Can Shell help pilot a new era of sustainable aviation?

December 14, 2020 by  
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Can Shell help pilot a new era of sustainable aviation? Joel Makower Mon, 12/14/2020 – 02:11 One of the world’s largest oil and gas companies is betting that the future of flying is carbon-neutral. That may seem an audacious notion from a company whose business model for well over a century has centered around bringing fossil fuels to market — and is banking on petroleum being a key, albeit declining, fuel for decades to come. And it may seem unlikely that an industry as carbon-intensive as aviation — a hard-to-abate sector, in the argot of the climate policy crowd — might somehow emerge with its green credentials flying high in a climate-constrained world. But we’re collectively traversing uncharted territory during unprecedented times, creating unparalleled opportunities to transform some of our most unsustainable systems. Over the past year, I’ve been working with Royal Dutch Shell’s aviation division — a relatively small slice of the $344 billion (2019 revenue) energy behemoth — to develop a series of video interviews focusing on what it will take to make aviation sustainable. (I was paid by Shell for this work but not to write this article, which has not been reviewed by the company.) Along the way, I’ve spoken with airline consultants, fuel producers, carbon offset experts and industry critics, as well as with Shell executives, to understand the technologies and market drivers that could, over time, enable aviation to align with other industries in meeting the terms of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. While I’m not yet convinced aviation can become truly sustainable, I’m encouraged that there is at least a flight path pointed toward that destination. It’s been a fascinating journey. And while I’m not yet convinced aviation can become truly sustainable, I’m encouraged that there is at least a flight path pointed toward that destination. In some respects, this couldn’t have been a worse time for these conversations. Although it certainly wasn’t planned, the interviews I conducted during 2020 largely coincided with the aviation sector’s worst downturn in history . The global industry has been losing tens of millions of dollars a day and has shed hundreds of thousands of jobs. Passenger volumes took a nosedive, down precipitously from 2019 levels. The global market for business travel is projected to decline 54 percent during 2020, according to data by ResearchAndMarkets.com, which predicts a robust recovery for the industry — by 2027. Leisure travel was down even more . Only the air cargo business is up. And yet the conversation about sustainable aviation continues to maintain altitude. Some of that is driven by CORSIA, the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, a 2016 agreement governing international flights, developed by the 191-nation International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations body. CORSIA applies only to international flights, which account for the majority of aviation’s carbon footprint and around 1.3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to ICAO. The goal was to have carbon-neutral growth beginning next year — that is, to decouple greenhouse gas emissions from increases in air travel. Thanks to the pandemic, ICAO changed the baseline of CORSIA to include only 2019’s emissions, as opposed to the original plan to use an average of the sector’s emissions during 2019 and 2020, which would have set the emissions cap much lower due to the 2020 downturn. Fuels rush in CORSIA has helped catalyze a new generation of biofuels and carbon offsets, the two primary tools for reducing the aviation industry’s contribution to climate change. Shell, which has been in both the biofuels and offsets business for years, saw an opening. Its aviation division — which has provided fuel and lubricants for airports and airlines almost since the dawn of commercial aviation, and today serves about 900 airports in 60 countries — began a concerted effort to seize the moment. The push to become a sustainable aviation solutions supplier also aligned with the company’s ambition, announced to investors in April , to become a net-zero-emissions energy business by 2050. Shell is just one of several oil companies eyeing new business opportunities in sustainable aviation, particularly at a time of flat or declining outlooks for petroleum-based fuels. In addition to Shell, oil majors including BP, Chevron, Eni, Neste, Phillips and Total are vying for a piece of the action in sustainable aviation, often in partnership with smaller renewable fuel producers, including Aemetis, Fulcrum BioEnergy, SkyNRG, Sundrop Fuels, Velocys and World Energy. “We have been focusing with the industry to make sure we are ready when our customers need us and we can go back and fly again,” Anna Mascolo, president of global aviation at Shell, told me. “At the same time, what is also becoming very clear is that society, individuals and companies also feel an obligation to make sure that we look at long-term targets and ambitions like sustainability.”   Part of Shell’s quest is to become a leading purveyor of sustainable aviation fuel — SAF, for short — that is slowly but surely making its way into the airplane-fueling pipeline. SAF can be made from a variety of materials and byproducts, from agricultural waste and specially grown crops to used oils, inedible fats and everyday household trash. SAF is what’s called a drop-in fuel, meaning it can substitute one-to-one for traditional, kerosene-based jet fuel, known as Jet A, though current technologies limit the percentage of SAF to no more than about 50 percent on a given flight. That’s a largely theoretical limit. Because of SAF’s higher price and limited availability, most planes currently flying with SAF operate with a blend of less than 1 percent SAF — barely enough to justify bragging rights. Most SAF is deployed in Europe and in California, where policy initiatives provide incentives for SAF and other low-carbon fuels. Supply, meet demand Even with incentives, SAF can be a tough sell. “Historically, what CEOs and aviation companies have done is send demand signals through their willingness to enter into offtake contracts with potential producers,” explained Bryan Sherbacow , chief commercial officer at World Energy, which produces SAF at a facility about 15 miles east of Los Angeles International Airport. “The issue,” he said, “is that the price sensitivity within those contracts is such that they’re saying, ‘If you can produce it at a price that’s comparable to my current opportunity, then we’ll buy as much as you can produce.’ So, while the demand is there, if we can’t drop the price to be competitive with existing fuels today, that demand diminishes.” The “price sensitivity” Sherbacow speaks of is no small thing. A gallon of SAF can cost up to five times that of Jet A, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics , and it’s unlikely that market forces alone can bring that down to the point where the demand for SAF could justify dramatically scaling up production. Given that fuel is an airline’s second-biggest expense after labor, SAF’s price premium is pretty much a show-stopper, at least without incentives. Incentives notwithstanding, getting the price down will take the engagement of Big Oil, Sherbacow told me — “an incumbent industry that has entrenched relationships, entrenched cost structures, entrenched incentives.” World Energy has become a key partner of Shell Aviation. Earlier this year, the two companies signed a multiyear agreement to develop a scalable supply of SAF. It’s one of several partnerships in which both companies have participated. In November, for example, Shell, World Energy and Amsterdam-based SkyNRG announced they would partner with aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce to test the potential for using 100 percent SAF in future engines. There is no shortage of collaborations seeking to jumpstart markets for SAF. There is no shortage of such collaborations seeking to jumpstart markets for SAF. For example, there’s the well-pedigreed Clean Skies for Tomorrow Coalition , with the goal “to align on a transition to sustainable aviation fuels.” It is led by the World Economic Forum, Rocky Mountain Institute and the Energy Transitions Commission, along with industry players Airbus, Boeing, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Amsterdam’s Airport Schiphol, London’s Heathrow Airport, Shell, SkyNRG and SpiceJet. There’s also the Jet Zero Council , a UK government initiative led by Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Shell “to fast-track zero-emission flight.” “Collaboration is really going to be key,” Mascolo said. That applies to more than passenger airlines. Another significant Shell partnership is with Amazon. In July, the logistics and retail giant announced plans to buy 6 million gallons of SAF from Shell over 12 months. The fuel will be produced by World Energy and made from agricultural waste fats and oils, such as used cooking oil and inedible fats from beef processing. “As our operation continues to expand and continues to become more visible — whether that’s with trucks on the road, vans on the road or with aircraft — our carbon footprint is becoming more visible,” Raoul Sreenivasan, director of planning and performance at Amazon Air, explained during a panel at the VERGE 20 conference in October. “And our research does tell us that for customers, specifically in the U.S. and in Europe, this is a top-of-mind issue.” Amazon’s two biggest U.S. competitors, UPS and Fedex, are similarly ramping up SAF for their cargo planes. Amazon’s SAF purchase is likely a drop in the bucket of its overall aviation fuel spend — the company doesn’t disclose its annual fuel consumption — but these types of demand signals are critical in creating long-term markets for SAF. Going neutral, naturally Fuel is only part of the sustainable aviation equation, especially in the short to mid term. “The technologies and the fuels are not available in quantity today to enable the airlines to get immediately on the trajectory of transforming to net-zero,” explained Annie Petsonk , international counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, who focuses on aviation issues. “So, you need offsets as a bridge to help them to get to that trajectory. But the offsets have to meet rigorous quality standards. Otherwise, they won’t actually be helping the planet.” The technologies and the fuels are not available in quantity today to enable the airlines to get immediately on the trajectory of transforming to net-zero. The demand for high-quality carbon offsets has been growing steadily in recent years, thanks in part to the spate of net-zero commitments put forth by companies, industries, cities and nations. And that’s just for voluntary offsets. There’s a much larger compliance market, where utilities and other regulated entities buy and “retire” offsets to meet certain mandatory caps. The most active compliance program is the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism, the source of offsets for Kyoto Protocol signatory nations, as well as buyers in the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme. Nearly 20 years ago, in 2001, Shell set out to become a player here, too, establishing a network of offset trading desks around the world. “My day starts in the New Zealand market,” Bill McGrath, general manager of global environmental products at Shell, explained to me recently from his base in London. He oversees the company’s offset trading operations, which are housed in London, Shanghai, Singapore and San Diego. Traders follow the sun, making deals during the business day in Australia, Korea, China, Europe, South Africa and, finally, the Americas. One of the main drivers for all this activity is Shell’s own global operations, many of which sit within jurisdictions that are part of emissions trading schemes. To meet its obligations in those places, Shell needs access to tens of millions of tons of offsets annually. “We have refineries that are emitting five or six million tons of carbon dioxide per annum, and we have to manage the allowance system around that and trade with other entities to ensure that we can comply with the requirements of those systems,” David Hone , Shell’s chief climate change adviser, explained. “It’s quite a big business.” The central focus of Shell’s offsets are what’s known as nature-based solutions — afforestation, reforestation and various other ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using natural processes, Hone said. “We are channeling something like $300 million of investment into our own forestry projects and turning that into units that we can provide to the aviation industry to offset their emissions.” Offset prices are all over the map, from $3 per ton to $40 or more, with the price often, but not always, synonymous with quality. And while there are organizations setting de facto global standards for offset quality, they are not yet universal. Both price and quality issues have hindered the market uptake of offsets, though that’s changing. As the market for voluntary offsets ramps up, McGrath believes price and quality will become more predictable. “One of the things that spurs developers is getting clarity about what the forward price and forward volume of demand is. When that arises, investment flows. So, one of the things that may emerge by 2025 is far greater clarity about the volume and price that offsetting commands on the buy side, so that the supply side can respond.” Carbon offsets aren’t universally loved, and the markets can be complicated and unnecessarily