Understanding NFTs and energy consumption

April 8, 2021 by  
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Non-fungible tokens (or NFTs) are the newest players in the cryptocurrency market, and their  environmental  impact may surprise you. What’s an NFT? Let me start by saying, I’m not a tech writer. I’m a sustainability writer. So, I’ll explain the best I can with the knowledge and tools I have.  At this point, you’ve probably heard about blockchain and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Ethereum is another cryptocurrency, and NFTs are part of its blockchain. In contrast to how Bitcoin, for example, can be traded like regular money, NFTs are assigned a unique ‘token’ that verifies one particular owner. It’s a little like the title of a car that shows the owner and the VIN of the vehicle. NFTs are non-fungible, which means they can’t be easily exchanged for a similar good in the way a bitcoin can be traded for another bitcoin. In this sense, it’s much like tangible art. If you own an original Rembrandt, you have unique ownership of the one-of-a-kind artwork. If you’ve seen recent headlines, digital artworks are the hot NFTs we’re talking about here. For example, according to  Christie’s Auction House , “EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS” by Beeple is the first purely digital work of art ever offered by a major auction house. It sold for $69.3 million. There are several other over-the-top examples of high-selling art in the digital realm. The bustling industry has flung open the door for emerging and established artists as another way to promote their work, especially when presented with the challenges of the pandemic.  So where does energy consumption come in? To get a sense of NFTs’  energy consumption , you’ll have to understand the process of how they’re bought and sold. Here’s a simplified version of how it all works. Let’s pretend you create a digital image of Snoopy dancing in the rain with an umbrella. To find your audience, you’ll need to get your work onto an online marketplace like OpenSea. Most of these sites use Ethereum, which verifies transactions through ‘mining.’ When an NFT is purchased, miners must compete to solve a block that results in your Snoopy artwork being the uniquely identifiable NFT the buyer wants. Miners are motivated to compete because the single person who solves the block first gets a commission for their work. All others who competed are out of luck, even though they consumed a huge amount of energy in their efforts.  How much energy? So, how much energy does this take? By current estimations, a single Ethereum transaction consumes 48.14 kWh. For comparison, that’s just over one and a half days of energy consumption within the standard U.S. household. Now, multiply that by thousands of transactions daily and you can see how NFTs’ energy consumption takes its toll. There are a few things to keep in mind here. As far as production and sales go, a single Ethereum transaction to purchase an NFT consumes less energy than making a t-shirt . Also, NFTs aren’t the only goods bought with Ethereum, so even if the art went elsewhere, there would still be transactions eating up energy. What may be more important to focus on is the impact of cryptocurrency in general. Some stats on Brightly.eco help bring this into focus explaining, “Bitcoin ‘mining’ already generates 38 million tons of CO2 per year, more than the carbon footprint of Slovakia .” Put in other terms, “The daily carbon footprint of Bitcoin is the equivalent of watching 57,000 hours of YouTube videos. And, its daily electricity usage is equivalent to the amount of power an average American household uses over the course of 25 days.” Shidan Gouran, co-founder of Gulf Pearl, a merchant bank in the blockchain sector, said one cryptocurrency transaction uses as much energy as more than 700,000 Visa transactions. To further illustrate his point, Gouran says, “Even if you take away carbon emissions, if we move Visa to the same system as Bitcoin, you would still heat the planet up by more than one-and-a-half degrees. Just the heat that the system would create would be unsustainable.” Possible changes ahead Now, here’s an important tidbit I skipped over earlier. The reason all the miners are competing for each transaction has to do with the way the system is set up. Currently, the ETH blockchain uses the competition-based “Proof of Work (PoW)” system, as explained above. But, there’s chatter about a move to a different system called, “Proof of Stake (PoS).” This system would randomly choose one person to solve the block, eliminating the competition and the copious energy consumed in the process. The result would be a  99% reduction  in energy consumed. Some are saying this new system could be implemented later this year or in 2022. There’s also the option to use a different chain besides Ethereum, then pick it back up when it’s moved to the PoS system. Furthermore, as more sources report on this energy consumption issue, some outlets are beginning to offer carbon offsets with each sale or purchase.  Via Brightly.eco , Loopify and Wired Images via Adobe Stock and Wikimedia Commons

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Your customers say there is a climate emergency and want you to act

March 23, 2021 by  
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Your customers say there is a climate emergency and want you to act Diane Osgood Tue, 03/23/2021 – 01:00 The largest opinion poll on climate change found two-thirds of people around the world believe we are in a “global emergency.” Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between what people believe and what they do. As explored in this series of blogs, the intention-action gap creates an opportunity for brands and sustainability professionals to act. Here are some insights from the UN Development Program (UNDP) poll of 1.2 million people in 50 countries, representing more than half of the world’s population. The survey was conducted between October and December. (See graph below.) Strikingly, the study found that in every country surveyed, most people are very concerned about climate change. The U.K. and Italy came in at the top with 81 percent, the U.S. and Russia in the middle with 65 percent. Only one country scored below 55 percent: Moldova, with 50 percent. The intention-action gap gives rise to the opportunity for brands to step up and help their customers do better. The key finding is that the belief we’re in a climate emergency holds true across all countries: during the pandemic, across generations globally, and most strongly for individuals with post-secondary education. The poll results show that a generational divide exists, but it isn’t large. Younger people showed the greatest concern, with 69 percent of those aged 14 to 18 saying there is a climate emergency, while 58 percent of those over 60 agreed. A person’s level of education is the single most profound socio-demographic driver of belief in the climate emergency and need for climate action. Young or old, if your target market has post-secondary education, the majority seek climate action. I compared the UNDP findings to those of a just-released study in the U.S. by Brands for Good and the Harris Poll . While the two studies have different objectives, comparing the results provides useful insights. The UNDP study seeks public opinion on climate change and policy solutions. The study asked about specific potential government policies, not about what individuals do in their day-to-day lives. The Brands for Good–Harris Poll survey seeks to understand consumer intentions and actions towards sustainable lifestyles. It looks at nine indicators for sustainable living. It asked respondents specifically about the frequency of actions individuals take, rather than the level of their concern. Looking at the two survey results, the first thing that is obvious is that actions lag concern. UNDP found that 65 percent of Americans say we’re in a climate crisis, yet Brands for Good/Harris Poll found only 29 percent to 45 percent, depending on age range, saying they always or often try to behave in ways that protect the planet, its people and its resources. Clearly this large concern-action gap needs to be closed. How? By increasing the likelihood of citizens taking regular actions for a more sustainable, climate-friendly lifestyle. The comparison of the two polls shows that education is a key variable. UNDP found the respondent’s level of education to be the most profound driver of public opinion on climate change. In the U.S., the UNDP study found that 66 percent of people with post-high school education think we’re in a climate crisis. Brands for Good/Harris Poll determined that 42 percent of respondents with a four-year college degree will act more frequently in ways that “protect the planet, its people and its resources.” This compares with 34 percent of respondents who have a high school degree or less. The two studies also compared age ranges. Brands for Good/Harris Poll found the most responsive age for taking action is 25 to 44, whereas UNDP found their younger peers are slightly more concerned. Mind the gap The two studies confirm that citizens around the world share a strong interest in addressing climate change. But at least in the U.S., there is a major disconnect between concern and action. Looking at the U.S. data, UNDP found 65 percent of Americans saying they are very concerned about climate change, yet Brands for Good and Harris Poll found only 34 percent to 45 percent of most age groups regularly take action. Furthermore, Brands for Good and Harris Poll found gaps between respondents’ intentions and actions across all nine indicators. This means that an average of 20 percent to 30 percent of Americans are concerned we’re in a climate crisis but not actively addressing climate change and sustainability concerns in their daily lives. This supports results from earlier survey work we’ve undertaken and covered in this blog series. This gap gives rise to the opportunity for brands to step up and help their customers do better. Here are three examples of how brands help close the action gap. 1. Design low-carbon products and communicate clearly about what actions your brand is taking. Sneakers are a good example, with many brands making low-carbon shoes. For example, Ecoalf , Spain’s first B-Corp fashion brand, proudly uses recycled plastic and nylon in almost all of its designs and tells the customer exactly what goes into each product. Ecoalf reminds the wearer with a subtle stamp on the shoes and T-shirts, “Because There Is No Planet B.” At a slightly larger scale, Nike invites customers to follow its journey, step by step, towards net-zero emissions. Nike brings home the message by eloquently linking sports and climate change , enabling its customers to see themselves in the climate change equation. Evocative, smart, effective. 2. Help your customers use your products and services in the most energy-efficient, material-minimizing way as possible. Often, the largest part of a product’s carbon footprint occurs post-sale. It’s how customers use the product that matters. This is not a new approach. For example, 19 years ago Levi’s launched its “Care Tag for Our Planet” campaign, which included changing the care instructions to recommend cold wash, promote line drying and donate garments when they are no longer needed. The Care Tag saved unimaginable amounts of energy to heat water. Other clothing brands followed Levi’s lead. 3. Show your customers the carbon footprint of the product. With this information, customers can make better decisions. For example, at the retail level COOP DK, the Danish cooperative grocery chain, provides customers with carbon estimates for their purchase as a way to help nudge better decisions. COOP DK is no small fry in Denmark — it represents a third of the nation’s grocery market. At the product level, forerunner Oatly applies a carbon label as part of its brand positioning . Leon Restaurants announced a carbon-neutral veggie burger. They’ll soon be joined by Unilever, which committed to carbon labeling all 70,000 of its products. Carbon footprint labels are relatively new, and too few products carry such footprint information to enable apples-to-apples comparisons. It is too soon to know how much disclosing product-level information will affect consumer decision-making. I expect more brands will embrace product carbon labeling. I look forward to testing the effectiveness of this disclosure in changing consumer behaviors. What can your brand do? Join me in the conversation, in the comments below or at diane@osgood.com . Pull Quote The intention-action gap gives rise to the opportunity for brands to step up and help their customers do better. Topics Consumer Trends 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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Get ready, Corporate America: The carbon disclosure mandates are coming

