The circular economy shows its human side

March 29, 2021 by  
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The circular economy shows its human side Lauren Phipps Mon, 03/29/2021 – 01:30 This article originally appeared in the State of Green Business 2021. You can download the entire report here . As the circular economy ramps up, we’ve seen impressive innovation in materials, products, models and processes — but innovation on how we treat people has been notably absent. However, as companies, cities and countries alike adopt a more holistic lens and embrace circular principles, they are recognizing the opportunity to drive social change in lockstep with an economic transformation that puts people at the center.  In the context of sourcing and supply chains, we’ve seen this movie before. Facing legal pressure from governments, reputational risk from consumers and pushback from NGOs, the past two decades have seen a dramatic shift in sourcing protocols and upstream supplier engagement in an attempt to eradicate forced and child labor, conflict minerals and other human rights violations in supply chains. Yet, these efforts traditionally have acknowledged only one phase of a material’s life. In a circular supply chain, sourcing no longer focuses exclusively on virgin materials. As companies take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products, hazardous conditions in which a child disassembles a smartphone is as problematic as cobalt sourced using forced child labor in a conflict zone to make the smartphone in the first place. While the Basel Convention criminalized transboundary movement of hazardous waste (of which most electronics are classified) to limit some human health implications of electronics waste streams, plastic waste is another story, only recently having been included in the convention. In the absence of formal materials management infrastructure, waste collectors — skilled entrepreneurs in the informal economy that gather, sort and sell used bottles, caps and other valuable materials, sometimes culling them from landfills — have filled in a necessary gap to slow the leakage of plastic waste into waterways and through coastal communities. And as a growing number of companies commit to recycled plastics targets and circular plastics aspirations, the opportunity and necessity of partnering with these communities is becoming increasingly clear. Companies are beginning to expand the scope of sourcing considerations, deploying what they have learned in sourcing virgin materials to sourcing from previously used products and materials and applying these learnings downstream. HP Inc. offers a now-iconic example of meaningful downstream collaboration in Haiti, having partnered with waste-collection communities with the help of First Mile Coalition, an initiative of the nonprofit organization Work, to support the social infrastructure of plastic waste as well as the physical infrastructure of materials recovery. In 2019, HP invested $2 million in a new plastics washing line in Port-au-Prince to support the collection of ocean-bound plastic in the community, which the company buys from a local business to use in its laptops and ink cartridges. The effort not only has provided HP with a reliable supply of post-consumer recycled plastics to slowly wean itself off virgin materials, it’s also created more than 1,000 new jobs in Haiti by expanding the region’s recycling capacity. HP’s investment is an example of how capital is being deployed differently in the fight against plastic waste, focusing on community leadership rather than solely a technical, infrastructure development intervention. We’re seeing a similar, holistic approach to capital deployment to address the plastic waste crisis globally, including the Alliance to End Plastic Waste’s stated commitment to community engagement. Just as companies have prioritized transparency and traceability in upstream operations to address human rights, a circular supply chain calls for the same level of scrutiny downstream. Companies are beginning to expand the scope of sourcing considerations, deploying what they have learned in sourcing virgin materials to sourcing from previously used products and materials and applying these learnings downstream. But the opportunity for economic improvement isn’t limited to efforts in the Global South, and currently national governments are leading the way in a human-centered circular economy transition.  At the forefront is Europe’s Green Deal, the policy framework intended to bring the European Union to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 while decoupling economic growth from resource extraction and leaving no person or place behind. The aim is not one or the other, but rather an integrated approach to resource stewardship, responsibility and climate mitigation. The European Commission’s associated Circular Economy Action Plan emphasizes the opportunity for social and economic development through circular value chains — to the tune of 700,000 new employment opportunities by 2030 in Europe alone. Circular business models require a suite of new expertise, from repair and refurbishment to disassembly, recovery and recycling, making way for a new class of sustainable and dignified jobs. One U.S.-based example is Homeboy Electronics Recycling, a social enterprise offering e-waste management and IT disposal while providing employment and training to people who face systemic barriers to work. A human-centered circular economy can’t focus solely on jobs and material management, but also must ensure access to the benefits of these new models. Consider the benefit to consumers of saving money by buying in bulk: Whether you’re buying dog food, rice or ibuprofen, buying more than a single serving upfront saves money and packaging. But without the cash to invest upfront, low-resource communities are burdened with a poverty tax in the form of a markup — up to 50 percent — for buying food and other necessities in small formats rather than in bulk. Chilean startup Algramo aims to address this by offering consumers the ability to buy the exact quantity they need but allowing them to pay the bulk price. Algramo partnered with consumer goods companies, including Colgate-Palmolive, Nestlé, Clorox and Unilever, to make heir products and reusable packaging formats available and accessible to everyone. The circular economy is a means, not an end, offering strategies and frameworks to create economic flows on top of material flows in support of a more sustainable, resilient and prosperous system. It works only if it can transform systems, not reinforce existing ones.  As human rights, economic inclusion and social equity come into focus within circular initiatives, the opportunity for a holistic understanding of what circular economies can enable is becoming increasingly clear. Pull Quote Companies are beginning to expand the scope of sourcing considerations, deploying what they have learned in sourcing virgin materials to sourcing from previously used products and materials and applying these learnings downstream. Topics Circular Economy State of Green Business Report Human Rights Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A child picks up recyclable waste in a landfill. Shutterstock Tinnakorn jorruang Close Authorship

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How can sustainability execs leverage Biden’s policy agenda?    

