Indonesian eco village features rammed earth domes and ocean views

November 20, 2020 by  
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Located in the southeastern part of Lombok, Indonesia, the Dome Lombok eco resort enjoys stunning views of the ocean, permaculture gardens, a farm-to-table restaurant, an organic juice bar, an outdoor cinema and a swimming pool. Each luxurious, rammed earth dome is made using the adobe earthbag building technique, in which stacks of bags containing sustainably sourced earth are finished in natural plaster to create the structure. While there are currently nine self-contained rammed earth domes in the initial stages of production on property, future development plans include adding another nine domes, a yoga shala, an artist studio and expansion of the coworking space. They also plan to install bio-septic tanks, solar power and recycle graywater for use on the permaculture gardens that will supply the onsite restaurant, promoting off-grid living. Related: Natural materials make up this energy-saving Jakarta home According to the project’s creative director, Lombok has seen a boom in eco tourism , and the dome village has become the most advanced sustainable project in the area in response to the green development movement. Dome Lombok also offers sustainably minded investors to purchase a dome to use as an eco-friendly rental home that doesn’t sacrifice design, quality or comfort. At the time of writing, all but one of the initial nine domes is already sold. The floor area for each dome ranges from 15 square meters to 100 square meters and prices start at 49,000 euros (about $58,000). The white sand beach of Tanjun Aan is just within walking distance from the domes , which also overlook a 6,000-square-meter lush hillside only 30 minutes from the Zainuddin Abdul Madjid International Airport. The island boasts clean coral coastlines, making it a popular destination for diving and surfing. The project is also located within the island’s Mandalika Special Economic Zone, a designation of a local program identifying the government’s five super-priority destinations aimed at driving Indonesia’s economic growth through tourism. + Dome Lombok Images via Dome Lombok

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Indonesian eco village features rammed earth domes and ocean views

The Philippines halts coal proposals to explore green energy

November 13, 2020 by  
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The Philippine government has halted the country’s coal exploration. While announcing this news, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said that the government is seeking alternative, green energy sources as it steps away from coal power. The moratorium means that investors intending to pursue any projects related to coal power will have to look into alternatives. Currently, coal is the dominant source of energy in the Philippines , accounting for over 41% of the country’s total energy. With the world shifting gears towards clean energy, the Philippine government faces pressure to shift its energy policies and adopt cleaner energy. However, even the coal moratorium may not yield instant results, according to Cusi. With renewable energy sources such as hydropower and solar accounting for just 29% of the country’s energy and natural gas accounting for 13.5%, the Philippines could continue relying on coal for a long time. Still, the government now banks on the available energy to continue running its industries before exploring other sources for the future. “We see that we have enough supply for baseload power and we’re looking at a more flexible source like gas, geothermal , hydro and others,” Cusi said in a briefing. Further, the moratorium issued by the government does not affect existing coal-based projects or proposals already submitted. In other words, such projects will likely continue even though the government has stopped new applications. The Philippine government now intends to invest more in natural gas exploration. Although not a renewable source of energy, natural gas pollutes the environment significantly less than coal. The current state of coal power dominance in the Philippines has been instigated by a rush of coal power project approvals in recent years. As the government hits the brakes on coal use, experts anticipate other sources of power will take the number one spot in the coming years. Nevertheless, the country must maintain clear policies if it wishes to turn away from coal power for good. + Bangkok Post Image via Pixabay

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Brown, female and on the bus: A personal journey into transportation policy

