Can we finally standardize ESG standards?

January 19, 2021 by  
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Can we finally standardize ESG standards? Tim Mohin Tue, 01/19/2021 – 01:00 Most GreenBiz readers are well aware of the complex sustainability reporting landscape. It seems like every year new reporting standards or frameworks are added to the overstuffed workload of the corporate sustainability professional. As the former chief executive of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), I had a role in the ongoing movement to “standardize the standards” that companies use to report their sustainability results. I also worked on the corporate side (Intel, Apple and AMD) and have a deep appreciation of the work that goes into these reports. Over the years, there has been more talk than action on reducing confusion and burden in the reporting space. To be fair, some of the burden is self-inflicted by companies that insist on publishing 100-plus page sustainability reports. Over the years, there has been more talk than action on reducing confusion and burden in the reporting space. As we enter 2021, there are strong signals of meaningful change in the sustainability reporting world. Three main trends are emerging: Mandatory disclosure: Policymakers are increasingly requiring ESG disclosure around the world . For example, the European Union (EU) will tighten its “Non-Financial Reporting Directive” in 2021 , which requires environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosure from companies with more than 500 employees doing business in the EU. And it’s likely that the incoming U.S. administration will introduce new ESG mandates as well. Investor demand: There were record inflows to ESG investment funds in 2020 and the total tops $40 trillion — larger than the entire U.S. economy . Major asset managers such as BlackRock are using their ownership stake to pressure companies to improve their ESG disclosures. Consolidated ESG standards: Recently, four leading ESG standards organizations — GRI, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB); CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project); the Carbon Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB); and the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) — declared their intent to collaborate . While this is a welcome signal, all of this work could be rendered moot by the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation’s proposal to develop ESG standards . One hundred twenty countries use the IFRS Standards as the foundation for company financial disclosure, making it more than likely that these countries will endorse and require companies to use the new ESG standards. The IFRS Foundation received more than 500 comment letters on its sustainability standards proposal with many key stakeholders in support . Given the momentum, the IFRS Foundation seems well-positioned to accomplish the elusive goal of a single global ESG standard I have stated publicly and will reiterate here that I strongly support the IFRS action. A globally accepted ESG standard will improve the quality and comparability of disclosure, unlocking investment and trade that will improve, rather than ignore, the sustainability needs of society. But there are several key challenges to address: 1. Materiality: The mission of the IFRS Foundation is “to develop standards that bring transparency, accountability and efficiency to financial markets around the world.” The concerns of financial markets are a subset of the broader concerns of sustainability. The IFRS Foundation must adopt a broader view to create transparency for sustainability issues that may not yet be financially material to companies or investors but are very important from a sustainability lens. Many companies already report on ESG matters beyond the scope of financial materiality and, as we saw in the pandemic, the definition of materiality is fluid and dynamic. It’s crucial that the IFRS articulates a strategy to straddle the boundary of “dual materiality,” enabling transparency on issues important for financial reasons and important to people and the planet. 2. Comparability: Many have criticized the lack of comparability in sustainability disclosures. Sustainability, unlike financial matters, includes a vast array of disparate issues that are not easily compared. An example is reporting on gender diversity vs. greenhouse gas emissions: Both are well within the scope of sustainability reporting, but obviously can be neither compared nor offset. As such factors cannot be reasonably merged into a sustainability score, they must be compared within the boundaries of the topic. The IFRS should emphasize the inherent lack of comparability between disparate ESG issues. To enhance ESG comparability, the IFRS should consider the concepts in the International Business Council/World Economic Forum report: ” Measuring Stakeholder Capitalism: Towards Common Metrics and Consistent Reporting of Sustainable Value Creation .” It outlines a series of universal metrics drawn from existing ESG standards. Setting aside the selection of the metrics, universally required disclosures will provide greater consistency of reporting across sectors and thus increase the quality and comparability of reporting. 3. Capabilities: The IFRS’s competency and credibility in the development of globally accepted financial disclosure standards makes them a natural hub for this work. But, because they have little experience with ESG issues, they will need to hire staff with sustainability credentials. And as they develop the standards, the IFRS must engage recognized experts in each respective topic that represent all relevant sectors, geographies and stakeholders. Blending sustainability expertise with the IFRS core competencies will not be easy, but is essential for the success of this proposal. 4. Technology: The sad fact is that the tools for gathering, auditing and reporting sustainability information are poor. The IFRS should incorporate the latest reporting technology into its sustainability standards. Information technology will not only reduce the burden of reporting, it will make it more actionable. Technology also will improve the quality of reporting, thus making it more reliable for investors and stakeholders and thus more effective in driving sustainability benefits. After 35 years working in this field, it’s rewarding to see the rapid maturation of the sustainability movement. By taking on ESG standards, the IFRS Foundation is forging a path toward a global common language for sustainability. It is also confirming that sustainability has moved into the mainstream of global commerce. In essence, this signals the alignment of capitalism with the needs of people and our planet — and not a moment too soon. Pull Quote Over the years, there has been more talk than action on reducing confusion and burden in the reporting space. Topics Standards & Certification ESG GreenFin Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Can we finally standardize ESG standards?

