The electric revolution needs sustainable battery materials

January 20, 2021 by  
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The electric revolution needs sustainable battery materials Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 01/20/2021 – 00:15 To electrify many of the world’s vehicles in the coming years, the EV industry will need to procure a massive amount of lithium-ion batteries. And that will require brand-new sources and technologies to find, extract and process battery materials such as lithium, cobalt and nickel. These materials currently are extracted from beneath the earth through mining. Sometimes that mining process is problematic for humanitarian reasons, as with cobalt , or for environmental reasons, as with some lithium extracted via evaporation ponds . Fortunately, the issue of how to find new and sustainable sources for batteries is getting renewed attention this year from battery giants, tech startups, EV makers, investors and policymakers. “A major component of the renewable energy revolution is how do we get the materials necessary to do it,” says Kurt House, CEO of KoBold Metals . KoBold Metals is a startup that is building and applying machine learning and advanced scientific techniques for battery mineral exploration. The company is funded by investors Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Norwegian state oil company Equinor.  House estimates that to fully electrify the global vehicle fleet by 2050, the world will have to find over $4 trillion worth of new battery materials. “That is battery materials that we don’t know where they are now,” emphasized House.  Once sustainable battery materials are found and extracted, batteries are highly recyclable and a robust circular battery economy can be developed to reuse and recycle batteries, House noted: “It’s a really deep distinction with fossil fuels that are extracted from the ground and burned. You can never get that carbon back in a thermodynamical way. It’s a one-time trip.” KoBold Metals is building a database of information about the earth’s crust and using algorithms to mine that data to make predictions about the composition of materials under the ground in regions around the world. For example, while much of the world’s cobalt is found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), KoBold is investigating a cobalt mining area in northern Quebec in Canada.  KoBold Metals is just one startup using computing to tackle exploring and mining sustainable battery materials. Another new player is Lilac Solutions , which has developed a more efficient and faster process to extract lithium from underground brines. Meanwhile, Redwood Materials is a startup developed by former Tesla Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel that is taking scrap metal from EV battery production and using that for the raw materials of other EV batteries. In addition to startups, big battery players are eager for alternatives to problematic materials such as cobalt. At the Consumer Electronics Show last week, Panasonic touted next-generation lithium batteries that will be cobalt-free and come out in a few years. Tesla and Apple also have been eager to slash the amount of cobalt in their batteries, and Tesla likewise has pledged to use cobalt-free batteries.  Eliminating problematic cobalt mined in the DRC is just one battery issue. Mining giants, battery makers, auto manufacturers and energy companies will have to create an entirely new framework to source, extract and process battery materials sustainably and then take back older EV batteries to both reuse and recycle them. And a lot of financing will be required to help set these systems up.  But circular and sustainable EV batteries — and the systems to support them — will be paramount to the electric revolution coming for both transportation and the power grid.  Want more great analysis of electric and sustainable transport? Sign up for Transport Weekly , our free email newsletter. Topics Transportation & Mobility Circular Economy Electric Vehicles Featured Column Driving Change Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Kurt House, CEO of  KoBold Metals , a startup building and applying machine learning and advanced scientific techniques for battery mineral exploration. Photo courtesy of KoBold Metals

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Want to switch to reusable cups? Here’s how to get started 