October 27, 2020 by  
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Brown, female and on the bus: A personal journey into transportation policy Sahar Shirazi Tue, 10/27/2020 – 01:30 I got my first passport at 6 months old. Not to take a luxurious holiday with my jet-setting family, but to move back to a country on the brink of war, right after a democratic revolution that almost immediately turned into a dictatorship. At age 5, after various failed attempts to flee Iran, I boarded a flight from Istanbul to Los Angeles by myself. Before I started school, transportation already had served to move me both into and out of opportunity in very real ways. Like many immigrants, my identity is complicated. First, I am not technically an immigrant. I was born in Berkeley, California. I was 6 months old when my family moved back to Iran, and for the first 5 years of my life, I was physically stuck there. Even after we finally made it back to the U.S., I was raised in such strictly traditional surroundings, we may as well have been in my grandparents’ village in Iran, just without the bombs and threats from the government (at least, not at that point). My family struggled to gain legal status in the U.S., and I was shaped by my personal experiences as well as theirs. When we first moved to the U.S., we were very poor. We lived in apartments around Sacramento, moving every six months or so as my parents chased elusive opportunities and odd jobs. Both of my parents worked at various burger joints, and my sister and I took the public bus to school, keys tied around our necks, sometimes upwards of 40 minutes each way. In 1989, Mazda came out with the Miata, originally only available in red, white and blue in the U.S. It was the first time I’d ever cared about a car. Walking by those shiny, tiny cars as I went to sit in the greasy air of the burger shop gave 9-year-old me my first taste of material want, the first-time consumerism infiltrated my psyche as a child. In school, I fantasized that I could learn skills to woo my classmates; to become clever or artistic or sporty enough that they would no longer question my hair, skin, language or lack of wealth. But here, here was a way for me to buy my way into their world. I was enchanted by the car not as a mode for gaining access or opportunity, but as a means to gain status. And that understanding never left me. I was enchanted by the car not as a mode for gaining access or opportunity, but as a means to gain status. And that understanding never left me. By the time I was old enough to drive, my family had moved out of Sacramento and into northern Sonoma County. My parents had moved up the ladder and now owned their own little burger shop, were able to buy their first house, and we’d been living in a middle-class community for some time. My political psyche also had formed more. I was involved in groups and actions, I already had joined boards and commissions for youth, and I’d organized various petitions and rallies in school. I’d been given a used bike in my early teens and rode it around the developing landscape of wine country as my only physical escape from my home. I took the school bus to school, and the county bus to the local community college, in the neighboring town, for classes I couldn’t take at our underfunded high school. Active and shared transportation was my lifeline, and I could not imagine sheltering myself in a private car — even a little Miata, removed from the experience of transportation, despite all the problems such a luxury would have alleviated. In Iran, taxis and mini-buses charged for space rather than users; and the wealthy paid extra for empty bus seats or “closed door” taxis that did not pick up other strangers. Riding the bus in the U.S. and not smooshing into a stranger still felt luxurious despite the inconveniences and delays, until the harassment began. In addition to being Middle Eastern in a region made up of mostly white and Latino populations, I was a young female who’d developed early. Before I understood the comments that men hurled at me, I knew the discomfort they caused. On the school bus, young boys grabbed me with no remorse and no consequences (other than the time I punched one of them, finally trying to assert some form of power). At the city bus stop, on a rural road with no one around, men slowed down and screamed out the window for me to get in as they drove by. This behavior continued through my 20s, in Oakland and San Francisco and much more “urban” and “progressive” places than the small town I spent my adolescence in. I still remember wondering what part of my 22-year-old self, dressed in paint-splattered clothes from nine hours of working with preschoolers, screamed out for that kind of attention. A stop request sign on a light-rail train in Sacramento. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/ZikG Media Source Shutterstock Media Authorship ZikG Close Authorship These were normalized experiences of being female, brown and a non-driver. And yet, I never sought the safe isolation of being in a car. I could not have explained why, until age 29, I refused to get a license. I had neither the understanding of transportation’s importance or its role in our social fabric to put words to my own stubbornness, until I sank deep into the academic study, personal stories and history of our systems. When I entered grad school at Mills College in 2009, I finally decided to get a license. I realized I could no longer afford to wait for buses that never came, and I had the luxury of being able to drive, have a vehicle and affording my private transportation system. Being in an enclosed vehicle alone was a new experience at 29, and the safety and comfort I felt was matched only by my own sense of disconnection from the world. I’ve heard the term “windshield mentality” used for the psychology of driving, and it resonates deeply. On a train, a bus, a bike or on foot, we are forced to interact with the world in some way. But alone, in a car, separated physically from all others, we can easily sink into an “us vs. everyone” mentality. Suddenly, the biker or pedestrian is a nuisance, not a person trying to get somewhere just like me. The stop signs and speed limits are just in my