March 17, 2021 by  
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Get ready, Corporate America: The carbon disclosure mandates are coming Tim Mohin Wed, 03/17/2021 – 01:00 A slew of announcements earlier this month point to new regulations on carbon disclosure. Corporate America better get ready. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has been particularly busy. Acting chairwoman Allison Herren Lee issued a public statement directing the SEC staff “to enhance its focus on climate-related disclosure in public company filings.” In a series of tweets , Lee also aligned with the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) statement of an “urgent need to improve the consistency, comparability, and reliability of sustainability reporting, with an initial focus on climate change-related risks and opportunities.” Also earlier this month, the SEC hired its first senior policy adviser for climate and ESG . (See a partial transcript from Lee’s speech earlier this week here .) The message is clear: Carbon disclosure will be mandatory. It’s undeniable that climate risks and opportunities are material to corporate performance and must be included in audited financial statements. This is long overdue, but there can be no doubt that climate disclosure will become a fixture for publicly traded companies. Britain , New Zealand and Switzerland already have moved forward with unprecedented speed to require disclosures aligned with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). The TCFD, created by the G20 Financial Stability Board, issued its disclosure recommendations back 2017. Since then, thousands of companies, governments and others have lined up in support.  It’s undeniable that climate risks and opportunities are material to corporate performance and must be included in audited financial statements. T While coming mandates are clear, the required disclosures are still a bit murky. There is real momentum behind the IFRS Foundation’s move to develop international “sustainability reporting” standards . The trustees meeting this month may shed some more light, but don’t hold your breath; the IFRS already has stated that it will “produce a definitive proposal (including a road map with timeline) by the end of September 2021, and possibly leading to an announcement on the establishment of a sustainability standards board at the meeting of the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 in November 2021.” With the slow pace of standards development, companies are facing uncertainty about what information to collect. While the requirements are unclear, carbon accounting procedures are well established. The greenhouse gas protocol has been around for many years and sets out a detailed process (more than 700 pages) for measuring corporate carbon footprints. While we wait to see what the required disclosures will be, companies can get a leg up by ensuring that their current carbon reporting is as aligned as possible with the greenhouse gas protocol. Accounting for carbon emissions from large enterprises is a daunting job. Complex multinational enterprises conduct thousands of carbon-generating transactions each day. Adding to the challenge is the Scope 3 problem: accounting for the carbon generated upstream (across the supply chain, for example) and downstream (products). Even for leading companies, creating assured carbon disclosures is hard work and will require new expertise, collaborations and enterprise-level technologies to streamline the process. Companies should start making those carbon finance hires today. Corporate leaders and boards also would be wise to get ahead of these regulations and take stock of their carbon management practices now. Having worked for three Fortune 500 companies, I can say firsthand that they won’t like what they find. Carbon management and disclosure is typically done on spreadsheets once per year and the data can be months old. This is not a management system; it’s a way to track annual performance.  Adding to these gaps is the carbon trading market. Carbon prices in Europe are skyrocketing  — surging 60 percent since November — on the news of impending regulation. Simultaneously, there are efforts in Europe and the U.S . to assign monetary value to each ton of carbon, with the Biden administration’s reinvigoration of the “social cost of carbon” initiative.   And if these developments weren’t enough of a wakeup call, the world’s largest asset manager, BlackRock, made it very clear it would hold the companies it invests in accountable for their carbon management. With $8 trillion under management, this would touch just about every company. Just to make the signal clearer, BlackRock doubled down by signaling it would vote against the boards who fail to meet its standards. Alarm bells are ringing in the C-suite and boardrooms. Corporate compliance officers will be up late scrambling to develop their carbon disclosure strategy. While there is a lot of work to be done, new resources emerge every day to help companies navigate this challenge.   After a long career in the sustainability space, it is gratifying to witness the tipping point where sustainability enters the mainstream of global commerce. It’s about time.  Pull Quote It’s undeniable that climate risks and opportunities are material to corporate performance and must be included in audited financial statements. T Topics Finance & Investing Reporting 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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Carbfix turns emissions into stone

