How Utah cities are pursuing 100% renewable energy

November 20, 2020 by  
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How Utah cities are pursuing 100% renewable energy Emily Elizabet… Fri, 11/20/2020 – 01:00 In the absence of federal action on climate change in the United States, local communities have taken on the responsibility of reducing their greenhouse emissions. To date, more than 150 cities, counties and states across America have passed resolutions to commit to 100 percent net-renewable electricity in the coming years, defined as meeting the city’s total electricity demand with the gross amount of electricity generated and purchased from renewable sources, such as solar, wind and geothermal as well as energy efficiency, demand management and energy storage. Six cities already have achieved this goal: Kodiak Island, Alaska; Aspen, Colorado; Georgetown, Texas; Greensburg, Kansas; Rock Port, Missouri; and Burlington, Vermont. In Utah, 23 cities and counties have resolved to adopt 100 percent net-renewable electricity by 2030, representing about 37 percent of Utah’s electricity load. How did a politically conservative, coal-dependent state such as Utah achieve such a commitment? We recently published a study in the journal Sustainability (access is free) exploring how it began with Salt Lake City, Park City and Moab, the first Utah cities to enact 100 percent net-renewable electricity resolutions in 2016 and 2017. Through interviews with the key players involved and secondary sources, our research uncovered the initial key obstacles facing the cities’ renewable electricity goals and the strategies they have initiated to resolve them. How did a politically conservative, coal-dependent state such as Utah achieve a 100% renewable energy commitment? The biggest hurdle was convincing Rocky Mountain Power, their existing fossil-fuel-dependent utility monopoly, to develop and provide the communities with sufficient clean, renewable electricity resources — not renewable energy credits or supplies from existing sources — and to retire fossil-fuel assets. The other significant challenge was securing buy-in from all city residents and businesses to accept 100 percent net-renewable energy, especially given that the costs for the transition were unknown. Would citizens voluntarily adopt renewable electricity under these circumstances, or would the cities have to mandate participation? Engaging the utility We found that the cities collaborated with each other (along with Summit County, which eventually passed its own resolution), each playing different roles to bring Rocky Mountain Power to the table. Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski initiated talks with the utility, and with the help of State Representative Stephen Handy, negotiations resulted in landmark legislation, the Community Renewable Energy Act (CREA) of 2019, which authorized the utility to procure renewable electricity resources and create a renewable electricity bulk-purchase program for participating cities. The Community Renewable Energy Act of 2019 Rocky Mountain Power required that the additional costs associated with procuring the renewable electricity would not increase rates for customers outside the program. Consequently, CREA stipulated that any new costs and benefits associated with renewable electricity procurement would be designated only to the cities receiving it. CREA also set a deadline for other Utah cities to join the bulk purchase program, and this resulted in 23 Utah cities and counties in total coming forward to take the renewable electricity pledge. These additional cities and counties included some of Utah’s most populated, including Salt Lake County, West Valley City, West Jordan, Orem and Ogden, totaling about 37 percent of the state’s electricity load. Finally, CREA specified that all participating cities’ residents and businesses would receive renewable electricity by default, with a provision for customers to have the opportunity to opt out if they so desired. Park City had found that automatic enrollment in its own WaterSmart conservation program resulted in very high participation rates among its citizens with few choosing to opt out. Thus, the automatic enrollment provision was a critical component of CREA. Academic research suggests that people typically accept defaults as a social norm, so the expectation is that few Utahns may opt out of the renewable electricity program. We argue that CREA may be a model for other cities and communities across the nation implementing 100 percent net-renewable electricity resolutions. Nevertheless, the next major challenge will be holding together Utah’s coalition of cities and counties in the coming years as the costs of the bulk renewable electricity program and its benefits to ratepayers become better understood and accepted. Preventing the coalition from unraveling In 2017, Salt Lake City-based Energy Strategies was commissioned by Park City, Salt Lake City and Summit County to evaluate various cost impacts for each community to achieve 100 percent net-renewable electricity. The studies concluded that electricity rates could be 9 percent to 14 percent higher (?$15 to $17 increase in a typical resident’s monthly electricity bill) over the standard rate should the cities transition to 100 percent net-renewable electricity by 2032. This amounted to about $200 more per year. In our study, officials of the small town of Moab in southern Utah expressed concerns about how these added costs could affect its town budget and residents of modest means. More recently, the city of Ogden announced that it is reconsidering its participation in CREA over fears of potential high costs and rate impacts on the city’s most vulnerable residents. Many cities in the coalition seek ways to offset implementation costs through third-party funding and grants as costs become better understood to minimize their impact on lower-income customers. Rocky Mountain Power seeks renewable electricity sources to fulfill the needs of the bulk purchase program and is developing its own cost estimates that must be approved by the state’s Public Service Commission. While it is a fact that the final costs of CREA by 2030 remain unknown, it is also true that the cost of Rocky Mountain Power’s standard fossil-fuel rate in 10 years is also unknown. Consequently, cities participating in CREA are grappling with these risks. Since the initial 2017 Energy Strategies’ cost studies, wind and solar prices have continued to fall, becoming increasingly cost-competitive with and in many circumstances, less expensive than traditional fossil-fuel electricity sources. Indeed, a key economic benefit of renewable electricity is its price stability because the “fuel” for wind and solar is free and not susceptible to the price volatility of the boom and bust cycles associated with fossil fuels. By 2030, renewable electricity may be the most fiscally responsible, price stable and least risky electricity choice. By contrast, fossil-fuel power plants face strong headwinds in the form of reduced subsidies and the prospect of carbon taxes. While the U.S. does not have a national carbon tax, 13 states do and several more are considering one. The forthcoming Biden administration already has signaled that it plans to cut federal subsidies for fossil fuels and will re-engage the U.S. in global efforts to protect the climate. In a world that is increasingly facing up to carbon emissions, fossil fuels are a risky and expensive bet. In short, by 2030, renewable electricity may be the most fiscally responsible, price stable and least risky electricity choice. Recent polling shows that Utahns want a stronger transition to cleaner energy and air. To date, CREA and its coalition of 23 Utah cities and counties representing 37 percent of the state’s electricity load is the state’s best opportunity to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions substantially, given that the state of Utah does not have a mandated renewable energy portfolio standard (it does have a voluntary standard of 25 percent by 2025). The challenge is keeping that impressive coalition of Utah cities and counties from unraveling before CREA’s costs and benefits are clearly understood vis-à-vis the future costs and expected emissions inherent with fossil fuel-generated electricity. The Utah experiences profiled in our research provide insights about the hurdles facing the implementation of 100 percent net-renewable electricity and the strategies cities are using to engage them that may help other communities chart their own paths toward a cleaner future. Pull Quote How did a politically conservative, coal-dependent state such as Utah achieve a 100% renewable energy commitment? By 2030, renewable electricity may be the most fiscally responsible, price stable and least risky electricity choice. Contributors EdwinRStafford Roslynn Brain McCann Topics Renewable Energy Community Resilience Partnerships 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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5 ways businesses can take action to reduce environmental racism

