US officially rejoins Paris Agreement

February 23, 2021 by  
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As promised, President Joe Biden has helped the U.S. rejoin the Paris climate accord after Donald Trump’s reign of eco-terror. As of last Friday, it’s official. But now comes the hard part: getting the U.S. to set and meet a national target for cutting fossil fuel emissions. Although the U.S. president is also busy with COVID-19 deaths surpassing 500,000, the climate just can’t wait. As Biden said to the Munich security conference, “We can no longer delay or do the bare minimum to address climate change . This is a global existential crisis, and all of us will suffer if we fail.” Related: Biden signs executive order to rejoin Paris Agreement Biden’s challenge is to set a realistic target while balancing tricky financial and political realities in a country where many citizens deny the climate is even changing. His administration wants to settle on a U.S. emissions goal by April, in time for the Earth Day summit Biden is hosting. Climate leaders are hoping that a strong U.S. plan will serve as a good role model for other countries figuring out how to cut their emissions. Many Republican leaders are skeptical. “Returning to the Paris climate agreement will raise Americans’ energy costs and won’t solve climate change,” tweeted Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, the Senate energy panel’s top Republican. “The Biden administration will set unworkable targets for the United States while China and Russia can continue with business as usual.” Paris accord leaders want to keep global warming from reaching 3.6°F (2°C) higher than pre-industrial times. Already the world is up 2.2°F (1.2°C), leaving us very little wiggle room. Thanks to Trump’s stance on the environment, the U.S. was officially out of the Paris Agreement for 107 days. Some environmental leaders worried that when a Trump-led U.S. abandoned the accord, other countries would follow. Fortunately, none did. Now, Biden has the challenge of reversing Trump’s four years of climate inaction. The world awaits the nation’s new emission -cutting plan. Via AP Image via H. Hach

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US officially rejoins Paris Agreement

Biden’s new executive order cuts fossil fuel subsidies

February 1, 2021 by  
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In a recent executive order, President Joe Biden has directed federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. The agencies are to find new opportunities that will “spur innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technology.” While the news has caused jitters among big oil corporations, conservation groups welcome the move toward clean energy . Cutting fossil fuel subsidies is a crucial step in reaching clean energy goals. After all, continuing such subsidies in a country that aims to go green means that the U.S. is essentially paying fossil fuel companies to pollute the air. According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, there are several direct and indirect tax subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. In the U.S., direct subsidies to the oil industry reach a total of over $20 billion per year. Many of these subsidies intend to help American fossil fuel producers compete with producers in parts of the world where fuel production is cheaper. Among the direct subsidies is the Intangible Drilling Cost Deduction, which deducts costs incurred for drilling in the United States. The Percentage Depletion subsidy reduces taxable amounts, while the Credit for Clean Coal Investment offers tax credits for energy investments. Besides these direct subsidies, the U.S. also offers indirect subsidies for tax relief and foreign tax credits. According to a  Reuters  report, some fossil fuel industry leaders are not taking the new directives well. Before the ink dried on the order, the Western Energy Alliance filed a lawsuit challenging it. Specifically, Western Energy Alliance wants the order to reverse fossil fuel leasing on federal land declared unlawful by the courts.  This lawsuit represents some of the opposition against the country’s move toward clean energy. Some industry leaders have already lamented that the decision will make the U.S. reliant on foreign energy, alleging that this may put the country in a tricky economic position. “With a stroke of a pen, the administration is shifting America’s bright energy future into reverse and setting us on a path toward greater reliance on foreign energy produced with lower environmental standards,” Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement. Despite complaints from the fossil fuel industry, environmental activists have outlined just how important this executive order is in addressing the climate crisis. As Angela Anderson, director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a statement, “ Climate change is not a distant crisis but rather one that has already reached our doorstep and can no longer be ignored.” Anderson also explained that “Black, brown, Indigenous and low-income communities are among the most devastated by the climate crisis. The executive order takes steps to remedy this unfair burden by incorporating equity and justice throughout the climate agenda.” Via CleanTechnica Lead image via Center for American Progress

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Hydrogen fuel cells good or bad for the environment?