opaque . And they may not be needed to make aviation sustainable as much as some people think. Last week, United Airlines committed to zero out its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 — without using offsets. (The company also announced that it holds more than half of all “publicly announced future purchase commitments to using SAF.”) Still, offset markets will become an increasing fact of life for more and more industries and companies that set their sights on net-zero emissions. That’s especially true for those seeking to offset aviation emissions — from fuel providers to airlines to the flying public. Just the ticket Which brings us to another important piece to the sustainable aviation puzzle: passengers. It wasn’t lost on pretty much everyone I interviewed that the flying public will need to begin doing its part to help make aviation sustainable. “Our research indicates that consumers would prefer to fly on airlines that are actually investing in high-quality offsets, and that are delivering real climate and social and health benefits in local communities,” EDF’s Petsonk said. “They’re willing to pay more for that air ticket if they’re convinced that the airline is serious about making the investment.” Airlines for years have offered ticket buyers the ability to offset the emissions from their flight, with minimal customer uptake — single-digit percentages, by most estimates. And in an era when some airlines nickel and dime passengers for just about everything, it’s understandable that chipping in for offsets won’t likely be high on most flyers’ list — at least, not voluntarily. There’s a role here for travel aggregators — the Orbitzes and Expedias and Kayaks of the world — which can help make offsetting a flight an opt-out exercise instead of opt-in. Also, travel influencers — people with an online presence who encourage their followers to travel to particular places or on particular airlines. “The Instagrammers, the people who have large followings in the leisure travel community, they can be enormously influential as they become more aware of the need to protect the beautiful places that they’re encouraging people to travel to and to protect the climate in order to save those beautiful places,” Petonk said. The Instagrammers can be enormously influential as they become more aware of the need to protect the beautiful places that they’re encouraging people to travel to. Of course, there’s also a significant role for corporate travel buyers. “Companies are starting to ask airlines, ‘How are you going to help me reduce my Scope 3 travel-related carbon emissions?’,” said Angela Foster-Rice, senior vice president at Everland , which markets and sells forestry-based offsets, and who previously spent 16 years in environmental and sustainability roles at United Airlines. While at United, Foster-Rice spoke to a number of key corporate customers. “That was a few years ago, and we were already seeing demands by customers: ‘I see that you’re engaging in great, long-term innovations to decarbonize, but what can you do for me today? How can I compare airlines? How can you help me have a lower footprint?’ There’s a growing demand and interest — particularly by business customers, but also with general consumers — around airlines needing to reduce their footprint in order to help passengers reduce their footprint.” Technology, policy, finance If aviation offsets don’t get sufficient uptake voluntarily, perhaps they will be forced on flyers. One recent proponent of such measures is John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport: Passengers should pay higher flight taxes if their plane uses traditional fuel instead of SAF, he said . Levying a passenger fee is just one of many measures that could provide favorable tailwinds for sustainable aviation initiatives. “The biggest piece that we need is policy,” Foster-Rice said. “Because the technology exists. There’s a real demand by airlines to have SAF, but the costs are just too high. And in order to address that, this is still a very fledgling industry. And the only way to really get there is to have the right policies in place.” Annie Petonk agrees: “What we think is needed is a joint effort involving governments, the airlines and their largest customers to develop innovative financial instruments and government support to bridge the gap between conventional jet fuel and sustainable aviation fuel, provided that that sustainable aviation fuel meets very rigorous quality standards.” That sentiment was another through line among nearly all of the interviews I conducted. Bryan Sherbacow: “We’ve had significant interest, and we have access to capital. The issue is that to deploy that capital, investors want to have security into the future of consistent policy that’s going to support our activity and the return on their investment. Today, we don’t have that. It’s uneven with regard to what types of fuels are being incentivized. It’s also uneven as to whether they’re going to be able to rely upon that policy on a consistent basis into the future sufficient enough for investors to feel comfortable.” Even with policy incentives, an arguably tougher challenge in transitioning aviation toward carbon neutrality is lining up the various parts of the aviation ecosystem — including both the fueling and the offset value chains — within the industry’s complex web of interests. Anna Mascolo feels that Shell has a key role to play in this regard beyond merely selling sustainable aviation fuels and offsets. “I think the role that we can play is actually a really good role. It’s not an easy one, and it’s one where we will have to maybe step out a little bit of our comfort zone. We need to look at the whole ecosystem. We need to look at airlines. We need to look at producers. We need to look at logistics providers. We need to look at manufacturers. We need to look at airports. We need to look at government regulators. Everybody needs to play a role, because the challenge is too big to be tackled by one single company on its own.” I invite you to  follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter,  GreenBuzz , and listen to  GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Pull Quote While I’m not yet convinced aviation can become truly sustainable, I’m encouraged that there is at least a flight path pointed toward that destination. There is no shortage of collaborations seeking to jumpstart markets for SAF. The technologies and the fuels are not available in quantity today to enable the airlines to get immediately on the trajectory of transforming to net-zero. The Instagrammers can be enormously influential as they become more aware of the need to protect the beautiful places that they’re encouraging people to travel to. Topics Transportation & Mobility Energy & Climate Aviation Biofuels Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage

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Can Shell help pilot a new era of sustainable aviation?

1% of global population causes 50% of all carbon pollution emitted by the aviation industry

November 20, 2020 by  
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Recent research published in  Global Environmental Change  has revealed that only 1% of people cause half of all aviation pollution globally. According to the study, regular “super emitters” are polluting the environment at the expense of millions of people who do not fly.  The study, conducted through analysis of aviation data, revealed that large populations across all countries did not fly at all in the years observed. For instance, about 53% of Americans did not fly in 2018, yet the U.S. ranked as the leading aviation emission contributor globally. In Germany, 65% of people did not fly, in Taiwan 66%, and in the U.K. about 48% of the population did not fly abroad in the same period.  These findings suggest that the bulk of pollution caused by the aviation industry comes from the actions of very few people. Further supporting this point, the study revealed that only 11% of the global population flew in 2018, while only 4% flew abroad. Comparing these numbers to the level of emission aviation causes indicates that the rich few in society fuel this pollution the most. Meanwhile, marginalized communities will likely face the harshest consequences of this pollution . In 2018, airlines produced a billion tons of CO2. Even worse, the same airlines benefited from a $100 billion subsidy by not paying for the climate change caused. The U.S. tops the list of leading aviation emitter countries, contributing more CO2 to the environment than the next 10 countries on the list. This means that the U.S. alone contributes more aviation-based CO2 than the U.K., Germany, Japan and Australia combined.  Research also indicates that global aviation’s contribution to the climate crisis continues to increase. Before the coronavirus pandemic, emissions caused by flights had grown by 32% between 2013 and 2018. If there are no measures put in place to curb the pollution, these rates will likely continue skyrocketing post-pandemic.  Stefan Gössling of Linnaeus University in Sweden, the study’s lead author, says that the only way of dealing with the issue is by redesigning the aviation industry. “If you want to resolve climate change and we need to redesign [aviation], then we should start at the top, where a few ‘super emitters’ contribute massively to global warming ,” said Gössling. “The rich have had far too much freedom to design the planet according to their wishes. We should see the crisis as an opportunity to slim the air transport system.” + The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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1% of global population causes 50% of all carbon pollution emitted by the aviation industry

Renowned landscape architects unveil designs to save the Tidal Basin

November 20, 2020 by  
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The National Mall Tidal Basin — also known as “America’s front yard” — is home to some of the nation’s most iconic landmarks such as the Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. But the beloved Washington, D.C. public space is under threat from daily flooding and is in urgent need of critical repairs and improvements. In a bid to save the celebrated landscape, five prestigious landscape architecture firms — DLANDstudio, GGN, Hood Design Studio, James Corner Field Operations and Reed Hilderbrand — have been tapped to reimagine the future of the Tidal Basin and National Mall. Keep reading for a preview of all the designs. In 2019, the National Trust for Historic Preservation banded together with the Trust for the National Mall, the National Parks Service, Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) and American Express to launch the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab , an initiative seeking proposals to save the 107-acre Tidal Basin site in Washington, D.C. After months of preparation, the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab recently unveiled visionary proposals from five award-winning landscape architecture firms including New York City-based DLANDstudio, Seattle-based GGN, Oakland-based Hood Design Studio, New York City-based James Corner Field Operations and Cambridge-based Reed Hilderbrand. Each proposal not only responds to the pressing issues plaguing the area’s infrastructure but also examines ways to heighten the visitor experience through improved environmental and cultural considerations. Due to the pandemic, the proposals are presented in an online-only, museum-quality exhibition co-curated by New York City curator of design Donald Albrecht and Thomas Mellins, an architectural historian and independent curator. The public is invited to learn about the Tidal Basin’s history, which was completed in 1887 as a major hydrological feat as well as the ongoing challenges and comprehensive proposals. The public will also be able to give feedback and offer ideas on saving the Tidal Basin. “As part of ‘America’s front yard’, the Tidal Basin is home to some of the most iconic landmarks and traditions in the nation’s capital,” said Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Yet current conditions do not do justice to a landscape of such significance. With this new digital exhibition, we are excited to share and engage the public with creative thinking from five of the best landscape architecture firms in the world. These ideas explore ways to sustain this cultural landscape and its richly layered meanings for generations to come. This isn’t preservation as usual: this is preservation as innovation.” Related: BIG unveils sweeping overhaul to Smithsonian Campus Master Plan True to its name, the Tidal Basin Ideas Lab will be focused on cultivating bold ideas and promoting dialogue between designers, stakeholders and the public rather than choosing a single winner as is typical in design competitions. The exhibition will supplement the National Park Service’s mandated environmental review of the Tidal Basin as well as master planning and detailed design, which have not yet been completed but are integral to securing funding for construction and implementation. All five creative concepts, revealed late last month, celebrate and raise awareness of the Tidal Basin’s long history and have reimagined the cultural landscape to better meet modern safety and accessibility needs while addressing critical infrastructure repairs and improvements. DLANDstudio’s proposal makes bold steps of introducing extensions to the landscape in both the Tidal Basin and the Potomac River to reorient circulation. A long land bridge would connect the Jefferson Memorial and the White House, while a new jetty to the west would branch off of the Lincoln Memorial to house the relocated memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. Flooding would be mitigated with sponge park wetlands , a reflective weir and a green security wall. GGN’s vision is an adaptive plan phased across three stages to conclude in 2090. The design uses ecological solutions to protect the landscape from forecasted sea level changes and also the potential adaptation and relocation of existing monuments. James Corner Field Operations has proposed three ideas for combating rising sea levels : Protect & Preserve, a scheme to keep the existing landscape intact with improved maintenance and engineering; Island Archipelago, in which flooding would be accepted as an inevitable reality and monuments would be elevated and treated as islands within the Tidal Basin; and Curate Entropy, another design where the site is allowed to flood and a careful balance is maintained between the Tidal Basin’s existing layout and the new landscape. Hood Design Studio focuses on reshaping the Tidal Basin with underrepresented narratives, from the stories of how wetlands were valued by Indigenous and enslaved peoples to promoting dialogue on rebuilding urban ecologies. Reed Hilderbrand’s design draws on the 1902 McMillan Plan, a comprehensive planning document that strongly influenced the urban planning and design of Washington, D.C., particularly with its proposal for a “Washington Commons,” a diverse and connected regional park system. The plan also encourages new interactions with the landscape with an uplands Cherry Walk, a Memorial Walk, a Marsh Walk and a new landform called Independence Rise that would accommodate rising water levels and connect back to the city with a pedestrian bridge. + Tidal Basin Ideas Lab Images via Tidal Basin Ideas Lab