Take your sustainable lifestyle to the next level in 2021

January 1, 2021 by  
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Are you already recycling? Carrying around a refillable water bottle rather than contributing to the ocean-bound plastic problem? Composting your food scraps? That’s all commendable, but there’s more to be done to achieve a net-zero lifestyle. If you’re ready to up your environmental commitment this year (and hold larger entities accountable along the way), here are a few ideas — some more dramatic than others — for sustainable resolutions in 2021. Get rid of your car If you have a car , sell or donate it. Once you’ve unloaded the gas guzzler, do your errands on foot or by bike. If you don’t have your own bike, join your city’s bike-share program. With proper COVID-19 precautions, take public transportation for longer distances. Related: The pros and cons of electromobility Ditch the plastic liners Do you know how long those kitchen trash bags take to decompose? Anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years. Instead, go au naturel and regularly clean your trash, recycling and compost containers. Change your laundering style Did you know that most of the energy it takes to run a washing machine comes from heating the water? Only 10% of energy is for working the machine, so switch to cold-water washing . Once your clothes are clean, hang them to dry. If you live somewhere sunny and have space for a clothesline, this won’t be too hard. If you live somewhere cold and rainy, see if you can hang an inside clothesline or set up a drying rack. But if this is impractical and you must run the dryer, make sure it’s fairly full so you make the most of the energy. Dryers are the third-biggest energy hogs in the average house, after the refrigerator and washer. Forget the lawn Lawns are a huge waste of space and resources. In the U.S., people spray about 3 trillion gallons of water on them every year, use 800 million gallons of gas in their lawnmowers and treat them with nearly 80 million pounds of pesticides . But who are we trying to impress with this golf course-looking terrain around our homes? Instead, go with xeriscaping or planting vegetables. Let clover take over, or fill your yard with pollinator-friendly plants. Control your climate Invest in ways to weatherize your home and lifestyle year-round. If you have the money and own a home, a heat pump can cut your energy use in half. Try low-tech solutions like wearing thicker socks and a fleece bathrobe over your clothes so that you don’t need to turn the heater up as much in winter. Add an extra blanket to the bed, and turn your thermostat down at least seven degrees at night. You use about 1% less energy per eight hours for every degree you turn it down. In summer, air conditioning is a massive energy hog. Three-quarters of U.S. homes have air conditioners, which use 6% of the total electricity produced in the nation, according to Energy Saver . Annual cost? About $29 billion dollars and 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide released. If you must use AC, don’t set it so low. Add insulation to your house. Wear a bikini. Eat more ice pops. Sweat a little, it won’t hurt you. Go vegan Yes, Meatless Mondays are a terrific start. But this year, try adding Tuesday. And Wednesday. Et cetera. A University of Oxford study concluded that cutting out meat and dairy could reduce your carbon footprint by 73%. “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said lead author Joseph Poore, as reported by The Independent . Boycott new One way to stop supporting the constant addition to more junk in the waste stream is to boycott buying anything new (excluding food, prescriptions or emergency items). Perhaps you already enjoy thrifting and flea markets. If so, committing to buying nothing new might be a fun challenge. Make 2021 your year of browsing the free libraries, finding your new look at a garage sale and swapping useful items with other folks in your neighborhood. Set up regular donations to environmental organizations Just about every organization needs your help right now. Whether you prefer whales or bats, oceans or rivers, an environmental charity exists that would greatly appreciate your recurring donation, even if it’s just five bucks a month. Control your food waste The U.S. is one of the top countries for food waste in the world, tossing almost 40 million tons annually. Most of this food goes to landfills. In fact, food waste is the second-largest component of the average American landfill behind paper. This year, commit to only buy what you’ll eat and to eat what you buy. If you don’t already compost, get yourself a compost bin and throw in all your banana peels, coffee grounds, etc. Get political On the most basic level, vote. Beyond that, support causes you believe in by writing letters to your politicians or boycotting companies that are contributing to the global climate crisis. Attend town hall meetings with your local or state representatives. If you have the time, energy, resources and moxie, run for office. Images via Adobe Stock

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Take your sustainable lifestyle to the next level in 2021

Take your sustainable lifestyle to the next level in 2021

January 1, 2021 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

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Are you already recycling? Carrying around a refillable water bottle rather than contributing to the ocean-bound plastic problem? Composting your food scraps? That’s all commendable, but there’s more to be done to achieve a net-zero lifestyle. If you’re ready to up your environmental commitment this year (and hold larger entities accountable along the way), here are a few ideas — some more dramatic than others — for sustainable resolutions in 2021. Get rid of your car If you have a car , sell or donate it. Once you’ve unloaded the gas guzzler, do your errands on foot or by bike. If you don’t have your own bike, join your city’s bike-share program. With proper COVID-19 precautions, take public transportation for longer distances. Related: The pros and cons of electromobility Ditch the plastic liners Do you know how long those kitchen trash bags take to decompose? Anywhere from 10 to 1,000 years. Instead, go au naturel and regularly clean your trash, recycling and compost containers. Change your laundering style Did you know that most of the energy it takes to run a washing machine comes from heating the water? Only 10% of energy is for working the machine, so switch to cold-water washing . Once your clothes are clean, hang them to dry. If you live somewhere sunny and have space for a clothesline, this won’t be too hard. If you live somewhere cold and rainy, see if you can hang an inside clothesline or set up a drying rack. But if this is impractical and you must run the dryer, make sure it’s fairly full so you make the most of the energy. Dryers are the third-biggest energy hogs in the average house, after the refrigerator and washer. Forget the lawn Lawns are a huge waste of space and resources. In the U.S., people spray about 3 trillion gallons of water on them every year, use 800 million gallons of gas in their lawnmowers and treat them with nearly 80 million pounds of pesticides . But who are we trying to impress with this golf course-looking terrain around our homes? Instead, go with xeriscaping or planting vegetables. Let clover take over, or fill your yard with pollinator-friendly plants. Control your climate Invest in ways to weatherize your home and lifestyle year-round. If you have the money and own a home, a heat pump can cut your energy use in half. Try low-tech solutions like wearing thicker socks and a fleece bathrobe over your clothes so that you don’t need to turn the heater up as much in winter. Add an extra blanket to the bed, and turn your thermostat down at least seven degrees at night. You use about 1% less energy per eight hours for every degree you turn it down. In summer, air conditioning is a massive energy hog. Three-quarters of U.S. homes have air conditioners, which use 6% of the total electricity produced in the nation, according to Energy Saver . Annual cost? About $29 billion dollars and 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide released. If you must use AC, don’t set it so low. Add insulation to your house. Wear a bikini. Eat more ice pops. Sweat a little, it won’t hurt you. Go vegan Yes, Meatless Mondays are a terrific start. But this year, try adding Tuesday. And Wednesday. Et cetera. A University of Oxford study concluded that cutting out meat and dairy could reduce your carbon footprint by 73%. “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said lead author Joseph Poore, as reported by The Independent . Boycott new One way to stop supporting the constant addition to more junk in the waste stream is to boycott buying anything new (excluding food, prescriptions or emergency items). Perhaps you already enjoy thrifting and flea markets. If so, committing to buying nothing new might be a fun challenge. Make 2021 your year of browsing the free libraries, finding your new look at a garage sale and swapping useful items with other folks in your neighborhood. Set up regular donations to environmental organizations Just about every organization needs your help right now. Whether you prefer whales or bats, oceans or rivers, an environmental charity exists that would greatly appreciate your recurring donation, even if it’s just five bucks a month. Control your food waste The U.S. is one of the top countries for food waste in the world, tossing almost 40 million tons annually. Most of this food goes to landfills. In fact, food waste is the second-largest component of the average American landfill behind paper. This year, commit to only buy what you’ll eat and to eat what you buy. If you don’t already compost, get yourself a compost bin and throw in all your banana peels, coffee grounds, etc. Get political On the most basic level, vote. Beyond that, support causes you believe in by writing letters to your politicians or boycotting companies that are contributing to the global climate crisis. Attend town hall meetings with your local or state representatives. If you have the time, energy, resources and moxie, run for office. Images via Adobe Stock