February 1, 2021 by  
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Scotland is planning to have its first hydrogen-powered train ready to go by November of this year. It’s a huge undertaking involving many partners, including the Hydrogen Accelerator at the University of Saint Andrews and engineering firm  Arcola Energy . “With Scotland’s focus on achieving net zero emissions by 2035 and rail playing a leading role in this, hydrogen offers a safe, reliable and zero carbon alternative to other forms of rail propulsion,” Clare Lavelle, Scotland Energy business lead at project partner Arup said in a statement. “This project is not only a crucial step in helping us understand the practical challenges of using hydrogen traction power on our railways, but an example of the type of investment  Scotland  needs to take advantage of the opportunity to build a secure, flexible, cost effective and zero carbon energy network.” But not all experts are sure that  hydrogen  fuel cells are a clean enough power source to warrant enthusiasm. Many still question whether this mode of powering cars, planes and trains will actually help slow climate change. Some even worry hydrogen production will accelerate it. Related: Scotland to become first country to test 100% green hydrogen Hydrogen fuel cells 101 Even if you never took or passed chemistry class, you probably know that hydrogen is exceedingly common, putting the H in water’s H2O. Hydrogen is also present in compounds like methane and coal. This gas could be a potent source of clean  energy , and, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, it has the highest energy content by weight of any common fuel source. In terms of emissions, burning hydrogen for energy doesn’t hurt the environment, as the only byproducts it releases are heat and water. The problem comes when separating out the hydrogen. To make it usable as a fuel, hydrogen must be separated from water, coal, natural gas or animal or plant waste. Currently, most of the 9 million metric tons of hydrogen the U.S. produces annually comes from  methane  via steam reforming. This process releases greenhouse gases. Still, hydrogen can also be separated from water through a process called electrolysis, which can be powered by wind, solar or other renewable energy sources. The downside of this option is the much higher cost. Hydrogen is also currently used in food processing, treating and refining metals, NASA’s space fuel and to power a few exclusive car models, such as the Toyota Mirai. As  Popular Mechanics  explains it, hydrogen cars are electric cars. “When we talk about electric cars, that includes plug-in hybrids, hybrids, battery electrics, fuel cells, and anything else that may come along later that still uses an electric motor,” said Keith Wipke, laboratory program manager for fuel cell and hydrogen technologies at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory .  However, a fuel cell is much different than the giant lithium-ion battery you find in  electric cars . The hydrogen fuel cell produces electricity through electrochemical reactions when the hydrogen combines with air. Pros and cons of hydrogen fuel cells Inventors and engineers have experimented with hydrogen as a clean energy source for decades. Back in 2003, the Bush administration dedicated $1.2 billion for hydrogen  research . The fact that hydrogen is about three times as efficient as gasoline for fueling cars entices many. But, in addition to the cost challenges of clean hydrogen fuel production, there’s a danger of the gas escaping into the atmosphere while being stored or transported. Hydrogen is tricky to transport because it needs to be stored under high pressure. According to models designed by researchers at the California Institute of Technology, without a completely efficient way to produce, store and transport hydrogen, 10% to 20% of the gas will escape into the atmosphere. “More or less dramatic scenarios are equally imaginable, but clearly the potential impact on the hydrogen cycle is great,” the researchers concluded. These researchers theorized that oxidized hydrogen would cool the stratosphere and make more clouds, adversely affecting the polar vortex and increasing the holes in the  ozone layer .  But let’s say the production, storage and transportation problems could be overcome and hydrogen’s efficiency safely tapped into. Before there’s a hydrogen-powered auto in every garage, the costs will have to come down and the convenience will need to go up. Right now, the three premier hydrogen-powered  cars  — the Toyota Mirai, the Honda Clarity and the Hyundai Nexo — cost between $50,000 and $60,000. You could buy about three Civics for that. And you’re not going to get very far in a hydrogen-powered vehicle unless you have somewhere to refuel. For now, in the U.S., that means cruising through California or tooling around Wallingford, Connecticut, according to the  U.S. Department of Energy  website. Whether or not major oil companies will ever willingly add hydrogen tanks to gas station offerings remains to be seen. In addition to competing with their prime commodity — gasoline — companies also face the issues of safe storage and, so far, low demand. We obviously need to make some big energy changes, and there’s hope for hydrogen. But for now, better hold onto your Civic. Or, better yet, your  bike . Via How Stuff Works: Science , Physics World , and U.S. Department of Energy Images via Matthew Venn

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Hydrogen fuel cells good or bad for the environment?

