disbursed to the DCSEU to provide energy efficiency services and reduce per-capita energy consumption, ensure low peak electricity demand and reduce energy demand from the largest energy users (such as public transportation systems). Beyond energy efficiency, the trust funds play a major role in financing the addition of distributed energy resources, such as community solar projects, in the city. 5. There’s transparency about the future of energy efficiency Perhaps one of the most important outcomes of energy efficiency in the city is the steady effort to phase out inefficient equipment locally.  The standards are higher for newer buildings to improve design. Construction codes from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) have set new standards for what constitutes net-zero in buildings. This helps developers calculate estimated maximums Energy Use Indexes and determine combinations of prescriptive energy measures while projects are still being developed. Lessons for other cities Energy efficiency truly represents one of the best ways to reduce emissions in concert with other measures. Often, the technical upgrades can be achieved at low cost to consumers, yet the benefits of reducing the energy footprint of cities is worthwhile for climate action. Cities will have more inhabitants in the future. While more economic development and increasing population in cities may mean more energy demand, energy efficiency meastures demonstrate that growth can continue while (and where) energy is saved. Moreover, energy efficiency mitigates the need to build more capital-intensive infrastructure to supply energy. Lastly, energy efficiency initiatives offer direct benefits that can improve people’s quality of life. Pull Quote While many of energy efficiency’s rewards are intangible, customers, regulators and the local utilities mostly know they exist, and they want these efforts to succeed. Topics Energy & Climate Energy Efficiency 30 Under 30 Collective Insight 30 Under 30 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Beth Bagley/AGU Close Authorship

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So far, this year is a microgrid letdown. Here is what’s next

August 14, 2020 by  
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So far, this year is a microgrid letdown. Here is what’s next Sarah Golden Fri, 08/14/2020 – 00:45 I had high hopes for microgrids this year. The cost has fallen, out-of-the-box solutions are more common and businesses and homes understand the expense of losing power. All signs pointed to this being the year of the microgrid.  Yet here we are, at the start of the new fire season, and we’re just launching programs and soliciting proposals designed to add more resilience. What happened? For one thing, regulation moves slowly. The California Public Utilities Commission fast-tracked a rule-making process in September to help accelerate the deployment of microgrids. With that process still underway, the regulator issued a short-term action to deploy microgrids in mid-June . You know, just a few weeks before the start of this fire season.  It’s also tough for major utilities to gear up new technologies — and they’re juggling a lot: clean energy targets; COVID-19 complications; and in some cases, bankruptcy. Pacific Gas and Electric, California’s largest utility and the originator of 2018’s deadly Camp Fire, is simply not on track to ensure clean energy reliability. Instead, the utility is planning to deploy mobile diesel generators . This stop-gap measure is low-tech and dirty — but it should keep sections of communities online in a way that deployments of customer-sited energy assets wouldn’t. To make matters worse, the coronavirus is slowing the deployment of microgrids. Shelter-in-place orders have delayed permitting, construction and interconnection of new projects. The first half of the year was the slowest period for microgrid deployments in four years, according to an analysis by Wood Mackenzie .  Speeding up microgrid deployments  Although 2020 has hit some hiccups (to put it mildly), California is well-positioned to see more microgrids soon.  Utilities are mandated to increase energy reliability while meeting clean energy requirements, and service providers are motivated to secure major utility contracts . The state is also working to address key barriers to accelerate deployment for customer-sited energy projects, according to Wood Mackenzie microgrid analyst Isaac Maze-Rothstein.  Because modular microgrid components are all built primarily in factory, the construction timelines — and total system costs — can be significantly decreased.   Programs such as the California Public Utilities’ Self-Generation Incentive Program encourage more customers to install energy storage at home, and California’s SB 1339 aims to streamline interconnections, which will help bring more microgrids online and keep costs low. Additionally, more out-of-the-box microgrid solutions are coming, simplifying the whole process.  “We are seeing the emergence of modular microgrids over the last year,” Maze-Rothstein said in an email. “Because the components are all built primarily in factory, the construction timelines — and total system costs — can be significantly decreased.” Examples include Scale Microgrid Solutions , Gridscape Solutions , Instant On and BlockEnergy . The value of resilience  A growing body of research is working to quantify the cost of inaction.  We know outages — from extreme weather, natural disasters, physical attacks and cyber attacks — are becoming more frequent. And they’re expensive. Weather-related outages alone cost Americans $18 billion to $33 billion each year between 2003 and 2012, according to the Department of Energy . One of last year’s planned outages in California cost the local economy an estimated $1.8 billion . At the same time, the technologies that would keep the lights on are maturing — and providing a potential new source of revenue. As energy assets become more interconnected and grid operators look for added flexibility, energy asset deployments look increasingly economically attractive. Analysis from Rocky Mountain Institute modeled the economics of solar-plus-storage systems for the approximately 1 million customers affected by last year’s planned power shutoffs in California. It found that those customers would have enjoyed a combined net benefit of $1.4 billion, a calculation that takes into account the value of the energy assets’ contribution to the grid.  In a separate report, RMI showed the falling cost of batteries coupled with better energy management technologies often make the payback period of solar-plus-storage shorter than solar alone.  The calculations show the investments pay back faster for commercial customers, as the economic impacts of shuttering businesses are easier to quantify. This article is adapted from GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote Because modular microgrid components are all built primarily in factory, the construction timelines — and total system costs — can be significantly decreased. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Microgrids Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Equipment from Gridscape, one of several companies developing modular microgrids. Courtesy of Gridscape Close Authorship