way, rather than being protections for the lives of others. No level of learning changes this basic psychology. I still must remind myself every time I drive, I am not in traffic, I am traffic. To truly have a system that serves the needs of diverse communities, that acknowledges and repairs the harm we have done with past planning and projects, we must have greater representation from the people affected by them. With this shift in mentality taking shape, I entered a public policy program, aiming to learn about community-based economic development and social equity work. I was going back to school to make a difference, and I had no idea that that path would lead me to transportation. One of my early projects was a study for the local business improvement district; a parking study. As I walked around the community counting parking spaces by the hour, I dashed across roads with no stoplights, crosswalks and wide lanes incentivizing high speeds, wondering why certain corners were so dark once the sun went down, and taking note of the infrastructure for other modes of transportation such as buses and bikes. I spoke to shop owners and residents, passersby and city officials, and every conversation and observation pushed me to learn more about urban planning. I think of those conversations often these days, of the person who told me they won’t take the bus in the evenings, because the bus stop is next to an ATM, and there have been too many muggings there. Of the person who explained to me that the land use and transit components are decided separately, so putting a bus stop in front of a café instead, for example, had not been considered. And of our final presentation to the local Business Improvement District, where we suggested pedestrian, bike and transit improvements to slow down traffic would benefit them, rather than more parking, and the incredulous response we received. I think of my own transportation stories; of the frustration of taking three buses and riding over an hour to commute to my job that was only eight miles away. Of the kids who were on the last leg of that commute, using the county bus as their school bus every morning, and how happy their interactions made me. Of missing a bus between jobs and the anxiety I felt as I waited 30 minutes for the next option. In many ways, transportation and land use is the physical manifestation of patriarchy and racism. From our history of bulldozing minority neighborhoods to build freeways and refusing loans to Black families to our current decision-making structures that exclude those who cannot access language, time, education, transportation, childcare, technology — all but the most resourced participants, we have reinforced systems that benefit white men at the expense of all others for decades. How do we move forward when we are burdened with so much weight, pulling at us from our past? How do we confront our own history and learn from it, to make programs, policies, investments and structures that serve the needs of communities, especially in a world of constrained time and resources? Recently, I gave a presentation that showed historic redlining maps lined up with current maps of disadvantaged communities, and I was surprised at the response it garnered. “Wow, they are the same,” someone said incredulously. Our past actions have long-lasting consequences, and we are never starting from scratch. It still boggles my mind how that is a revelation. Of course they are the same. To truly have a system that serves the needs of diverse communities, that acknowledges and repairs the harm we have done with past planning and projects, we must have greater representation from the people affected by them. Our current systems, which make decisions for people without their involvement, will continue to create inequitable outcomes, however well-intentioned those decisions may be. Sharing more information, education and stories about transportation and mobility, and enabling collaboration through new models of engagement can help us move past limited community meetings and outreach into engagement and co-creation of goals. By acknowledging the importance of transportation in economic, environmental, educational and health outcomes, those of us in the field can help connect the dots for the next generation of transportation planners, policymakers and engineers, and increase diversity in representation in our field. Just as my lived experiences influenced my decision to enter transportation, and continue to color my views through every project, the experiences of those different from me, those affected most by the mistakes of our past and present, must be included and valued as we move forward and try to do better. Meaningful representation, moving past tokenism, is critical to shifting the transportation paradigm and addressing our past harms. Mobility creates economic, social, and environmental opportunity, and that opportunity has been distributed asymmetrically thus far. Transportation is more than technical engineering, it is more than a bus or a train or a bike; it is the potential for movement through the physical world, and the experiences and stories of accessing that movement.  So when someone asks me now why I do this work, I simply tell them: It turns out I’ve been working in transportation my whole life, I just finally made it official. This article was first published on the author’s Medium channel. Pull Quote I was enchanted by the car not as a mode for gaining access or opportunity, but as a means to gain status. And that understanding never left me. On a train, a bus, a bike or on foot, we are forced to interact with the world in some way. But alone, in a car, separated physically from all others, we can easily sink into an ‘us vs. everyone’ mentality. To truly have a system that serves the needs of diverse communities, that acknowledges and repairs the harm we have done with past planning and projects, we must have greater representation from the people affected by them. Topics Transportation & Mobility Racial Issues Social Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Inside a bus in Chicago, circa March 2016. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/Sorbis Shutterstock Sorbis Close Authorship