Advene’s handbag reduces plastic, not style

February 1, 2021 by  
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Advene has just restocked its Age bag, an accessory that is transparently constructed and designed to eliminate unnecessary plastics. Advene releases one product at a time, using responsible materials to create its designs along with a commitment to reducing harmful plastic waste throughout the process. The name Advene is taken from “advenience.” This term was coined by Roland Barthes, a philosopher who used the word to describe art that stirs something up inside of you when you see it. Environmentalists may be stirred not just by the design of the Age bag, but by the fact that it is made from 100% traceable leather that has been upcycled from food byproducts. There are no unnecessary plastic fillers. The construction process of the bag is completely transparent thanks to a comprehensive video of how it is manufactured. Related: This backpack is made from locally sourced cork and recycled materials The leather used to make the Age bag is produced in a scope-C gold-standard tannery that has been certified by the Leather Working Group. Customers who opt for minimal packaging to reduce waste get a discount on the bag. The standard packaging is an FSC-certified grayboard box and dust cloth made from GOTA-certified hemp . That’s right: no plastic! That’s the whole point of the Age bag. This handbag features a classic silhouette with a handle and a triangular pouch. It can be fastened securely and easily with a magnetic closure. There’s also a detachable shoulder strap, so the wearer has an option to carry the bag two different ways. Both the shoulder strap and the handle strap are adjustable. True to the company mission, no plastic was used to give the bag structure. The Age bag sold out quickly after it was first released in November 2020. Advene has launched a restock of the bag, which is now available in cream and black. Advene is one of many companies making strides toward sustainable fashion in an effort to eliminate unnecessary waste and source materials responsibly. Companies that are using sustainable materials and eliminating waste in their designs are proof that perhaps the world can be saved — one handbag at a time. + Advene Images via Advene

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Biden and the future of clean energy politics

January 22, 2021 by  
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Biden and the future of clean energy politics Sarah Golden Fri, 01/22/2021 – 01:00 Have you heard about the clean energy triangle?  The theory goes that in order to rapidly deploy clean energy, you need three elements: technology; policy; and finance. When these components are integrated, we’re able to thoughtfully accelerate the speed and scale of clean technologies. The technology is there and is getting better. The finance is following as investors see there’s money to be made. The only missing piece, before this week, has been policy.  The inauguration of Joe Biden as president is the dawn of a new political era; for the first time, the stars are aligning for the clean energy sector to unleash its full potential.  Biden’s position on clean energy is as diametrically opposed to his predecessor as this analyst can fathom. On his first day, the new president signed executive orders killing the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and recommitting the United States to the Paris climate accord. As a candidate, Biden called for 100 percent clean energy in the U.S. by 2035. He’s integrating climate experts across all departments in “the largest team ever assembled inside the White House to tackle global warming.” The political sea change is larger than the whims of a single politician. It’s a reflection of the growing, influential force of the clean energy sector itself that will be difficult for serious politicians to ignore forevermore.  How clean energy pros helped POTUS land his new job Biden didn’t always make clean energy his issue. He responded to the public’s growing concerns about climate change and listened to experts about its immense economic potential.  That didn’t happen by accident. The clean energy sector has been growing and maturing for years, and in this election cycle, it helped Biden land his dream job thanks in part to the all-volunteer organization Clean Energy for Biden (CE4B) .  “I’m not just hopeful, I’m pretty convinced [clean energy professionals were politically influential],” Dan Reicher, CE4B co-chair and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy, told me in a phone conversation. “They’ve shown themselves to be very capable in President Biden’s victory and made a real difference.” CE4B brought together more than 13,000 individuals in all 50 states, including 40 regional affinity groups in key locations across the county. It raised $3.2 million through more than 100 fundraisers and held hundreds of phone banks to get out the vote. The effort brought together impressive, diverse and passionate professionals  excited about leaders who understand clean energy. (Full disclosure: I’m a volunteer for CE4B.) The success of the CE4B’s organizing and campaign efforts inspired organizers to spin out a newly formed nonprofit, Clean Energy for America, which will support candidates and policies that will accelerate the clean energy transition at the state and national levels.  “Clean Energy for America is a recognition that the transformation that we need to address our clean energy challenges and opportunities needs to happen up and down the ballot,” Reicher said. “It’s not enough to work on a presidential campaign and then close up shop. We’ve got to continue on a variety of races on the national level, but we have to get really focused on state and local races as well.” It’s also a recognition that clean energy professionals are realizing their power and are here to stay. As clean energy continues to disrupt dirty energy incumbents, the sector will grow in numbers and power. It also means those in power today will decide the policy levers that shape our energy future; who benefits and in what way.  Clean Energy for America is continuing with the key tenets of CE4B, organizing around the principles of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion to ensure that the clean energy transition is a just transition for all. The long road to Clean Energy for America  Before Clean Energy for Biden, there was CleanTech for Hillary. Before that, there was CleanTech for Obama.  The evolution of the name — from cleantech to clean energy — is a reflection of the industry itself.  “We treated it as a technology play, not ready for prime time,” said Reicher, who was involved in each organization. “We now call it clean energy. We had decided we had become mainstream; we were no longer a large tech sector backed by venture capital communities. It is a large, mainstream energy sector backed by large investment firms around the U.S. and world.” Today, millions work in clean energy (about  3.4 million before the start of the pandemic), and those numbers translated into a larger network.  “We still marvel today at how fast [CE4B] grew to 13,000 people,” Reicher said. “We never saw that level of growth in the other organizations.” With the birth of Clean Energy for America, the group is poised to continue to mobilize in races quickly. That, combined with the virtuous cycle that promises millions more Americans will be employed by clean energy in the coming decades, plants a clean energy flag in the sand.  Topics Renewable Energy Energy & Climate Jobs & Careers Wind Power Solar 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 Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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The problem with zero-waste goals is the word ‘waste’