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So far, this year is a microgrid letdown. Here is what’s next

This carbon challenge is bigger than cars, aviation and shipping combined

August 13, 2020 by  
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This carbon challenge is bigger than cars, aviation and shipping combined Adam Aston Thu, 08/13/2020 – 02:15 You may not know it, but you rely on industrial heat every day. It helped make the bricks that hold up your home; the cement underfoot. It forged the steel and glass in your car, and it also cooked the aluminum, plastic and silicon in the very screen on which you may be reading these words.  Industrial heat is essential but largely invisible. To transform basic inputs into stuff we need, manufacturers constantly heat (and cool) minerals, ores and other raw materials to extreme temperatures. And for all the magic of this everyday alchemy, industrial heat poses a growing threat to the climate. The world’s kilns, reactors, chillers and furnaces are powered mostly by fossil fuels.  High-temperature industrial heat, over 932 degrees F, poses a particular challenge because that’s the point at which fuels beyond electricity become the mainstay. Overall, industrial thermal energy accounts for about a tenth of global emissions, according to a December study by Innovation for Cool Earth Forum (ICEF, a Japan-backed multinational expert group). At 10 percent, industrial heat ranks on par with the combined emissions of cars (about 6 percent), planes (about 2 percent) and ships (about 2 percent).  Yet while those transport sectors are advancing towards low-carbon solutions — with promising technologies cultivated by multilateral accords — industrial heat lacks any consensus plan and has a long to-do list to develop low-carbon alternatives.  The options include biodiesel, renewable electricity, renewable natural gas, solar thermal, geothermal, thermal storage and hydrogen. Yet as a best guess, if these were market-ready today, renewable thermal solutions would cost from two times to over 10 times more than fossil fuels, according to an October report from the Center for Global Energy Policy (CGEP) at Columbia University.  Making natural gas renewable  In time, decarbonizing industrial heat is likely to require an all-of-the above mix of solutions. But for now, renewable natural gas (RNG) may offer a fix soonest. Chemically similar to the fossil gas piped to our kitchens, RNG is instead generated from the breakdown of organic matter at landfills (the biggest current source), municipal sewage treatment plants, farm waste and similar sites. RNG also can be blended into regular natural gas pipelines with minimal modification, much the way that input from windmills can flow onto the same grid as power generated by a coal plant.  In time, decarbonizing industrial heat is likely to require an all-of-the above mix of solutions. But for now, renewable natural gas (RNG) may offer a fix soonest. In fact, the wind example can help illustrate how early efforts to decarbonize industrial thermal energy are shaping up. In the 2000s, when wind and solar weren’t yet cost-competitive, market players pioneered ways to sell renewable energy indirectly. The solution was a set of standards and trading rules known as renewable energy credits, or RECs. The credits let a business in, say, Pittsburgh buy wind power generated in California, even before renewables were yet available on Pennsylvania’s grid.  What’s more, RECs allow a wind farm to sell both the power it generated and the renewable attributes of that power. As consumer and corporate demand for renewables grew, the value of the RECs rose, thereby incenting new wind and solar projects. Over time, RECs let companies source the renewable energy they needed, even when it wasn’t available locally, which made it easier for companies and states to slowly boost their targets for renewables.  Certifying renewable thermal solutions  Fast forward to 2020, and a team of collaborators is hoping to adapt learnings pioneered with RECs to nurture a nascent market for zero-carbon fuels, such as RNG, that buyers including L’Oréal USA and the University of California System are already using to generate renewable thermal energy. Today, RNG is held back in part by a Catch-22 financial trap. Costs add up quickly: equipment to collect biogas (the unprocessed methane-rich vapor given off by waste); upgrade the gas to pipeline quality; and connect to existing gas pipelines.  