January 18, 2021 by  
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Want to switch to reusable cups? Here’s how to get started  Lauren Phipps Mon, 01/18/2021 – 00:15 By now, you know the problem: Nearly 250 billion single-use cups are used globally every year — most of which end up in a landfill — and the environmental, economic and social costs are mounting. And that’s just cups. You also know the solution: In addition to recyclable and compostable alternatives, reuse models are quickly emerging as a fundamentally better alternative to single-use ones, not to mention that converting 20 percent of the world’s disposable plastic packaging into reusables is a $10 billion opportunity.  So…now what?  If only this were just a matter of procurement. Far more complex are the systems surrounding cups and other disposables: platform design; customer adoption; retail implementation; collection; sanitation; end-of-life management; and, of course, selecting the right cup itself. That’s before you get to sustainable materials and production methods. Thanks to a new report by Closed Loop Partners, the path from conception to pilot and scale for a reusable and refillable packaging model — in this case the cup — has been spelled out to help you get started. It’s not a blueprint per se, but rather a collection of insights and learnings from the NextGen Consortium’s initial pilots with Starbucks and McDonald’s, done in collaboration with the design firm IDEO.  Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind when designing a new reuse system:  Design: Convenience, integration into existing systems and environmental impact must be aligned from the start, at the design phase. Consider the cup’s journey from sign-up and point of sale, to use at retail, customer handoff, point of return, washing and sanitizing, pickup and delivery. In-store inventory management (display and stackability of bulkier cups, storage, accessibility) — all will need to be designed into the system. Environmental impact is based on materials sourcing and manufacturing, the number of uses before a cup is decommissioned, and its end-of-life plan, so each element must be considered.  Collaboration: Engage baristas, staff and other key stakeholders who don’t often play a role in corporate decision-making processes. The employee buy-in and ease of integration into existing cafe workflows can make or break the success of a system. Determining the appropriate logistics partners also will be crucial at every step of a cup’s existence. Be sure to engage with local policymakers as well to ensure your program’s adherence to health and safety codes, and to help shape future policy to enable reuse models.  Implementation: Systems will need to be flexible to adapt to unique cafe environments, market needs and cultural considerations. Incentives and fee structures will need to adapt to the particular policy environment in which a cafe sits, which will likely change over time.  Adoption: When considering the overall cost of new systems, account for an investment in education, storytelling and customer acquisition. This will take time. Consider the motivations of customers and design the system accordingly, all while ensuring a seamless customer experience. Evaluate and adjust along the way.  “We are on the cusp of a reuse revolution,” says Bridget Croke, managing director of Closed Loop Partners, in the report. “Reuse will be a growing part of the plastic solution portfolio used by brands and retailers. It’s certainly not going to solve the whole plastic waste challenge, but as more of these models come to market, we are excited to see new solutions that collectively build reuse back into our cultural and behavioral norms.” Sure, many headlines about reuse are still in pilot phase, but brands and retailers have to start somewhere. On top of designing a workable system — one that considers consumer demand and readiness, cultural differences and financial barriers — it’s important to remember that the humble cup is a primary touchpoint for brand engagement. For most consumers that don’t (yet) bring their own cup to a Starbucks, for example, a change to the design and user experience could have negative visceral, emotional and Instagrammable implications.  Pilots are a great place to begin, so long as they are just the start.  Topics Circular Economy Circular Packaging Featured Column In the Loop Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Six of the cups tested as part of the NextGen Cup Challenge. Image courtesy of NextGen Consortium

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Why collaboration is the missing ingredient in food system reform

January 8, 2021 by  
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Why collaboration is the missing ingredient in food system reform Jim Giles Fri, 01/08/2021 – 01:30 One of the most exciting things about food and ag right now is the potential for change. The industry’s environmental problems — waste, greenhouse gases, biodiversity loss — are real. But so are the solutions. Multiple studies have shown that new farming techniques, low-carbon foods and other advances can create a radically more sustainable food system. As we kick off 2021 and await a new U.S. administration, I’m wondering how — or if — one of these possible futures can become an actual future. The ingredients for new food systems have been rigorously detailed in reports from the World Resources Institute , the EAT-Lancet Commission and others. But building futures is a far more messy business than identifying solutions.  “These reports treat these systems as something we can program,” said Chris Barrett, an applied economist at Cornell University, when we talked this week. “As opposed to massive systems of billions of people that make decisions that none of us can control.” I’d called Barrett and his colleague, plant scientist Rebecca Nelson, to talk about a report from the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability and the journal Nature Sustainability, which they and others published last month . Yes, another report. But this one is different, because it examines the messy problem of turning potential into reality. This intrinsically social process, the authors conclude, “demands cooperation that is in shorter supply than are brilliant scientific insights.” To see what the authors mean, let’s go back to an earlier problem in food. The early 1970s saw increasing consumer interest in healthy food, but packaged food sold in the United States didn’t then include reliable nutrition information. Through a collaborative process involving the Food and Drug Administration, food companies and later the United Nations, industry and regulators developed the nutrition facts labels that we’re familiar with today — and that are mandatory in 58 countries. This kind of collaboration just isn’t a feature of U.S. food policy. These kinds of processes aren’t pretty. They involve countless meetings and technical reports and lobbying and conflict. But they can result in trusted systems that underpin structural change. We almost certainly need more of them if we’re to fully realize the potential of regenerative agriculture, alternative proteins and other promising technologies in food and agriculture. Let’s go back to labeling for an example. Last year, Unilever committed to adding emissions information to each of 400 brands, which reach 2.5 billion people every day. Other companies are pursuing similar goals. This could lead to competing emissions labels that confuse consumers and blunt the ability of food companies to translate emissions reductions into higher sales. A collaborative process involving the private sector, regulators, scientists and others could produce a unified, trusted label that would drive real change. There’s another great example in Barrett and Nelson’s report: China’s Science and Technology Backyard program . In 2009, scientists at the China Agricultural University moved their research to a village in Hebei province. Working from a local backyard, they spread the results of their research by working with the local farming community. Farmers who participate in the Backyards program, which has expanded to include other villages, local government and private companies, have increased yields while reducing environmental impact. It’s no coincidence that these examples come from another time and another country. This kind of collaboration just isn’t a feature of U.S. food policy. The closest the country has to the Backyards program, for instance, might be the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The service helped U.S. farmers recover from the Dust Bowl, but its ranks have been depleted in recent decades. That’s just one reason why I hope the ag experts on Joe Biden’s team have read the Cornell report. Pull Quote This kind of collaboration just isn’t a feature of U.S. food policy. Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems Public-Private Partnerships Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Following the money: A sustainable finance odyssey

