Clean Energy Deal Tracker: Don’t say Amazon isn’t doing anything — international PPAs on the rise

January 16, 2020 by  
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The corporate renewable procurements disclosed in the fourth quarter of 2019 were remarkable for being unremarkable.

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Clean Energy Deal Tracker: Don’t say Amazon isn’t doing anything — international PPAs on the rise

Your guide to Europe’s ‘Green New Deal,’ the continent’s new plan to get to net zero

December 16, 2019 by  
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Not got time to read every line of the European Green Deal? We’ve got you covered.

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Your guide to Europe’s ‘Green New Deal,’ the continent’s new plan to get to net zero

Your guide to Europe’s ‘Green New Deal,’ the continent’s new plan to get to net zero

December 16, 2019 by  
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Not got time to read every line of the European Green Deal? We’ve got you covered.

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Your guide to Europe’s ‘Green New Deal,’ the continent’s new plan to get to net zero

Value-added tax: a potential solution for carbon leakage

November 26, 2019 by  
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This system would be burdensome and inefficient but it could make it feasible to practically address carbon leakage.

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Value-added tax: a potential solution for carbon leakage

High levels of plastic byproducts discovered in children, study finds

September 18, 2019 by  
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A “human biomonitoring” study, jointly conducted by the German Environment Ministry and the Robert Koch Institute, is sounding the clarion warning that plastic pollution is present — and not just in our oceans, estuaries and the fish we eat. Rather alarmingly, the study found toxic levels of plastic byproducts in 97 percent of the blood and urine samples gathered from 2,500 children tested. The children in the research study ranged from 3 to 17 years of age. Of the 15 plastics under scrutiny, researchers detected 11 in the children’s test samples. Presence of these plastic byproducts in the children’s bodies increases their risk of hormonal dysfunction. That’s because plastics , at the micro level, can mimic the action of particular hormones, thus confusing the human endocrine system. The disruption, in turn, can manifest as obesity, metabolic disease, cancers, reproductive disorders, behavioral aberrations or developmental delays. Related: How to teach children about climate change What’s disquieting is that exposure to these plastic substances can arise from the most mundane things — storage containers, DVD cases, receipts, package linings, PVC piping, imitation leather, treated furniture, carpeting, even toys and medical devices. Plastics and microplastics surround us; consequently, we cannot avoid being exposed. One of the scientific authors, Marike Kolossa-Gehring, stated, “Our study clearly shows that plastic ingredients, which are rising in production, are showing up more and more in the body.” The study also revealed that the most susceptible subjects were younger children and children from poorer families. Both at-risk groups registered more plastic residue than their counterparts. Similarly, the study addressed the issue of replacements, citing that substances classified as perilous to humans should not be replaced by similar chemicals. After all, the substitutes might be just as toxic and detrimental. Hence, replacing with similar chemicals does not mitigate the chances of being exposed to harm. Researchers expressed uneasiness about the high levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in the young subjects. The apprehension surfaces from the fact that PFOA is extremely persistent, bioaccumulative and rather toxic. PFOA is typically used in the process for making Teflon, which explains why it is usually found coating non-stick cookware and waterproof clothing. PFOA is a threat because it is toxic to both the reproductive system and the liver. The European Union is expected to ban PFOA in 2020. The scientists concluded that more research is needed to discover the pathways that plastics take to enter the human body. A solution is likewise needed to minimize the risks of children accumulating plastic byproducts at unsafe levels. Via Spiegel Online and TreeHugger Image via Ruben Rubio

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Canada to ban single-use plastics by 2021

