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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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

Global investment managers say no to carbon

September 11, 2020 by  
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A European group of global investment managers and pension funds has devised an ambitious plan to cut their portfolios down to net-zero carbon . The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change includes more than 1,200 members in 16 countries. Together, they control over $40 trillion in assets. The group distributes its recommended measures to asset managers to help them reach the European Union’s goal to be climate -neutral by 2050. Its policies are based on a framework developed with more than 70 funds around the world. Related: Critics question Amazon’s sustainability amidst Bezos Earth Fund launch As investors focus more on sustainability, especially since the Paris Climate Agreement, they’ve begun to pressure their asset managers to cut the carbon in their portfolios. “Countries, cities and companies around the globe are committing to achieve the goal of net-zero emissions and investors need to show similar leadership,” Stephanie Pfeifer, IIGCC’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. IIGCC’s agenda is lengthy. A few points include analyzing the latest policy developments for members, developing policy positions, collaborating with like-minded global and European bodies, and facilitating workshops and roundtables with peers. Decarbonizing the world’s economy is an overwhelming task. Before a slight pandemic-related blip downward, global coal demand was at an all-time high. With a projected 9.7 billion people by 2050, it will take a lot of money, education and commitment to meet the ever-increasing appetite for electricity with renewable sources. Oil use currently averages more than 90 million barrels per day, and 70% of this is used for transportation. To reach net-zero carbon goals, these diesel- and gasoline-chugging vehicles will need to be switched out for electric vehicles charged with renewable energy sources. On the plus side, the world spends more than $5 trillion on fossil fuel subsidies, which would go a long way in funding renewable energy instead. We might also see a big drop in healthcare costs if people were no longer exposed to the detrimental effects of burning coal for fuel. + Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change Via Forbes Image via Pixabay

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Mount Rushmore fireworks display sparks concerns

June 30, 2020 by  
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Despite a decade-long ban on fireworks at Mount Rushmore on environmental and public health grounds, President Trump is planning a fireworks show at the famous site on July 3. Critics are worried about the threat of wildfire and the spread of coronavirus . The National Park Service halted fireworks displays at Mount Rushmore in 2010 to avoid wildfires accelerated by drought conditions. The monument is famous for its four presidential faces — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln — but also includes 1,200 acres of forest and is close to Black Hills National Forest’s Black Elk Wilderness. Related: Crowds fill national park for Yellowstone reopening With a high temperature of 80 degrees predicted for the Fourth of July weekend paired with moderate drought conditions, not everybody is cheering for fireworks. “It’s a bad idea based on the wildland fire risk, the impact to the water quality of the memorial, the fact that it is going to occur during a pandemic without social distancing guidelines and the emergency evacuation issues,” Cheryl Schreier, who was superintendent at Mount Rushmore National Park from 2010-2019, told The Washington Post . Trump has yearned to see fireworks over Mount Rushmore for years and has downplayed the wildfire risk. “What can burn? It’s stone,” he said in January, according to Popular Mechanics . The 7,500 people who won tickets to the event in an online lottery will be urged to wear face coverings if they’re unable to social distance. South Dakota has so far escaped the worst of coronavirus. According to CDC statistics , at the time of writing this article, the state had 6,626 confirmed cases and 91 deaths. A fireworks display over Mount Rushmore is especially symbolic at a time when protesters seeking an end to racial discrimination are tearing down monuments. Statues of Jefferson and Washington have elsewhere been removed by people decrying the former presidents as slave owners. Mount Rushmore has an especially troubled history. The Lakota Sioux hold the Black Hills sacred. Having the faces of their European conquerors immortalized on stolen stone is viewed as the ultimate desecration. Via PBS , Ecowatch and Weather Channel Image via Pixabay

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The COVID-19 recovery requires a resilient circular economy