December 8, 2020 by  
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Following the money: A sustainable finance odyssey Joel Makower Tue, 12/08/2020 – 02:11 I’ve been following the money this past week. “The money,” in this case, is the sprawling and spiraling world of sustainable finance. The occasion, as you may have guessed, was our announcement  Nov. 30 of our newest annual event:  GreenFin , taking place in April. It drew the attention of a number of friends, colleagues and veritable strangers who wanted to discuss the event’s themes, tracks and topics. The ensuing conversations — and, no doubt, many more to come — are a continuation of the learning journey I’ve been on for the past few years, seeking to understand the role of the financial sector in advancing sustainability solutions and a clean, decarbonized economy. For someone who’s quickly out of his depth when it comes to money matters, it’s been a steep learning curve. Even still, last week’s conversations were a real eye-opener. Let me explain. In 2019, when we first started holding our GreenFin Summits — the precursor events to GreenFin 21 — the focus was relatively narrow: the role of environmental, social and governance (ESG) data in the investing world. Specifically, the alignment of company ESG reporting with the needs of investors, particularly institutional investors and pension funds, which are increasingly viewing high ESG scores as a proxy for good management and reduced risk. This by itself is a complex topic. There is a lack of consistency among various ratings methodologies, a cacophony of ESG standards and frameworks, and a lack of clarity about which data is, in fact, material. “So, sustainable finance is about aligning and harmonizing the needs of both investors and companies,” I concluded some time ago. Not so fast. It was soon evident that the topic of sustainable finance was bigger than just ESG and investors. Hence, the addition of sustainability-linked finance — bonds and loans with terms tied to environmental (and, in some cases, social) outcomes. That’s the realm of banks and other financial institutions. “OK, then,” I ventured. “Sustainable finance covers how ESG scores are being used by investors as well as by financial institutions to determine risk and, thus, capital allocation.” I was getting warmer, but just getting going. For one thing, ESG data is just that: data. It must be sourced, verified and scored consistently across companies to be meaningful to investors, banks and other interested parties. We’re just not there yet. Did I mention the cacophony? Implements of instruction ESG data, it turns out, isn’t being used solely by investors and lenders. It is increasingly becoming a management tool as companies take ESG data, both structured and unstructured, and apply artificial intelligence to assess potential business decisions. “They create a virtuous ESG Loop, where goal-setting, bench-marking and course-correcting reinforce sustainability,” wrote Richard Peers, founder at ResponsibleRisk Ltd, a London-based consultancy, in the blog Finextra . Me again: “So, the ESG data that serves as the foundation for sustainable finance is increasingly driving not just investment decisions but also management decisions.” Yes, but sustainable finance is far bigger than just the companies seeking capital to expand their operations or invest in clean technologies and other things. In fact, companies may represent a relative pittance compared to what’s needed to finance public infrastructure: all those airports, highways, ports, water districts and other critical needs for which cities, states, provinces and nations routinely drop a billion dollars here and there. Can ESG data help ensure that they are built in a manner that makes them resilient in a climate-changing world, even mitigate the threats of droughts, floods, hurricanes, wildfires and all of the other calamities in the first place? Sustainable finance can help. There’s gold in all that green: a bond’s quarter- to a half-point lower interest rate for a green 30-year, billion-dollar bond could translate into tens of millions of dollars in lower costs, money that could go to any number of other worthy causes, or into taxpayers’ pockets. Me: “OK, I think I’m finally getting it. Sustainable finance is a way of deploying investment capital to create sustainable outcomes at a societal and economy-wide level.” Well, almost. Financing the transition If you broaden the aperture a bit more, you’ll see a much, much bigger opportunity: to finance the transition of the global economy to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. According to a 2019 report, Climate Finance Strategy 2018-2023 , from the Hewlett Foundation: To put the world on the path to solving climate change, the current level of funding for climate-friendly activities must be tripled to at least $1.5 trillion annually. Fortunately, the multi-trillion-dollar capital sources needed for climate already reside in the current global financial system many times over. Based on publicly available data, it is estimated there is nearly $250 trillion of commercial capital available globally in five primary capital pools (Asset Owners, Retail Bank Deposits, Development Finance Institutions (DFI)/Multilateral Development Banks (MDB), Private Equity and Venture Capital). That’s a monstrous opportunity, and it broadens the definition of “sustainable finance” even further to include vast pools of capital to take on humanity’s most pressing challenges. In other words, the capital it will take to get from here to sustainability. “So, sustainable finance is how we align capital flows with the opportunity to address the world’s biggest social and environmental problems,” I concluded. I’m still not sure I’ve nailed it, but I’m getting closer. At minimum, I’ve taken a much broader view of what sustainable finance means and what GreenFin could address. To be sure, we won’t be addressing all of these things at GreenFin 21; I’m guessing it will take a couple of event cycles to find our footing. We’ll focus, as my learning journey did, primarily on ESG investing and green bonds and loans. But my quest for understanding has helped to create a roadmap of how this event — and the convening power of GreenBiz and its remarkable community — can meet the moment. Over time, I suspect, much of this will become commonplace, simply the way business and finance are conducted. We’ve seen that in many other aspects of sustainability, from renewable energy purchasing to the circular economy. Visionary ideas become commonplace and, eventually, the status quo. And at that point “sustainable finance” will become, well, just finance. I invite you to follow me on Twitter , subscribe to my Monday morning newsletter, GreenBuzz , and listen to GreenBiz 350 , my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy. Topics Finance & Investing GreenFin ESG Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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4 tips for changing consumer behavior