June 11, 2019 by  
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Canada is the latest country to follow the European Union’s ambitious ban of single-use plastics, which will go into effect by 2021. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the upcoming ban, which still has details to iron out, in an attempt to address the marine litter crisis. The announcement also comes months before the election this fall, during which political experts expect climate change to take center stage. Less than 10 percent of all plastics in Canada are recycled, with 300 million tons thrown out every year. This recycling rate is similar in the United States, the largest plastic consumer in the world, where about 9 percent of plastics are recycled. In every corner of the globe, plastic waste is reaching the ocean and wreaking havoc on marine species from sea turtles to fish and whales. Related: Have your plastic and eat it too – average American ingests 50,000 microplastic particles a year To put it into perspective for citizens, Prime Minister Trudeau explained, “As parents, we’re at a point when we take our kids to the beach and we have to search out a patch of sand that isn’t littered with straws, Styrofoam or bottles. That’s a problem, one that we have to do something about.” Legislators have yet to announce exactly which single-use plastics will be banned, but the list could include cutlery, straws, plates, stir sticks and bags. Throughout the European Union, plastic bags, cutlery, cotton balls, stir sticks and balloon sticks will be outlawed in 2021, with a reduction in plastic cups and other food-related plastics also going into effect. The ban legislation is also expected to detail regulations for companies that produce significant plastic waste . The policy will hold companies accountable and mandate they develop targets and responsible waste management plans. Prime Minister Trudeau’s environmental policy may help his chances for re-election this fall, as voters are increasingly concerned about the environment and climate change . Via The BBC Image via Fotoblend

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Canada to ban single-use plastics by 2021

Deforestation in tropical countries linked to European diets in new study

April 16, 2019 by  
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New research shows that European diets are linked to deforestation  in tropical countries. Scientists from Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology tracked carbon emissions that are produced from tropical deforestation and found that one-sixth of the harmful emissions are related to European diets. “In effect, you could say that the EU imports large amounts of deforestation every year,” lead researcher Martin Persson shared. Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa Persson noted that the European Union needs to address the issue of deforestation if it wants to meet previously announced climate goals. The study showed that deforestation contributed around 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide over a four-year span, from 2010 to 2014. Most of the cleared land was used for crops and pastures, with cattle and oilseed farming leading the way in production. A good portion of the deforestation was driven by international demand. The researchers estimated that anywhere between 29 to 39 percent of the carbon emissions could be traced to trade, which is directly linked to consumption in several EU nations. Fortunately, some countries in the EU are cracking down on imports tied to deforestation. France, for example, initiated a plan to discourage such imports over the next 10 years. Investors have also issued warnings to companies that produce soy, criticizing them for participating in deforestation for the sake of making money. Although some countries are fighting back, Persson and his team do not believe the efforts will stop companies from clearing land. Part of the issue is that there are few regulations that actually prevent countries from importing products that are linked to deforestation. Persson also believes that nations should provide better support for local farmers who are practicing sustainability . Moving forward, Persson hopes more studies will be done that expand on his work and show stronger links between imported products and deforestation. With more data to support their conclusions, Persson believes that countries can work together to put an end to deforestation before it is too late. The study will be published in the journal Global Environmental Change in May 2019. Via Mongabay Image via Shutterstock

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Deforestation in tropical countries linked to European diets in new study

MAD Architects unveils an organic skyscraper piercing Manhattans skyline

April 16, 2019 by  
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Beijing-based architectural studio MAD Architects has unveiled an alternative vision for the skyline of New York City with the introduction of East 34th, a nature-inspired high-rise proposed near the Empire State Building. The conceptual renderings for the glass-clad building were recently released alongside the launch of the “MAD X” exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Designed as a visual counterpoint to the Empire State Building and the skyline’s hard lines, MAD’s sinuous skyscraper is “planted like a seed” and takes cues from living architecture. Conceived as a mixed-use building, East 34th is envisioned for a 5,231-square-foot site and spans nearly 120,000 square feet of floor space with a building height of 761 feet, about half the height of the Empire State Building. The high-rise would include a commercial podium at street level with retail and public amenities, while luxury residences with double-height communal spaces occupy the upper floors. In keeping with MAD Architects’ philosophy of bringing nature into all aspects of architecture, East 34th would also include a spacious multi-floor atrium with an expansive green wall as an “escape into nature” from the concrete jungle. “Located adjacent to the ‘Empire State Building’ — which held the title of the world’s tallest building for almost 40 years — ‘East 34th’ is planted like a seed, sprouting within the grid, rising with a soft, undulating surface that suggests a more organic, living architecture,” the architects explained in a press release. “Thus, the design opposes the traditional towers that demonstrate the cultural impact of power and capital in our cities. Defying the stacked floor plates and authority of a bygone industrial era that has come to characterize the city’s horizon, ‘East 34th’ softens the hard skyline and introduces a dialogue between New York’s modernist landscape and nature.” Related: MAD Architects’ curvaceous Himalayas Center nears completion in Nanjing Wrapped in a deep-colored glass curtain-wall facade, the slender and sinuous skyscraper is topped with a rounded cap. The model of East 34th is one of 12 architectural models created by MAD Architects currently exhibited at Centre Pompidou in Paris. + MAD Architects Images via MAD Architects