January 22, 2021 by  
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The problem with zero-waste goals is the word ‘waste’ Jim Giles Fri, 01/22/2021 – 00:15 This essay originally appeared in Food Weekly.  Sign up for your free subscription. Last week, I mentioned a project in the Netherlands that puts circular thinking at the heart of plans for a more sustainable food system. Afterward, I realized that the project jumped out at me partly because this kind of thinking is so rare, at least in the private sector. This makes no sense. We know that circular economy strategies can create profits, cut waste and reduce emissions. Why aren’t these approaches more common? Before answering, I’ll back up quickly for people new to circular thinking. Most industrial systems are linear: We extract a resource, which could be anything from timber to crude oil; transform it into a product, often with little concern for the waste produced along the way; then trash that product when we’re done with it. A circular system, by contrast, prioritizes the regeneration of natural systems, the designing out of waste and finding ways to extend the life of products. Food and ag is beginning to deliver on that first principle: the use of cover crops, rotational grazing and other regenerative techniques is growing rapidly. But every week I hear from food and ag companies that want to highlight their sustainability projects, and very few focus on the idea of redesigning systems to eliminate waste. Why is that? The most obvious answer is that it’s cheaper to simply send waste to landfills. That’s true in some cases, but there are plenty of examples of companies that are discovering value in what was previously waste: A new InnovaFeed plant In Illinois will use crop residues from a neighboring corn processing facility to rear insects for animal feed.  Upward Farms recently raised $15 million to combine fish farming with indoor ag: The nitrogen-rich waste water from the fish tanks will be used to fertilize leafy greens . BioEnergy Devco transforms chicken poop into natural gas. The pasta and snacks in Zenb, a new range from the Japanese food company Mizkan, are made using parts of plants that are usually discarded , such as stems, seeds and peels. These companies are united by more than innovative systems. Underlying their processes and technologies is an innovation in thinking: That all materials are potentially valuable and should never be written off as waste. And that’s something we need more of. “Right now, the thinking is very muddled in industry,” said Emma Chow, who leads food projects at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a leading advocate for the circular economy. “When we speak to companies about opportunities in waste streams, they say we’re doing everything we can. Then we dig into it and realize they don’t know what’s in these streams.”  That shortsightedness comes in part from something that sustainability advocates normally celebrate: zero-waste goals. Chow suggests that these goals have the unintended effect of labeling certain materials as needing to be eliminated: “It’s a mindset about looking at something as bad instead of saying, ‘What value and opportunities does this hold?'” I’m curious as to how widespread this muddled thinking is. Is it present in your company? And what value could you unlock by doing away with the concept of waste? (It’s a little late for New Year’s resolutions, but that would be an amazing goal for 2021.) Shoot your thoughts to jg@greenbiz.com , and I’ll feature as many responses as I can in future newsletters. Topics Food & Agriculture Circular Economy Food Waste Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The pasta and snacks in the Zenb product portfolio are made using parts of plants that are usually discarded , such as stems, seeds and peels. Photo courtesy of Zenb

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One key to moving the Biden agenda: Bring all three sectors to the table