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Nestlé digs deeper into regenerative ag, puts $3.6B behind net-zero plan

December 7, 2020 by  
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Nestlé digs deeper into regenerative ag, puts $3.6B behind net-zero plan Heather Clancy Mon, 12/07/2020 – 02:00 The world’s largest food company, Nestlé, last week said it plans to spend roughly $3.6 billion over the next five years to meet its net-zero by 2050 aspirations. But CEO Mark Schneider took pains to position this investment as one that will be “earnings-neutral.” Speaking during a virtual media briefing detailing its ambitious new climate plan — which includes an interim goal of halving its baseline of 92 million metric tons in annual greenhouse gas emission by 2030 — Schneider said many of its investments would be offset by operational and structural efficiencies. Nestlé will discuss its climate-related progress and investments on an ongoing basis, with the long-term view in mind. Schneider noted that at least 50 percent of the company’s shareholders have owned their positions for more than four years. “It’s not only about the next quarter, it’s about what’s happening down the road,” he said. That said, “all of this should never be an excuse for a short-term miss.” Currently, some of Nestlé’s managers have incentives aligned to meeting climate actions as part of their compensation. Moving forward, the entire executive team will have part of their pay tied to these metrics to ensure that “they have teeth,” Schneider said. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship GreenBiz Close Authorship Almost one-third of the money that Nestlé intends to invest will be dedicated to cultivating regenerative agricultural practices that improve soil health and reduce dependence on synthetic fertilizer across 500,000-plus farms from which Nestlé sources ingredients. Nestle intends to pay those farmers, as well as 150,000 other ingredient suppliers, a premium for adopting these techniques in a verifiable way. “Our actions will boost demand,” Schneider said during the briefing. “We will create the market for these ingredients.” The remaining money will be used to support the company’s goal of planting 20 million trees per year over the next decade in areas where it sources its ingredients and in completing the company’s transition to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2025. Nestlé has pledged that its sources of “key” commodities, including palm and soy, will be deforestation-free by 2022. (It’s at 90 percent currently.) During the briefing, Schneider and several other executives underscored the weight of consumers’ increasing expectation that brands work to reduce the carbon footprint of their products. In the short term, this might be a differentiator but over time “all companies and brands are heading in this direction,” said Nestlé global CMO Aude Gandon. That said, Nestlé is aggressively expanding its plant-based product portfolio — it has 300 scientists working on dairy alternatives alone — with brands such as Garden Gourmet (burger and sausage alternatives), Sweet Earth Foods (burritos and breakfast sandwiches) and Sensational Vuna (its first fish alternative).  Here are three other noteworthy components of Nestlé’s evolving strategy, formulated to support the company’s commitment to the United Nations “Business Ambition for 1.5 Degrees C” pledge in September 2019: A plan to switch the company’s entire global vehicle fleet to “lower emission options” by 2022. A deeper commitment to biodiversity, through a multicropping initiative and the use of more grain varieties (such as spelt and oats) in its recipes. A pledge to pay more for recycled “food grade” plastic in order to help stimulate demand. (It actually made this commitment back in January to source up to 2 million tons by 2025, and allocated $2.24 billion to support those intentions.)  Cornell economics and management professor Chris Barrett predicted that Nestlé’s new strategy — as well as moves announced earlier this year by Unilever — would have a ripple effect among suppliers and competitors across the food system. “The actions of big firms carry disproportionate importance,” Barrett said in a statement. “Their multi-billion-dollar investments are significant in their own right. But those actions especially matter because market leaders compel other firms to follow suit. The contractual terms they set for their suppliers and the expectations they raise among consumers will impact other food manufacturers, retailers and restaurant chains.” Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems Regenerative Agriculture Renewable Energy Procurement Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Pictures of a recipes made with the Sensational Burger from Garden Gourmet. Courtesy of Nestlé Close Authorship

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Nestlé digs deeper into regenerative ag, puts $3.6B behind net-zero plan