March 29, 2021 by  
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How can sustainability execs leverage Biden’s policy agenda?     Dawn Rittenhouse Mon, 03/29/2021 – 00:15 Well before Jan. 20, when President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took the oath of office, they made it clear they would start their terms with a clear policy agenda that addressed seven areas : COVID-19 climate change racial equity economic recovery health care immigration restoring America’s global standing All of these policy areas connect to the sustainability agenda, so the sustainability community will need to be heavily engaged. And, given how clearly the White House has laid out its agenda, this offers sustainability practitioners the unique opportunity to think holistically and develop corporate policies and actions that will affect not just one but a number of these policy areas. All of the Biden administration’s policy areas connect to the sustainability agenda, so the sustainability community will need to be heavily engaged. We challenged the Sustainability Veterans members to suggest what they would recommend to those currently leading sustainability efforts in their organizations. For all of us, it was not an easy ask. While we are experienced in developing and measuring actions in one dimension, guiding thinking to consider multiple areas of impact is considerably harder. The responses below represent just the beginning of the conversation to link all these areas together into a more cohesive and comprehensive approach for the private sector. Kathrin Winkler, former chief sustainability officer for EMC, co-founder of Sustainability Veterans and editor at large for GreenBiz: The president’s priorities provide a roadmap for companies to look beyond their obvious material issues. Together with stakeholders, companies should carefully examine and question their roles in entrenching the status quo of systems that may leave some behind, however unintentionally. A company may not consider itself dependent on immigrant labor, for example. But what of its contractors — are they? Do the company’s procurement policies encourage access to economic opportunity and quality health care? It’s time to dig deeper! Bart Alexander, former chief corporate responsibility officer at Molson Coors: America’s global standing grows when our actions demonstrate our values of democracy, opportunity and human rights; it diminishes when our overt or covert actions elevate narrow interests ahead of what we profess. Similarly, corporations now voicing support for climate action, diversity, health and justice will be judged by what they actually do. In particular, companies will be held accountable for their direct and indirect political contributions and lobbying activities that either reinforce or undermine their pronouncements. Mark Buckley, former vice president of sustainability at Staples and founder of One Boat Collaborative: President Biden’s priorities in tackling COVID-19 and climate change represent “externalities” with global impact regardless of borders or socioeconomic standing. However, they both expose the gap in equality placing an even greater burden on vulnerable populations who we risk being left behind and are unable to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate. What can companies learn from the pandemic which might apply to tackling climate change, and which can create equitable business opportunities on a warming planet? Ellen Weinreb, sustainability and ESG recruiter, founder of Weinreb Group and co-founder of Sustainability Veterans: The intersection of the Biden/Harris agenda speaks to our common humanity: As businesses, we have a mandate, from society, from policymakers and from our shareholders to do more than create economic value. We must rethink the fundamental purpose of business: It’s to create the conditions for every person, especially the most vulnerable, to thrive. Cecily Joseph, former vice president of corporate responsibility at Symantec, chair of the Net Impact board of directors and expert in residence at the Presidio Graduate School: Business will be more effective in addressing the Biden/Harris policy priorities with programs that look at their interconnectedness. For example, a focus on building anti-discrimination and education, income and wealth gap programs will help solve for the COVID-19 pandemic, improve our healthcare systems and move towards a more resilient economic recovery. If we don’t work to repair racial inequities which are disproportionately impacting [Black, Indigenous and people of color] communities, we won’t be successful moving forward on the other priorities. Trisa Thompson, lawyer, former chief responsibility officer at Dell Technologies: Companies have a unique window of opportunity amidst the chaos today to lead by example and help restore democracy, faith in institutions, our economy and our global standing. Companies should be radically transparent in all that they do. Americans no longer trust institutions. They should set the example globally of how we can defeat climate change and change the math on racial and social inequality. It is within their power to lead the transformation for a more healthy, equitable world, and I believe they have the collective will to do it. Dawn Rittenhouse, director of sustainable development for the DuPont Company (1998-2019): As President Biden re-engages the U.S. in solving global challenges through the Paris Climate Agreement and the World Health Organization, there is an unprecedented opportunity for companies to step up and demonstrate that new and repurposed innovations can deliver solutions that benefit everybody. This is the time for sustainability leaders to think big and engage with policymakers to demonstrate companies have the ideas to deliver on policy goals and demonstrate U.S. leadership. About Sustainability Veterans: We are a group of professionals who have had leadership roles in the world of corporate sustainability. We are exploring new ways to further engage and make a difference by bringing together our collective intellectual, experiential, emotional and social capital — independent from any individual company — to help the next generation of sustainability leaders achieve success. Pull Quote All of the Biden administration’s policy areas connect to the sustainability agenda, so the sustainability community will need to be heavily engaged. Contributors Trisa Thompson Topics Policy & Politics CSO Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage via Shutterstock