January 20, 2021 by  
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One key to moving the Biden agenda: Bring all three sectors to the table Laura Deaton Wed, 01/20/2021 – 01:30 The incoming Biden administration unquestionably will bring new focus to sustainable development goals at home and abroad. Joe Biden has produced plans in an array of key areas — environmental protection, clean energy and racial equity among them — and has promised action in his first 100 days as president. His administration will be playing catch-up in all these key areas, and the best way to make rapid progress is one that doesn’t get talked about enough: building three-sector collaboration into every major initiative. Government partnerships are nothing new, but they’re usually binary: Government agencies work with nonprofits or with businesses or gather feedback separately from each. Collaborations across all three sectors are less typical, but they generate more deeply informed, comprehensive solutions and yield wider support. The clearest way to illustrate the value of cross-sector collaboration is to contrast what happens when one sector isn’t at the table with what’s possible when all sectors are present. The following examples of initiatives related to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals show the consequences of leaving out or engaging key stakeholders — and point to how the Biden administration can do better. When the nonprofit sector isn’t at the table: the lost opportunity in Opportunity Zones The Trump administration’s Opportunity Zones were a good idea on paper but were more effective at creating massive tax benefits for already wealthy investors than at creating new jobs and economic opportunities in disinvested communities. That’s largely because communities were left out of program design and implementation, which resulted in capital flowing into projects that didn’t target community needs and sometimes usurped preferred community uses. Working alongside government and corporate actors, community-based nonprofits could have ensured that the investments promoted equitable opportunity and contributed rather than extracted value from communities. A couple of successes show what’s possible: The Economic Equity Network, a pop-up Multiplier project, created a network of more than 300 people committed to equitable community transformation and wealth building and brought them high-impact investment opportunities in three cities. The project helped broaden female and minority investor and entrepreneur networks, and promoted the use of Opportunity Zone funds not only for real-estate investments, but also to scale up minority- and women-led businesses. The clearest way to illustrate the value of cross-sector collaboration is to contrast what happens when one sector isn’t at the table with what’s possible when all sectors are present. Moving into 2021, national community development organization LISC is collaborating  with local investment platform Blueprint Local on projects across the Southeast that will align small businesses loans, federal programs and community plans to build community wealth. The Biden administration has indicated support for Opportunity Zones, as well as acknowledged the need for fixes. The first action should be to look at these models and restructure the program with a new priority: bringing community-rooted organizations together with investors committed to creating public as well as private returns. When the for-profit sector isn’t at the table: The sidelining of sustainable fishing Environmental NGOs have been lobbying for the 30×30 initiative to conserve 30 percent of the world’s ocean habitat by 2030, and the Biden administration is embracing that goal. Sounds great, right? The problem is, the  legislation on deck was created without meaningful input from the small-scale fishermen who have helped make U.S. fisheries the most sustainable in the world. This proposal would ban commercial fishing in at least 30 percent of U.S. marine areas, overturning the successful fisheries management system, harming coastal communities and cutting off consumer access to sustainable local seafood. The end result could be to increase long-distance imports from far less sustainable sources. Contrast that with an example of what can happen when all three sectors work together: The nonprofit program Catch Together partners with fishing communities to create and launch community-owned permit banks, which purchase fishing quota (rights to a certain percentage of the catch in a fishery) and then lease that quota to local fishing businesses at affordable rates. The centerpiece of the program is a foundation-supported revolving loan fund that capitalizes the permit banks and allows communities to invest in tradable quota. That makes it easier for small-scale fishing businesses to access capital and compete against larger players for the ability to fish in their own local waters. So far, the Catch Together team has helped fund quota acquisitions and leasing in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and New England. The goal is to build a nationwide network of next-generation fishermen who are strong advocates for sustainable fisheries and ocean stewardship. This network and other local fishermen — especially Indigenous fishing communities — deserve a seat at the table to explain how their sustainable fishing techniques contribute to climate resilience and conservation. By insisting on collaborative approaches such as the Catch Together model, the Biden administration could ensure that the effort to mitigate the harm caused by large-scale fishing doesn’t undermine responsible small fishermen. It is possible to reach the 30×30 goals by working with fishing communities — in fact, that may be the only way it will happen. When government hides under the table: A power player blocks renewable energy Pacific Northwest residents and wildlife are caught in the grip of a self-funding federal power marketing entity holding fast to an antiquated model that forces consumers to buy more expensive, less environmentally friendly energy. The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) produces supposedly clean hydroelectric energy from the dams it owns — but its high-maintenance, high-cost infrastructure damages salmon habitat and produces pricier power than solar and wind installations. BPA has maintained the status quo despite these deficits by pacifying environmental NGOs with funding to develop environmental solutions (which have no chance of working unless the dams come down) and using its control of the grid to keep cheaper, greener renewable energy out of the market. Another thread runs through the success stories: science, scientists and diverse perspectives. In this case, a public agency essentially has gone rogue, using its monopoly power to privilege its own perceived interests. Collaboration with the nonprofit and for-profit sectors could create solutions that serve the public interest, but neither the Department of Energy (the BPA’s overseer) nor Congress has come to the table to demand it. Columbia Rediviva , a network of citizen activists, is working to change that by engaging Congress members in a plan to reimagine the Pacific Northwest power grid and bring salmon back to the Columbia River. One focus is freeing NGOs to be independent voices by shifting control of conservation funds to a different government agency (so that the BPA is not funding their operations). Another is building support for newer, better clean energy supplies by sharing research that shows taking down dams would deliver both cheaper energy and more jobs. The Biden administration can promote progress in the Pacific Northwest and on clean energy goals nationally by putting government on the side of innovation and aligning the players’ incentives with the public good. When everyone is at the table: The emergence of the first carbon-neutral U.S. city Menlo Park, California, is on its way to becoming the first carbon-neutral city in the U.S., thanks to Menlo Spark ’s work to activate stakeholders in pursuit of that vision. The nonprofit program has collaborated with local government, businesses, residents and experts to institute proven sustainability measures designed to not only reduce the Silicon Valley hub’s carbon emissions but also increase the prosperity of the entire community. Menlo Spark created community buy-in to the carbon-neutral initiative by outlining how it would allow Menlo Park to continue to thrive economically. This support brought the corporate and government sectors on board as well. The city adopted groundbreaking codes requiring that all new buildings operate entirely on electricity, and the Menlo Spark coalition spurred other Silicon Valley cities to do the same, creating a regional effect. The coalition also catalyzed 20 cities to commit to pursuing 100 percent carbon-free power for all customers by 2021. Solar installations for low-income families, improved transit tools and stops, an infrastructure initiative that paves the way for apartment dwellers to own electric vehicles, the Menlo Green Challenge for households, and educational tools all contribute to progress.  This example illustrates a key advantage of bringing all sectors into the conversation: the nonprofit sector is highly skilled at taking the pulse of a community and figuring out effective ways to gain support from all sectors for innovative ideas. Biden’s climate agenda will require all-sector support to succeed, and the administration should center the nonprofit sector as a valuable partner in building community support. The upshot: We need bigger tables As the examples above illustrate, three-sector engagement is crucial. And another thread runs through the success stories: science, scientists and diverse perspectives. Biden already has taken steps on the crucial task of bringing scientific assessments and ongoing research back into policymaking, but there’s a lot of catching up to do in this area. At the same time, we need to be sure we’re involving a true cross-section of the community in initiatives that affect us all. The National Science Policy Network is addressing both needs: this network catalyzes early-career scientists to take an active role in policymaking at all levels of government. It also focuses on racial justice and diversity in science, with initiatives to promote women and people of color and model inclusive and successful science communication. Having all the right people at the table is the essential first step in creating lasting solutions to our long-running environmental and social challenges. That means involving all three sectors, a cross-section of our communities and scientific advisers who themselves represent diverse perspectives and are committed to translating science into policy. In short, we need bigger tables where everyone gets a seat. The Biden administration would be wise to incorporate this principle throughout its policy agenda. That is how it will truly achieve Biden’s goal of uniting America. Pull Quote The clearest way to illustrate the value of cross-sector collaboration is to contrast what happens when one sector isn’t at the table with what’s possible when all sectors are present. Another thread runs through the success stories: science, scientists and diverse perspectives. Topics Innovation Policy & Politics Corporate Strategy Public-Private Partnerships Environmental Justice 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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Biden chooses his climate team here are the nominees