March 16, 2021 by  
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An  Icelandic  startup has an intriguing solution to the emissions problem: turn carbon into stone. While it sounds like an evil power out of a fairy tale, and maybe there is a little bit of magic to Carbfix’s approach, we’ll assume its proprietary technology is scientific. Here’s how it works. As most of us know, trees and plants bind carbon from the atmosphere. But, so do rocks. Carbfix’s technology just makes the process of the carbon getting into the rocks a lot faster. The startup dissolves carbon in water, which interacts with reactive rock formations, “to form stable minerals providing a permanent and safe carbon sink,” according to the  Carbfix  website. Carbfix injects this solution into the subsurface, adds a little proprietary technology, and voila, within two years the carbon has turned to stone. Related: “Carbon-absorbing” vertical forest skyscraper nears completion in Taipei Here’s what’s going on under the surface. The carbonated water is acidic and reacts with underground  rocks . Over time, iron, calcium and other elements are released into the water, combine with dissolved carbon dioxide and form carbonates underground. Since they’re stable for thousands of years, we can consider the carbon permanently stored. “This is a technology that can be scaled — it’s cheap and economic and environmentally friendly,” said Carbfix CEO Edda Sif Pind Aradottir, as reported by Bloomberg. “Basically, we are just doing what  nature  has been doing for millions of years, so we are helping nature help itself.” Carbon  emissions are the top reason for global warming and a major factor in extreme weather events and ocean acidification. Carbfix aims to cut climate change off at the knees and help the world reach the Paris agreement goals. The project first started in 2006. The following year, it was formalized by four founding partners: the University of Iceland, Reykjavik Energy, Earth Institute at Columbia University and CNRS in Toulouse. Additional research institutes and universities have also worked on the project in the last decade. In 2019, Carbfix became a subsidiary of Reykjavik Energy, then in 2020 it began operating as a separate entity. Its mission is to store one billion tons of CO2 by 2030. + Carbfix Via EcoWatch Lead image via Pixabay

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The (not so) green recovery: New report warns world is failing to ‘build back better’

March 12, 2021 by  
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The (not so) green recovery: New report warns world is failing to ‘build back better’ Cecilia Keating Fri, 03/12/2021 – 01:30 The fiscal spending plans of major economies in the wake of the coronavirus crisis have fallen far short of ensuring the recovery from the crisis does not exacerbate ongoing climate and nature crises, with just one in every $40 committed by governments in the wake of the pandemic set to deliver a positive impact for the planet. That is the bleak headline from a major report published this week by the United Nations Environment Program and Oxford’s Economic Recovery Project, which warns policymakers are missing out on the “greatest chance we have had so far” to redirect the upward trajectory of global greenhouse gas emissions and put the world on track for meeting the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The analysis, which looked at more than 3,500 fiscal policies across the world’s 50 largest economies, finds that just 2.5 percent of all COVID-induced spending to date had “positive green characteristics.” A huge chunk of COVID-related government spending has necessarily focused on welfare payments and the health response, but the report concludes that even when the focus is narrowed to look only at measures designed to deliver a longer-term economic recovery, only 18 percent of spending has “positive green characteristics.” As such, the report concludes that the world is “not yet building back better,” despite repeated promises from governments to engineer a green recovery and the introduction of some promising green stimulus spending programs from a handful of predominantly wealthy countries such as Finland, Denmark, France, Germany and Norway. Humanity is facing a pandemic, an economic crisis and an ecological breakdown — we cannot afford to lose on any front. “Despite positive steps towards a sustainable COVID-19 recovery from a few leading nations, the world has so far fallen short of matching aspirations to build back better,” said Brian O’Callahan, lead researcher at the Oxford University Economic Recovery project. “But opportunities to spend wisely on recovery are not yet over. Governments can use this moment to secure long-term economic, social and environmental prosperity.” For the vast majority of countries, recovery spending has been relatively low and not particularly green, according to the report, with any benefits from the greener elements contained in stimulus packages often undermined by concurrent fossil fuel and consumer-focused spending program. For instance, roughly 16 percent of recovery spending could bring positive air pollution impacts, but 16.4 percent is likely to increase net air pollution. The United Kingdom is among a raft of countries that is “missing opportunities” to deliver a green recovery, given that only a small percentage of its post-COVID spending program has been explicitly green. As such, the report urges policymakers to think long-term when crafting spending programs in the fallout from the pandemic, warning that a “one-dimensional focus on short-term economic recovery” risks stoking inequality and the climate emergency. Of the $14.6 trillion invested by these 50 countries to date, only $1.9 trillion has been invested in long-term recovery measures intended to spur economic activity, it notes. UNEP Executive Director Inger Anderson urged policymakers to carefully consider the Global Recovery Observatory report, which collates examples of green recovery spending from around the world and underlines the social benefits that can be unlocked by carefully designed green policies, such as improved health outcomes, energy cost reductions and enhanced food security. “Humanity is facing a pandemic, an economic crisis and an ecological breakdown — we cannot afford to lose on any front,” she said. “Governments have a unique chance to put their countries on sustainable trajectories that prioritize economic opportunity, poverty reduction and planetary health at once — the Observatory gives them the tools to navigate to more sustainable and inclusive recoveries.” The paper identifies five core green policy areas that policymakers should focus on — green energy, low-carbon transport, natural capital, green building upgrades and green research and development (R&D) — and highlights successful green spending programs to date. Some $66.1 billion has been spent on green energy so far, it notes, of which $25.3 billion focused on renewables and $18.5 billion on hydrogen, the latter boosted substantially by major investment programs by France and Germany. Meanwhile, $86.1 billion has been spent on low-carbon transport, $28.9 billion on green research and development and $35.2 billion on green building upgrades, although it is unclear whether this calculation factors in the recent spending cut to the U.K.’s flagship green housing stimulus program, the Green Homes Grant, which saw ministers initially assign $2.1 billion to the scheme before moving to introduce a new budget for 2021/22 of just $448 million. Meanwhile, the report reveals that $56.3 billion has been announced for natural capital or nature-based solutions, highlighting how just 3 percent of all spending is deemed by the report to have “significantly positive characteristics” for nature protection, with 17 percent likely to have a significant negative impact on natural capital. The report also notes how where green spending programs have been announced, they have been disproportionately focused on industrialized nations. It therefore argues that it is critical for advanced economies and multilateral agencies to “generously” support emerging markets and developing economies to meet their green recovery aspirations. Less-developed economies are hamstrung by higher borrowing costs and weaker fiscal positions than their richer counterparts, the report notes, leading to a scenario where on a per capita basis the total spending in advanced economies was 17 times greater than emerging and developing markets. The conclusions reached by UNEP and the University of Oxford match those of an ongoing series of economic reports by Vivid Economics and Finance for Biodiversity, which has been tracking the “greenness” of different countries’ recovery packages since the outbreak of the pandemic. The latest edition, published last month , concluded that governments of the 30 countries surveyed had “largely failed” to harness the opportunity to combine economic recovery with sustainable growth, calculating that just $1.8 trillion of the $4.6 trillion of stimulus spent to date in “environmentally impactful” sectors, such as agriculture, industry, waste, energy and transport, could be deemed “green.” As Europe approaches the one-year anniversary of the first wave of COVID-19 lockdowns, it is clear that policymakers must step up their game and match their much-repeated rhetoric about delivering a green recovery with concrete spending packages that have a net positive impact on nature and climate. They should also look holistically at the program of stimulus packages being unveiled by different branches of government in order to prevent the environmental gains produced by one spending program from being neutralized by the carbon-intensive impacts of another. This holds particularly true in the U.K., as the government faces growing criticism for a lack of joined-up thinking with its climate policies that has allowed for climate and environmental considerations to be sidelined as ministers have rushed to bolster economic activity. You can boost jobs and GDP through new coal mines and domestic flights, but it makes it a lot harder to credibly claim that you are building back better. Pull Quote Humanity is facing a pandemic, an economic crisis and an ecological breakdown — we cannot afford to lose on any front. Topics Climate Change COVID-19 Green New Deal BusinessGreen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Some $66.1 billion of COVID recovery funds have been spent on green energy as of early 2021, of which $25.3 billion focused on renewables and $18.5 billion on hydrogen.