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Brown, female and on the bus: A personal journey into transportation policy

Green groups urge UN to raise climate ambition on global shipping

October 20, 2020 by  
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Green groups urge UN to raise climate ambition on global shipping Cecilia Keating Tue, 10/20/2020 – 00:15 The global shipping industry’s decarbonization efforts once again face stormy seas. Ahead of the latest crucial round of talks this week at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), green groups are warning proposals are “an empty shell” that will have a negligible impact on the sector’s emissions. Seasoned observers fear that growing calls for a bolder and more ambitious global policy framework are continuing to founder on the rocks of vested interests and short-term cost concerns.  IMO member states are meeting this week for critical talks to discuss how the carbon-intensive shipping industry can be regulated to meet its 2030 climate target of reducing its carbon emissions intensity by 40 percent compared to 2008 levels. While the target was set two years ago, the latest talks are where the member states are expected to agree on how to enforce it, before the proposals are moved forward to committee stage in November. A joint proposal from 15 major shipping nations and influential industry group the International Chamber of Shipping is to form the basis of the discussions, yet green groups have slammed the proposals as a “low ambition” plan that could have disastrous implications for the sector’s chances of falling into line with the overarching global goals set out in the Paris Agreement. The frontrunning proposal, sponsored by France, Germany and Japan, has come under fire due to a recommendation that stringent enforcement of operational efficiency regulations is introduced no earlier than 2029. And despite warnings from climate scientists that the IMO’s 2030 carbon-intensity target is insufficient to meet global climate goals — it has been rated by Climate Action Tracker as “critically insufficient” and aligned with a potentially devastating global temperature rise of 4 degrees Celsius — the plan does not recommend the industry aim for sharper emissions reductions. Faïg Abbasov, head of shipping at campaign group Transport & Environment, told BusinessGreen the proposal was “essentially an empty shell.” “To achieve 1.5 degrees [of warming] we need to decarbonize by the mid-2030s,” he explained. “To achieve 2 degrees we need to decarbonize by mid-century. This proposal goes nowhere near that level.” To achieve 1.5 degrees [of warming] we need to decarbonize by the mid-2030s. To achieve 2 degrees we need to decarbonize by mid-century. This proposal goes nowhere near that level. While green groups contend that the proposed plan in fact will undermine the shipping sector’s already-weak climate targets, the joint proposal’s sponsors argue the agreement represents a major step forward for a historically fractured industry that has spent much of the past decade delaying and diluting more ambitious proposals. BusinessGreen understands that advocates of the plan will argue that it balances the need to act fast to reduce the sector’s climate impact and the need to give industry time to adjust as regulators work out how to calculate and regulate operational efficiency, a measurement that is more difficult to define than a ship’s technical efficiency due to its being affected by weather conditions. The dispute is the latest in a long history of quarrels between environmentalists and the IMO, the United Nations agency charged with the regulation of a global shipping industry that operates largely outside and between national jurisdictions. With many nation states choosing to keep international shipping outside their domestic climate targets, the onus falls on the London-based agency to set the pace and direction of decarbonization efforts. But while a growing number of nations and shipping operators have stepped up calls for a more ambitious global policy regime, any attempts to introduce robust new regulations through the IMO have tended to be thwarted by those countries that fear the financial impact on their shipping industry from new emissions standards or carbon pricing regimes. It is a dynamic that has left environmental campaigners increasingly frustrated.  Last week, Transport & Environment’s Abbasov warned that the regulatory framework set to be discussed this week could perhaps “bend” growth of carbon emissions in the shipping sector by mid-century but would “not be able to stop it.” Transport & Environment is one of a number of green groups, including Carbon Market Watch, Seas at Risk and Ocean Conservancy, to have written to the Secretary General of the United Nations in early October to warn of the short-term policy measures being cooked up by member states ahead of the meeting. “It is not the job of the United Nations to protect vested fossil fuel interests,” they wrote in a letter seen by BusinessGreen. “It is the job of the United Nations to protect people and planet from the ravages of runaway global heating.” The NGOs, united as the Clean Shipping Coalition, warned that if robust enforcement of operational emissions standards is delayed to 2029, the IMO will fail to meet a number of the stated aims contained in its own landmark 2018 greenhouse gas reduction strategy, namely to achieve significant additional CO2 reductions “before 2023,” ensure emissions emissions peak “as soon as possible” and deliver a carbon dioxide reduction pathway in line with the Paris goals. Furthermore, they stressed that civil society organizations had not been invited to the private meetings where member states and the shipping industry had hashed out the plan, and that a separate proposal submitted by green groups earlier this year which set out how the industry could reach a more ambitious 80 percent reduction in carbon intensity emissions by 2030 had been omitted from the document. Campaigners maintain that stronger ambition is required given that the 2030 target the IMO is working towards — a 40 percent reduction in carbon-intensity emissions — is not aligned with the Paris Agreement in the first place. They argue that, with the existing 2030 commitment already three-quarters met purely through the trend for slower speeds and bigger ships, there is a huge opportunity for the industry to raise its ambition at the informal meetings take place next week. But industry players counter that the current proposals are plenty robust enough, pointing out that under the proposals new technical efficiency standards for ships will be enforced immediately, as will plans to introduce a new mandatory operational efficiency rating system, where ships are rated on an A to E grading system that should subject poor-efficiency ships to the power of the market. “The fact that we are so close to a consensus among IMO members states is a huge step in the right direction,” Simon Bennett, deputy secretary general at the International Chamber of Shipping, told BusinessGreen.   