November 23, 2020 by  
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4 tips for changing consumer behavior Lauren Phipps Mon, 11/23/2020 – 01:00 When I cover solutions to the plastic waste crisis, I typically focus on infrastructure development and bringing recycling systems to scale, standardizing materials, inventing new ones and designing out unnecessary single-use items, and rethinking business models and supply chains. But once these structures are in place, they only work if consumers embrace new models and ensure that materials move through the system as planned. Otherwise, the entire system breaks down. And if you thought it was hard getting your colleagues to recycle rigid plastic or compost paper towels, or to stop wishcycling — that whatever they throw into the bin will, in fact, be recycled — think about the complexity of changing consumer behavior across a city, country or beyond.  During a recent webcast, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Natalie Hallinger, a behavioral scientist and behavior change adviser working to translate research on human motivation into real-world behavior change strategies.  Here are four tips Hallinger recommends for designing large-scale interventions:  Make it relatable: “People often think they need to force people to do something they don’t want to do,” Hallinger shared. But brute force is rarely the path of least resistance. “The easier route is to find a way to relate to them. What’s an intersection of a goal they already want that aligns with your goal?” For example, if your generic environmental appeal to an individual doesn’t resonate, perhaps an individual will relate more with a personal desire to visit a clean beach in the summer.  Make it desirable: Culture and social norms are strong drivers of consumer behavior. “The most desirable thing for humans is to fit in,” Hallinger explained. “If you design interventions that create community norms of waste reduction behavior, reusing and repairing, then everyone wants to be doing the same thing. You don’t want to stand out. You do it because of your desire to be part of the community.” Make it contextual: Behavior change interventions must be relevant and salient. Hallinger explained that if you’re engaging employees in a work context about actions they can take at home, it likely will go in one ear and out the other. Focus on actions that people can implement immediately.  Make it easy : The “right” choice from a sustainability perspective should also be the easy choice. “If you create the infrastructure and design built environments that make the behavior you want the default, then you have behavior without even needing to persuade the person.” To eliminate the guesswork that consumers face at the bin, Hallinger suggested that single-stream recycling with back-of-house sorting would design out confusion and contamination and lead to higher recycling rates in certain contexts.  I invite you to listen to the entire webcast here , which includes additional insights on behavior change from Jacob Duer, president and CEO of Alliance to End Plastic Waste; Jeff Kirschner, founder and CEO of Litterati; and John Warner, distinguished research fellow at Zymergen.  Topics Circular Economy Consumer Trends Featured Column In the Loop Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Converging crises call for converging solutions