November 16, 2020 by  
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5 ways businesses can take action to reduce environmental racism Samantha Harris Mon, 11/16/2020 – 00:20 For decades, Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) in the United States have sought environmental justice as a civil right, but now, the grave disparities in environmental harms are coming into national prominence . This year’s COVID-19 crisis and racial justice movement have highlighted the systemic inequities in the U.S. and revealed how crises disproportionately affect certain populations. The urgency of now is underscored by the climate crisis and the need for climate justice.  Businesses continue to lead on climate in the absence of U.S. political will. And while we have a long way to go, businesses are also stepping up in the fight for racial equity  — some leading the pack, such as Starbucks , and beginning to integrate equitable strategies across their business, particularly in their climate solutions. Whether we say climate justice, climate equity, the intersection of climate change and people or the social impacts of climate change, one thing is clear: Business has a role to play in addressing the structural inequity that causes low-income populations and communities of color to bear the brunt of the climate crisis.  Extreme heat and storms, sea level rise, intense wildfires — climate change may threaten everyone, but many BIPOC communities are more vulnerable to climate impacts. These communities also suffer disproportionately from the broader socioeconomic impacts of climate change, such as disrupted access to social services and increased energy costs — so much so that race is the most salient indicator in the U.S. of how the climate crisis affects people. This includes poor air quality due to proximity to polluting facilities such as fossil fuel power plants and refineries, which compounds the impacts of crises such as COVID-19.  The business role in climate justice  Business has an important role to play in helping to bring climate justice and racial equity front and center while shifting the finance for the energy transition. Business action, supported by government regulations, investments and incentives, is absolutely critical for transitioning to net-zero emissions by 2050. Achieving this not only addresses the climate crisis writ large, but it also improves local environments and economies to be more sustainable for everyone.  The move to a net-zero GHG emissions economy will require systemic transitions in business operations; however, the benefits of this shift are immense both for business and for broader society. Billions of dollars will be spent, saved and made during this transition. A fair, just and inclusive transition with justice at its core calls for climate investments to alleviate or eliminate existing disparities in environmental, social and economic opportunities and outcomes. Billions of dollars will be spent, saved and made during this transition. Traditionally, climate action has focused too narrowly on only the global benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, ignoring the potential to generate immediate benefits for community well-being, such as “improving local air quality and economies through investments in infrastructure, restoring ecosystems and increasing community vitality .”  Stakeholders, people, matter to business — whether through direct employment, raw material production in value chains, or markets. The barriers that prevent BIPOC communities from thriving also hinder business growth and sustainability. No longer can businesses ignore entrenched social inequality — greater inequality leads to greater environmental degradation. This phenomenon, also known as intersectional environmentalism , means that instead of one bottom line, there are three: environment; economy; and equity. Businesses can and should design all activities, especially those that address the climate crisis, with a racial equity and justice lens. As we transition, we must bring BIPOC communities along with us; otherwise, there’s a risk that they’ll continue to be left out, even in the new structure we create. What business can do about climate justice While many businesses are stepping up by setting the necessary ambitious climate targets in line with the Paris Agreement, it simply isn’t enough to protect those most affected by the climate crisis. The good news is, businesses can do many things to promote climate justice activities, including learning from what others already have done. For example, learning from the cities of Portland, Oregon and Oakland, California, businesses can take steps to place social justice at the center of their core activities, including those related to climate, within their own operations; enable others to do the same; and influence policies to reduce systemic inequities at their roots. Portland’s 2015 Climate Action Plan and Oakland’s 2030 Equitable Climate Action Plan (ECAP) center climate solutions that address existing disparities, transitioning away from fossil fuel dependence while increasing community resilience. A companion document to Oakland’s ECAP, the Racial Equity Impact Assessment & Implementation Guide (REIA) , describes how to identify the most affected communities and reduce equity gaps in resource allocation and climate vulnerability.  Here are more ways in which businesses can lead:  Center climate justice and racial equity in climate activities Commit to a net-zero GHG reduction target by 2050, or sooner, across the entire value chain. Identify the business activities that disproportionately affect communities on the basis of race, and develop solutions centered in climate justice and racial equity. This can include reducing harmful on-site emissions as well as off-site fleet electrification in high pollution areas. Identify the business activities that disproportionately affect communities on the basis of race, and develop solutions centered in climate justice and racial equity. Companies also can develop green jobs in a just manner that respects human rights and livelihoods. Resilience solutions should also ensure that those across the company operations and value chains (employees, factory workers, smallholder farmers, vital communities) are protected from climate-related events.  Engage those most affected by the climate crisis Assess your business’ climate impact and compile data showing the impacts on the communities and stakeholders most affected by the structural inequalities (climate risk and vulnerability assessments). Engage them in community-driven climate resilience planning. For example, businesses can diversify the value chain to support small disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) with sustainable practices and enter Community Benefits Agreements with residents living near business facilities to increase climate benefits such as urban tree cover, home weatherization and electric vehicle (EV) access. Educate and build awareness about climate justice Educate leadership and employees internally on how race intersects with the climate crisis. Build awareness externally and help educate others on the issue. Earlier this year, the B Corp Climate Collective launched its Climate Justice Learning Task Force , intended to help others access resources about climate justice. Collaborate to scale impact Solving the climate crisis is too big to only act alone — companies should collaborate with others across industries and with expert stakeholders. For example, companies can commit to the Business Pledge for Just Transition and Decent Green Jobs . And Starbucks is collaborating with partners to identify areas across their business to incorporate climate justice, including how they procure renewable energy and build infrastructure.  Leverage influence and advocate for public policy Call on all levels of government to integrate a justice lens into their climate solutions. The climate action plans developed by the cities of Portland and Oakland are great examples of how to integrate racial equity into government plans.  We commend the efforts that businesses already have made, with over 1,300 commitments that formally recognize the transition to a net-zero economy. But businesses are only starting to scratch the surface on climate justice solutions. When business solutions center those most affected by global crises — whether a pandemic or climate change — and improve these communities, everyone benefits. When they are left behind, everyone’s harmed. Now’s the moment to build a truly inclusive future. Pull Quote Billions of dollars will be spent, saved and made during this transition. Identify the business activities that disproportionately affect communities on the basis of race, and develop solutions centered in climate justice and racial equity. Topics Social Justice Leadership BSR Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Global Climate Strike in New York City. Photo by Katie Rodriguez on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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Why IKEA is investing in sustainable mobility