Bennett also argued the total decarbonization of the shipping sector ultimately would rely on technological innovation. “These measures will be legally binding and an important step towards our goal of full decarbonization of the shipping sector,” he said. “We know more can be done and what we do must work in practice as well as in writing. If we’re to achieve a truly global solution to the total decarbonization of world shipping, then radical, innovative technological solutions must be found over the next decade.” But Transport & Environment’s Abbasov warned that a low-ambition regulatory framework agreed on this week could have negative implications for shipping policy for decades to come. “It will set a wrong precedent that adopting cosmetic measures or low-ambition measures are okay, and anything in the future will probably forward the same path,” he stressed. “It will set a domino effect that is extremely, extremely dangerous.” While the final shape of the proposals to be agreed by member states remains to be seen, Abbasov and ICS agreed that it was likely to not stray far from scenarios contained in the draft document. As such, attention is likely to quickly turn to alternative avenues for accelerating the development and adoption of the lower-carbon shipping technologies and practices that remain in the pipeline. As Abbasov argues, if IMO member states decide to endorse the current proposal and send it to the committee stage, then the onus will fall more than ever on regional national governments to set regulatory standards that catalyse decarbonization progress across shipping sector. With more than one quarter of the global economy committed to achieving net-zero emissions over the coming decades, it follows that the shipping sector will be under increased pressure from governments and private players to clean up its act. In some quarters, these dynamics already seem to be at work, with oil major Shell calling on the IMO last month to adopt more ambitious climate targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050 as it published its new sustainable shipping strategy. However, the IMO always has been the subject of fierce lobbying from the shipping and other industry bodies, and it is unclear to what extent corporate net zero commitments are being matched by behind-the-scenes advocacy arguing against more ambitious rules and regulations. Reports from InfluenceMap and Transparency International have explored how some industry groups historically have lobbied to obstruct meaningful climate change action in the shipping sector, and green groups have alleged that vested fossil fuel interests continue to play an oversized role in IMO negotiations.  That said, there is growing evidence that some businesses are looking to provide a counterweight to those lobbyists pushing for a more relaxed regulatory regime. When asked by BusinessGreen about what outcome they would hope to see out of the latest round of talks and whether they would support more ambitious targets from the IMO, representatives from businesses with high profile net-zero commitments emphasized the need to decarbonize their supply chains, even if they largely declined to comment on the agency’s specific plans. If we’re to achieve a truly global solution to the total decarbonization of world shipping, then radical, innovative technological solutions must be found over the next decade. A spokesperson from IKEA stressed that ocean shipping made up 40 percent of the carbon footprint of its supply chain operations and therefore the company’s pledge to reduce the carbon footprint of all transport by an average of 70 percent by 2030 compared to 2017 was a “huge ambition.” Meanwhile, Apple said it planned to reduce its carbon impact from shipping by leveraging fleet improvements, sustainable fuels and supply chain efficiencies, while explaining that it planned to prioritize shipping over aviation as a low-carbon form of product transport as it worked to meet a net-zero supply chain commitment. A statement provided by Shell welcomed signs that some form of new regulatory regime was on the way. “Achieving net-zero emissions shipping by 2050 is vitally important — and that means ambitious regulation coming into effect in 2023 will be required,” said Grahaeme Henderson, Shell’s global head of shipping and maritime. “It is encouraging to see a consolidated proposal on carbon intensity and energy-efficiency measures on the agenda for IMO discussions next week to progress towards that goal.” As the U.K. government gears up to host critical COP26 climate talks in Glasgow in 2021 and repeatedly asserts its world-leading climate reputation as it attempts to steer a green recovery from the coronavirus, it could be argued that the U.K. has a role to play in pushing for the highest possible ambition at this week’s talks. When questioned about what outcome the U.K. would support from the talks, a spokesperson from the Department for Transport emphasized the government was committed to delivering a decarbonized shipping sector. “Shipping emissions require a global solution, and we will work with our international partners through the IMO to achieve a greener, zero emissions future for the shipping sector,” they said. The U.K. government has broadly committed to working with other IMO member states to “raise the ambition” of the IMO’s climate targets at a five-year review of the original 2018 IMO GHG strategy planned for 2023. It is also working to introduce net-zero emissions ships in U.K. waters by 2025 as it works to make domestic shipping net-zero by mid-century. But despite positive noises from the government, Transport & Environment’s Abbasov stressed the U.K. was a relatively small player at the IMO. “The DfT has been genuinely helpful — maybe not always vocal — but genuinely helpful behind the scenes in giving the right feedback and at least recognizing that what was being discussed and agreed is nonsense,” he reflected. “But we should not overestimate the U.K.’s power in international negotiations. The U.K. is one country out of 190, and secondly it’s not even the most powerful shipping nation. Power has really moved to Panama… The U.K. is no match to those countries. Even Malta and Greece are more powerful than the U.K. when it comes to shipping.” Optimists remain confident emerging hydrogen, battery and biofuel technologies coupled with new ship designs could yet deliver a net-zero-emission fleets by 2050. But with vested interests once again locked in a standoff with environmental campaigners and those corporates that want to build a net-zero economy, it looks as if the voyage to deliver a low-emission global fleet is proving to be as tumultuous as ever.  Pull Quote To achieve 1.5 degrees [of warming] we need to decarbonize by the mid-2030s. To achieve 2 degrees we need to decarbonize by mid-century. This proposal goes nowhere near that level. If we’re to achieve a truly global solution to the total decarbonization of world shipping, then radical, innovative technological solutions must be found over the next decade. Topics Shipping & Logistics Climate Change Corporate Strategy Sustainable Shipping BusinessGreen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Avigator Fortuner Close Authorship