How 117-year-old Ford plans to curb carbon emissions by 2050

December 1, 2020 by  
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Effective action on climate change takes cooperation on all levels. From governments to the private sector to individuals, everyone must do their part to solve this collective problem, together. In the U.S., the biggest source of carbon emissions by sector is transportation, producing 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, according to the EPA . As such, any pathway to reduced greenhouse gases and a comprehensive response to climate change must involve stakeholders from the transportation sector — thankfully America’s best-selling automotive brand is stepping up. As a major global and domestic player in the auto industry, Ford has the potential to make a major impact — and the company is aiming high. By 2050, Ford aims to achieve global carbon neutrality. How can one of America’s best-selling automakers in one of the most carbon-producing sectors go completely carbon neutral in less than 30 years? Ford developed an ambitious but actionable plan, starting with support at the top of the company and extending to every employee and vendor across its global supply chain. “We were committed to setting aspirational goals to start moving the needle, to start having a positive impact,” says Director of Global Sustainability for Ford, Mary A. Wroten . “It’s like setting a New Year’s resolution. If you don’t have a goal, you’ll never steer yourself toward whatever that resolution is.” Though the 117-year-old company released its first sustainability report in 1999, Wroten suggests that founder Henry Ford laid down the roots for sustainability before the idea as we know it existed. A self-described environmentalist, he was famous for eliminating waste at Ford manufacturing facilities. “ He used the wood from shipping crates for the floor pans of early vehicles,” explains Wroten. “Any wood that was leftover was turned into briquettes for barbecuing, and he eventually started a charcoal company called Kingsford Charcoal.” Setting targets and sticking to them, no matter what Even today, sustainability at Ford starts at the top. “These aspirational goals are a way to harness all the executives within the organization to tackle these issues, get buy-in and drive change throughout the company,” says Wroten. After the goals are set, executives then go to work developing metrics and tools to hit targets, according to Wroten. Meanwhile, the company is ensuring every employee gets sustainability integration training. At Ford, sustainability is key to every aspect of the business. Understanding that sustainability is part of their role helps ensure employee buy-in, according to Wroten. The company’s long-term goals reflect a committed approach. When the Trump Administration announced the end of U.S. participation in the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017 and then announced a rollback of auto emissions standards in 2020, Ford didn’t waver on its sustainability targets — as of June 23 of this year, Ford is the only U.S. automaker committed to doing its part to reduce CO? emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement and working with California for stronger vehicle greenhouse gas standards. “All of our decisions build upon each other,” Wroten says, noting that the Paris Climate Accords call for carbon neutrality by the second half of the century. “We continue to believe that this path is what’s best for our customers, our environment and both the short and long-term health of the auto industry,” she says. So what’s inside the plan moving forward? Ford, along with third-party consultants, advisors and auditors, determined that three areas make up 95% of its carbon emissions : vehicle use, supply base and company facilities. First up, let’s look at how Ford is changing the way we drive. The electrification of Ford vehicles Over the next year, Ford is rolling out two new fully electric vehicles in the US, the Mustang Mach-E and the E-Transit electric work van. And while the launch of new electric vehicles is exciting, it’s the launch of North America’s largest charging network that Ford hopes will truly shift the paradigm of driving to electric. “We can’t just release great products,” says Wroten, “we also need to provide a great charging experience so our customers don’t worry about range anxiety and other concerns consumers have about electric vehicles.” The FordPass ™ Charging Network — the largest public charging network in North America* — will feature more than 13,500 charging stations with more than 40,000 charging plugs. However, simply switching to electricity doesn’t necessarily make for the greatest reductions of carbon emissions — that electricity must also come from a renewable source. Ford is taking a well-to-wheel approach, meaning that the company is working to ensure that the electricity originates from renewable sources . “The energy that’s used to propel our vehicles is very much part of our plan to reduce carbon emissions,” adds Wroten, noting that a green grid is essential to hitting carbon targets. It’s an initiative the brand is spearheading in its own facilities. Manufacturing for today and the future Within its own manufacturing facilities, Ford is working closely with local collaborators to ensure that they are running on 100% renewable , locally sourced energy by 2035. This will account for 80% of the carbon output of Ford facilities says Wroten. The company is releasing a plan for the remaining 20% of carbon emissions in the next year. Meanwhile, beyond carbon, Ford is making its facilities even more sustainable. Over the next 10 years, Ford is eliminating single-use plastics from all operations , with a long term goal of achieving zero landfill waste across the company. Longer-term aspirational goals include zero water withdrawals for manufacturing and zero air emissions. Based on third-party audits, the data suggests Ford is well on its way to meeting carbon targets. In 2019, all Ford facilities across the globe combined produced as much carbon as one coal-fired power plant . Building a more sustainable supply base Cutting emissions from Ford facilities and vehicles isn’t enough, and the brand knows it. Ford works with a complex network of suppliers across the globe, which Wroten suggests accounts for some 15% to 17% of the company’s carbon emissions . For its domestic efforts to matter, their partners need to pull their weight, too. To reach carbon neutrality across the board, Ford is sharing its learnings and tools with certain suppliers in hopes of replicating sustainable practices. And over the next five years, Ford estimates saving over 680,000 metric tons of carbon — the equivalent of consuming about 1.57 million barrels of oil — thanks to the supply base approach. The automaker’s desire to extend its carbon-neutral strategy to suppliers underscores a larger issue around climate change and any environmental initiative: collaboration is essential for success. “We know we can’t do this alone,” says Wroten, “reaching carbon neutrality is a team sport.” From innovative electric vehicles to a widening green grid to bringing all stakeholders in on the mission, the approach Ford is taking is nothing short of comprehensive. * Based on original equipment manufacturers(OEM)/automotive manufacturers that sell all-electric vehicles and have publicly announced charging networks. Department of Energy data used. FordPass, compatible with select smartphone platforms, is available via a download. Message and data rates may apply. + Ford Images via Ford

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How 117-year-old Ford plans to curb carbon emissions by 2050