November 3, 2020 by  
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Why IKEA is investing in sustainable mobility Holly Secon Tue, 11/03/2020 – 00:30 Swedish home furnishing company IKEA isn’t just focusing on what’s happening inside your home anymore. The company is also thinking about what’s happening in the streets outside. That is, the company is pumping cash into a new sustainable mobility program. For the company known for its delicious meatballs and DIY shelves, the investment isn’t actually that surprising. It’s about reaching customers — or more specifically, helping customers reach IKEA. “The No. 1 reason that a consumer is not an IKEA customer is accessibility,” Angela Hultberg, head of sustainable transportation at IKEA, said last week on the virtual stage of GreenBiz Group’s clean economy conference, VERGE 20 . It’s about reaching customers — or more specifically, helping customers reach IKEA.   The furniture giant is starting with a sustainable mobility strategy in urban areas, which has several dimensions, Hultberg explained. Many of IKEA’s customers live in cities and don’t have access to large vehicles that would allow them to travel to IKEA and return to their homes with furniture. Meanwhile, the pandemic has accelerated a shift from brick-and-mortar business to e-commerce, but diesel delivery trucks bring air and noise pollution into these downtowns. All the while, transportation emissions have risen around the world in the past few years to over 24 percent of global CO2 emissions . “So we need to figure out — how can we get the customer to us in a convenient, affordable and sustainable way?” she added.  The company plans to make 100 percent of its last-mile deliveries be zero-emission by 2025. In addition, IKEA wants its operations in five cities around the world — Amsterdam, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Shanghai, which already met the goal — to be zero-emission by the end of this year. Specifically, that includes shuttle buses, electric fleets and EV charging stations powered by 100 percent renewable electricity for customers. IKEA climate commitments and cities The furniture giant’s commitments have the potential to move markets: IKEA has 433 stores in 53 countries, and it hit 2019 global retail sales of about $45.5 billion .  The company has been reorienting towards a sustainability strategy that it’s calling ” climate positive “: by 2030, the goal is to remove more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than the entire IKEA value chain emits. IKEA has invested about $2 billion in total in clean energy — at the end of last year, it earmarked $220 million on green energy, reforestation and forest protection projects. Its sustainable transportation focus is part of its long-term sustainability plan. Specifically, Hultberg said that the company is worried about being able to align with the climate goals of the communities where it does business. Hultberg said that the company is worried about being able to align with the climate goals of the communities they’re in. “We have goods we need to deliver to people — in a sustainable way,” she described. “As air pollution is on the rise, cities all over the world are looking to close city borders to fossil fuels. If we can’t deliver, that’s a huge problem.” More than 100 cities around the world, ranging from San Francisco to London to Addis Abada, Ethiopia, have committed to create and implement inclusive climate action plans in line with keeping global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius through the C40 Cities initiative . These cities have committed to science-based targets to cut emissions in sectors that are some of the biggest urban emitters: buildings ; transportation ; and waste . That means low-carbon deliveries for businesses that want to operate in these locations. “So it’s about futureproofing our business,” Hultberg said. Sustainable mobility in cities will provide support for not only IKEA’s Millennial, urban-dwelling customers, but also for young, car-free employees.  “We know that young people don’t want to go on public transportation more than 30 minutes, and they don’t want to walk more than four blocks,” she said. “So that means that they want a job that is close to where they live so if you’re an employer and your workplaces are kind of remote, you risk losing out on talent. We can’t have that.” Equity matters, too Sustainable mobility commitments are important to Hultberg and IKEA as a whole because it’s not just an environmental issue, it’s also a social issue, she said.  “If you can’t afford a car and if you don’t have good and reliable public transportation, you can’t get to work,” Hultberg said. “Maybe you can’t even get a job because it’s just too far, and then you’re stuck in a very negative spiral of poverty. In many parts of the world public transportation isn’t safe, especially for women. So if you can’t get in a bus to go to school, or to get to work, then what?” IKEA is known for its affordable furniture solutions. Making sure that those who turn to IKEA for the cheaper, stylish product are able to come shop there is critical for the company’s core business. For example, the company is pushing its electric fleet partners to go electric, and investing in low-carbon fuel technologies. In addition, IKEA already has implemented free shuttles in New York City to help customers reach the store. “Mobility is a prerequisite for business and really for everything in society,” she said. Pull Quote It’s about reaching customers — or more specifically, helping customers reach IKEA. Hultberg said that the company is worried about being able to align with the climate goals of the communities they’re in. Topics Transportation & Mobility Shipping & Logistics VERGE 20 Clean Fleets Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Flickr Brendan Lynch Close Authorship