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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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Get ready for the next wave of GMOs

Episode 239: Wildfires and resilience, California’s car ban

October 2, 2020 by  
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Episode 239: Wildfires and resilience, California’s car ban Heather Clancy Fri, 10/02/2020 – 02:00 Week in Review Stories discussed this week (5:15). 5 things to know about California’s gas car sales ban Cities should track emissions from the goods they import Missing ingredients: How to accelerate the meat alternatives revolution Features Riffing on transportation trends (11:30)   What’s the buzz in the work of fleet management? HIghlights from last week’s transportation and mobility track at Climate Week, selected by GreenBiz analyst Katie Fehrenbacher, with insights from IKEA CSO Pia Heidenmark Cook and BT Group Chief Digital Impact and Sustainability Officer Andy Wales.  The new world of wildfire management (17:15) In September, the Almeda Fire ripped through the Rogue Valley in Oregon, decimating two towns: Talent and Phoenix. This was not an ordinary wildfire, nor could it have been prevented by traditional forestry management. GreenBiz analyst Sarah Golden speaks with state senator Jeff Golden (her father) about the climate change influence and what’s next for improving resilience.  *Music in this episode by Lee Rosevere: “Curiosity,” “More on That Later,” “Night Caves,” “I’m Going for a Coffee” and “Here’s the Thing” *This episode was sponsored by Amazon and MCE Resources galore Partnerships for packaging . How working together advances low-cost, circular solutions. Register for the webcast at 1 p.m. Oct. 6.  Innovation in textiles. The global fashion industry is looking toward innovative materials and strategies. Learn more about what’s possible in this interactive discussion at 1 p.m. EDT Oct. 13. Do we have a newsletter for you! We produce six weekly newsletters: GreenBuzz by Executive Editor Joel Makower (Monday); Transport Weekly by Senior Writer and Analyst Katie Fehrenbacher (Tuesday); VERGE Weekly by Executive Director Shana Rappaport and Editorial Director Heather Clancy (Wednesday); Energy Weekly by Senior Energy Analyst Sarah Golden (Thursday); Food Weekly by Carbon and Food Analyst Jim Giles (Thursday); and Circular Weekly by Director and Senior Analyst Lauren Phipps (Friday). You must subscribe to each newsletter in order to receive it. Please visit this page to choose which you want to receive. The GreenBiz Intelligence Panel is the survey body we poll regularly throughout the year on key trends and developments in sustainability. To become part of the panel, click here . Enrolling is free and should take two minutes. Stay connected To make sure you don’t miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes . Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at 350@greenbiz.com . Contributors Katie Fehrenbacher Sarah Golden Topics Energy & Climate Podcast Transportation & Mobility Electric Vehicles Zero Emissions Resilience Collective Insight GreenBiz 350 Podcast Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 31:23 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz Close Authorship

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Episode 239: Wildfires and resilience, California’s car ban

Will a Biden administration be able to reverse Trump’s climate damage?