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The (not so) green recovery: New report warns world is failing to ‘build back better’

Has offshore wind’s moment finally arrived?

March 12, 2021 by  
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Has offshore wind’s moment finally arrived? Sarah Golden Fri, 03/12/2021 – 00:30 Want more great analysis of the clean energy transition? Sign up for Energy Weekly , our free email newsletter. The era of American offshore wind finally may be coming to its shores.  This week, the Biden administration backed the first commercial-scale offshore wind farm in the United States: an 800-megawatt project planned off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. The project, known as Vineyard Wind , awaits final sign-off from the Army Corps of Engineers.  The project clearance signals that the political stars finally may be aligning for U.S. offshore wind.  “The demand for offshore wind energy has never been greater,” Laura Daniel Davis, principal deputy assistant secretary of land and minerals at the Department of the Interior, told reporters in a briefing, the Washington Post reported. “The technological advances, falling costs, increased interest and the tremendous economic potential make offshore wind a really promising avenue.” The potential of offshore wind The amount of electricity offshore wind resources could generate worldwide (known as technical potential) is staggering. According to the International Energy Agency , it could provide more than 18 times today’s electricity demand globally — including more than twice the electricity needs of the United States.  Offshore wind also is well-suited to serve population centers. Nearly 40 percent of Americans live near its coasts, despite coastal areas accounting for less than 10 percent of land in the contiguous United States. Offshore deployments could help decarbonize electricity and relieve congestion on the grid for some of the country’s densest population centers — including Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Houston and Seattle.  In the case of the Vineyard Wind project, the electricity will be sent back to Cape Cod via cables buried under the ocean floor, where it will be fed into the New England grid. The project is expected to generate enough power for 400,000 homes.  Why isn’t there more offshore wind in America already? Offshore wind deployments in the U.S. pale in comparison to those in Europe. As of 2019, Europe had 22,100 megawatts of offshore wind capacity — compared to America’s 30 MWs , all for a single farm off Block Island. A big reason projects have had trouble in the U.S.: Really rich people have very nice homes on the coast, and they like their views exactly as they are, thank you very much.  One particularly high-profile failure was Cape Wind , a project that collapsed in 2017 following a 16-year battle with the Kennedy family and billionaire William Koch. Since then, the opposition has become more sophisticated, roping in fishermen and the military into the debate over use of coastal waters.  Vineyard Wind, originally proposed over three years ago , has faced a similar battle, with similar billionaires. But now, two things are different. First, the developers moved the original site several miles south to be out of view of the Kennedy family’s Hyannis compound. Second , a new occupant in the White House is prioritizing decarbonizing the electric grid.  The project could be a model for other offshore wind projects in the U.S. Two dozen offshore wind projects are at varying stages of development along the East Coast.  The economic potential for offshore wind Offshore wind is a largely untapped sector in the U.S., and its growth will mean more clean energy jobs. Some states are positioning themselves to capitalize on the sector.  Last year, New Jersey announced a target to generate 7.5 gigawatts of energy from offshore wind by 2035. It also announced plans for a new wind port, with its sight on capitalizing on the growing demand for offshore wind turbines. State officials see this as more than a clean energy play; it is an opportunity to become a leader in an emerging clean energy sector.  “It’s significant because of the economic advancements it’s going to bring to our state,” Joseph Fiordaliso, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, told me in an interview last year. “It’s significant because of the jobs that it will bring to our state. And, when we’re finished with our offshore wind, millions of New Jersey residents will get energy that’s generated by windmills.” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy wants the state to become the offshore wind hub — a position New York and states including Maine and Texas are vying for. How does offshore wind work? As the name implies, offshore wind are turbines located in open waters — where wind is strong and abundant. As the technology has matured, the turbines have gotten bigger and further out at sea, where wind is even stronger.  In Europe, most offshore wind deployments are in shallow water. In the U.S., the coastal shelf falls off faster. As the turbines get into deeper water, it becomes impractical to affix them to the seabed. Instead, a variety of floating foundations are designed to give the top-heavy turbines stability and stay upright, no matter what scientists say, and appear to stay afloat by magic. Offshore wind and corporate purchase power agreements With falling costs and favorable policies, offshore wind could provide another option for renewable buyers’ procurements.  Orsted, a Danish power company and leader in offshore wind development, has been the developer on two separate corporate offshore wind procurements.  In December, Amazon inked a deal to take 250 MW of power from a planned 900 MW offshore wind farm in Germany, which Orsted called the largest offshore wind corporate power purchase agreement (PPA) to date.  And in July, a Taiwan-based semiconductor company, TSMC , inked what it called the world’s largest PPA from a single project: 920 MW of offshore wind in Taiwan, all to be purchased by TSMC.  If this is truly the beginning of a great offshore wind project thawing in America, options such as these soon may be available in the United States for corporations seeking more options to diversify their energy portfolios.  Topics Renewable Energy Wind Power 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

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FedEx pledges to be carbon neutral by 2040