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Biomimicry Institute reveals 2020 Global Design Challenge finalists

September 3, 2020 by  
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The Biomimicry Institute has revealed this year’s 10 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge finalist teams, which have created innovative solutions for sustainably tackling global issues. The proposals, which all take inspiration from nature, address one or more of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The 10 finalists were selected from over 81 student teams as well as 26 teams of professionals from 17 countries in total. Of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, half of the 2020 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge submissions addressed “Sustainable Cities and Communities”, and over one-quarter addressed either “Good Health and Well-being”, “Climate Action”, “Life Below Water” and “Clean Water and Sanitation.” This year’s 10 finalist teams are from five different countries — including Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Taiwan and the United States — with the majority focused on Good Health and Well-being, Sustainable Cities and Communities and Climate Action. Related: NexLoop unveils water management system inspired by spiders, fungi, bees and plants The first five finalists in alphabetical order include A Sensitive Wall, a proposal for a dynamic green noise barrier for reducing the urban heat island effect and traffic noise. It takes inspiration from concave-eared torrent frogs, mimosa leaves and desert snails. BottleBricks is an interlocking bottle system for insulating refugee housing that mimics the air-trapping qualities found in the triangular, corrugated shape of Saharan silver ant hairs and the structure of silk cocoons. ELIGHTRA is a solar -powered lighting system for temporary settlements with hard outer shells like a ladybug’s elytra (wing cases). Methanolite is a methanotroph-inspired method for converting methane into methanol without carbon dioxide emissions. MyOak Public Market is an online platform to increase food access for vulnerable populations during times of crisis; the project takes cues from the Chesapeake Forest. Additional finalists include nutriBarrier, a woven barrier for reducing nutrient runoff inspired by the protective strategies of hagfish and frogs. The floral stamen-shaped air filtration system Pranavayu features the electrical and structural properties of a spiderweb. An air filter called RICOCHET mimics mantas. The SINC (Sustainable Ice Nucleation Contraption) outdoor water collection system improves access to clean drinking water with methods similar to the countercurrent heat exchange system found in trout. Tubes, Blades, Mesh, Oh My! is a seawall retrofit proposal that takes cues from seagrass and mangroves for greater coastal resiliency. + The Biomimicry Institute Images via The Biomimicry Institute

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The smooth handfish is declared extinct