December 18, 2020 by  
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As president-elect Joe Biden continues to pick his Cabinet and agency heads, eco-conscious Americans watch to see what his choices will mean for the climate crisis. So far, it looks like Biden is surrounding himself with a strong climate team consistent with his top priority of quickly reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. On Wednesday, Biden named former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg as transportation secretary. Auto workers, energy lobbyists and environmental groups supported this choice. “ Transportation is an issue that touches all Americans — urban, rural, coastal and in the heartland of our nation,” said Chris Spear , American Trucking Associations President and CEO. “Having served as a mayor, Pete Buttigieg has had an up close and personal look at how our infrastructure problems are impacting Americans, and how important it is to solve them.” Related: Biden promises US-led climate summit in 2021 Buttigieg also comes into the position with a plan that he developed during his time as a presidential contender. The plan, which he presented back in January, included $165 billion for the Highway Trust Fund to fix and update bridges and roads and create more union jobs. He championed electric vehicles and suggested dispersing $6 billion in loans and grants to cities and states for funding charging station networks. Biden has nominated former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm for energy secretary, and he said he will appoint former Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy to lead domestic climate efforts. The Energy Department is in charge of regulating utility companies. Granholm has a good record on clean energy and has worked closely with chemical and energy firms in the past. As Michigan’s governor, she encouraged the increased manufacturing of electric vehicles. McCarthy was head of the EPA under President Barack Obama. She had a strong record of making rules to oppose climate change. Her new position would be coordinating and overseeing a federal interagency approach to climate issues. She is currently the president and CEO of NRDC . On Thursday, Biden nominated Michael Regan to lead the EPA. Regan began working as North Carolina’s environmental chief in 2017, and during this time, he focused on environmental justice. He has spent years helping low-income communities that were the most impacted by industrial pollution. Biden also announced his nomination of Deb Haaland, who would be the first Native American to lead the Department of the Interior. If confirmed, she will oversee the management of public lands as well as the protection and honoring of Indigenous communities. In a statement, the Biden-Harris transition team said Haaland will be “ready on day one to protect our environment and fight for a clean energy future.” Via Washington Post , AP and NPR Image via René DeAnda