March 3, 2021 by  
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FedEx pledges to be carbon neutral by 2040 Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 03/03/2021 – 07:26 Global logistics giant FedEx on Wednesday announced a goal to be carbon neutral by 2040. The plan includes a $2 billion investment across electric vehicles, clean energy for operations and a new academic center with Yale focused on capturing carbon. FedEx — which uses over 180,000 vehicles to deliver packages across continents and operates the world’s largest cargo airline — has been implementing sustainability practices for years, but the announcement represents a major acceleration of the company’s commitments. FedEx generates close to $70 billion in annual revenue and has seen its business grow in recent years partly thanks to the boom in global e-commerce.  The fossil fuels used to power the company’s vehicle and airline fleets contribute to 92 percent of FedEx’s carbon footprint, according to its most recent sustainability report . That fuel also accounts for 6 percent of its annual operating budget. Swapping all that diesel and jet fuel with batteries and biofuels won’t be easy. Courtesy of FedEx But FedEx has a goal to move its entire package pickup and delivery fleet to zero emission by 2040. The company says that by 2025, half of FedEx Express’ new package and delivery fleet purchases will be of zero emission vehicles (ZEVs). By 2030, 100 percent of those new purchases will be ZEVs.  FedEx already has made some progress with electric vehicles. In 2019, the company added 400 electric vehicles to its fleet including delivery trucks, forklifts and airport ground service equipment and by the end of that year was operating close to 3,000 EVs. If you’re interested in electric sustainable transportation, subscribe to our newsletter Transport Weekly . Last mile delivery — where a FedEx worker uses a delivery van to move packages from a local distribution center to your front door — is a particularly hot area for electric vehicles. Electric delivery vans are dropping in price and actually can save operators money in places where electricity is cheaper than diesel.  A growing number of large manufacturers, such as GM and Ford, recently also have launched electric delivery van models. FedEx’s carbon neutral news follows the company’s announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show in January that it will be the first customer for GM’s new electric delivery BrightDrop service.  The larger commercial vehicles — such as Class 8 trucks — are more difficult to electrify due to a lack of models from manufacturers and a higher price tag than their diesel equivalent. But the company is piloting ways to move these vehicles, too. FedEx Freight has been working with Tesla to use Tesla electric tractor Semis in its operations. Courtesy of FedEx Charging infrastructure will be a major hurdle, and opportunity, for a global logistics operator such as FedEx. FedEx Express Managing Director of Global Vehicles Russ Musgrove said at the VERGE 20 conference last year that utility infrastructure was his biggest pain point in electrifying the fleet.  Last year FedEx ran a pilot with infrastructure provider ChargePoint, which owns and maintains the charging infrastructure. FedEx Express is developing an electric infrastructure strategy that it says can be used anywhere in the world. Decarbonizing FedEx’s airline fleet will be even more difficult than moving its trucks to batteries. The company has a goal to move its 700-plane airline fleet to 30 percent sustainable aviation fuel — made from bio sources instead of fossil fuels — by 2030. FedEx planned to receive the first shipment of its sustainable aviation fuel in the second half of 2020, although it’s unclear if the company hit that milestone. FedEx is working with Red Rock Biofuels, which is building a facility in Oregon. Courtesy of FedEx Beyond its transportation fleet, FedEx is doubling down on clean energy for its operations and is launching a new academic center with the Yale Center for Natural Carbon Capture. FedEx has committed $100 million to the new center, which will focus on biological and geological ways to capture and store carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide can be captured directly from the air through chemical and biological processes or from the flues of power plants. That CO2 then can be repurposed to make products or stored in places such as underground caverns.  Companies in particularly difficult industries to decarbonize — such as airlines — have shown increased interest in investing in carbon capture technologies.  Topics Supply Chain Transportation & Mobility Carbon Capture Shipping Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of FedEx FedEx Close Authorship

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An inside look at pricing in the forest carbon market

March 2, 2021 by  
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An inside look at pricing in the forest carbon market Wilder Person Tue, 03/02/2021 – 00:05 On June 23, Amazon commenced its $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund to further endeavors to become net-zero by 2040. In January 2020, Microsoft committed to invest $1 billion over the next four years as part of their Climate Innovation Fund. And on July 21, Apple committed to become 100 percent carbon neutral across its entire business, supply chain and product life cycle by 2030.  These commitments and investments along with those of other corporations have created an important source of demand and funding for forest carbon. While much of this capital will be used and already has been used for other carbon removal strategies and technologies, a significant portion of it has been and should continue to be available for forest carbon.  But corporations do not just go directly to and pay landowners willing to conserve their forest. Instead, carbon project developers that act as the intermediaries between the two making everything happen.  There’s also a problem: Despite the billions of dollars put forth for carbon removal, the price per forest carbon credit is still not high enough to prompt a critical mass of owners to stop traditional harvesting and start the carbon-credit adventure. Currently, the average price per credit in the voluntary market is about $4 to $6 and in the compliance market it ranges between $12 and $14, according to two companies.  To better understand how forest carbon projects are conducted, the CFN interviewed three carbon project developers, EP Carbon (formerly Ecopartners), Bluesource and Finite Carbon. In spite of their respective success, all three developers have different business strategies. Finite Carbon specializes in forest carbon projects and puts emphasis on understanding landowners’ needs and how carbon strategies can fit into and be a part of forest management. EP Carbon uses innovation and creativity to make carbon projects and their accompanying standards work for an eclectic range of landowners. Bluesource takes on many project types beyond forest carbon and tailors their process not only to landowners but to corporations as well by making marketing a top priority.  At their core the developers use landowners’ property parameters — the diameter at breast height (DBH) of their trees, tree heights and tree species to derive carbon credit totals under different standards. If the landowners think the potential revenue generated by the credit totals is enough and they want to proceed with the project, then the developers will enact the project for them with a contract. Lastly, the developers market and sell the credits to corporations and then return the revenues to the landowners.  Nonetheless, there are various ways to go about doing this. For starters, geographies may vary for each carbon project developer. Central Appalachia and the old pulp and paper regions of Maine, the lake states, northern New England and upstate New York are hot project areas for Bluesource. However, most of Finite Carbon’s projects — 70 percent by volume — are west of the Mississippi River. EP Carbon on the other hand, takes a much more international approach. It has conducted projects in the United States as well as South America, Central America, Africa, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.  