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Renowned landscape architects unveil designs to save the Tidal Basin

Architects turn waste into trendy glamping shelters in Rotterdam

November 20, 2020 by  
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If you’ve ever looked at a dumpster and thought “with a little work, that could be a cool fort,” then you’ll certainly be interested in the ‘waste architecture’ in action at Culture Campsite. This is a campground in a parking lot in Rotterdam that is putting a whole new twist on camping while showing the world what waste architecture is and what it can do. Culture Campsite, located just 10 minutes from the heart of Rotterdam, doesn’t look like any other campground. There aren’t really tents here; you’ll find futuristic shelters made from recycled and repurposed items. Here, you can sleep in a feed silo, a calf shelter, an old delivery van and yes, even a dumpster. Each “tent” offers a totally unique camping experience. “At Culture Campsite, you’ll sleep in one of the different architectural objects made from upcycled and waste stream materials,” according to the property’s website. “They are smaller than a tiny house, more exciting than a tent and different from all glamping accommodations.” Related: This floating park in Rotterdam is made from recycled plastic waste If you’re hungry, go to the geodesic dome . This is where meals are served. There’s also a communal bathroom area for your other needs. The campground is full of plants and flowers, bright colors and lots of natural light, and the site is just a short walk to the city’s historic old harbor. It’s a lovely little oasis in an urban landscape. Many of the shelters at the campsite are designed by Mobile Urban Design (MUD). Boris Dujineveld, the founder of MUD said that the principle of waste architecture is “designing and sketching with the materials and objects that are available…playing with form, material and color leads to new insights and forms that cannot be imagined on a white sheet of paper.” Dujineveld is definitely right about that. Culture Campsite is like nowhere else on Earth … for now, at least. The concept of waste architecture looks pretty impressive here, and it’s only the beginning of how far this kind of upcycling in construction can go. The campsite sets a whole new bar for the concept of repurposing and shows the world how even a parking lot can transform into a vacation spot. Culture Campsite is currently closed for the season, but plans to reopen May 2021 with rates starting at $76 a night. + Culture Campsite Photography by Heeman-Fotografie via MUD

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Architects turn waste into trendy glamping shelters in Rotterdam