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How Biden’s election could kickstart U.S. adoption of zero-emission vehicles

November 11, 2020 by  
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How Biden’s election could kickstart U.S. adoption of zero-emission vehicles Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 11/11/2020 – 00:15 Relief. Most of us in clean economy circles are feeling it after the historic and protracted win by America’s President-elect Joe Biden and VP-elect Kamala Harris over the weekend.  The industries that make up the zero-emission vehicles sector — infrastructure providers, automakers, mobility startups — are one of the sectors that could gain the most from the Biden win. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and a Biden administration that takes the threat of climate change seriously will make it a priority to tackle transportation emissions.  Here are five things I’m watching for in a Biden bump that would accelerate ZEVs across the U.S.: Trump’s weakening of the auto emissions standards is toast: Earlier this year, the Trump administration officially weakened the federal auto emission standards that the Obama administration had enacted. The Trump administration called for just a 1.5 percent increase in carbon emissions standards per year through model year 2026, while the Obama plan called for a 5 percent yearly increase.  Expect a Biden administration to not only revert back to the Obama-era emissions standards but potentially strengthen them considerably, moving more aggressively toward zero emissions. California also sued the Trump administration, attempting to protect its right to set stricter auto emission standards than the weakened one. You can expect this battle, too, to die on the vine as the Biden administration is not likely to challenge California’s clean air waiver.  The U.S. could follow California’s ZEV mandates: If the federal government follows California lead, it already could use enacted ZEV mandates and incentives as a model for the U.S. The World Resources Institute’s Dan Lashof advocates that the Biden administration should set a clean car standard that models California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recently enacted executive order to ban new gas car sales by 2035. The U.S. also could implement zero-emission commercial vehicles through legislation such as the Advanced Clean Truck Rule, WRI notes, that would set timelines to convert trucks and buses to zero emissions. Aggressive? Yep. But we can hope! Look for new transportation and clean air leadership: With a new administration comes new leaders that will have a dramatic effect on the shape of building back climate and environmental regulations. Politico has a great rundown on some potential Biden appointees. The ones that sustainable transportation advocates will be most interested in: California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols told GreenBiz at VERGE 20 last month that she’d say “yes” if Biden called on her to help rebuild the EPA. She’s supposedly the front-runner. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is reported to be the leading candidate for Transportation Secretary. Garcetti has committed to moving Los Angeles to zero-carbon transportation by 2050. Ernie Moniz and Arun Majumdar , two former Department of Energy leaders, are reported to be in the running for top spots in the DOE.  Watch for a ZEV infrastructure build-out: Earlier this year, the Biden administration revealed a $2 trillion climate plan that specifically calls out investments in electric vehicle charging infrastructure to help build back the economy. On Biden’s transition website , the administration says it will create millions of new jobs funding new infrastructure and investing in the future of a domestic auto industry. The administration says it also will fund zero-emission public transit in cities — from light rail to better bike infrastructure to buses.  Anne Smart, vice president of public policy for EV charging company ChargePoint, said: “In his campaign platform, President-elect Biden called for the deployment EV charging stations across the nation. Now we have the opportunity to turn this promise into action through legislative initiatives such as the Clean Corridors Act , which will drive significant investment in EV charging and create jobs across the country.”   Non-profit Veloz, focused on electric vehicle advocacy in California, said it hopes to see a Biden administration overcome the three remaining barriers to the electrification of transportation; upfront cost; building out charging infrastructure; and increasing public awareness. Hope for stimulus for EV buses: If the federal government were able to provide stimulus incentive money for cities to convert their bus fleets to electric, it could be an effective stimulus strategy, noted WRI’s Lashof in a call with media Monday. Why? EV buses already can save cities money on fuel and maintenance costs, and also reduce air pollution, but it’s just the upfront cost of the EV bus that’s the barrier. If stimulus money can eliminate the extra cost between a diesel bus and an EV bus — the way incentives do in some states such as California — the ZEV transition could happen more quickly. What do you think? How do you think a Biden administration could kick start the zero-emission vehicle revolution? Drop me a note: katie@greenbiz.com . Topics Transportation & Mobility Carbon Policy Zero Emissions Electric Vehicles Public Transit EV Charging Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off President-elect Joe Biden walking with supporters at a pre-Wing Ding march from Molly McGowan Park in Clear Lake, Iowa, in May 2020. Shutterstock Pix Arena Close Authorship