November 20, 2020 by  
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Converging crises call for converging solutions Sarah Golden Fri, 11/20/2020 – 01:45 In the words of President-elect Joe Biden, America is facing four historic colliding crises: the economy; a pandemic; systemic racism; and climate chaos.  These aren’t four separate asteroids all coincidentally headed our way at once. They’re intertwined and part of the same challenges; they’re the consequence of decades of actions and inactions that are boiling over and activating one another. It stands to reason that we couldn’t silo solutions.  Perversely, it is possible that economic crises will be the catalyst we need to address climate change. That’s because the problems have the same solution: the rapid deployment of clean technologies across the economy.  COVID, the economy and emissions As the world pressed pause this spring in an attempt to flatten the coronavirus curve, our emissions curve flattened, too. We conducted a science experiment on a historic scale: What happens to emissions when everyone (or a large majority of people) stands still?  As the year rounds to a close, the results are becoming clear: We’re on track to reduce carbon emissions from energy by 8 percent.  While significant, I am surprised that the emission reductions are so small. It reflects the limits of individual action; even if we all do everything we can, the built-in emissions to our economy still will bust our carbon budget. America is at its best — most collaborative, innovative and productive — when we have a shared enemy and objective. More distressing is the projection of emissions as our economy recovers. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s New Energy Outlook , carbon emissions are set to rise through 2027, then decline 0.7 percent per year through 2050. That would put the world on track for 3.3 degrees Celsius of warming.  In order to have a chance at 2 C warming, emissions would need to decrease 10 times faster. If we’re striving for 1.5 C warming (and we are), emissions will need to drop fourteenfold faster.  We can rebuild the economy without ramping up emissions Historically, emissions and the economy are closely related. It makes sense; when people have more money, they tend to use more energy, travel more, buy more things. Likewise, the only three times emissions fell between 1975 and 2015 were during the recessions of the 1980s, 1992 and 2009. And when the economy rebounded, so did emissions .  Climate skeptics have weaponized this correlation to frame the economy and the environment as trade-offs.  But thanks to clean energy, this relationship is no longer true. In 2016, the International Energy Agency confirmed that emissions and economic growth have decoupled. For the first time in more than 40 years, global GDP grew in 2014 and 2015 — but emissions didn’t.  That’s great news for this moment; the work we need to do to decarbonize is the same work that can pull us out of a global recession. Building a new type of future  The concept of a Green New Deal predates the COVID crises. Yet the harkening to the New Deal, the massive federal effort to pull America out of the depths of the Great Depression, feels prescient as we reckon with the worst economy in a century.  And it may be the urgency to address the faltering economy that spurs the necessary policy alignment to reach true decarbonization.  The numbers are there. Columbia’s Center on Global Energy Policy released a report in September making the case for investment in clean energy R&D to create jobs and boost the economy, and Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy commissioned a report to analyze the spillover economic gains from such an investment. Saul Griffith’s new organization, Rewiring America , shows how decarbonizing the economy would require around 25 million jobs in the U.S.  While the New Deal did wonders for the economy, it arguably had elements that lacked a strategic lens. Case in point: The Bureau of Reclamation damming every river it could in the west, regardless whether it was justified. Imagine what would be possible with a New Deal that has a guiding principle: rapid decarbonization.  America is at its best — most collaborative, innovative and productive — when we have a shared enemy and objective. Climate change, for reasons I don’t understand, proves to be a difficult unifier. But the economy — now that’s something Americans can get behind.  This essay first appeared in GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote America is at its best — most collaborative, innovative and productive — when we have a shared enemy and objective. Topics Energy & Climate Racial Issues COVID-19 Clean Economy Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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It’s time to bridge the clean energy partisan divide