Carbontech is getting ready for its market moment

October 28, 2020 by  
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Carbontech is getting ready for its market moment Heather Clancy Wed, 10/28/2020 – 01:30 It may be a little early to start writing about trends for 2021, but I’m going to do it anyway. What’s on my mind? Carbontech, a category of climate tech I’d love to see break through next year. It’s the exciting idea that we can take something that could be considered waste, draw it out of the atmosphere and turn it into a source of revenue or economic growth. There are signs that give me optimism. This morning, digital payments company Stripe announced a plan to let its merchant customers divert a portion of their revenue to carbon removal projects. The move follows Stripe’s own pledge to put $1 million into four “high potential” projects earlier this year, and the two initiatives are related. The specific technologies that Stripe is funding are carbon-sequestering cement (CarbonCure), geologic storage (Charm Industrial), direct air capture (Climeworks) and ocean mineralization (Project Vesta). “Stripe’s climate initiative is a gift because it removes all barriers to positive action,” wrote Substack CEO Chris Best, a beta tester, in a statement. “This program makes it easy, and valuable, to do the right thing. We’re proud to be part of it.” All of the popular newsletter platform’s writers have the opportunity to participate. Makes me want to host my own personal blog there. Lest I forget, another well-known commerce player, Shopify, last month picked carbon removal and carbontech as a focus for its Sustainability Fund, which commits $5 million annually to climate-tech solutions. Some companies it is supporting are the same as Stripe (CarbonCure, Charm Industrial and Climeworks). It is also including ocean sequestration in the mix through its support of Planetary Hydrogen. And it is also letting merchants add options for offsetting that buyers can select during transactions.  Startups in this particular corner of the climate solutions area have not actually been supported in a commercial way. Rising corporate support of carbontech and carbon removal technologies writ large is one of the biggest reasons driving my optimism that the market is about to take a turn.  Last week, for example, Microsoft announced one of its most unusual investments yet, as it seeks to deliver on its pledge to become a “carbon negative” company. It plans to supply Alaska Airlines with sustainable aviation fuel for the three most popular routes flown by its employees between Seattle and Silicon Valley, via a partnership with SkyNRG, which produces it from waste oil and agricultural residue. That’s right: Microsoft is buying jet fuel.  MInd you, those jets will still need to use regular fuel in combo with the sustainable stuff, but the strategy will help Microsoft reduce emissions from those flights (it’s also working on an accounting standard for helping do this), and we all know the aviation sector will be really tough to decarbonize. This is a much needed commercial boost, optically speaking. A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft also joined the Northern Lights project in Norway, which is seeking to standardize methods for capturing carbon emissions at industrial facilities in Europe, turning them into a liquid and transporting it to a place where it’s pumped and stored under the ocean floor. The initiative — a collaboration of Norway’s government along with oil giants Equinor, Shell and Total — is moving into a commercial phase. The nature of Microsoft’s involvement isn’t entirely clear, but one thing being explored is how the software company’s analytics technology can help create blueprints for the techniques being used to capture CO2 (so they can be replicated elsewhere) and for creating new value chains for transporting and managing it.  Corporate interest is on the rise Carbontech is very much in the spotlight at this week’s VERGE 20 virtual event, in sessions dedicated to moonshots and emerging technologies. According to a comprehensive market report published this week by the Circular Carbon Network (CCN) and discussed during the conference, the pace of activity picked up dramatically in the past decade — of the roughly 330 innovators working on carbon removal or turning carbon into value, more than 65 percent of them were started after 2010. About 50 percent of the 107 companies that CCN tracks closely are already generating revenue. I’ll bet that’s more than you thought.  The investment dynamics are intriguing: CCN’s research uncovered 135 companies in this space that have raised $2.2 billion; its own Deal Hub tracker recovered deals worth $714 million in the past year, a significant pick up of activity, according to the organization’s report.  “What you are seeing is an accelerating pace of interest and activity,” said Nicholas Eisenberger, managing director at Pure Energy partners and co-founder of CCN, who spoke about this topic during a carbontech market update at VERGE 20. “This market is going to either be very large or ginormous.”  Here’s another big takeaway from my conversation last week with Eisenberger and his colleague Marcius Extavour, executive director of the NRG Cosia Carbon XPrize, one of the managing organizations for the CCN: Deals with corporate investors are increasingly attractive to carbontech entrepreneurs. And vice versa. CCN is tracking 61 multinational companies (as of this writing) involved in everything from research and development (the most common intersection) to buying and selling CO2 derivatives (buying it for food and beverages or selling carbon credits). Aside from Microsoft and the to-be-expected oil companies, others on the list include Amazon, Delta Air Lines, Interface, Lafarge, Nike and Starbucks. “This space is about climate, it’s also about a climate solution. It’s also an example of a climate solution that can support economic growth,” Extavour noted, pointing to the carbontech evolution. Hence, the corporate interest. The extent to which COVID-19 infrastructure investments and economic recovery plans are linked with climate action is also likely to increase corporate involvement, especially outside the U.S., where some investments already have been linked to these metrics, such as the bailout of Air France, Extavour added. How ginormous could the carbontech market get? According to nonprofit Carbon180, the total addressable market for products that could be affected is $6 trillion — with the biggest opportunities for using “waste CO2” found in transportation fuels and building materials. Captured carbon also could be a resource for food, fertilizers, polymers and chemicals. (Before you ask, very few innovators that CCN is tracking are focused on enhanced oil recovery applications.) Helping entrepreneurs commercialize carbontech more quickly is the mission of the new three-year Carbon to Value Initiative created this summer by the Urban Future Lab at New York University-Tandon, Greentown Labs and the Fraunhofer USA Technbridge (with support from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the Consulate General of Canada in New York). Whew.  Lo and behold, C2V last week added the first corporate members to its leadership council with representatives from Johnson Matthey, W.L. Gore and Associates, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, NRG and Suez. (Extavour and Eisenberger are also on the council, as is Noah Deich, executive director of Carbon180.)  Pat Sapinsley, managing director of cleantech initiatives at NYU Tandon, said carbontech entrepreneurs haven’t benefited broadly from attention by the investment or mentorship communities that have shown up to support other climate-tech sectors such as energy or transportation. “Startups in this particular corner of the climate solutions area have not actually been supported in a commercial way,” she said. “They’ve been very well supported recently, by some really excellent NGOs, but we bring commercial chops to the table.” C2V is accepting applications for its first startup cohort (supported from May to November 2021) through Jan. 27. Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, said there are four sorts of solutions types C2V hopes to catalyze: capture mechanisms; transformative process innovations; utilization methods that use CO2 as a feedstock fuels, building materials and so forth, and storage approaches (including those focused on important natural solutions such as sequestration). By mentoring carbontech entrepreneurs, C2V hopes to send a “market signal” for broader commercial and government support, Reichert said. “This is such a multidimensional problem that we need to tackle it from a multi-industry and multidisciplinary approach,” she said. By the way, there are still three days left of VERGE 20, with plenty of sessions about carbon solutions, including one of the most popular approaches — tree planting, conservation and cultivation initiatives. If you’re missing out, register here . Pull Quote Startups in this particular corner of the climate solutions area have not actually been supported in a commercial way. Topics Innovation Carbon Removal Carbon Capture Carbontech VERGE 20 Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The Climeworks plant in Hinwil, Switzerland.