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How can sustainability execs leverage Biden’s policy agenda?    

Maidla Nature Resort is a micro-hotel on stilts in a pristine Estonian landscape

March 17, 2021 by  
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Located next to a woodland swamp at Rapla, Estonia and raised on 7-meter-high stilts, Maidla Nature Resort is a tiny treehouse-style retreat for just one or two visitors. It offers simple hospitality suited to current pandemic conditions. This breath of fresh air for resort design has been nominated for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – the Mies van der Rohe Award . Maidla Nature Resort is designed for maximum durability. It’s not so easy to drive a builder’s van through this delicate landscape for maintenance, so all materials are tough and locally sourced as much as possible. Dark brown thermo-treated, ash-wood walls blend in with swaying birch trees. The treehouse is covered with terraces designed to make the most of the sun’s path over the course of the day. The lower morning terrace captures the early light; gigantic steps lead to the roof, and a night terrace at treetop height is perfect for enjoying sunsets, stargazing and birdwatching.  Related: DROP box micro hotel lets you roam the world in nomadic luxury Built from timber found onsite, the building has an irregular shape with several triangles pivoting around the sleeping area. The bedroom provides panoramic views of the dreamy landscape. A wood-burning fireplace forms a focal point and ups the comfort factor. The 28-square-meter space can be divided by drapes to form a bedroom and a separate work or rest area with sofas. The compact bathroom features floor-to-ceiling mirrors and an incineration toilet, meaning no waste enters the surrounding ecosystem. Architect Mari Hunt of b210 finds it remarkable that Estonia has selected the project to represent the country. “Large-scale public buildings are usually nominated for the award, to represent the public and well-known face of European architecture,” Hunt explained. “We tried to create a space that would remind people of their connection to nature , the fragility and value of this link that is already disappearing in many places.” Owner and author of the idea, Ragnar Sass, traveled extensively and was inspired by the way architecture can transform a location. His tiny hotel , built in a completely secluded area where guests are more likely to spot elk and foxes than people, allows visitors to really come close to the untouched Estonian bog landscape. Sass knew that Hunt would create something really special. “Getting Mari to work with us at Maidla was the best choice — she’s been designing and tutoring projects that magnify Estonian nature for years,” Sass said. “The forest megaphones in Pähni, the floating sauna project in Soomaa — once we started looking around, she’s the best at getting architecture to have a conversation with the nature around it.” The high-profile Mies van der Rohe Architecture Award is given biennially by the European Union and the Fundació Mies van der Rohe to acknowledge and reward quality architectural production in Europe. Each member state nominates a small selection of architectural projects. Today, when over half of the world’s population lives in urban areas , opportunities to connect with and spend time in the outdoors will be more and more sought after. Locations such as Maidla Nature Resort can provide city dwellers with a welcome respite and chance to connect with nature. +b210 Photography by Priidu Saart and Tõnu Tunnel via b210

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Maidla Nature Resort is a micro-hotel on stilts in a pristine Estonian landscape

13 more endemic species in Australia are confirmed extinct

March 4, 2021 by  
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An updated list released by the Australian government has confirmed the extinction of 13 endemic species . Among the species are 12 mammals and one reptile. The news now makes Australia the leading country globally in terms of mammal extinctions. Currently, more than 10% of the 320 land mammals that lived in Australia by 1788 are now extinct. The list is led by the recent extinctions of two species from Christmas Island, including the Christmas Island forest skink, the first reptile to go extinct since the European colonization of Australia. The only remaining Christmas Island forest skink died in 2014 and is believed to have been lost due to the introduction of the wolf snake from Asia in the 1970s. The Christmas Island pipistrelle has also been declared extinct; the last of the species died in 2009. Related: The smooth handfish is declared extinct Currently, Australia is ranked No. 1 on the IUCN list for mammal extinctions, followed by Haiti. There is “not another country, rich or poor, that has anything like this record,” Suzanne Milthorpe of The Wilderness Society said. John Woinarski, conservation biologist at the Charles Darwin University, explained that the extinctions result from a lack of robust measures to protect vulnerable species. “It is important to acknowledge that the losses have occurred and it’s a reminder that if we don’t manage our threatened species then extinction is the end result,” Woinarski said. “No other country has suffered anywhere near that number of mammal species extinctions over the past 200 years.” In addition to the two species from Christmas Island, these species have been confirmed extinct: desert bettong, Capricorn rabbit-rat, Nullarbor dwarf bettong, broad-cheeked hopping mouse, the southeastern striped bandicoot, Liverpool Plains striped bandicoot, Nullarbor barred bandicoot, marl, blue-grey mouse, Percy Island flying fox and the long-eared mouse. The list is a “devastating reality check on Australia’s environmental performance,” Milthorpe said “It cements our reputation as the global leader in mammal extinctions. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen a full response to the review from the Morrison government yet, only a disjointed attempt to devolve their environmental responsibilities to the states.” Via The Guardian Image via Lindy Lumsden