May 29, 2020 by  
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The COVID-19 recovery requires a resilient circular economy Jocelyn Bleriot Fri, 05/29/2020 – 01:00 The COVID-19 crisis has disastrous human and economic consequences, revealing our system’s exposure to a variety of risks. The call for a more resilient, circular and low-carbon economic model has garnered support from a growing number of businesses and governments over the past few years, and appears today more relevant than ever. Identifying opportunities, keeping a clear sense of direction and fostering a strong public-private collaboration will help usher in redefined growth towards the next wave of prosperity. As the pandemic forces us to adapt our daily lives in ways we would not have imagined, it also challenges us to rethink the systems that underpin the economy. While there is no question that addressing public health consequences is the priority, the nature of the equally crucial economic recovery effort raises some interrogations. Should stimulus packages focus on finding the way back to growth by kicking business as usual into overdrive, or could they accelerate the shift that has already started towards a more resilient, low-carbon circular economy? One way to tackle this polarizing question is to reject the idea that rapidly getting back to economic dynamism is incompatible with a wider system transition. Given the sums at play and the unprecedented — in peace times — rise in prominence of public authorities, this isn’t a simple equation to resolve, yet there are signs of agreement on the horizon. While the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has declared it will devote its entire activities to addressing the economic impact of the pandemic , the Investor Agenda group, which collectively manages trillions of dollars in assets, said that “Governments should avoid the prioritization of risky, short-term emissions-intensive projects.” As witnessed in countries severely hit by the virus, being able to quickly adapt industrial facilities and shift production — of automotive to medical equipment parts, for example — has been crucial. The recovery effort will, of course, require a variety of strategies. Looking at the pre-COVID-19 landscape, it is clear that momentum already had been increasing around the need for a system reset, with a visible consensus on the potential of a circular model. Over the course of the last decade, a number of leading businesses have stepped onto and invested in this transformative path, while pioneering institutions and government bodies put forward significant legislative proposals to enable the transition. This is notably true in the European Union and in China but it plays out in other regions as well, at national and municipal levels with the same degree of vitality. Far from pushing that agenda to the bottom of the list, the current crisis makes the circular economy more relevant than ever, as it holds a significant number of economically attractive answers. The early stages of the COVID-19 crisis have revealed the brittleness of many global supply chains, not limited to but illustrated by medical equipment availability issues, for example. In this specific case, circular principles provide credible solutions: design and product policy factors such as repairability , reusability and potential for remanufacturing offer considerable opportunities in resilience (stock availability) and competitiveness. It is notably telling that the global refurbished medical devices market is expected to grow by over 10 percent a year between 2020 and 2025 , which represents market opportunities as well as increased asset use rates (therefore less reliance on new raw materials). The importance of these strategies notably have been highlighted in the U.S., where several state treasurers have urged ventilator makers to make service manuals and repair-related resources available to help hospitals deal with the crisis. This has cost reduction implications which will appeal to cash-strapped public health authorities, but is also conducive to lowering the greenhouse gas footprint, as remanufacturing has been shown by the United Nations’ International Resource Panel to reduce emissions by over 80 percent in key sectors. As witnessed in countries severely hit by the virus, being able to quickly adapt industrial facilities and shift production — of automotive to medical equipment parts, for example — has been crucial. Factoring in that flexibility upstream — by designing both tooling and products to be repurposable and versatile — could be a way to enhance value-creation potential and achieve greater resilience of industry, both valuable beyond the current situation. Another domain in which circular economy appears particularly relevant is the highly sensitive area of food production and distribution. It is well documented that the current industrial agricultural model yields outputs of questionable quality, relies on fossil fuels and practices that are damaging to ecosystems, and is built around supply chains that involve long-distance transport that make it vulnerable to border closures. The dependency on seasonal foreign workforces servicing industrial scale production centers is also problematic in that regard, and farmers across Europe already have warned they probably will need to forget about this year’s crop season due to labor shortages. In certain cities, hastily implemented lockdowns have stressed food supply and emphasized the need for shorter producer-to-consumer models, which have seen a sudden rise in uptake (French) . It therefore appears timely to further explore the potential of large-scale investment in regenerative , peri-urban production, together with digitally enabled precision agriculture. As the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s research has highlighted , a circular scenario could lead to a 50 percent reduction of pesticides and synthetic fertilizer use by 2030 in Europe (compared to 2012 levels), while resulting in a 12 percent drop in household expenditure and better products. Finally, regenerative agriculture is also a powerful force in the climate crisis mitigation arsenal, as circular economy strategies could reduce emissions by 5.6 billion tonnes CO2e , corresponding to a 49 percent reduction in the projected 2050 total food system emissions. As we gradually get a better understanding of the economic ramifications of the pandemic, the ways in which a circular model can contribute to the recovery will be more detailed, and implementation plans more defined. These two specific examples only constitute a small opening onto the wider possibilities presented by the circular economy when it comes to recovery plans, and there are many areas to explore: think for instance of the staggering amount of office space overcapacity, and what modular design and use patterns could achieve in terms of reduced materials and energy consumption. As governments are looking for ways to move forward, they can do so without straying from their low-carbon commitments by implementing circular economy strategies — this rings true in the construction sector, for example, as building renovation quickly imposed itself as an obvious immediate win, combining a de facto local activity boost with a necessary efficiency upgrade. At the municipal level, some COVID-19 specific measures already have been taken around mobility and transport . Brussels, for example, has given more space to pedestrians and cyclists and has limited the speed of motor vehicles to 12.4 mph across the city . While this does not necessarily illustrate a circular development strategy per se, it shows that the need for change is acted on by policymakers , who quickly create the right conditions for new systems to emerge. In such a dynamic context, circular economy solutions can find the space to become mainstream, as the inherent wastefulness of the current model is highlighted. To stick with mobility, even before business as usual was challenged, private vehicles in Europe were sat idle 92 percent of the time. It’s therefore not a stretch of the imagination to think that designing cities for alternative urban transport solutions and better use of urban public space will become key priorities. As we gradually get a better understanding of the economic ramifications of the pandemic, the ways in which a circular model can contribute to the recovery will be more detailed, and implementation plans more defined. Short-term answers already are available, such as the ones highlighted above for food systems or decentralized production, yet it is fundamental to recognize that the effort will need to be sustained, and that its success will rely on the involvement of all stakeholders, working in a logic of co-creation. As governments step up to address the most pressing issues, setting a clear direction and enabling private sector circular innovation to reach scale will allow us to combine economic regeneration, better societal outcomes and climate ambitions. Pull Quote As witnessed in countries severely hit by the virus, being able to quickly adapt industrial facilities and shift production — of automotive to medical equipment parts, for example — has been crucial. As we gradually get a better understanding of the economic ramifications of the pandemic, the ways in which a circular model can contribute to the recovery will be more detailed, and implementation plans more defined. Topics Circular Economy Risk & Resilience Supply Chain COVID-19 Resilience Policy & Politics Ellen MacArthur Foundation Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Source: Paulo Carrolo/Unsplash

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The COVID-19 recovery requires a resilient circular economy

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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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  
Filed under Business, Green

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

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