Capital needs for smaller landfill projects run from $5 million to $25 million. Larger projects — such as agriculture and wastewater plants — can hit $100 million, according to Jade Patterson, BloombergNEF’s analyst covering RNG. On average, each RNG project requires $17 million of capital investment, based on data from the RNG Coalition. A cement factory blast furnace in Maddaloni, Italy. At that price, most farms or town dumps can’t afford to develop biogas collection on their own. “An effective certification program could give lenders the confidence to fund new installations,” Patterson said. And if farms see reliable demand for their RNG, more are likely to make the investment: supply grows; prices fall; and the Catch-22 can be broken. “Companies are trying to decarbonize the heat piece of their Scope 1 carbon footprint,” explained Blaine Collison, an Environmental Protection Agency veteran and senior vice president at David Gardiner and Associates, a co-convener – along with the World Wildlife Fund and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions – of the Washington, D.C.-based Renewable Thermal Collaborative. “Creating renewable thermal attributes and trading instruments is critical to enable companies to act, to show the actions they’re taking and to demonstrate the reductions they’re achieving.”  The effort to extend a REC model to renewable thermal energy is being co-led by the Center for Resource Solutions (CRS), a San Francisco based non-governmental organization that’s been advancing sustainable energy via policy and market-based innovations since 1997. The first step? CRS is building a set of rules that meet the highest environmental standards and ensure that when customers buy green fuel, such as RNG, they can verify its zero-carbon merits, said Rachael Terada , CRS’ director of technical projects, in a recent webinar .  Now in its first draft, CRS’ Green-e certified fuel certificate standard is focusing initially on RNG, already being produced and sold on a small scale across North America. The standard can be extended to other renewable fuels in time. (Watch out for more news in this space at CRS’ Renewable Energy Markets 2020 , convening online for free Sept. 21-24.) Covering the U.S. and Canada, the CRS Green-e certificate program will establish protocols to create a registry such that each dekatherm (equal to 1 million British thermal units) is unique and cannot be double-counted, Terada said.  An effective certification program could give lenders the confidence to fund new installations. There’s already demand from industry to buy more RNG, said Benjamin Gerber, chief executive of Minneapolis-based M-RETS (formerly Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System), one of CRS’s partners in creating this trading platform.  “Having clear standards for renewable thermal products along with robust trading platforms will help drive greenhouse gas reductions,” Collison said. “We know that there’s a growing corporate need for these solutions.”  Thermal energy, in the long run CRS’ Green-e initiative has the potential to accelerate investment in renewable fuels, and thereby open up ways to decarbonize industrial energy markets.  Before then, companies can take some basic first steps, such as auditing their thermal energy use. “A lot of organizations simply haven’t done the work to understand how they’re heating and cooling their operations,” said Meredith Annex, who heads BloombergNEF’s heating decarbonization research team. The urgency is growing. As industrialization accelerates in China, India and other emerging markets, global demand for industrial heat has grown by 50 percent since 2000, estimates BloombergNEF , and without lower carbon options, will continue to rise.  Without a fix, global climate goals may not be achievable. “Decarbonizing industrial heat production will be essential to meeting the Paris Agreement goals,” notes David Sandalow, a former Obama administration official and lead author of ICEP’s roadmap to decarbonize industrial heat .  Pull Quote In time, decarbonizing industrial heat is likely to require an all-of-the above mix of solutions. But for now, renewable natural gas (RNG) may offer a fix soonest. An effective certification program could give lenders the confidence to fund new installations. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Manufacturing Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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