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Finnish hockey team goes carbon-neutral

January 25, 2021 by  
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Lahti Pelicans, a Finnish ice hockey club, is championing for a carbon-free world. In celebration of Lahti’s crowning as the 2021 European Green Capital, the Pelicans set a goal of becoming the first carbon-neutral hockey club in the world. In an effort to showcase the city’s efforts in environmental protection, the club has replaced its jersey numbers with environmental facts about the city. Some of the jersey numbers include Jasper Patrikainen’s 70% to signify emission reduction since the 1990s; Ryan Lasch’s 2019 to call attention to Lahti’s coal-free status since 2019; and Niclas Almari’s 2025 to share Lahti’s target of going climate-neutral by 2025. The new jerseys, with numbers ranging from 8% to 650GWH, debuted on January 16. Related: Adidas unveils a Manchester United jersey created with ocean plastic “Lahti Pelicans wants to be a pioneer both in the rink and outside of it,” Casimir Jürgens, Lahti Pelicans defenseman, said. “We believe that action against climate change plays a decisive role in the future existence of our planet.” Besides spreading awareness about the environmental achievements of the city, the club has been taking measures of its own to cut carbon emissions. In collaboration with the Lappeenranta–Lahti University of Technology (LUT), the team has found some ways to reduce emissions. For instance, they have given up air travel and are encouraging fans to travel to local matches on foot, bikes or public transit. The club also utilizes green energy in its arena. Restaurants at the club’s arena only sell locally produced foods with plastic-free packaging. “The match for the environment must be won together. We want to encourage and embolden everyone to get involved with their own contribution to climate change action,” Jürgens said. Lahti, Finland is a small city of about 120,000 people. It is the smallest city to be awarded the European Green City title, with previous awards given to larger cities like Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen. “No matter how big or small, we all can make a difference. That’s why in addition to carbon neutrality, Lahti aims to be a completely waste-free circular economy city by 2050,” says Saara Vauramo, the program director of Lahti European Green Capital. Lahti has been committed to environmental conservation and targets to be carbon-neutral by 2025. If the city achieves this goal, it will be 10 years ahead of Finland’s similar target and 25 years ahead of the EU. + Lahti Photography by Tomi Natri via Lahti

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The European bison population is no longer vulnerable

January 14, 2021 by  
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The European bison’s population has increased sufficiently for it to be removed from IUCN’s list of vulnerable species. Thanks to long-term conservation work, the population has increased to more than 6,200, up from a 2003 figure of only 1,800. Rather than vulnerable, the European bison is now classified as “almost threatened.” Romania is the place to be if you’re a bison — or somebody who wants to see them roaming free. The largest populations are in Vân?tori Neam? Natural Park, ?arcu Mountains and F?g?r? Mountains. The Tarcu herd of over 65 bison was developed by WWF Romania and Rewilding Europe. Related: Cow escapes pen to live wild with a herd of bison in Poland The 5-year LIFE Bison project started in 2016 and is set to end March 30, 2021. Its mission is to create a viable population of bison in Romania that would breed in the wild, promoting biodiversity . The project also aims to use bison as an ecotourism draw that will help local communities. The LIFE Bison project is co-funded by the LIFE Programme, the European Union’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action that was created in 1992. “The bison calves born in the wild and the support of local communities are good signs that bison belong to these ancestral lands, but let’s not forget that the species is still threatened by various challenges, from habitat loss to ambiguity in legislative processes,” said Marina Drug?, LIFE Bison project manager, WWF-Romania, in a press release. “That is why we believe that only by working together can we ensure the progress made in the last 70 years will not decline, but that we will witness a change for the better.” The European bison hit a low point early in the 20th century, when it only survived in captivity. The reintroduction of the bison into the wild began in the 1950s. So far, Russia, Poland and Belarus have the largest subpopulations. But the species will still rely on conservation measures for the foreseeable future. + LIFEBison Photography by Daniel Mîrlea/Rewilding Europe via WWF