Episode 245: How President-elect Joe Biden could help U.S. farmers

November 13, 2020 by  
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Episode 245: How President-elect Joe Biden could help U.S. farmers Heather Clancy Fri, 11/13/2020 – 02:00 Week in Review Stories discussed this week (6:25). Linking S with E in the renewable energy sector How tenants continue to press for greener commercial buildings, despite COVID-19 7 ways to bridge the blue finance gap to protect the oceans Features How companies can engage authentically with communities (18:20)   Highlights from our VERGE 20 mainstage conversation with environmental justice leaders Rahwa Ghirmatzion, executive director of People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH), and Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE. There’s no one formula, but it starts with being transparent and willing to listen. How President-elect Joe Biden could support regenerative agriculture, Black farmers (24:45)   What would those focused on sustainable food systems like the incoming administration to prioritize? For a start, the U.S. Department of Agriculture could use existing funding and programs to encourage soil health. Plus, let’s see better support for the Black farming community. GreenBiz Food Analyst Jim Giles weighs in with suggestions.   *Music in this episode by Lee Rosevere: “Curiosity,” “I’m Going for a Coffee,” “Here’s the Thing,” “Waiting for the Moment That Never Comes” and “Knowing the Truth” *This episode was sponsored by Shell Resources galore Behavior change and the circular economy. How innovation and new business models alter people’s relationship with waste. Join the discussion at 8 p.m. EST Nov. 12.  Missing pieces of decarbonization. Join us for a discussion on how 100 percent renewable power can practically, affordably and quickly become a reality. Register for this webcast at 1 p.m. EST Nov. 19. Do we have a newsletter for you! We produce six weekly newsletters: GreenBuzz by Executive Editor Joel Makower (Monday); Transport Weekly by Senior Writer and Analyst Katie Fehrenbacher (Tuesday); VERGE Weekly by Executive Director Shana Rappaport and Editorial Director Heather Clancy (Wednesday); Energy Weekly by Senior Energy Analyst Sarah Golden (Thursday); Food Weekly by Carbon and Food Analyst Jim Giles (Thursday); and Circular Weekly by Director and Senior Analyst Lauren Phipps (Friday). You must subscribe to each newsletter in order to receive it. Please visit this page to choose which you want to receive. The GreenBiz Intelligence Panel is the survey body we poll regularly throughout the year on key trends and developments in sustainability. To become part of the panel, click here . Enrolling is free and should take two minutes. Stay connected To make sure you don’t miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes . Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at 350@greenbiz.com . Contributors Joel Makower Jim Giles Topics Podcast Policy & Politics VERGE 20 Collective Insight GreenBiz 350 Podcast Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 35:11 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz Close Authorship

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Episode 245: How President-elect Joe Biden could help U.S. farmers