September 3, 2020 by  
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The International Union for The Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has officially declared the smooth handfish extinct. This news makes the smooth handfish the first fish species to be declared extinct in modern history. The smooth handfish belongs to a family of fish that get their name from their fins, which are shaped like hands. As opposed to swimming, the smooth handfish crawled with its hand-shaped fins across the seafloor. The handfish is among the most unique types of fish. Besides their bright, multicolored bodies, their awkward movement on their hand-like fins makes them stand out from other fish. According to the IUCN, there used to be 14 species of handfish. But after the organization updated its list of endangered species, the smooth handfish has been listed as an extinct species. The smooth handfish has not been seen since the year 1802, despite searches being conducted around the world. Related: We are in the sixth mass extinction, and it is accelerating The IUCN’s announcement marks the first time a fish species has been declared extinct in modern history, according to National Geographic . The unfortunate news now shifts focus on the other species in the handfish family. Alarmingly, seven types of handfish have not been seen since 2000 or earlier. This might mean that these species are also on the verge of extinction . The handfish is a special family of fish that is characterized by isolation. They do not associate with other types of fish and are usually localized in one place. “They spend most of their time sitting on the seabed, with an occasional flap for a few meters if they’re disturbed,” Graham Edgar, marine ecologist, told Scientific American . “As they lack a larval stage, they are unable to disperse to new locations — and consequently, handfish populations are very localized and vulnerable to threats.” While the fish stay on the seafloor, they are faced with many threats. Some of the threats include industrial runoff that affects the quality of seawater. Further, fishing and dredging along the seabed also threaten many fish, including the handfish. Invasive species also pose a threat to these unique creatures. The recent news of the smooth handfish’s extinction opens our eyes to the possibility of losing more precious species if actions are not taken to protect biodiversity . + IUCN Via Mic , National Geographic and Scientific American Image via Kenneth Lu

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Bond Pet Foods develops slaughter-free chicken for sustainable pet food

September 3, 2020 by  
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It’s an ethical conundrum vegetarian pet owners frequently face — isn’t it hypocritical to eschew meat consumption yourself while still supporting animal slaughter by purchasing pet food? Those days of having to choose Fluffy over a nameless abattoir victim may be coming to an end as Bond Pet Foods improves a new lab-grown chicken protein technology. The Boulder, Colorado-based biotech company has figured out how to crack the genetic code of a chicken and replicate it in a lab. In this case, Inga, a farm-dwelling heritage hen from Lindsborg, Kansas, was the blood donor. Food chemists combine the genetic code in a fermentation tank with food-grade yeast, and voilà, they’ve created something identical to animal meat. The fermentation process is similar to one commonly used to make enzymes for cheese. Related: 7 ways to be an eco-friendly pet owner “A new wave of responsible food production is emerging, working with the best that nature and science has to offer, and our team is leading this wave in Pet,” said Rich Kelleman, co-founder and CEO of Bond Pet Foods. “Our team’s continued developments are laying the foundation to bring high-value meat protein and nutrition to dogs and cats, while removing farm animals from the equation.” Don’t race to your local pet food store just yet. Bond aims to have the slaughter-free pet food on shelves by 2023 with support from seed investors. In the meantime, an early test of a dog treat made from the cultured chicken protein was a success with canine consumers. “Our initial tests with dog volunteers have been very promising, and its nutritionals, palatability and digestibility will only improve on our path to commercialization,” said Pernilla Audibert, co-founder and CTO of Bond Pet Foods. “The science team at Bond is also working on production of other cultured meat proteins made through a similar fermentation process. The successful chicken prototype is a demonstration of our technology’s potential to create a complete portfolio of animal proteins for pet consumption, and beyond.” + Bond Pet Foods Via VegNews Image via Bond Pet Foods

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Amid devastating forest fires, One Trillion Trees movement puts down U.S. roots

August 27, 2020 by  
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Amid devastating forest fires, One Trillion Trees movement puts down U.S. roots Heather Clancy Thu, 08/27/2020 – 00:02 This week marks the launch of the first regional chapter of the ambitious global movement to plant 1 trillion trees  — a natural climate solution seen as critical for helping draw down the earth’s carbon debt, and an idea that has been spreading like wildfire since it was planted in January in Davos, Switzerland. There are more than two dozen launch partners for the new U.S. branch of 1t.org, spearheaded by the World Economic Forum and American Forests. Collectively, the group — which includes tech giants Microsoft and Salesforce, consumer products companies Timberland and Clif Bar, financial services powerhouses Bank of America and Mastercard and the cities of Detroit and Dallas — hopes to grow more than 855 million trees covering 2.8 million acres. It’s a bold goal, especially poignant in the context of the devastating forest fires raging in California, which have claimed more than 1.2 million acres (and counting) as of Tuesday afternoon. “That is a reforestation debt that is now due and owing,” said Jad Daley, president and CEO of American Forests, when we chatted earlier this week. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, American forests and forest products are responsible for capturing 15 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions captured from burning fossil fuels. By conserving, restoring and growing trees, the country has the potential to capture double the emissions, estimates a study advanced by The Nature Conservancy. The 1t.org organization, which includes a bipartisan stakeholder council with representatives from governments, businesses, nonprofits and academia, was created to scale the collective resources of those making tree-related commitments, Daley said. As an example, a tool for calculating the carbon emissions that could be reduced through specific reforestation efforts is under development. It’s also working on scaling financing mechanisms. A controlled burn to stop incoming wildfire in Mendocino, California. Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.   The chapter is also prioritizing efforts that can “remedy gross inequities” by bringing trees back to urban neighborhoods and by placing the potential for job creation at the center of plans, Daley said. The World Economic Forum estimates that sustainable forestry management has the potential to create up to 16 million jobs by 2030 — and more than $230 billion in new economic opportunities.  There’s also a very clear environmental justice issue to address. The map of tree canopies across the United States closely mirrors income, race and health issues — with low-income communities sorely lacking. “We are not going to plant as many trees in cities, but every one of them will have an impact,” Daley said. “It is central to our vision.” The city of Dallas , for example, is pledging to conserve and restore close to 14.8 million trees as part of its urban forestry management plan. Tucson, Arizona, is planning to plant 1 million over the next decade. Detroit and Boise, Idaho, are pledging fewer, but they’re also part of the launch. Salesforce wrote headlines in January for its commitment to restoring and planting 100 million trees; Mastercard is looking to restore or protect the same number over the next five years through its Priceless Planet Coalition . The effort links the activities of cardholders to forest conservation initiatives. For example, corporate cardholder accounts can influence donations to the fund with through spending. Mastercard’s partners in the effort include Citibank, Santander UK, Saks Fifth Avenue and American Airlines. Kristina Kloberdanz, chief sustainability officer for Mastercard, said her company became involved with 1t.org because of its expertise in forestry issues. “We know the business we are in,” she said. “We are not the experts in tree planting. It’s really important to us that we do this right. That we galvanize and motivate. This is bigger than any one of us.” When I asked Kloberdanz what sorts of initiatives Mastercard plans to prioritize, she said agroforestry — where tree preservation is incorporated into broader agricultural strategies — is part of the plan. “We are most interested in planting where there is going to be a benefit to the climate, but we’re also interested in the community and biodiversity benefits as well,” she said. Topics Forestry Carbon Removal Social Justice Natural Climate Solutions Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Kuldeep Singh, nursery manager for the L.A. Moran Reforestation Center in Davis, California. Courtesy of American Forests Close Authorship