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The European bison population is no longer vulnerable

Hungary announces preemptive ban on fur farms

December 2, 2020 by  
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Hungary’s ministerial commissioner of animal protection, Péter Óvári, announced this week that farming mink, foxes, ferrets and coypu will not be allowed in the country. These animals are not currently farmed there. But now that millions of mink have been slaughtered in other European countries due to COVID-19 concerns, Hungarian officials worried that fur farmers might try to move their operations to Hungary . “This is a precautionary measure that shuts the door to that happening, and that is a good outcome for human health and animal welfare ,” said Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International (HSI) Europe, as reported by VegNews . Related: Denmark’s top fur cooperative is closing The COVID-19 virus has spread between animals on mink farms in some European countries, including Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Greece and Italy. Infected minks have been identified in at least 15 U.S. farms in Wisconsin, Michigan and Utah. Denmark and the Netherlands have slaughtered millions of mink to stop the spread of zoonotic disease . Health experts worry that the virus could mutate in the animals, which could spell disaster for vaccine development. The strange thing about Hungary’s decision is that while local farmers don’t raise mink, foxes, ferrets or coypu (aka nutria), they do raise chinchillas for fur and plan to continue doing so. “For as long as the animal exploitation of fur farming is tolerated, the potential for reservoirs of animal to human pathogens will persist,” Swabe said, “and so HSI hopes that the Hungarian government will also consider strengthening its ban by shutting down the country’s chinchilla fur farms too, and make fur farming history in Hungary.” Chinchillas are native to South America, but their extremely soft, luxurious fur has made them susceptible to international fur farmers who want to turn the sensitive, nocturnal creatures into coats and cash. A company called Wanger is responsible for much of the fur farming across southeast Europe, including in Hungary, Serbia and Bosnia. Activists have used the hashtag #stopwanger when protesting this company. Via VegNews , Respect for Animals Image via Jo-Anne McArthur

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Hungary announces preemptive ban on fur farms

3XN unveils Denmarks first climate-positive hotel for Bornholm island

December 2, 2020 by  
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On the tiny Danish island of Bornholm, Hotel Green Solution House (GSH) will raise its eco-friendly charms with a new climate-positive wing designed by Copenhagen-based firm 3XN and its green think-tank, GXN. Slated for completion in summer 2021, the new extension will be entirely built, clad and insulated with timber materials for a carbon-neutral footprint. The hotel wing will incorporate upcycled materials from construction offcuts for the furnishings and surfaces. Opened in 2015, Hotel GSH was designed by 3XN and GXN to serve as an inspiring leader in green hospitality. An all-timber build was selected for the new wing for a reduced carbon footprint ; according to the International Environment Agency, approximately 40% of the world’s carbon emissions are attributed to the construction industry, with steel and concrete responsible for a total of 16%. Related: Low-impact geodesic dome hotel immerses guests in Patagonian nature “It is a privilege to work with a developer who is completely uncompromising in her approach to sustainability and the circular economy . In this way, the project is making the impossible a reality,” said Kasper Guldager Jensen, architect and partner at 3XN and founder of GXN. “In addition to creating the foundation for a successful business, I hope that the new project can help to show others the potential of wood construction. If we in Denmark want to be able to achieve our climate goals, the construction industry needs to think and act differently, and there is therefore a great need for lighthouse projects like this.” The new hotel wing at Hotel GSH will feature 24 rooms, a conference room and a rooftop spa. In addition to the use of upcycled materials, debris from local granite quarries in Bornholm will be repurposed as temperature-regulating décor in the conference room. The timber building will reduce its energy footprint with operable windows that let in natural daylight and ventilation. All components of the building are designed with reversible joints so that they can be reused in the future rather than end up as demolition waste. Construction of the new hotel wing is expected to begin this fall. + 3XN Images via 3XN

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3XN unveils Denmarks first climate-positive hotel for Bornholm island

Could green hydrogen be key to a carbon-free economy?