Leveraging the ocean’s carbon removal potential

November 11, 2020 by  
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Leveraging the ocean’s carbon removal potential Katie Lebling Wed, 11/11/2020 – 00:30 To meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius 2.7 degrees F), greenhouse gas emissions must reach net-zero by mid-century. Achieving this not only will require reducing existing emissions, but also removing carbon dioxide already in the air. How much carbon to remove from the atmosphere will depend on emissions in the coming years, but estimates point to around 10 billion-20 billion tons of CO 2 per year through 2100, globally. This is a tremendous amount, considering that the United States emitted 5.4 billion tons of CO 2 in 2018. As the need for climate action becomes more urgent, the ocean is gaining attention as a potential part of the solution . Approaches such as investing in offshore energy production, conserving coastal ecosystems and increasing consumption of sustainable ocean-based protein offer opportunities to reduce emissions. In addition to these opportunities, a range of ocean-based carbon removal approaches could help capture and store billions of tons of carbon. Importantly, these approaches would not increase ocean acidification. The ocean absorbs just under one-third of anthropogenic CO 2 emissions, which is contributing to a rise in ocean acidification and making it more difficult for organisms such as oysters and corals to build shells. The ocean absorbs just under one-third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, contributing to a rise in ocean acidification. A few options for increasing the ocean’s capacity to store carbon also may provide co-benefits, such as increasing biodiversity and reducing acidification. However, many approaches remain contentious due to uncertainties around potential ecological impacts, governance and other risks. If research efforts increase to improve understanding in these areas, a combination of approaches could help address the global climate crisis. Ocean-based ways to remove CO 2 from the atmosphere Proposed methods for increasing the ocean’s ability to remove and store carbon dioxide — including biological, chemical and electrochemical concepts — vary in technical maturity, permanence, public acceptance and risk. Note: This graphic represents the general types of proposed approaches, but may not reflect every proposal. 1. Biological approaches Biological approaches, which leverage the power of photosynthesis to capture CO 2 , offer a few approaches for carbon removal. Ecosystem restoration Restoring coastal blue carbon ecosystems , including salt marshes, mangroves and seagrasses, can increase the amount of carbon stored in coastal sediments. Globally, the carbon removal potential of coastal blue carbon ecosystem restoration is around a few hundred million tons of CO 2 per year by 2050, which is relatively small compared to the need. However, ample co-benefits — such as reducing coastal erosion and flooding, improving water quality and supporting livelihoods and tourism — make it worth pursuing. Restoring coastal blue carbon ecosystems, including salt marshes such as this one, can help store carbon in addition to other restoration benefits. Photo by Bre Smith/Unsplash Large-scale seaweed cultivation Another proposed approach is large-scale seaweed cultivation , as seaweed captures carbon through photosynthesis. While there is evidence that wild seaweed already contributes to carbon removal, there is potential to cultivate and harvest seaweed for use in a range of products, including food (human and animal), fuel and fertilizer. The full extent of carbon removal potential from these applications is uncertain, as many of these products would return carbon within the seaweed to the environment during consumption. Yet, these applications could lower emission intensity compared to conventional production processes. Seaweed cultivation also can provide an economic return that could support near-term industry growth. One interesting application is adding certain seaweeds to feed for ruminant farm animals, which significantly could reduce their methane emissions. Methane has especially high climate warming potential, and methane emissions from ruminants contribute roughly 120 MtCO1e per year in the United States. Emerging research shows that certain types of red seaweeds can reduce ruminant emissions by more than 50 percent, although more research is necessary to show consistent long-term reductions and understand whether large-scale cultivation efforts are successful. In addition to reducing emissions, seaweed cultivation also may reduce ocean acidification. In some places, this application is already in use for shellfish aquaculture to reduce acidification and improve shellfish growth. Understanding potential ecosystem risks is critical to implementing this approach at scale. Potential risks include changes to water movement patterns; changes to light, nutrient and oxygen availability; altered pH levels; impacts from manmade structures for growing; and impacts of monoculture cultivation, which can affect existing marine flora and fauna. Continued small-scale pilot testing is necessary to understand these ecosystem impacts and bring down costs for cultivation, harvesting and transport. Iron fertilization A more controversial and divisive idea is iron fertilization , which involves adding trace amounts of iron to certain parts of the ocean, spurring phytoplankton growth. The phytoplankton would take in atmospheric CO 2 as they grow, with a portion expected to eventually sink to the ocean floor, resulting in permanent storage of that carbon in ocean sediments About a dozen experiments indicate varying levels of carbon sequestration efficacy, but the approach remains compelling to some due to its low cost. Although iron fertilization theoretically could store large amounts of carbon for a comparatively low cost, it also could cause significant negative ecological impacts, such as toxic algal blooms that can reduce oxygen levels, block sunlight and harm sea life. Additionally, researchers are hesitant to pursue this method due to a fraught history, including one experiment that potentially violated international law. Iron fertilization, which involves adding trace amounts of iron to certain parts of the ocean, spurring phytoplankton growth. Because of the relatively low cost, there is also the risk of a single actor’s conducting large-scale fertilization and potentially causing large-scale ecological damage. Given that this method remains contentious, a critical first step is creating a clear international governance structure to continue research. Iron fertilization continues to face scientific uncertainties about its efficacy and ecosystem impacts that, if pursued, would require at-sea testing to resolve. 2. Chemical approaches Chemical approaches, namely alkalinity enhancement, involve adding different types of minerals to the ocean to react with dissolved carbon dioxide and turn it into dissolved bicarbonates. As dissolved carbon dioxide converts into dissolved bicarbonates, the concentration of dissolved CO 2 lowers relative to the air, allowing the ocean to absorb more CO 2 from the air at the ocean-air boundary. Although mineral sources are abundant, accessing them would require significant energy to extract, grind down and transport. While alkalinity enhancement is in use at small scales to improve water quality for calcifying creatures such as oysters and other shellfish, large scale applications would require pilot testing to understand ecosystem impacts. Additional research also will help map accessible and suitable sources of alkalinity and determine how to most effectively apply it. 3. Electrochemical approaches A handful of electrochemical concepts also store carbon as dissolved bicarbonate. Unlike chemical approaches, electrochemical approaches do so by running electric currents through seawater. Variations of electrochemical approaches also could produce valuable hydrogen or concentrated CO 2 for industrial use or storage. Scaling up this approach would depend on the availability of low-carbon energy sources in suitable locations. Additional research will help map such sources and analyze potential benefits, such as hydrogen production. Governance and social considerations of ocean-based carbon removal Ensuring appropriate governance frameworks — both national and international — for ocean-based carbon removal approaches will be a critical pre-condition before many are ready to scale. International legal frameworks for the ocean, such as the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea and the London Convention and Protocol, predate the concept of ocean carbon dioxide removal. As a result, these frameworks are retroactively applied to these approaches, leading to differing interpretations and a lack of clarity in some cases. Some legal scholars suggest amending existing legal instruments to more directly govern ocean carbon removal, including carbon removal in ongoing negotiations for new international agreements or shifting governance to another international body entirely. Robust environmental safeguards, including transparent monitoring and reporting, also must be in place. Lastly, ocean carbon removal approaches should not move forward without first considering the impacts on local communities and indigenous populations. Community acceptance of potential pilot testing and impacts on coastal communities also must be a pre-condition to moving forward at scale. Climate action must include the ocean As the world seeks effective tools for the climate action toolbox, employing approaches on land and at sea would prevent over-reliance on any one approach and spread the carbon removal burden over larger systems. However, before any large-scale application, ocean-based carbon removal approaches require continued research to better understand their effectiveness, cost, capacity and ancillary impacts. Such research will ensure a strong scientific foundation from which to pursue these concepts, while minimizing unintended impacts on ocean ecosystems. If understood and effectively developed and implemented, ocean-based carbon removal approaches could prove valuable to reaching net-zero and avoiding the worst effects of climate change. Pull Quote The ocean absorbs just under one-third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, contributing to a rise in ocean acidification. Iron fertilization, which involves adding trace amounts of iron to certain parts of the ocean, spurring phytoplankton growth. Contributors Eliza Northrop Topics Oceans & Fisheries Carbon Removal World Resources Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz collage via Unsplash Close Authorship

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Leveraging the ocean’s carbon removal potential

How global food production impacts the Paris Agreement

November 9, 2020 by  
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While transportation gets a lot of attention when we discuss carbon emissions, the food sector is also a major culprit. Even if emissions from other industries completely stopped, the level of greenhouse gas produced from food and farming would still be too high to meet Paris Agreement goals, says a new study published in Science . About one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from food and farming. Between 2012 and 2017, food systems were responsible for about 16 billion tons of CO2 each year. By the end of the century, emissions from food production are on course to rise to 1,356 gigatons cumulatively. At this rate, we won’t be able to meet the Paris Agreement objective of keeping the global warming increase within 2° Celsius — or, preferably, 1.5° — of preindustrial levels by 2100. Related: UN report shows global warming could pass 1.5°C limit before 2030 The diets of people in richer countries are going to have to change if we want to bring down this level of emissions. “These countries are primarily those that are middle or high income where dietary intake and consumption of meat , dairy and eggs is on average well above [health] recommendations,” said Michael Clark, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the Oxford Martin school. He cited the U.S., Europe, Australia, China, Brazil and Argentina as areas with inflated meat consumption. This doesn’t mean the whole world has to become vegan . But more Meatless Mondays are definitely in order. And maybe some Tuesdays and Wednesdays for good measure. Food production contributes to carbon emissions in many ways, including clearing land for grazing, using artificial fertilizers and emitting methane via livestock. Food waste is another area that needs improvement, because when people waste food , they’re also wasting all the carbon involved in growing or raising it. More efficient farming practices, such as targeted fertilizer, would also help. “There needs to be more focus and more effort to reduce emissions from the food system,” Clark said. “Greenhouse gas emissions from food systems have increased due to a combination of dietary changes — more food in general, with a larger proportion of food coming from animal source foods — population size, and how food is produced.” Via The Guardian Image via Jed Owen