November 13, 2020 by  
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It’s time to bridge the clean energy partisan divide Sarah Golden Fri, 11/13/2020 – 00:30 Partisanship runs deep in America.  We’ve self-organized so our neighbors, friends and social media agree with us, and we gravitate voices who are increasingly vitriolic towards those who don’t. Is it any wonder our empathy muscles have gone into atrophy? But we might be on the precipice of a new era. Last week, the United States elected a new commander-in-chief who is less shouty and divisive. Joe Biden leaned into this brand during his first speech as president-elect Saturday, declared that now “is the time to heal.”  The clean energy sector is not immune to divisions. So let the healing process begin — starting with our own house.  The clean energy divide: the pragmatists versus the enviros A rift is deepening within the clean energy sectors: those who advocate for steady, incremental change; and those who demand urgent transformational change. For lack of more precise terms, I’ll dub these two camps “pragmatists” and “environmentalists,” aka “enviros.” Enviros have long been marginalized by the powers that be, labeled as elitist, unreasonable and/or not understanding how the system works. I’d expect that from incumbent energy forces, and I’m disheartened to hear the extent to which these judgments have infiltrated clean energy spaces.  With increasing frequency, I hear clean energy and corporate sustainability professionals publicly dismiss enviros, implying they have an ax to grind against big business, big agriculture, big oil — as though environmentalists are irrational, rather than responding to decades of corporate malfeasances that allowed an elite few to profit through unsustainable extraction and a disregard for the communities they affect. We need environmentalists to be unflinchingly clear on what is needed to have a chance at a safe climate future. This despite the fact that big green groups, from Sierra Club to Greenpeace to the Natural Resources Defense Council, regularly produce rigorously researched and prescient reports that often foreshadow where mainstream thinking follows.  Likewise, I’ve seen environmental organizations categorically demonize pragmatists, despite ultimately wanting the same thing: a safe climate future. Of course, fringe enviro groups peddle misinformation and anger, but they are truly the minority. Defining the group by its outliers is how we got into this partisan mess in the first place. We can do better.  The importance of a moral compass  Here’s the thing: Enviros are usually right. The pure moral compass isn’t about being holier than thou; it’s because physics is poor at compromises.  Corporations often look at the demands of climate activists and call them unreasonable, pointing to the speed of adoption of technologies and development of markets. But enviros are in no better position to change the rules of climate change than the Lorax was to change the ecosystem needs of the truffala tree. We need environmentalists to be unflinchingly clear on what is needed to have a chance at a safe climate future. And it will feel unreasonable, because in reality we need to move unreasonably quickly to get to where we’re going.  Let’s be more than the sum of our parts The Biden administration has the most bullish climate plan America has seen, and the clean energy sector is about to be thrust into the limelight. Instead of infighting, clean energy factions should use this moment to push and pull each other towards rapid decarbonization. Enviros aren’t an impediment; they’re an asset. They provide a guiding light to push all companies and communities to do more, to move faster and to never pretend half measures are complete solutions. They provide cover for politicians to be ambitious. And they remind all of us that anything less than a holistic solution isn’t a solution.  After all, if we can’t heal the fissures separating us from those working towards the same goals as us, what chance do we have of healing anything else?  This essay first appeared in GreenBiz’s newsletter Energy Weekly, running Thursdays. Subscribe here . Pull Quote We need environmentalists to be unflinchingly clear on what is needed to have a chance at a safe climate future. Topics Energy & Climate Policy & Politics Clean Energy Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock KieferPix Close Authorship

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Here’s how Joe Biden could cultivate a more sustainable food system