Domestically, landowners in the old pulp and paper regions want compensation for their pulp and paper wood without having to cut it. Thus, the price per credit problem is less of an issue in these areas and Bluesource has made a point to capitalize on them. Central Appalachia is also a popular spot for Bluesource because property on mountainous terrain is not heavily managed nor expected to generate tons of revenue, which helps to avoid the price per credit dilemma as well. There is also an abundance of hardwoods in this region, which have more carbon content than pines.  Despite the billions of dollars put forth for carbon removal, the price per forest carbon credit is still not high enough to prompt a critical mass of owners to stop traditional harvesting. EP Carbon’s focus on the international voluntary market has led it to using different standards and protocols from Bluesource and Finite Carbon. It tends to use Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), which is more geared for international and REDD+ projects, whereas Bluesource makes more use of the American Carbon Registry (ACR) Standard for their abundance of voluntary projects. And Finite Carbon leans more on the California Compliance Standard, as it conduct more compliance projects.  The VCS and many of EP Carbon’s projects are geared toward stopping deforestation threats and land conversion in the global south. While these projects present their own set of difficulties, focusing on them is an effective way to avoid the typical scenario in which a landowner finds that harvesting their trees is more profitable than a carbon project.  Finite Carbon has a different way of dealing with this problem. Unlike Bluesource and EP Carbon, Finite Carbon specializes in forestry carbon projects. This strategy is baked into Finite’s staff as well. Many worked in conservation or forestry before coming to Finite. “Having focused solely on forestry projects, Finite has a grasp on forest management, land use protection and conservation,” said Dylan Jenkins, vice president of portfolio development at Finite Carbon. Taking this approach has allowed Finite to really understand landowners and given them a knack for implementing carbon strategies into landowners’ pre-existing management regimes. This is something that developers struggle with, as many landowners do not want to change their preset regimes nor like the idea of having their trees or part of their property locked into a long-term agreement. Making carbon projects more convenient for landowners and figuring out how they can exist in harmony with their harvests has allowed Finite to overcome these problems and the price per credit dilemma on many properties.  In contrast, Bluesource has seen their own advantages by conducting additional carbon project types, such as Ag Methane, Acid Gas Injection, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Carbon Capture. “This has allowed Bluesource to not only expand their buyer network but to have more set-in-stone buyers as well,” said Aaron Paul, director of forest carbon origination at Bluesource. Taking on a range of carbon credit projects also gives Bluesource the ability to make entire footprint reports for their clients.  Similar to Bluesource, EP Carbon goes beyond forestry and includes grassland, shrubland, wetlands, mangroves, dry land savanna, and water or blue carbon projects. Some of these projects are done on their own but EP Carbon also combines them with forest carbon projects when appropriate. This allows EP Carbon to generate more revenue for landowners and to make the projects more attractive for them than just harvesting their trees.  EP Carbon also makes a point to be very flexible when it comes to standards. While it makes use of the VCS for international projects, it does not wed themselves to any one standard. It uses whichever standards are the best fit for their clients for each project even if the standards would not customarily be used for the given projects. Unlike many developers, EP Carbon pushes the standards to the limit and bends them to make them work for its projects, despite the standards’ strict constraints. “Our projects are more experimental and creative; they push the boundaries of the field,” said Zach Barbane, director of projects and operations at EP Carbon. This EP Carbon approach is effective for incorporating more landowners and is another way to overcome low prices per credit.  Bluesource and Finite take a very different and much more systematic approach. Nonetheless, Bluesource controls most of the United States’ voluntary market. Likewise, Finite has procured 45 percent of all California Compliance forestry offsets, which makes up 37 percent of all California Compliance offsets. (Both work in both forms of markets.) By sticking to the same standards and perfecting their compliance to them, both developers have become accustomed to applying standards to various properties. This has allowed Bluesource and Finite to make carbon projects work for a lot of landowners.  Unlike many developers, EP Carbon pushes the standards to the limit and bends them to make them work for its projects, despite the standards’ strict constraints. Yet the price per credit dilemma still keeps many landowners from implementing carbon projects. One of the main underlying problems that amplifies this dilemma is that small landowners with less than 5,000 acres typically cannot overcome the inventorying and verification costs associated with carbon projects.  To address this issue, EP Carbon developed an app and separate company, Forest Carbon Works (FCW). The app allows for the proper tree measurements for carbon projects to be taken on a smartphone. This has reduced the inventorying costs associated with the projects, making them more accessible for those with less land. As a company FCW also gives special attention to small landowners and tailors its process and services to their forest carbon needs. FCW has been verified by the California Air Resources Board and has enabled many landowners to pursue carbon projects. EP Carbon should feel good about using its innovative thinking to help bring small landowners to the carbon table. Finite Carbon has also made an effort to reach small landowners with its new small business and device, CORE Carbon. This digital platform estimates the amount of carbon that is in a given forested area with a general geospatial outline of the property and remotely sensed data.  Accordingly, with CORE Carbon boots on the ground inventorying is not required and forest carbon projects are much more affordable for small landowners. Unfortunately, even if both new technologies scale and inventorying becomes significantly cheaper, an average of about $10 per credit still will make harvesting more attractive for many both small and large landowners. Even large scale timberland investment management organizations (TIMOs) with millions of acres of land are not ready to implement carbon projects on their properties. Many TIMOs think at $10 a credit, harvesting is just the more economic decision.  Nonetheless, EP Carbon, Bluesource and Finite Carbon have all found unique ways to circumvent the low price per credit predicament and implement carbon projects despite it.  Bluesource has conserved more than 2.3 million acres of forested land and has generated over $182 million of revenue for landowners. EP Carbon has protected over 13 million acres of forested land and abated more than 260 million tons of carbon. And Finite Carbon has conserved more than 3.1 million acres of forested land and has produced over $720 million of revenue for landowners. But think about all of the tons of carbon that these three developers could abate and all of the acres of forest land they could conserve if the price per credit were higher.  Pull Quote Despite the billions of dollars put forth for carbon removal, the price per forest carbon credit is still not high enough to prompt a critical mass of owners to stop traditional harvesting. Unlike many developers, EP Carbon pushes the standards to the limit and bends them to make them work for its projects, despite the standards’ strict constraints. Topics Finance & Investing Carbon Removal Forestry Forestry Carbon Pricing Conservation Finance Network Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off To date the price for a ton of forest carbon has stayed stable, making growth tricky. //Image courtesy of Conservation Finance Network.