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Who has the most sustainable fleets? Time to name names

August 26, 2020 by  
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Who has the most sustainable fleets? Time to name names Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 08/26/2020 – 00:30 Sustainable fleets are at an inflection point , and we here at GreenBiz are looking to celebrate them. That’s why I’m particularly excited to share that GreenBiz plans to publish the top 25 list of sustainable fleets the week before our annual VERGE 20 conference (which will run virtually the last week in October).  The list will highlight the most innovative and aggressive companies, cities, governments and organizations buying and advocating for zero- and low-carbon vehicles, as well as using other technologies that can significantly reduce transportation emissions.  Many types of vehicle fleets move people and goods, or do important work in our cities, and we’ll consider them all as contenders — from passenger vehicles to delivery vans to transit and school buses to garbage trucks to long haul trucks. We’ll also consider all technologies from battery electric to alternative fuels to efficiency tech. Who’s being aggressive? Who’s being innovative? Who is rapidly speeding toward a goal to decarbonize their fleet?  Let us know! Fill out this form with more information about your/their organization. We’re asking for submissions until Sept. 30. If you have any questions, drop me a line: katie@greenbiz.com . Topics Transportation & Mobility Fleet Green Fleet 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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Global warming could push air conditioning demand up 59%

August 21, 2020 by  
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An analysis done by Climate Central shows that demand for air conditioning in the U.S. will increase by 59% by the year 2050. According to the study, there has been a continued rise in demand for air conditioners in the U.S. and other parts of the world because of global warming. The study shows that continued greenhouse gas emissions are leading to unpredictable weather patterns in most regions. Regions that were traditionally colder are warming up, and those that are warm are getting hotter. These changes are forcing more people to use air conditioners to regulate home temperatures. The study was based on data collected from 242 U.S. cities. The data tracks down air conditioning usage via a measure known as cooling-degree days (CDD). Cooling-degree days simply refers to the difference between the accepted temperature for human comfort and the daily average temperature. The human body is expected to feel comfortable at 65°F. Any temperature below or above 65°F can lead to discomfort, hence the demand for air conditioning. If a region experiences a daily average temperature of 80°F, the CDD for that location would be 15. Related: Global warming expected to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius Analysts behind the study have revealed that 96% of the cities in the U.S. have experienced an increase in CDD between 1970 and 2019. Some of the states that have been widely affected by high CDD include Texas, Nevada and Arizona. Higher temperatures are pushing more people to purchase air conditioners. Today, many people use some form of air conditioning to control the temperatures in their homes and offices. Sean Sublette, a meteorologist at Climate Central, said that the average person uses air conditioning to deal with higher temperatures without thinking about climate change , which is only made worse by increased reliance on air conditioners. “When our air conditioning is powered by electricity generated through fossil fuels, heat-trapping CO2 is released,” Climate Central explained. “Air conditioners emit heat back outside and can add to the heat island effect in urban areas. And if old air conditioners are not disposed of properly, they can leak chemicals that are themselves harmful heat-trapping gases.” + Climate Central Via Yale Environment 360 Image via TrioSolution1

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Global warming could push air conditioning demand up 59%