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How Biden’s election could kickstart U.S. adoption of zero-emission vehicles

If offered Biden’s lead EPA role, Mary Nichols would say yes

October 30, 2020 by  
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If offered Biden’s lead EPA role, Mary Nichols would say yes Katie Fehrenbacher Fri, 10/30/2020 – 03:00 The Presidential election looming next week could change everything for the future of the environment, clean air and the markets contributing to the clean economy. And if Vice President Joe Biden wins, there’s a chance it could change everything for California’s clean air chief Mary Nichols, too.  Bloomberg recently reported that Nichols, the retiring chair of the California Air Resources Board,  was on a shortlist to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if Biden wins the election next week. Others on the list for EPA head, or other environmental roles, include Mississippi environmentalist and former regional EPA administrator Heather McTeer Toney, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Connecticut regulator Dan Esty, according to the report.  During an interview at the VERGE 20 conference on Thursday , Nichols responded to a question about the report, by saying this: I am one of the people who worked at the EPA once upon a time who has been shocked and distressed by the treatment they have received over the last four years. In particular, it’s a much smaller, a much weaker agency than it was supposed to have been. And if the President wants my help, in whatever capacity, to help turn that around, I’m going to say yes.  If Nichols took on the lead role with the EPA, it would be an abrupt 180 for the agency under President Donald Trump. Current EPA head Andrew Wheeler, working with the Trump administration, has rapidly moved to dismantle many environmental, clean water and clean air protections in an attempt to remove red tape for industry. These are the types of regulations that Nichols has spent her 50-year career — including a stint at the EPA during the Clinton administration — helping implement.  In particular, Nichols and CARB have clashed with the Trump administration, and Wheeler, over issues including California’s ability to set stricter auto emissions standards. Last year, the administration revoked the state’s waiver to set stricter auto standards, and California, followed by 22 other states, sued the Trump administration. Of course, the outcome of the election is uncertain, and Nichols is reportedly just one of the names on Biden’s shortlist. The CARB chair told the VERGE audience that she is only planning to step down from CARB at the end of this year because she has some other projects she has her eye on.  My decision to step down from the Air Resources Board and turn over the leadership of this wonderful organization to someone else isn’t really based on a desire to retire. I have been doing this job for a very long time. Longer than anyone else has or maybe ever will. I want to do some other things. I have some ideas and projects in mind, which I’m not ready to make any announcements about. But it’s not a question of retiring.  Regardless of whether the EPA role is in Nichols’ future, we’re clearly looking forward to seeing what she does next.  Topics Transportation & Mobility Policy & Politics VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Kathryn Cooper, GreenBiz Close Authorship

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