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An inside look at pricing in the forest carbon market

Walgreens Boots Alliance exec talks plastic, packaging and COVID-19

March 1, 2021 by  
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Walgreens Boots Alliance exec talks plastic, packaging and COVID-19 Deonna Anderson Mon, 03/01/2021 – 01:45 Walgreens is a fixture in the United States. About 78 percent of the U.S. population lived within five miles of a Walgreens or Duane Reade store as of August, according to the company. And the company has even more properties under the parent organization, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA). WBA employs more than 450,000 people in more than 25 countries and during the fiscal year that ended in August, it had sales that added up to $139.5 billion. I recently spoke with Richard Ellis, vice president of corporate social responsibility (CSR) at WBA, via Zoom. At the time of our conversation in early February, one of the most pressing items on Ellis’ priority list was releasing WBA’s 2020 CSR report and tooting the company’s horn.  “Given all of the other things that companies need to communicate and want to talk about, we have perhaps missed a few tricks in the past in terms of the way in which we have told our people about what we have been doing, what we have been achieving,” Ellis said. He noted that the virtual release event had the potential to reach the 450,000 people that the company employs, much more than was typical at in-person releases in the before times. Ellis said he hoped the event would help those in attendance “feel really proud of the company that they work for.” During our conversation, we also discussed Ellis’ long-term CSR priorities, the company’s packaging goals and its partnership with Loop. Below is our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity. Deonna Anderson: I want to start with a level-setting question. Before doing research for this interview, I did not realize how big Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) is. You have retailers in the U.K. with Boots and Walgreens and Duane Reade in the U.S. and your wholesale business. With all of that in mind, how do you set your sustainability goals, and how these entities work together, if they do at all, to achieve your goals? Richard Ellis: In some respects, it goes back 20 years. Twenty years ago, I joined the Boots business when it was just a U.K. business. I joined Boots because it had come bottom in the first “Companies That Count” survey that an organization called Business in the Community had put together. And the company felt that that was wrong. So I spent probably four years putting together a program and a structure and a process that enabled Boots to become in the top three in the U.K. We then merged with Alliance UniChem, a European-based retailer and wholesaler. They quite liked the process that existed for Boots, so it was adopted by all of the Alliance UniChem companies that became the Alliance Boots business. When the Alliance Boots business then moved with Walgreens, [it] did not have a process, so they picked up and copied what Alliance Boots was doing. In a sense, the process has been 20 years in evolution rather than Walgreens, Boots and Alliance coming together and then the company searching for something to do.  If you go back 15 years, and you look at the first CSR report, then there are certain elements of it that have not changed in terms of the auditing, in terms of the following of a process that is laid down by the Global Reporting Initiative, etc. This agenda has been at the heart of the various iterations of the company. And now Walgreens Boots Alliance, employing over 400,000 people, it is a major company, and clearly this is an important agenda for any international business. Anderson: I wanted to talk through some of WBA’s sustainability ambitions. One of those is reducing plastics in Boots-owned brand packaging, in line with the UK Plastics Pact 2025 . How are you all doing that? How is it going so far? Ellis: When the Plastics Pact came along, it was formulating and putting in place a series of targets to capitalize upon work that we were already doing. So, when the Plastics Pact came out it was not something that was completely new to us. However, having a program [meant] there were targets we had to set up and start measuring and doing all these sorts of things. It is not one big thing but it is just a series of all of the actions that we take as a company to try to remove plastic from all of the things that we do and to try and then reuse what plastic we have in some way, shape or form. And basically, everything that has got plastic in it, we are looking and seeing how we can remove it. And that means that we have to collaborate with our suppliers and we have to educate our people internally in terms of the circular economy and how we recycle things. One of the things that we do is we backhaul all of the rubbish from the stores. A lorry [a large motor truck] makes a delivery to a store and it collects all of the waste from that particular store and it brings that waste back to a central recycling center, which is on the Nottingham side of the Boots business. This enables us to then segregate all of the different waste and then to recycle and then resell, reuse, all of those sorts of things. For argument’s sake, Christmas is an important time for Boots so they have lots of Christmas gifts, and this year we reduced the amount of plastic packaging that there was and other packaging by 270 tons. It is about the people in our marketing department understanding that perhaps it is not all that glitters is gold. In other words, they are removing some of the packaging to make the product more sustainable than perhaps using the packaging to make a product look slightly better. If you go into our distribution centers, there are seven different-colored waste bins and those waste bins enable us to segregate plastic.  It is not one big thing but it is just a series of all of the actions that we take as a company to try to remove plastic from all of the things that we do and to try and then reuse what plastic we have in some way, shape or form.  Anderson: One of WBA’s other sustainability efforts is related to rethinking consumption and waste management and trying to promote a circular economy. That reminded me of Walgreens’ partnership with Loop to sell products in reusable containers. How would you describe that partnership as fitting into WBA’s goals around packaging? Ellis: It is one of those initiatives that we are looking at because we are trying to learn all of the time. Loop has very much done in partnership with Kroger, who we have a collaboration with. I think the idea that you can buy refillable contents is something that interests us greatly. One of the things that we are experimenting with is people bringing in shampoo bottles and being able to refill them with the same product. Now, one of the problems that we have got is that because shampoo is a liquid, how do we improve the kind of lock and load where you twist the [top] or you affix the bottle so that you can refill it, so that it does not go everywhere, create a mess and cause lots of waste? If you look at the distribution centers in America, there is a project called Beyond 34 because no American city recycles more than 34 percent of the waste that it produces. Across our distribution center network, we have got that up to 98 percent, and that is all about reusing the packaging, reusing the totes, reusing the boxes, working with suppliers. This is all the circular economy in practice. And I think the big issue is that it is about collaboration. From our point of view, the work that we do with Unilever, with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), with Johnson & Johnson in trying to manage all of these issues shows that the big international businesses have woken up to the challenges, which exist and realized that they are not going to solve them on their own. Anderson: It is kind of impossible to solve them all alone as one company because the problem is huge.  I read a recap of a Reuters event where you spoke, and you mentioned that working together with other companies and through your supply chain will be necessary to increase climate action after COVID-19. How else has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your work at Walgreens Boots Alliance or the approach you feel your company should take moving forward with taking climate action? Ellis: I think COVID has forced businesses to look very carefully at the way that they operate. And people like myself who have been working from home would never have believed that we could work for a year without, for argument’s sake, me traveling to America. I used to spend half my time in Chicago and other points, but in the past year, I have not been once. But using Microsoft Teams, I have been able to keep in touch with all of the people that work for me and all of those other departments that I have engagement with. And I would never have believed that it would be possible to keep the agenda moving forward, but the technology has really come into play and has helped a great deal.  I think we are just coming to terms with how COVID-19 will change the businesses that we operate. I think that what we will see within the retail business is that there will be much, much more online shopping. I think people have, shall we say, graduated to online shopping. And I think a lot of people, because they have been in lockdown, because they have been worried about contracting the COVID virus, what they have done is they have battled with their tablets and they have actually gotten used to online shopping. And so, that, I think, is going to have a big role to play in the way that we operate as a business. Climate change will not be reversible in the same way that COVID will be — hopefully — by a vaccine. I can see that we will learn lessons and we will start to think about how we trade and how we operate. I think lots of retailers are closing outlets because people are finding alternative ways of shopping. And I think that COVID has acted as a catalyst and has really got people thinking differently about the way that they operate. And I think businesses like ours are having to really sit up and take notice and start to change their philosophies and the way in which they operate. And I think that the impact of COVID in terms of it is the first real crisis that has impacted the whole world since the end of the Second World War, and I think people can see that as climate change starts to take effect [that] climate change will be a much worse impact than COVID. And it will not be cured by a vaccine.  If you look at Phoenix, last year Phoenix [broke the record for days with] temperatures above 100 degrees . You cannot live under those conditions. And if the number continues to rise, then there will be a huge migration of people. Similarly, people will not [be able to] live in California where the forest fires are or in Florida where Hurricane Alley is. All of those things are starting to make people aware of climate change and how climate change will impact all of us, and that climate change will not be reversible in the same way that COVID will be, hopefully, by a vaccine.  Anderson: I want to switch gears a bit. Are there any lessons in the corporate social responsibility report that we have not talked about that you feel are important lessons for GreenBiz readers? Ellis: As you read through our report, it is littered with examples of how we have worked with different people, with different organizations, how we have worked by sharing best practice across our businesses, the fact that we are operating in 26 countries, and that we can learn from each other. The rules and regulations that exist in Europe are different to America, and what can we learn from that? Why is that? How can we create a better, more sustainable business because we are sharing that best practice, because we work collaboratively internally as well as externally? And I think that is what comes through within the report in terms of how do we create healthier communities, how do we create a healthier environment, how do we create a healthier workplace? What do we do to make our products more sustainable? And all of those things are happening because we are trying to innovate but we are also trying to learn from others who have greater expertise or who want to work with us. Anderson: That reminds me of one of my last questions, which is about Walgreens welcoming a new CEO soon , Roz Brewer . How do you anticipate working together with her to continue pushing forward WBA’s social responsibility efforts? Ellis: I am very much looking forward to working with her from what I have seen of Starbucks in terms of their commitment to fair trade with all of their coffee products, in terms of their packaging, and what is in the public domain about what Starbucks has done. There are very similar parallels between ourselves and Starbucks. I am looking forward to learning some of the lessons that she might have picked up from Starbucks and bringing those to play in what we do. Equally, I’m looking forward to explaining to her all of the things that we have been doing over the past 20 years to try and make our business more sustainable. Anderson: As you just mentioned, you have been in corporate social responsibility work for a while. What is your most important priority right now as the VP of corporate social responsibility at Walgreens Boots Alliance? Ellis: In the long term, it is climate change, climate emissions. I really think that we have got to continue on our path. If you look at the report, it shows that we reduced our carbon footprint last year by 7.9 percent. And really, what we have got to do is to work with our suppliers — and I do not just mean the Unilevers of this world; I mean a lot of the small-to-medium-size firms — and impress upon them the need to reduce their carbon footprint. And what we have got to do is help them understand the things that we have done over the past 20 years, which have enabled us year on year to reduce our carbon footprint because it is better for the world and we are saving money for the company. Pull Quote Climate change will not be reversible in the same way that COVID will be — hopefully — by a vaccine. It is not one big thing but it is just a series of all of the actions that we take as a company to try to remove plastic from all of the things that we do and to try and then reuse what plastic we have in some way, shape or form. Topics Retail Corporate Social Responsibility Collective Insight The GreenBiz Interview Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Walgreens Boots Alliance.