8 cities share how racial justice is embedded into their climate plans

July 20, 2020 by  
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8 cities share how racial justice is embedded into their climate plans Jesse Klein Mon, 07/20/2020 – 02:00 As COVID-19 rampages through vulnerable minority populations with tragic consequences, and protests for racial justice surge among a similar demographic, city climate planners see a renewed focus on climate justice. The pandemic, in some ways, has been a trial run for the anticipated coming impacts of climate change — a not-so-distant future in which low-income and minority populations are the most at risk. As mayors make quick strategic changes to address the short-term COVID crisis, they are also in the midst of planning for similar long-term climate issues. Last week, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group , an organization of mayors from around the global, launched a Detailed Agenda for Green and Just Recovery from COVID-19 to ensure that this crisis propels sustainable innovations instead of a return to old ways.  “Equity is really at the heart of our recovery in the city,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell of her city, New Orleans, during the C40 press conference. “We’ve had 542 deaths [due to COVID-19] in our city and out of the 542, 404 were Black or Brown. Our response to this pandemic is an opportunity to create a much more healthier, more sustainable and equitable city, no doubt about it.” Another organization, Climate Mayors , a network of 438 United States mayors, hopes to provide peer-to-peer sharing between American cities to help adapt to and in some ways reverse our changing climate. It has helped fill the U.S- shaped hole in leadership left by the Trump administration.  “We want to make sure we’re reflecting back to the international community that there is a lot of effort going on to reduce emissions and energy technology,” said James Ritchotte, director of Climate Mayors. GreenBiz recently spoke with eight chief sustainability officers and mayors that are part of the Climate Mayors network to understand what actions they are taking to ensure climate justice is embedded into their climate resiliency plans. Below are excerpts from the interviews, edited for length and clarity. Boston Boston is aiming to be carbon neutral by 2050 by focusing on their 86,000 buildings. The city is also investing in seawalls to prevent erosion due to sea level rise.  Christopher Cook, chief of environment, energy and open space On COVID-19 pandemic learnings that can apply to climate change initiatives:  What COVID has put in the forefront is how interwoven racial equity is with our climate crisis. Those social equity gaps in our society show how intentional we have to be in the climate work to make sure that we’re not exacerbating the situation. We have to be very intentional about job creation, or else our most socially vulnerable won’t be able to fully participate. We started very intentional conversations with our Office of Workforce Development to make sure that we are connecting directly with communities of color, and are starting a job training program for city retrofitting. On how COVID-19 gives us a chance to help vulnerable populations:  We can take [the pandemic as an] opportunity to be intentional about creating a cleaner respiratory environment for our citizens, especially those living in affordable housing. People need to have air filters and high-quality HVAC systems. Can we also use this as an opportunity to electrify those systems and retrofit those systems? So as we make buildings more efficient and cleaner from a carbon perspective, can we also make them healthier buildings? Carmel, Indiana Carmel is focusing on making its city greener through transportation initiatives, including more bike access and roundabouts.  Mayor James Brainard On how making the city more bike accessible is an environmental justice issue: Everybody talks about affordable housing, it’s really more about affordable living. A lot of city design requires huge amounts of a poor person’s expenditures be spent on gas, automobiles and insurance. We unveiled 225 miles of bike trails so you can get anywhere within the city of Carmel by bicycle, which is also important for environmental justice. To somebody who can’t afford a car, that makes a huge difference. So many times we’ve designed our cities so that not having a car isn’t even an option. We are also working to make our city beautiful, too. Wealthy people can travel to some of the most beautiful places on earth. But for people who can’t, they have a right to have their city be beautiful as well. So we focused on that through public art and beautiful parks and trails. On environmentalism as a Republican issue:  [Environmentalism] is a Republican issue. It was Teddy Roosevelt that started the national parks. It was Eisenhower who set aside the arctic reserve. It was Nixon and Ford who signed the EPA into existence. The Migratory Bird act was Nixon. The Endangered Species Act was for Nixon. The Republicans were very much environmentalists, starting with Teddy Roosevelt. Ford was always environmentalist, and got a lot done. And it disappoints me that this is something the Republican party has not focused on recently. On how two ideologies can come to the same decision that benefits climate: I had a guy who was very conservative giving me a hard time about spending $750,000 on switching to LED streetlights. So I said to him, “Well, what about the cost savings?” Because of less electricity, the savings will be about a 22 percent a year annualized rate of return on that money we invest. I showed him the bills. And he said “Oh, I guess this is a pretty good idea.” So he didn’t care about the environment. But he did care a lot about the return on investment. By the time we ended the conversation he got to the same place. But not for the environmental reason, but for a fiscal reason. People can get in the same place for different reasons. Houston Houston has committed to 100 percent renewable energy for all municipal buildings on its way to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050 .   Marissa Aho, chief of resilience officer On Houston’s strategy for imbedding climate justice into climate resilience: In January we released a report with recommendations particularly related to flood resilience. We focused on three historically underinvested communities in Houston: Independence Heights; Greenspoint; and Kashmere Gardens, which is part of Mayor [Sylvester] Turner’s Complete Communities Plan initiative, which is looking at 10 of our most historically under invested African American and Hispanic, Latinx neighborhoods, and creating action plans to improve quality of life. A majority of the key actions are really understanding that our most vulnerable people, places and systems are disproportionately affected when there is any disruption. So, we have a number of targets but one is to address the huge disparities in life expectancy depending on what neighborhood you grew up in or live in. And that pre-COVID was a 24-year disparity.  Los Angeles Los Angeles is on track for a 45 percent decrease in emissions by 2025 with the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. The city’s climate initiatives was written in conjunction with creating new green jobs as part of Los Angeles’ Green New Deal.   