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MAD Architects unveils an organic skyscraper piercing Manhattans skyline

Architects create light-filled home extension clad in cork walls inside and out

April 16, 2019 by  
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London-based firm, Nimtim Architects have unveiled a beautiful and unique home extension to a family’s modest Victorian home located south of the city. Working closely with the home owners, the architects created a rear extension that is almost entirely clad in cork. Blending in nicely with the existing home’s brickwork on the exterior, the unique cork cladding provides a strong insulation while on the interior, the cork absorbs noise, is breathable, free from harmful materials and completely recyclable. The architects designed the building in complete collaboration with the family who were looking for additional living space. To create a seamless connection between the existing structure and the new extension, the designers created a simple box-like structure with a pitched roof and an extra large pivot door that frames an uninterrupted view of the garden. Subtle in its volume, the design managed to be both practical, sustainable and slightly whimsical– thanks to its interior and exterior cork cladding . Related: Two energy-efficient cork homes are elevated off the landscape in northern Spain Sustainable, chemical-free and recyclable, cork is a practical building material in that it is also naturally water resistant, something important in this particular design considering London’s wet climate. Additionally beneficial, cork naturally absorbs sound and is also thermally efficient, meaning that no additional insulation was necessary. In addition to its sustainable qualities , using cork allowed the new building to find its place without overshadowing the existing home. Project runner Allie Mackinnon told Dezeen , “The form is a playful response to the roof, openings and levels of the existing house. The materials were also chosen to respond to the existing house as a subtle counterpoint to the original brickwork. The pitched elevation needed a consistent material and the cork provided an unbroken, textured surface.” On the interior of the new building, the space is flooded with natural light , from the large windows to series of skylights on the roof. A two-level structure, the kitchen holds court on the top floor over an ample dining space and informal seating area. Throughout the space, dark cork walls contrast with the all white ceiling to create a modern, fresh aesthetic. + Nimtim Architects Via Dezeen Photography by Megan Taylor

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Architects create light-filled home extension clad in cork walls inside and out

EU moves forward with its plastic ban

April 1, 2019 by  
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The European Union is moving forward with its plastic ban initiative. The EU just signed off on a plan that will prohibit single-use plastics throughout participating countries by the year 2021. The law targets specific plastics while forcing companies to pay for any pollution their products may cause. “Today we have taken an important step to reduce littering and plastic pollution in our oceans and seas,” the European Commission’s Frans Timmermans explained. “Europe is setting new and ambitious standards, paving the way for the rest of the world.” Related: EU proposes plan to ban 90 percent of microplastics According to EcoWatch , the new law will eliminate around 70 percent of the plastics that pollute oceans. Banned plastics include single-use cutlery, plates, straws, cotton swabs (that feature plastic sticks), polystyrene cups and oxo-degradable plastics. The plan also requires that companies use at least 25 percent of recycled materials in plastic bottles over the next six years. When it comes to paying for pollution , the law will require companies to help in the clean-up efforts related to their products. For example, cigarette businesses will have to pay to pick up butts that are carelessly thrown away, while companies that make fishing gear will be required to help fund the removal of plastic nets from the ocean. Lastly, the new initiative will force companies to create better labels for products that contain plastic . More specifically, the EU wants companies to better inform customers when their products include plastics, especially when it is harder to discern. The revised labels will also encourage people to recycle the items if necessary. The European Commission originally announced the ban back in the spring of 2018. With full backing from Parliament, the ban is expected to be completed and sent to member states soon. If the law is followed by all of the countries in the EU, experts hope that it will significantly curb ocean litter , which is largely made up of single-use plastics. The law should also save the EU around 22 billion euros by the year 2030. The EU hopes that its plastic ban will become a model for other countries around the world to follow. + European Parliament Via EcoWatch Image via Matthew Gollop

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