November 19, 2020 by  
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Could green hydrogen be key to a carbon-free economy? Jim Robbins Thu, 11/19/2020 – 01:30 This article originally was published on Yale Environment 360 . Saudi Arabia is constructing a futuristic city in the desert on the Red Sea called Neom. The $500 billion city — complete with flying taxis and robotic domestic help — is being built from scratch and will be home to a million people. And what energy product will be used both to power this city and sell to the world? Not oil. The Saudis are going big on something called green hydrogen — a carbon-free fuel made from water by using renewably produced electricity to split hydrogen molecules from oxygen molecules. This summer, a large U.S. gas company, Air Products & Chemicals, announced that as part of Neom it has been building a green hydrogen plant in Saudi Arabia for the last four years. The plant is powered by 4 gigawatts from wind and solar projects that sprawl across the desert. It claims to be the world’s largest green hydrogen project — and more Saudi plants are on the drawing board. Green hydrogen? The Saudis aren’t alone in believing it’s the next big thing in the energy future. While the fuel is barely on the radar in the United States, around the world a green hydrogen rush is underway, and many companies, investors, governments and environmentalists believe it is an energy source that could help end the reign of fossil fuels and slow the world’s warming trajectory. “It is very promising,” said Rachel Fakhry, an energy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Experts such as Fakhry say that while wind and solar energy can provide the electricity to power homes and electric cars, green hydrogen could be an ideal power source for energy-intensive industries such as concrete and steel manufacturing, as well as parts of the transportation sector that are more difficult to electrify. “The last 15 percent of the economy is hard to clean up — aviation, shipping, manufacturing, long-distance trucking,” Fakhry said in an interview. “Green hydrogen can do that.” Europe, which has an economy saddled with high energy prices and is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas, is embracing green hydrogen by providing funding for construction of electrolysis plants and other hydrogen infrastructure. Germany has allocated the largest share of its clean energy stimulus funds to green hydrogen. “It is the missing part of the puzzle to a fully decarbonized economy,” the European Commission wrote in a July strategy document. Germany has allocated the largest share of its clean energy stimulus funds to green hydrogen. Hydrogen’s potential as a fuel source has been touted for decades, but the technology never has gotten off the ground on a sizeable scale — and with good reason, according to skeptics. They argue that widespread adoption of green hydrogen technologies has faced serious obstacles, most notably that hydrogen fuels need renewable energy to be green, which will require a massive expansion of renewable generation to power the electrolysis plants that split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Green hydrogen is also hard to store and transport without a pipeline. And right now in some places, such as the U.S., hydrogen is a lot more expensive than other fuels such as natural gas. While it has advantages, said Michael Liebreich, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst in the United Kingdom and a green hydrogen skeptic, “it displays an equally impressive list of disadvantages.” “It does not occur in nature so it requires energy to separate,” Liebreich wrote in a pair of recent essays for BloombergNEF. “Its storage requires compression to 700 times atmospheric pressure, refrigeration to 253 degrees Celsius… It carries one quarter the energy per unit volume of natural gas… It can embrittle metal; it escapes through the tiniest leaks and yes, it really is explosive.” In spite of these problems, Liebreich wrote, green hydrogen still “holds a vice-like grip over the imaginations of techno-optimists.” Ben Gallagher, an energy analyst at Wood McKenzie who studies green hydrogen, said the fuel is so new that its future remains unclear. “No one has any true idea what is going on here,” he said. “It’s speculation at this point. Right now it’s difficult to view this as the new oil. However, it could make up an important part of the overall fuel mix.” Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical in the universe. Two atoms of hydrogen paired with an atom of oxygen creates water. Alone, though, hydrogen is an odorless and tasteless gas, and highly combustible. Hydrogen derived from methane — usually from natural gas, but also coal and biomass — was pioneered in World War II by Germany, which has no petroleum deposits. But CO2 is emitted in manufacturing hydrogen from methane and so it’s not climate friendly; hydrogen manufactured this way is known as gray hydrogen. Green is the new kid on the hydrogen block, and because it’s manufactured with renewable energy, it’s CO2-free. Moreover, using renewable energy to create the fuel can help solve the problem of intermittency that plagues wind and solar power, and so it is essentially efficient storage. When demand for renewables is low, during the spring and fall, excess electricity can be used to power the electrolysis needed to split hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Then the hydrogen can be stored or sent down a pipeline. The last 15 percent of the economy is hard to clean up — aviation, shipping, manufacturing, long-distance trucking. Green hydrogen can do that. Such advantages are fueling growing interest in global green hydrogen. Across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, more countries and companies are embracing this high-quality fuel. The U.S. lags behind because other forms of energy, such as natural gas, are much cheaper, but several new projects are underway, including a green hydrogen power plant in Utah that will replace two aging coal-fired plants and produce electricity for southern California. In Japan, a new green hydrogen plant, one of the world’s largest, just opened near Fukishima — an intentionally symbolic location given the plant’s proximity to the site of the 2011 