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Innovative sanitation solution is crowned winner of VERGE Accelerate contest

November 5, 2020 by  
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Innovative sanitation solution is crowned winner of VERGE Accelerate contest Myisha Majumder Thu, 11/05/2020 – 01:00 On the last day of VERGE 20, five startups that won lightning-round pitch sessions during the Food, Carbon, Circular, Energy and Transport conference competed for the vote of the viewers. The overall winner addressed a unique blend of environmental and social concerns. This was the first year of this two-round approach, with 25 entrepreneurs pitching throughout the week in market-specific sessions, culminating in the final VERGE Accelerate round. Presenters were given less than three minutes to make a compelling argument to the audience on why their company and innovation should win this year. The overall winner, change:WATER labs , presented by Diana Yousef, founder and CEO, did just that, after winning the Circular pitch session. Yousef’s pitch began with the stark statistic that half of the world’s population lives without access to a safe, clean toilet, given lack of sewage infrastructure in their area. The common solution thus far has been offline portable toilets, which Yousef claims is an $18 billion-year investment, given the frequency of maintenance. Change:WATER labs’ iThrone creation cuts down on waste logistics by eliminating the waste inside the toilet itself and turning it into pure water. This is done through a membrane that evaporates raw sewage without any energy source and allows for a functional, safe toilet without the need for power or plumbing, Yousef said. Yousef spoke about the first deployment of iThrones in Uganda: “Currently, our first iThrones are servicing the population and providing them with safe and sustainable sanitation. Harvested vapor will provide pure water to the local hospital and dried urine salts will fertilize local agriculture.” An added benefit, Yousef noted, is that iThrone “makes sanitation much more accessible because it’s five times cheaper than comparable toilets. It cuts collection costs in half, and makes collections 20 times more scalable, demonstrating pent-up demand for this type of solution.” This cost-effective and efficient innovation has earned change:WATER labs funding from the Turkish government, the United Nations Development Program and other private-sector contractors, as well as recognition from Bloomberg , The Daily Beast and the Boston Globe . An international soil carbon offset marketplace VERGE Accelerate runner-up ConserWater Technologies, represented by CEO Aadith Moorthy, won the Carbon Pitch session earlier in the week. Moorthy’s compelling narrative began with ConserWater’s impetus five years ago: “I was traveling to a small village in South India, and I saw a funeral procession. That year, a farming family had committed suicide because the monsoon rains had failed. And that got me thinking: Why do farmers have a struggle like this? This is the face of climate change that brought me to conserve water, where we use [artificial intelligence] to help farmers to mitigate climate change at scale.” ConserWater’s software analyzes satellite data and images to help predict actionable insights about the farmland, such as soil moisture, nutrients and carbon levels, without using sensors or hardware. “We’re able to help the farmers grow more with less by optimizing their resource usage and verifiably increasing their soil carbon sequestering,” Moorthy said. The company already has global operations, and Moorthy claims ConserWater is running the world’s largest international soil carbon market, with credits associated with millions of acres of farmland that can be purchased by companies, governments or individuals for offsetting emission. According to ConserWater, farmers can make up to $40 or more per acre through the marketplace. Industry experts break with audience choice Nancy Pfund, managing partner of DBL Partners, and Meera Clark, senior associate of Obvious Ventures, two industry experts who provided feedback on the VERGE Accelerate pitches, gave Food pitch session winner eggXYt their votes. Clark justified her choice given the potential of the business, and like Pfund, saw it as having market appeal. EggXYt uses CRISPR, the gene-editing tool, to detect the genes of chicken eggs through the shell. Co-founder and CEO Yehuda Elram said the technology helps mitigate the billions of dollars that go into incubation and hatching of eggs, only to kill over 4 billion male chicks annually that are not viable for the market. EggXYt is developing what Elram calls “the ultrasound for eggs,” which allows for sex detection of chick embryos immediately after the eggs are laid and before the eggs enter the 21-day incubation process. The non-incubated male eggs can be sent to market. The other two presenters spoke about their company’s interface in the energy and electric grid. Energy pitch session winner Uprise Energy, represented by co-founder and CEO Jonathan Knight, pitched Uprise’s mobile power station. The company has created a portable renewable energy system, which can provide reliable power through the patented 10-kilowatt portable wind turbine. Knight said the portable turbine is designed to fit in a standard shipping container and only takes an hour to set up by one person. Andrew Krulewitz, co-founder and CEO of Flux, winner of the Transport pitch session, spoke about his startup’s potential role in reducing the cost barrier to electric vehicle deployment. Flux’s model offers what is essentially a power purchase agreement for EVs that helps defray the capital expenditure, with plans starting at $99 per month and 10 cents per mile. Topics Innovation VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off iThrone cuts down on waste logistics by eliminating the waste inside the toilet itself and turning it into pure water. Courtesy of change:WATER Close Authorship

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6 differences between forestry and soil carbon offsets