September 30, 2020 by  
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Will a Biden administration be able to reverse Trump’s climate damage? Hannah Murphy Wed, 09/30/2020 – 01:00 This story originally appeared in Rolling Stone  and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration to strengthen coverage of the climate story. When he talks about the Trump administration, David Doniger likes to say: “Imagine where we’d be if they knew what they were doing.” The climate lawyer and senior adviser to the NRDC Action Fund spends his days defending the environment from the U.S. government, and for the past 3.5 years, that’s meant a front-row seat to the Trump administration’s relentless attacks on any regulation that’s meant to slow the  climate crisis .  But it’s also been a window into the hasty, sloppy and legally dubious ways that it’s gone about it. “One of the hallmarks of this administration is how incompetently they’re doing this,” says Doniger. “It shows up in how slowly they’ve been able to work, and how flimsy their legal rationales are.” Almost all of Trump’s attempts at deregulation — some 100 rules that he’s tried to eliminate or weaken — are being challenged in court, and environmentalists are steadily winning. According to the  Institute for Policy Integrity  at New York University, the Trump administration has lost 69 of the 83 legal challenges it’s faced in its deregulatory blitz.  “We were saved by their incompetence,”” says Andrew Wetzler of the NRDC Action Fund, mainly by its failure to follow basic rule-making procedures. It rushed through the process, often shortening or entirely skipping over the required 60 days for public comment, which provided a clear opening for its rule changes to be challenged in court. The administration’s ineptitude has given environmentalists hope that if Trump loses the election, the policy impact of his unrelenting pro-fossil fuel agenda ultimately could be short-lived. “If he’s a one-term wonder,” says Doniger, “the biggest consequence of the Trump administration may just turn out to be lost time.” But time, at this hour of the climate fight, might be our most precious resource. As we stumble ever closer to the  collapse of ice sheets, oceans and forests , the range of meaningful action we could take narrows. There is now believed to be more carbon dioxide in the air than any time in the last 3 million years. Our oceans are on track by the end of this century to become more acidic than they’ve been in some 15 million years — when they were enduring a major extinction event. Those oceans are also rising steadily enough to threaten the homes of 150 million people in the next three decades. “We lost years at a critical time,” says Wetzler. “We’re on the precipice of a number of climate and biological tipping points.” And, he says, we won’t fully understand the impact of that loss for years.  If he’s a one-term wonder, the biggest consequence of the Trump administration may just turn out to be lost time. If Joe Biden wins in November, environmentalists say, his administration would have a slim window of opportunity to get our agencies back on track to meet the enormity of the climate crisis. “It means being aggressive from day one,” says Brett Hartl of the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund. “And not futzing around — knowing what you’re going to do and implementing it immediately.”  Making up for the lost time won’t be easy. Despite his slap-dash approach, Trump still managed to scramble the trajectory of American climate policy, creating a tangle of legal fights that will have to be cleared up for U.S. climate policy to move forward. And he left almost no part of our environmental regulatory structure untouched —  greenlighting fossil fuel infrastructure such as the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, setting us back on emission-reduction goals by reversing the Clean Power Plan and higher fuel-efficiency standards, and gutting the federal agencies that should be at the helm of our climate response.  So how difficult will it be to unscramble this mess? It would have to happen in three parts, environmentalists say, and all three would have to start on day one. First, Biden would have a powerful arsenal of executive tools available to him — if he chooses to use them. A  coalition of over 500 environmental  groups already has assembled a plan for how he could effectively jumpstart our fight against the climate crisis using executive powers, which would avoid both going through Congress and the lengthy federal rule-making process. Using executive power, Biden could declare a national climate emergency. It wouldn’t just send an important message to Americans — and the rest of the world — that we’re taking the climate crisis seriously; it also would give the administration the power to mobilize the government on a massive scale, like ordering the Secretary of Defense to redirect military spending toward the rapid development of clean energy.  Biden also could immediately order federal agencies to reverse the climate rollbacks Trump introduced through executive order — such as allowing oil and gas companies to side-step state approval — and start issuing his own. Most urgent, Biden would have the power to keep more fossil fuels in the ground: He could direct the Secretary of the Interior to halt oil-and-gas leasing and fracking on federal lands, reinstitute the ban on exporting crude oil, and order all federal agencies to deny permits for new fossil fuel infrastructure, such as pipelines, storage facilities and refineries.    He’d also be able to change the ways that money moves through the energy sector. He could prohibit the U.S. government from financing fossil fuel programs overseas and end all Department of Energy loans for fossil fuels stateside, while also requiring the Federal Reserve to manage climate risks — forcing it to acknowledge the current and future impact of  climate change  on our economy.  Many of these tools already were available in the Obama era, but the administration chose not to use them. For example, “the Clean Air Act is actually quite clear that you have the authority to set national ambient air quality standards,” says Hartl. “It would have been incredibly bold, and it actually wouldn’t have had the problems that the Clean Power Plan had. They could have really moved the needle on greenhouse gases in a very, very powerful way.” But, Hartl says, the Obama administration shied away from these kinds of actions for fear of political consequences. At the beginning of this year, two-thirds of American adults said that protecting the environment should be a top priority of the federal government, up from only 30 percent at the beginning of Obama’s first term. Biden would face a very different national landscape. At the beginning of this year,  two-thirds of American adults said that protecting the environment should be a top priority of the federal government , up from only 30 percent at the beginning of Obama’s first term.  In a poll last week , likely Democratic voters ranked climate change as the most important issue to them in this election, and Data for Progress, a progressive think tank, has found that talking about climate change actually could help persuade voters on the fence to vote for a Democrat. All of this is to say, a Biden administration could have an unprecedented political mandate to take action on the climate crisis.  In addition to issuing executive orders, beginning on day one Biden also would need to start the process of unwinding the deregulation efforts that Trump carried out through the federal rule-making process — such as  rollbacks on the Endangered Species Act  and fuel-emissions standards — and writing new ones to take their place. Environmentalists are confident that a new administration systematically could undo each rollback, but that process could take two years, according to Hartl.  