nuclear disaster. It will be used to power fuel cells, both in vehicles and at stationary sites. An energy consortium in Australia just announced plans to build a project called the Asian Renewable Energy Hub in Pilbara that would use 1,743 large wind turbines and 30 square miles of solar panels to run a 26-gigawatt electrolysis factory that would create green hydrogen to send to Singapore. As Europe intensifies its decarbonization drive, it, too, is betting big on the fuel. The European Union just drafted a strategy for a large-scale green hydrogen expansion, although it hasn’t been officially adopted yet. But in its $550-billion clean energy plan, the EU is including funds for new green hydrogen electrolyzers and transport and storage technology for the fuel. “Large-scale deployment of clean hydrogen at a fast pace is key for the EU to achieve its high climate ambitions,” the European Commission wrote. The Middle East, which has the world’s cheapest wind and solar power, is angling to be a major player in green hydrogen. “Saudi Arabia has ridiculously low-cost renewable power,” said Thomas Koch Blank, leader of the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Breakthrough Technology Program. “The sun is shining pretty reliably every day and the wind is blowing pretty reliably every night. It’s hard to beat.” BloombergNEF estimates that to generate enough green hydrogen to meet a quarter of the world’s energy needs would take more electricity than the world generates now from all sources and an investment of $11 trillion in production and storage. That’s why the focus for now is on the 15 percent of the economy with energy needs not easily supplied by wind and solar power, such as heavy manufacturing, long-distance trucking and fuel for cargo ships and aircraft. The Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R), a green hydrogen facility that can generate as much as 1,200 normal meter cubed (Nm3) of hydrogen per hour, opened in Japan in March. Source:  TOSHIBA ESS The energy density of green hydrogen is three times that of jet fuel, making it a promising zero-emissions technology for aircraft. But Airbus, the European airplane manufacturer, recently released a statement saying that significant problems need to be overcome, including safely storing hydrogen on aircraft, the lack of a hydrogen infrastructure at airports, and cost. Experts say that new technologies will be needed to solve these problems. Nevertheless, Airbus believes green hydrogen will play an important role in decarbonizing air transport. “Cost-competitive green hydrogen and cross-industry partnerships will be mandatory to bring zero-emission flying to reality,” said Glen Llewellyn, vice president of Zero Emission Aircraft for Airbus. Hydrogen-powered aircraft could be flying by 2035, he said. In the U.S., where energy prices are low, green hydrogen costs about three times as much as natural gas, although that price doesn’t factor in the environmental damage caused by fossil fuels. The price of green hydrogen is falling, however. In 10 years, green hydrogen is expected to be comparable in cost to natural gas in the United States. A major driver of green hydrogen development in the U.S. is California’s aggressive push toward a carbon-neutral future. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, for example, is helping fund the construction of the green hydrogen-fueled power plant in Utah. It’s scheduled to go online in 2025. A company called SGH2 recently announced it would build a large facility to produce green hydrogen in southern California. Instead of using electrolysis, though, it will use waste gasification, which heats many types of waste to high temperatures that reduce them to their molecular compounds. Those molecules then bind with hydrogen, and SGH2 claims it can make green hydrogen more cheaply than using electrolysis. California officials also see green hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels for diesel vehicles. The state passed a Low Carbon Fuel Standard in 2009 to promote electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles. Last month, a group of heavy-duty vehicle and energy industry officials formed the Western States Hydrogen Alliance o press for rapid deployment of hydrogen fuel cell technology and infrastructure to replace diesel trucks, buses, locomotives and aircraft. The price of green hydrogen is falling. In 10 years, green hydrogen is expected to be comparable in cost to natural gas in the United States. “Hydrogen fuel cells will power the future of zero-emission mobility in these heavy-duty, hard-to-electrify sectors,” said Roxana Bekemohammadi, executive director of the Western States Hydrogen Alliance. “That fact is indisputable. This new alliance exists to ensure government and industry can work efficiently together to accelerate the coming of this revolution.” Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $100 million investment to help develop large, affordable electrolyzers and to create new fuel cell technologies for long-haul trucks. In Australia, the University of New South Wales, in partnership with a global engineering firm, GHD, has created a home-based system called LAVO that uses solar energy to generate and store green hydrogen in home systems. The hydrogen is converted back into electricity as needed. All these developments, said Blank of the Rocky Mountain Institute, are “really good news. Green hydrogen has high potential to address many of the things that keep people awake at night because the climate change problem seems unsolvable.” Pull Quote Germany has allocated the largest share of its clean energy stimulus funds to green hydrogen. The last 15 percent of the economy is hard to clean up — aviation, shipping, manufacturing, long-distance trucking. Green hydrogen can do that. The price of green hydrogen is falling. In 10 years, green hydrogen is expected to be comparable in cost to natural gas in the United States. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Wind Power Solar Hydrogen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Hydrogen’s potential as a fuel source has been touted for decades, but the technology has never gotten off the ground on a sizeable scale — and with good reason, according to skeptics. Photo by petrmalinak on Shutterstock.