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Carbontech is getting ready for its market moment

Amazon to buy bio jet fuel to lower air cargo emissions

July 8, 2020 by  
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Amazon to buy bio jet fuel to lower air cargo emissions Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 07/08/2020 – 08:00 Amazon’s plans to decarbonize its shipping supply chain isn’t just focused on electrifying  its delivery vans . On Wednesday morning, the logistics and retail giant announced that it plans to buy 6 million gallons of bio jet fuel via a division of Shell and produced by World Energy, a big biodiesel producer. The companies said the jet fuel will be made from agricultural waste fats and oils (such as used cooking oil and inedible fats from beef processing). The move shows the efforts that Amazon is willing to go to eke out carbon emissions across its vast network of planes, vehicles and distribution centers that deliver on-demand goods across the globe. Amazon has pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, and says it will make sure half of Amazon shipments are net-zero by 2030. That commitment also includes buying 100,000 electric delivery vehicles, and using 100 percent clean energy by 2025.  But the business of biofuels is a bit messier and — for bio jet fuel — at an earlier stage than procuring solar and wind energy or even purchasing electric vehicles.  Amazon has pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, and says it will make sure half of Amazon shipments are net-zero by 2030. The market for next-generation sustainable aviation fuel is just now being trialed commercially  by airlines such as JetBlue and United, produced by developers like World Energy and Finnish company Neste, and solicited by San Francisco International (SFO) and other airports. On Tuesday, Neste announced that it delivered its first batch of sustainable aviation fuel via pipeline for airlines refueling at SFO to use. Over the years, a variety of airlines have tested bio jet fuels, some made with algae as a feedstock, and many abandoned the initial efforts after the fuels were not able to be made economically at scale. Since then, companies like Neste have been able to industrialize the process of taking waste oils and fats from various sources and producing a fuel for vehicles and airplanes that can lower carbon emissions and be cost-effective.  A drop in the fuel tank In recent years, airlines have increasingly looked to the promise of bio jet fuels as one of the key ways for the industry to meet climate goals. United Airlines announced last year that it is investing $40 million into advancing sustainable aviation fuel, including the purchase of 10 million gallons of it over two years — a drop in the fuel tank of the roughly 4.3 billion gallons the airline uses annually. Electric aircraft have been considered by much of the airline industry as too far away on the horizon and too expensive for commercial use.  The aviation sector is being pushed by the United Nations-led Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for Aviation (CORSIA), which had planned to set a baseline of aviation emissions for 2020 and target carbon-neutral growth from here on out. However, just last week, the UN group that’s in charge of implementing CORSIA agreed to set the baseline targets for 2019 because of the coronavirus, essentially  watering down  the targets. Regardless of the specifics, the airline industry is feeling the heat from its reliance on fossil fuel-based jet fuel and thus its relatively large emissions. Sustainability-focused large corporations whose employees do a lot of business travel are also considering ways to both reduce airline travel and also work with carbon neutral airlines. Amazon’s news doesn’t just highlight the emergence of the bio jet fuel industry and the environmental spotlight on the airline industry, it also shows growing attention and worry around the carbon intensity of air cargo. The vast majority of goods in the U.S. are shipped by trucks, but a small and rapidly growing segment of goods are shipped by planes.  This air cargo is not only one of the fastest-growing shipping methods, it’s also one of the most carbon-intensive. Amazon began growing its fleet of 20 airplanes in 2015. By 2021, the retailer plans to have 70 planes in its in-house air fleet that move its one and two-day deliveries. To decarbonize the fuel for 70 planes, Amazon will need a lot more than 6 million gallons of bio jet fuel.  But Amazon’s willingness to begin purchasing this biofuel will help send a strong signal to the producers of the fuel, and the greater airline industry. After a long wait, is the market for sustainable aviation fuel finally here?   Pull Quote Amazon has pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, and says it will make sure half of Amazon shipments are net-zero by 2030. Topics Transportation & Mobility Shell Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Amazon to buy bio jet fuel to lower air cargo emissions