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Walgreens Boots Alliance exec talks plastic, packaging and COVID-19

In stopping climate change, time is as important as tech

March 1, 2021 by  
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In stopping climate change, time is as important as tech Jonathan Foley Mon, 03/01/2021 – 01:30 This article originally appeared on the author’s personal blog, and was written in that capacity. Italics are the author’s. The only sure path to stop climate change is to zero out greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. That’s it. As simple as this sounds, it’s going to be an  enormous  job,  requiring hard work  over the coming decades. But I find that most people don’t understand the time dimensions of the problem very well. A useful way to think about the effort and timescales required is to consider the ” Carbon Law ,” which was coined by my friend Johan Rockström. Despite the name, this isn’t a physical “law” of the universe but rather a set of recommendations. So, what does the Carbon Law say? It says to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius, as outlined in the Paris Accords, we need to severely restrict the  total, cumulative amount of greenhouse gases  we release into the atmosphere moving forward. This idea is called the  “remaining carbon budget”  and refers to how much carbon dioxide (and other gases) we can still emit before warming the planet beyond a particular target. The more we burn, the warmer the planet gets. To keep within the remaining carbon budget for 2 degrees C, we have to cut our emissions drastically, reaching net-zero emissions as soon as possible. But cutting emissions takes time, so we have to find a balance between the severity and speed of these efforts. The Carbon Law outlines a possible path forward. It shows how we can limit the cumulative amount of greenhouse gases we emit in the future and quickly reach “net-zero” emissions. The path illustrated by the Carbon Law limits the warming of the planet to less than 2 degreesC while giving us some time to make the transition. But the speed and severity of the required cuts are still breathtaking. According to the Carbon Law, we need to peak greenhouse gas emissions roughly now — and then cut them in half in the 2020s. That’s not all. The Carbon Law says we need to cut them in half again in the 2030s. And then in half again in the 2040s. Alongside these deep emissions cuts, the Carbon Law suggests ramping up carbon removal projects , which will take many years to develop and deploy at sufficient scale, between now and 2050. Together, leading with steep emissions cuts early on, with carbon removal building up later, we can get to “net-zero” emissions around 2050, limit our cumulative emissions moving forward, and limit global warming to 2 degrees C. Let me illustrate how this might work with a simplified version of the Carbon Law. Historically, greenhouse gas emissions rose from about 27 Gigatons-CO2equivalent/year in 1970 to about 50 Gt-CO2e/yr in 2020. According to the Carbon Law, we need to stop this rise and hit peak emissions as soon as possible (Figure 1). Figure 1. Historical Greenhouse Gas Emissions. This includes all anthropogenic greenhouse gases, not just CO2. The total is expressed as an equivalent amount of CO2, using a single “global warming potential” for a 100-year window. Data from IPCC and the Global Carbon Project. Graphic by Jonathan Foley © 2021. Then we should cut emissions by about 50 percent in this decade, bringing them down to about 25 Gt-CO2e/yr around 2030 (Figure 2). Notice that this is a much steeper decline than the emissions rise that came before. It’s a  big  cut, no matter how you look at it. Figure 2. A simplified version of the Carbon Law, where we cut total emissions by ~50 percent in the first decade. (In the original Carbon Law paper, the authors considered energy & industrial emissions separately from land use. Here I combined them for simplicity. The general lesson is the same.) To achieve such rapid cuts in emissions, we need to deploy the fastest possible climate solutions. To me, this would include halting climate-destructive practices such as tropical deforestation, flaring and fugitive emissions of methane, and “black carbon” emissions from biomass burning, dirty cookstoves and other sources. These would have an immediate effect on the atmosphere. Other “quick wins” can come from rapid and cost-effective improvements in efficiency. There are  enormous  opportunities to be more efficient with electricity (especially in buildings and industry), food (where about 30–40 percent is wasted globally), industrial processes, transportation (higher fuel efficiency, more alternative transportation), and buildings (improved building envelopes, building automation and reduced refrigerant leaks). In addition, we will have to rapidly shut down fossil fuel energy sources and deploy renewable energy systems across the planet as quickly as possible. But given the enormous physical infrastructure and capital involved, this inevitably will take time. Even the most aggressive scenarios of this energy transition require the 2020s and 2030s to complete. We are in a race to stop climate change, and we will have to use the fastest solutions we’ve got. And those are usually the ones already on the shelf. After cutting emissions by about 50 percent in the 2020s, we have to keep going and cut emissions in half again in the 2030s and in the 2040s (Figure 3). Figure 3. And then we cut emissions by another ~50 percent in the 2030s and 2040s. I wish we could cut emissions to zero, period, before 2050, but this framework acknowledges that it may be very difficult to eliminate  all  greenhouse gas emissions by then. We’ll see. But if we assume that  some  emissions may continue in the 2040s, we will need to start relying on  carbon removal  — powered by nature (with trees, soil, or oceans) or technology. A lot of business and technology leaders are  very  enthusiastic about carbon removal right now. But don’t get too excited just yet. It’s going to take a  long time  to make a difference. In fact, the total sum of carbon removal projects done to date — whether with trees, crops, cattle, rock weathering, or technology —  isn’t even measurable in the atmosphere yet . Because carbon removal projects are still  very  small, the Carbon Law allows time for them to spin up between now and 2050 (Figure 4). In this scenario, carbon removal starts to take off in the 2030s and 2040s. Figure 4. As we cut emissions heavily in the first decades of the Carbon Law approach, we allow time for carbon removal projects to scale up by the 2040s, balancing out the remaining emissions. Together, the drastic cuts in emissions, front-loaded to the 2020s, with ongoing cuts in the 2030s and 2040s, combined with the ramp-up of large-scale carbon removal by the 2040s, would help us achieve net-zero emissions around 2050 (Figure 5). Figure 5. Together, the steep emissions cuts today and gradual increase in carbon removal later lets us reach net-zero by 2050. It’s important to stress this is  one possible way  we can stop climate change in the future. How we actually get there will likely be different. But the Carbon Law teaches us to focus on  deep and rapid  emissions cuts first, with continued cuts for decades, followed by the gradual build-out of carbon removal later. This sounds reasonable, but the most challenging part — that worries me the most — is that we have to  cut emissions   in half this decade. That’s a huge job, no matter how you look at it. To put this in perspective, the Carbon Law says we have to cut emissions more in this decade than emissions grew in the  previous five decades combined . Figure 6. A huge amount of the work we need to do today, according to the Carbon Law, is reduce emissions by 50 percent before 2030. How are we going to cut emissions in half in a decade? Simply put: We need to act  fast , without delay. We have to start with tools on hand, and not wait for new ones that may (or may not) appear in the future. This is important to remember. Time  is the most crucial parameter here, not whether we have the best possible tools. We have already squandered decades debating and denying climate change — a form of ” predatory delay ” that benefitted big polluters. But we’ve wasted all the time we can, and we cannot delay any longer. We will need to do everything we can to cut emissions in half during this decade. That means no more waiting. No more delays. Not even well-intended ones, including waiting for better technologies that can help reduce emissions a little better. We have to get started today and fold in any new tools that become available as we go along. As venture capitalist and entrepreneur  Ibrahim AlHusseini  likes to say,  “Now is better than new.”  And he’s right. I’d maybe add, ” Time is as important as tech.” Topics Climate Change Corporate Strategy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Image by Shutterstory/BrAt82

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In stopping climate change, time is as important as tech

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