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Could green hydrogen be key to a carbon-free economy?

What big bets by Bezos Earth Fund say about climate action in 2021

November 19, 2020 by  
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What big bets by Bezos Earth Fund say about climate action in 2021 Heather Clancy Thu, 11/19/2020 – 01:00 A group of 16 nonprofits dedicated to inspiring climate action has much to give thanks for this week. With little fanfare other than a lengthy Instagram post, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos pledged $791 million in donations from the Bezos Earth Fund — his $10 billion commitment to funding scientists, nonprofits and “others” that have made it their life’s work to fight climate change. For those of you keeping score, Bezos created the fund in February, although not much is known about who is behind the scenes running things — there’s isn’t even a public-facing web site. This is the first batch of grants bestowed by the organization.  Many of you will be familiar with the organizations that made the cut, and I see no reason not to list them all because they deserve as much attention as possible these days: The Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund , ClimateWorks Foundation , Dream Corps Green For All , Eden Reforestation Projects , Energy Foundation , Environmental Defense Fund , The Hive Fund for Climate and Gender Justice , Natural Resources Defense Council , The Nature Conservancy , NDN Collective , Rocky Mountain Institute , Salk Institute for Biological Studies , The Solutions Project , Union of Concerned Scientists , World Resources Institute and World Wildlife Fund . The big green NGOs — EDF, NRDC, The Nature Conservancy, WWF and WRI — made out really big, each snagging $100 million. For perspective, EDF’s budget is usually about $230 million annually, so this is not an insignificant sum of money for any of these organizations. Poking more specifically into where the money is dedicated tells us a lot about where we can expect big corporations to prioritize climate action during 2021. With that in mind, here are three of my takeaways from Bezos’s big bets. 1. Climate equity and environmental justice is getting much-needed funding   Five organizations chosen for the grants this week are explicitly focused on addressing climate change through the lens of environmental justice. Three of them — the Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund, The Solutions Project and The Hive Fund — are receiving $43 million each. I love that all of these groups are laser-focused on local communities and people of color. The Solutions Project, for example, has pledged 95 percent of its funding to the BIPOC community, with 80 percent designated for women-led organizations.  An organization I’ll be researching more closely next year is NDN Collective, an Indigenous-led group that received $12 million. I should also mention that climate justice also permeates the other grants. NRDC, for example, will be using its grant to help advance climate solutions at the state and community level that “strengthen equity and justice at the heart of climate advocacy.” And The Nature Conservancy is using a big chunk of its fund to protect the Emerald Edge old-growth forest in the United States and Canada in collaboration with Indigenous and tribal communities there.   I have to be honest, I’ve been somewhat discouraged over the past few months when I’ve asked corporate sustainability professionals how they’re embedding racial justice considerations into their strategies. While there have been some really meaningful commitments — including Microsoft’s vow to include environmental justice as part of its renewable energy strategy or Apple’s Racial and Equity Justice Initiative — the vast majority of companies I’ve asked outright are struggling with blending justice into their environmental strategies. That needs to change, and these investments have me greeting 2021 with newfound optimism. 2. Anticipate more attention to the potential of ocean carbon sequestration Nature-based solutions for removing atmospheric carbon dioxide were the rage this year, and that sensibility is scattered across the press releases issued by the recipients. The Salk Institute, for example, is getting $30 million for its Harnessing Plants Initiative, focused on the soil sequestration of the world’s six biggest food crops, including soybeans and corn.  But it isn’t all about the land. The money is also supporting a big WWF program to protect and restore mangroves, small trees that grow in the brackish waters along coasts, in Colombia, Fiji, Madagascar and Mexico. What’s more, it includes funds for another solution that is capturing more attention as we stare into 2021: seaweed farming. According to advocates , kelp beds sequester five times more CO2 than terrestrial leafy greens such as kale or lettuce. There’s a movement brewing to use seaweed as a feedstock for fuel alternatives; it’s also finding a place on menus, including at fast-casual restaurant chain Sweetgreen, and a role in packaging (such as Loliware, which is making seaweed straws). Note to self: Learn more about seaweed and mangroves. 3. Don’t underestimate the potential of satellites in the fight against climate change  EDF’s grant is largely focused on launching the MethaneSAT , a network for locating and measuring methane pollution around the world and sharing it to ensure accountability.  It should not be lost on any of us that aside from being the CEO of one of the world’s largest retailers and tech companies, Bezos is behind Blue Origin, one of the private space companies that hopes to put people back onto the moon. It’s only natural that he’d explore extraterrestrial climate solutions. EDF isn’t the only organization benefiting here: WRI will be using its grant to develop a satellite-based network for monitoring carbon emissions as well as changes to forests, grasslands, wetlands and farms.   Here’s hoping that all of these initiatives find it much easier to get off the ground under the Biden-Harris administration, which has made addressing climate change — and cultivating clean economy jobs — one of its four priorities. And just think, “only” $9 billion more to allocate from the Bezos Earth Fund. That’s an inspiring sum of money. Topics Innovation Social Justice Climate Tech Equity & Inclusion Carbon Removal Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Emerald Edge, the largest intact coastal rainforest on Earth, spans 100 million acres through Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. It will benefit from the first set of grants by the Bezos Earth Fund.

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What big bets by Bezos Earth Fund say about climate action in 2021

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