November 4, 2020 by  
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6 differences between forestry and soil carbon offsets Jesse Klein Wed, 11/04/2020 – 01:00 Carbon offsets are a big, confusing topic. Three breakout sessions at VERGE 20 covered this topic, with over 100 participants at each. Still, each one went over the allotted time with many questions left unanswered. While understanding the basics is important, many nuances and small details warrant their own entire discussion.  Carbon credit projects vary widely, from urban forestry projects to air carbon capture to regenerative agriculture. And while many will have the same basic benefits and limitations, there are huge differences in management, co-benefits, costs and analyses.  In two VERGE 20 sessions, experts dived deep into the specifics of soil carbon credits and forestry carbon credits. Here are six differences between these two popular types of carbon offsets.  1. Forestry credits have a longer history Forestry credits have been around for a while and a lot of data is publicly available data from the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis program . The robust data set reports on trends in forest areas including size, species, health, growth, mortality, removals and carbon sequestrations. The data is publicly available for scientists to study and can help them come to concrete conclusions about the effectiveness of forests as a carbon sink.  “On the forest side, we have 100 years of public data in the United States on the types of trees and effectively the carbon content in different forest types,” Danny Cullenward, policy director at CarbonPlan, said during VERGE 20. “We don’t really have anything comparable on the soil side.”  Soil credits are much newer. According to Cullenward, soil data is being collected by private and third-party platforms, and to get farmers to work with them, these companies have to promise data privacy and security.  “None of that [data] is feeding back into the public ecosystem to improve transparency,” he said.  2. Soil is more challenging Because soil carbon sequestration, the data associated with the process and the resulting credits are in their infancy, science hasn’t come to a consensus on many important aspects of this type of carbon sequestration. This includes the depth of soil monitoring that is needed. According to Cullenward, most models and samples only analyze the top layer of soil, the first 30 centimeters. But new science suggests there is a risk for reversal.  “Now there’s a strain of science suggesting that when you look deeper down to 1 or 2 meters, you get a very different answer,” he said. “Might see a net reversal, when you look at the full profile. Everybody’s focusing on the shallow surface layer. And you need to pay attention to emerging evidence about what happens across the deeper soil.”  The second reason soil is more complicated is because it requires extensive physical sampling, which is expensive. Forestry, on the other hand, can use satellite imagery to verify the trees exist and are in the locations the model is assuming. No satellite can tell you what is going on in the soil.  Everybody’s focusing on the shallow surface layer. And you need to pay attention to emerging evidence about what happens across the deeper soil. 3. Both have additionality issues, but they differ Additionality is really hard to prove with any carbon offset project. For the uninitiated, additionality is the concept that the carbon removal is happening because of the investment from a carbon credit market and wouldn’t have happened without that investment. Most of the time you are comparing one outcome to one that never actually happened. So additionality is always just an estimation evaluated against a baseline.  Forestry credits have been having an issue with that baseline calculation.  “The protocols are allowing landowners that are already managing their lands in sustainable ways to claim a baseline with aggressive harvesting, and earn offset credits without necessarily changing their land management practice,” Barbara Haya, research fellow at the University of California at Berkeley, said during the VERGE 20 forestry credit session. A land trust that was never going to chop down their trees could be collecting a forestry offset on the baseline that it would sell all its wood to the timber market. The company that invests to keep those trees alive actually hasn’t protected anything.  On the soil side, there are economic advantages to regenerative agriculture practices. Studies indicate that crop rotations, no-till procedures and other sustainable techniques can increase crop yield, decrease costs and sequester more carbon into the land. Farmers have an economic incentive without the carbon market to change land management routines.  Cullenward expressed concern that farmers are just tacking on the climate benefits to a decision they already have made to get a few extra bucks from the carbon market.  4. Soil credits have more upfront costs than forestry However, a rebuttal to the idea that farmers are making the switch to regenerative practices on their own is the large upfront costs it takes to do so. Adoption among farmers of regenerative practices is a big issue. They have to learn new skills and buy new machinery. Even then, according to Alexsandra Guerra, director of corporate development at Nori, a soil carbon marketplace, farmers will see reductions in yield for a few years. “That does not make financial sense. A farmer isn’t going to adopt practices that for even a second, or even one growing season, will decrease yields much less for three to seven years,” she said. “Farmers need to see there’s a financial mechanism, trading price on carbon, where they could enter in some preliminary data and say, ‘Oh, look, this how much money I can earn in a carbon market for the next 10 years.'” They need to be able to   create a financially viable plan for their farm and the carbon market investment helps bridge the gap.  In forestry, while some surveying costs are needed early on in the process, the carbon market is paying them to not do something, such as chop down the trees, which is much cheaper than paying farmers to do something. 5. Forestry’s longer contracts can create permanence horizon concerns  We need carbon to be stored for centuries to make a real impact, but short-term contracts might be the way to go. Nori makes farmers commit to a 10-year contract for soil sequestration. While 10 years is not enough to make an impact on our atmosphere, it allows Nori to check in on the farms and ensure they are continuing regenerative practices more often, every time they re-up on the contract.  Right now, forestry credit contracts tend towards 50 or even 100 years. Cullenward warned that buyers should be skeptical of forestry contracts written for these longer periods. Few partnerships in any field survive 100 years. The longest contract a typical financial institution will give you is a 30-year mortgage. Yet many forestry offset buys are content to sign onto a 100-year offset without really understanding how to monitor something for a century.  “You don’t know how credible those contracts really are,” he said.  6. Soil carbon sequestration can be lost easier and quicker The biggest risk for soil carbon offsets is how quickly they can be reversed. Just as easily as carbon can be put into the ground, it can be taken out. According to soil health experts such as Haya from UC Berkeley, there are a lot of biological ways carbon can be lost from the soil. Many of these are instantaneous when a landowner decides to change the way land is plowed. According to Cullenward, soil carbon is more vulnerable to reversals than forestry because a farmer easily can switch back to traditional farming methods without much notice.  To release all the carbon in a forest, however, takes a lot more time and planning. Getting machinery into the forest to chop the trees, finding a buyer and shipping the logs is a lot more obvious and visible. There is more time for intervention to prevent carbon loss. But there is one way forests can lose all the carbon in a matter of moments: wildfires. And with the fire season becoming more brutal and longer due to climate change and bad forestry management practices, it becomes a renewed and very real problem for forestry credits.  There are a lot of issues with both types of credits. But there are a lot of opportunities as well. Seizing the opportunities while addressing the issues is something we desperately need to figure out, and soon.  “There’s a climate crisis. I think that the space is rushing to find a solution because we need a solution,” Guerra said. “We will never figure it out without actually implementing it.”  Pull Quote Everybody’s focusing on the shallow surface layer. And you need to pay attention to emerging evidence about what happens across the deeper soil. Topics Forestry Carbon Removal Food & Agriculture Regenerative Agriculture Forestry Carbon Removal VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Understanding the different limitations of forestry and soil credits illuminates the wide variety of issues in the carbon offset market.//Courtesy of Unsplash

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