How ESG issues can become even more relevant in times of market crisis

July 8, 2020 by  
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How ESG issues can become even more relevant in times of market crisis Shannon Houde Wed, 07/08/2020 – 00:40 As a Brit based in Santa Monica, California, Daniel E. Ingram is the chair of investment advisory company Wilshire’s ESG and Diversity Committee. Wilshire, which has more than $8.6 billion in assets under management and $168 billion in assets under advisement, recruited Ingram in 2017 as part of an effort to expand its ESG and socially responsible investing capabilities. Previously, Ingram was head of responsible investing for BT Pension Scheme, the United Kingdom’s largest corporate retirement plan. Ingram is also a member of the CFA Institute’s ESG working group responsible for defining an industry standard, along with representatives from the International Monetary Fund, BlackRock, the Principles for Responsible Investment and other prominent players in the responsible investment arena.  Ingram helps advise institutional asset owners on how to protect and grow long-term capital by integrating ESG risks and opportunities into investment decisions. We recently spoke about the expansion of ESG analysis in investment strategies, the end of shareholder primacy and why investors may be better off preparing for the next potential crisis sooner than later. Shannon Houde: Tell me about your role in ESG and how you ended up in this space. Daniel E. Ingram: My role mainly involves delivering educational workshops to trustees and investment staff from public and private retirement plans, foundations and endowments on the investment case for ESG. As discussions move from why ESG to how, I help to design ESG policies, source high-performing investment products and conduct impact analysis on investment portfolios.  I’ve been working in the ESG space since before the term was coined. My interest in issues like climate change stems from my early career in public service on the graduate program at Her Majesty’s Treasury. I worked as chief of staff for — now Lord, then Sir — Nick Stern on his landmark review on the economics of climate change. Even though it was published 14 years ago, much of the findings of that seminal report are relevant today, namely that the benefits of addressing climate change, sooner than later, far outweighs the costs. Houde: What’s the investor outlook for ESG? Ingram: Investor interest in ESG issues continues to grow, and it’s becoming increasingly self-evident that the management of ESG risks and opportunities, such as resource efficiency and board skills/independence, can have a material impact on asset values. As a result, there’s been a show of confidence in ESG strategies, with Q1 2020 seeing inflows to some ESG funds.  In terms of performance, some ESG funds have posted relatively positive returns due to lower exposure to conventional energy and balance sheet leverage, and higher exposure to quality growth factors and technology. Governance is king. It tends to lead to better environmental and social performance. Houde: What’s the role of corporate governance and investor stewardship in crisis? Ingram: Governance is king, and it tends to lead to better environmental and social performance. In times of crisis, like the 2009 financial crisis or COVID-19, investors are compelled to take a closer look at corporate governance practices like disaster contingency plans, cybersecurity risk management and decisions about capital structure — [such as] share buybacks & M&A activity.  Investors may also be compelled to become better stewards of financial capital by holding companies to account for their leadership actions, incentive structures and strategic decisions. For example, the San Francisco Employee Retirement System issued a statement calling for corporations to find innovative ways to reorganize their manufacturing, distribution, resources and service capabilities to address COVID-19. Houde: Is this a moment of reckoning for the S in ESG? Ingram: Yes, I believe so. The S — for social — relates to issues around human capital management such as labor practices, employee health and safety, and employee engagement, diversity and inclusion. These issues are becoming increasingly financially material, particularly for the extractives and services sectors.  In recognition of this fundamental shift, the U.S. Business Roundtable issued a new statement in 2019 that redefined the purpose of a corporation away from its previously held position that corporations exist principally to serve shareholders to its new position that corporations should serve for the benefit of all stakeholders — customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.  The S — for social — relates to issues around human capital management such as labor practices, employee health and safety, and employee engagement, diversity and inclusion. Houde: What’s next for how investors approach ESG? Ingram: In the same way epidemiologists have been warning of a deadly coronavirus outbreak for years, climate scientists have been warning us for decades about the social and economic risks from rising sea levels, droughts, wildfires and air pollution. While there’s no way we could have predicted the devastating scale or exact timing from the coronavirus pandemic, many of us would readily admit we could have been much better prepared and responded more rapidly.  Investors require high-quality advice to help them prepare and position their investment portfolios for climate change and potential future lower-carbon investment opportunities. These preparations may include: measuring portfolio exposure to different transition and physical risks; developing an ESG policy; evaluating how active investment managers take climate risks into account in valuations; or investing in a lower-carbon passive index fund. Houde: What advice do you have for someone wanting to work in ESG? Ingram: There are so many great ESG opportunities right now — if you’re not working in the space and want to get in, maybe find yourself a coach to help present yourself in the best possible light. The ESG community tends to be relatively close-knit and highly approachable.  If you can participate in an ESG conference or reach out to ESG professionals via LinkedIn, most of us will gladly offer our 10 cents of advice and tell you how incredibly rewarding it can be to work in this increasingly important and fast-growing industry. Pull Quote Governance is king. It tends to lead to better environmental and social performance. The S — for social — relates to issues around human capital management such as labor practices, employee health and safety, and employee engagement, diversity and inclusion. Topics Finance & Investing ESG Featured Column Purpose and People 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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How ESG issues can become even more relevant in times of market crisis

Will COVID-19’s transport slow down stick?

March 18, 2020 by  
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It takes a global pandemic — and subsequent ordered and self-imposed quarantines — to really expose just how dependent societies are on mobility and transportation. 

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Will COVID-19’s transport slow down stick?

Will COVID-19’s transport slowdown stick?

March 18, 2020 by  
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It takes a global pandemic — and subsequent ordered and self-imposed quarantines — to really expose just how dependent societies are on mobility and transportation.

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Will COVID-19’s transport slowdown stick?

Delta lifts off with $1 billion pledge to become carbon neutral

February 20, 2020 by  
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The airline plans to invest in aircraft renewal, sustainable jet fuel, weight reduction, and CO2 offsetting and sequestration projects.

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Delta lifts off with $1 billion pledge to become carbon neutral

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