November 13, 2020 by  
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Here’s how Joe Biden could cultivate a more sustainable food system Jim Giles Fri, 11/13/2020 – 00:14 Let’s do a quick thought experiment. Imagine stepping into an elevator and realizing that the man next to you is President-elect Joe Biden. You have 30 seconds to urge him to focus on a particular issue. What would it be? Earlier this week, I invited leaders from food and agriculture to play that game. Specifically, I asked them what Biden’s administration should do to accelerate progress toward a more sustainable food system. I got more responses than I can share in a single newsletter, so I’ll be rolling out answers weekly until the end of the year. Here are three — spanning farm spending, technical support and farmers of color — to get the conversation started. No need to wait for Congress One of the most encouraging responses emphasized that there’s a lot Biden can do without additional support from Congress.  “The U.S. Department of Agriculture can take advantage of tools and money it already has to help farmers transition to more climate-friendly practices that can also lead to improved farm economic resilience in the long term,” said Chris Adamo, vice president of federal and industry affairs at Danone North America. “Via the Farm Bill, the department spends approximately $6 billion annually on conservation practices. As part of its conservation funding, the USDA could prioritize soil health through cover crops, crop diversification and other regenerative practices, and partner with the private sector to leverage resources.” Adamo added: “The current administration has also spent over $30 billion compensating farmers for COVID and trade-related losses. However, many farmers may not be in a better situation in the short term. If we’re going to continue to pay for market losses, it may be better to invest with diversity, equity and climate in mind.” Boots on the ground The federal government also can help support ongoing private sector projects in food and ag, where many companies are already working to cut greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and to regenerate farmland and waterways.  “To support this transition, the USDA should boost farmer and rancher program service delivery through more boots-on-the-ground technical assistance,” said Debbie Reed, executive director of the Ecosystem Services Market Consortium . “There continues to be a real need for technical assistance to transfer knowledge, outcomes and benefits to working farmers and ranchers.” If we’re going to continue to pay for market losses, it may be better to invest with diversity, equity and climate in mind. Particularly when it comes to conservation programs, this support needs to recognize that different farmers have different needs, Reed added. In practice, this means it needs to be place-based and flexible enough to allow farmers and ranchers to improve environmental impacts without incurring excessive risk. One way to deliver this, suggested Reed, would be to rebuild the ranks of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, which have fallen dramatically over the past two decades. Protect farmers of color Black farmers sometimes refer to the USDA as “the last plantation” due to the agency’s long history of discriminating against farmers of color. The results of this lack of support have been devastating. A century ago, there were a million Black farmers in the United States. Now just 45,000 remain, each earning, on average, one-fifth of what white farmers do.  That history is why Leah Penniman, co-director and manager of Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York, is urging Biden to enact protections and support for farmers of color. These include expanded access to credit, crop insurance and technical assistance; independent review of farmland foreclosures; and debt forgiveness programs where discrimination has been proven. (If you’re interested in learning more about this issue, Penniman helped create Elizabeth Warren’s policy proposals in this area , which remain some of the most ambitious.) What would you say to Biden during your shared elevator ride? Let me know at jg@greenbiz.com . I’ll include as many responses as possible in Food Weekly during the transition period. This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote If we’re going to continue to pay for market losses, it may be better to invest with diversity, equity and climate in mind. Topics Food & Agriculture Policy & Politics Social Justice Regenerative Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Biden-Harris supporters gather at a farm market in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for a “get out the vote” event on the eve of the 2020 presidential election. Shutterstock Ben Von Klemperer Close Authorship

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Here’s how Joe Biden could cultivate a more sustainable food system

Biden-Harris: The work begins

November 7, 2020 by  
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Biden-Harris: The work begins Joel Makower Sat, 11/07/2020 – 10:39 Whatever your political leanings, the election of Joe Biden as President of the United States increases the odds of bringing America back into the community of nations addressing the climate crisis. “Increases the odds” is the key phrase in the above sentence. There’s a lot of work to do, and not just by our elected representatives, to regain our footing on this issue — and to regain our standing on the global stage. Now, the hard work begins. There is public policy to enact and implement. There are new commitments to be made. There are fractured alliances to mend. But more important, there is leadership to project. Not just by the new president or Congress, but by us all. The new administration will need to know that we have their backs. If America is to be seen as the climate leader so many of us desperately want it to be, we’ll need to stand with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on climate (and environmental protection in general). We’ll need our voices to be loud and clear. We’ll need to push and prod them toward increasingly more ambitious action. The new administration will need to know that we have their backs. This is easier said than done. Most companies have been woefully silent on climate policy. Despite the explosion of net-zero commitments across the economy, there’s been relatively little hue and cry by business for national leadership on climate issues. Quite the opposite: Most companies have stood by as the current administration dismantled existing climate policies, which must now be pieced back together. It won’t be easy or quick, but nothing less will do. And getting back to where we were in 2016 is only the beginning. Elections are easy; governing is hard, particularly in this fractured age. But it’s heartening that president-elect’s campaign website has a page dedicated to “a clean energy revolution and environmental justice.” It speaks to how addressing the climate crisis will lead to “a stronger, more resilient nation” as we take on “this grave threat.” It promises that “the development of solutions is an inclusive, community-driven process.” These are words, not deeds, but they nonetheless represent a welcome turnaround from current policy. All of us will need to hold the new administration to account on those lofty aspirations. There will be lots of obstacles overcome, by all of us. More to come on this. For now, it’s time to exhale, relax, savor the moment. But only for a moment. It’s a new day. This is when the hard work actually begins. Pull Quote The new administration will need to know that we have their backs. Topics Policy & Politics Climate Change Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off JoeBiden.com