Lauren Faber O’Connor, chief sustainability officer On how Los Angeles plans to address heat issues to benefit lower-income communities:  A big concern of climate change are impacts of heat and extreme heat in Los Angeles. Some of our citywide goals just facilitate a cooler, more resilient city, and I mean cooler as in temperature. This needs to happen citywide but we’re targeting the rollout in communities that are in greatest need and have the lowest tree canopy and the most vulnerability, like an elderly population, low-income population who may not be able to run an AC if they even have an AC. We want to make sure that we’re cooling those neighborhoods, and doing it in a way that meets their needs by focusing on the walk to a bus stop and at the area around the bus stop. The laying of cool pavement to reduce the urban heat island effect by literally paving a lighter shade over our streets. And then combining those with local tree planting to create more canopy cover and doing those things in neighborhoods that need it the most. On focusing money towards overlooked communities: The Transformative Climate Communities Program was created by the state through the climate investments, cap and trade dollars. We worked with local community leaders to prepare projects that would apply for state funding. The first year the Watts neighborhood was awarded a $30 million grant. Watts has a really incredible history, including the Watts riots in the 1960s. It’s a lively community. They’ve suffered a lot of injustices and need more significant and more direct investment. We prioritize that with incredible innovation by electrifying the local buses, electrifying the service in Watts. But also providing an EV Car Share service, bike share and bike lanes, multiple pedestrian improvements to allow for more walking, rooftop solar for home. What’s incredible is that when we hear from our community leaders, they would say to us that Watts is always last. In this project, LA has put Watts in the front of the line. Oakland, California Oakland’s climate action plan to get to carbon neutrality includes funding for a downtown shuttle, constructing electric vehicle charging stations and launching a green retrofitting program for residential houses, among 29 other initiatives.   Daniel Hamilton, sustainability program manager On climate programs that address inequities:  When we talked about the need to create denser urban environments to accommodate more people, the community said, “Well, it’s not just about the densities and the land use. Its about housing discrimination.” The climate solutions to these couldn’t be ignorant of or silent on those types of topics. The action items are designed specifically to address the broader social issues as well as climate issues. It’s not just a greenhouse gas reduction policy. It’s a policy that targets the systems that create the greenhouse gases in ways that address historic inequities and provide some solutions. An example of this would be the action items focused on anti-displacement, so keeping people rooted in Oakland. When we talked about this densification of land uses, housing came up as a big issue. But the final action item doesn’t say “provide greater densities.” The final action item is actually support for the community land trust model to build wealth within the communities to allow people who are in Oakland to stay in the community and not have to move out to second- and third-tier suburbs and drive a lot further to get to the same jobs they exist in today. Orlando, Florida Orlando hopes to power the city entirely off renewable energy by 2050 . But the city’s 2018 Community Action Plan is on an even quicker timeline, establishing goals for 2040 that include getting the government’s 232 buildings up to LEED code, planting 20,000 trees and increasing the electrical vehicle infrastructure.  Chris Castro, director of the office of sustainability and resilience On creating programs that help low-income communities meet overall climate goals:  Low- and moderate-income communities often are spending two and three times as much per square foot on utilities than more affluent communities. The landlords of these homes or apartments are reluctant to make ongoing maintenance improvements to them. So they have very outdated air conditioning systems, outdated insulation and lighting. As a result, they have less resources, but they’re spending more on their utility bills. In one of our notorious communities of color, Paramore, people are burdened by upwards of 18 percent of their household income being spent on utilities . The average across in Orlando is 4.5 percent. That has helped us to develop new programs. We’ve partnered with a nonprofit called SELF, Solar Energy Loan Fund. We helped them establish their regional headquarters in Orlando. They provide funding, specifically to low and moderate income communities for home energy improvements, reducing energy and water use, lighting and HVAC, onsite solar, and even sewer and water improvements. It’s a loan product that is really looking at an unsecured very low interest loan for homeowners. So a person with a low credit score of 500 can get a loan for 5 percent to 6 percent interest from SELF versus getting laughed out of the bank when they’re asking for a loan to get a new AC system. This is an opportunity for people on the low and moderate income spectrum to have the financial tools to make these home improvements that improve quality of life, save energy, save water and reduce carbon right at the end of the day. I think we’ve invested about $150,000 over the last few years to help them out. Richmond, Virginia To reach the city’s goal of an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emission by 2050, the sustainability office is focusing on increasing alternative energy options with solar panel installations.  Alicia Zatcoff, sustainability manager On climate mapping helped with the COVID response: We have a pretty sophisticated mapping, the equity index. We have gone through and assessed and about 20 social vulnerability factors including geographic-based and demographic factors, resulting over 140 layers and pieces of data on the map. We rank those pieces of land using our climate equity index to identify where new parks or open spaces could be. We mapped our heat index looking for our heat islands. Using the equity index we can prioritize those areas, which is a different approach than we would have taken a year or two ago. So we’ve done that for climate. And then when COVID hit, we went back to see what the risk factors are for getting COVID and then the factors for getting severe disease or dying. And what we found is they are so closely aligned with the climate risk and vulnerability factors. The community that was on the frontline of climate change, we’re also on the front line of COVID. Saint Paul, Minnesota Saint Paul’s top priorities are to become a carbon-neutral community and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2050. The government buildings are hoping to decarbonize by 2030.  Russell Stark, chief resilience officer  On how car sharing will benefit low-income communities  We are making sure that at the same time that we’re reducing emissions, we’re actually creating a mobility access benefit for our lowest-income communities. For example, car sharing has operated on a round trip model. Most of the parking locations are where the market is, usually around colleges or high density neighborhoods or in some cases better-off neighborhoods. When we thought about expanding our car share was to expand the service into some of our lowest income communities and communities of color. We are partnering with community-based organizations to expand that service into 10 locations that really haven’t had the service before. Topics Cities COVID-19 Racial Issues Environmental Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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