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Biden-Harris: The work begins

Get ready for the next wave of GMOs

October 2, 2020 by  
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Get ready for the next wave of GMOs Jim Giles Fri, 10/02/2020 – 02:00 One summer day almost 20 years ago, a group of protestors arrived at a plot of genetically modified corn growing near the town of Montelimar in southern France. They were led by José Bové , a left-wing activist famous for his skirmishes with the law and his tremendous moustache. Using machetes and shears, the protestors uprooted the crops and dumped the debris outside the offices of the regional government. I thought about Bové this week as I read a new report on the next generation of genetic food technology . The techniques in the report make the processes that Bové opposed look clunky. The GMOs he destroyed were created by inserting genes from other organisms — say a stretch of DNA that confers resistance to a particular herbicide — into a plant’s genome. This brute force approach is time-consuming and hard to control. Now scientists are using a new suite of gene-editing techniques, including a process known as CRISPR, to rapidly and precisely control the behavior of specific plant genes.  Gene-edited crops already exist. Scientists at the biotech firm Corteva, for example, have developed a high-yield strain of a variety of corn used in food additives and adhesives. Yet these initial advances belie the technology’s potential. Is there a way that civil society, government and businesses can come together to prioritize development of gene-edited crops that deliver social and environmental benefits as well as economic ones? The power of gene editing can be wielded to modify plants and, among other things, achieve significant sustainability wins. Here are a few potential outcomes explored in the new report, published by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation , a pro-technology think tank: Dramatic reductions in waste, made possible by engineering crops to produce food products that last longer on the shelf and are less susceptible to pests.  Lower greenhouse gas emissions from cattle, after CRISPR is used to alter the genetic activity of the methane-producing microbes that live in the animals’ stomachs. Reductions to the hundreds of millions of tons of methane emitted annually from rice production, thanks to new gene-edited rice strains. Increases in the carbon-sequestering power of crops, made possible by engineered arieties that put down deeper root systems. This potential is thrilling, and there are signs that it will arrive soon. In China, where the government has made a big bet on gene-editing technology , numerous labs are working on crop strains that require less pesticides, herbicides and water. In the United States, a small but growing group of gene-editing startups is bringing new varieties to market, including an oilseed plant that can be used as a carbon-sequestering cover crop during the winter .  Yet when I read the ITIF report, I thought of Bové. Not because I agree with everything he said. Twenty years and many studies later, we know that the anti-GMO activists were wrong to say that modified crops posed a threat to human health. (The demonization of GMOs had profound consequences nonetheless: Fears about the risks posed by the crops are one reason why the crops are highly restricted in Europe and viewed warily by some consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.) The reason I thought of Bové is that, at one level, he and other activists were pushing society to take a broader view of GMOs. They wanted people to ask who and what the crops were for, because they believed, rightly, that the crops were produced mainly with the profits of ag companies in mind. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing for ag companies to be profitable. But our food systems affect so many aspects of our lives — from the composition of the atmosphere to the prevalence of disease. When GMOs first began to be planted, there hadn’t been enough debate about how the technology might affect these things. No wonder people were angry. That’s a lesson I hope we can remember as gene editing shapes agriculture. Is there a way that civil society, government and businesses can come together to prioritize development of gene-edited crops that deliver social and environmental benefits as well as economic ones? If they can, we might end up with crops that everyone wants. This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote Is there a way that civil society, government and businesses can come together to prioritize development of gene-edited crops that deliver social and environmental benefits as well as economic ones? Topics Food & Agriculture GMO Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Andriano Close Authorship

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