And the Biden administration would need to learn from Trump’s mistakes. Legal challenges from the industries that these regulations impact — the American Petroleum Institute, the National Mining Association — are inevitable, “so you have to go in and be prepared to defend it the first time,” says Hartl. That means following the process to the letter: establishing rules with legal backing from legislation such as the Clean Air and Clean Water acts; opening the rule up to public comment; and then presenting a final rule that can stand up in court. Unlike Trump’s deregulation efforts, which were fighting against decades of environmental legislation, the law would be on Biden’s side. “The reality is that when Congress passed these laws,” says Hartl, “they were designed to make the environment better.” Finally, Biden would have to start hiring like mad. Over the past four years, Trump’s EPA and Interior Department have hemorrhaged talent. The Bureau of Land Management moved the majority of its staff out of Washington, D.C., leading some 70 percent of that staff to resign, and the EPA is nearly as small as it was during the Nixon era, when the EPA was founded. “That pattern, in the most extreme way, is mirrored throughout the environmental agencies,” says Wetzler. “There’s been a real brain drain of people who can’t stand in an agency and support the agenda under the Trump administration, and we’ll have to put back the pieces of very demoralized, and in some cases broken, agencies.” But from those ashes, Biden could build a coalition of climate advocates across his cabinet. His transition team, and the 4,000 people they appoint,  are arguably more influential than any campaign promises he could make . “Personnel is policy,” says Jamal Raad, co-founder and campaign director for Evergreen Action, founded by former staffers of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign. “We need to choose regulators that have a climate lens,” and that lens doesn’t end at the EPA — it can reach the Department of Agriculture, where we have to reimagine our food production to work with our changing climate, or the Treasury, where regulators could interpret the Dodd-Frank consumer protection act to include climate risks. And within the White House, Raad says, Biden could create a National Climate Council that’s equivalent to the National Economic Council. “There needs to be a plan to reorient the federal government so that climate is a lens in all decision making.” Heading into the general election, pressure from the left wing of the party shaped Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan, “a green new deal in all but name,”  wrote activist and journalist Julian Brave NoiseCat . “It’s the most progressive, forward-leaning environmental plan that any candidate for president has ever released,” says Wetzler of the NRDC Action Fund. “It would represent incredible progress.” And while the Biden campaign hasn’t laid out a timetable for the plan, “the Biden team has been signaling their prioritization of climate by making it central to their economic recovery plans,” says Raad. “I think that folks should be cautiously optimistic — but vigilant — on the prospect of climate being a priority early in the first term.” Of course, this all hinges on what happens in November. And if Trump is re-elected, his administration would have the chance to establish a legacy of more than just incompetence and squandered time. Four more years of Trump being in charge of the environment could permanently alter the American landscape. If you think about where the United States was at the beginning of the Trump administration — and where the world was, in terms of taking climate change seriously — it’s a huge, squandered opportunity. In some cases, it would give the Trump administration time to fight back against the legal challenges they face, leaning on courts that they’ve stacked with anti-environmental judges. And damage could be done that will be near impossible to undo — rules can be changed, but mines can’t be unmined. The Trump administration has pursued the largest rollback of federally protected land in U.S. history. Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, for example, which Trump shrunk by 85 percent in 2017, is in the crosshairs of uranium developers. Trump’s move has been mired in lawsuits, but a second term could give them the time to untangle them and hand the land over to the uranium lobbyists.  Likewise, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was just approved in August, leaving little time for leasing, let alone actual development, before Inauguration Day. But if Trump wins, those leases are likely to move forward, as will the roads, pipelines and oil rigs that come with them, doing permanent damage to a vital and fragile ecosystem. “Over time you’re looking at millions and millions of acres of fossil fuel leasing,” says Hartl from the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund. “And eventually, once you get to the point where they’re actually putting drills in the ground, it’s very hard to undo that. You’re locking in a tremendous amount of fossil fuel infrastructure.” Trump’s influence on the Supreme Court looms heavily for the environment as well. With Trump already raring to appoint a new justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a second term is likely to offer him a fourth Supreme Court appointment, which would mean the highest court would house   seven Republican-appointed justices. When you’re suing over environmental issues, the court’s make-up can be the difference between having your day in court and not. “For example, there’s a general judicial doctrine called ‘standing,’ or your ability to go to court to pursue your aggrieved interests,” explains Hartl. “Conservative judges want to narrow who has standing as much as possible, because that limits access to the courts. When you’re fighting for the environment, and your interest is protecting an endangered species or the atmosphere or the water, they’ve already made it hard for us to go to court, to have standing. And they can narrow it even further so that we don’t even have recourse. Our ability to just fight for the environment is at stake.” The climate movement has never been more clear on what it is fighting for and what it needs to do, and finally has a presidential candidate who is signaling some willingness to do it. The prescription is fairly simple: Stop burning fossil fuels so we can begin drawing down the carbon in the atmosphere that’s overheating our planet and disrupting the systems that have supported life on Earth as we know it. The president has a lot of power to take that action, and we have no time to lose. “It’s true that we have 30 years [before an irreversible climate collapse], but when you act on that 30-year scale really affects how radically you have to act,” says Wetzler. “If you think about where the United States was at the beginning of the Trump administration — and where the world was, in terms of taking climate change seriously — it’s a huge, squandered opportunity.” This November, we can choose to act, and set ourselves back on course. “If this is a one-time, Black Swan event, we’re probably going to recover as a nation,” says Doniger. “This is the project of the century.” Andy Kroll contributed reporting to this story. Pull Quote If he’s a one-term wonder, the biggest consequence of the Trump administration may just turn out to be lost time. At the beginning of this year, two-thirds of American adults said that protecting the environment should be a top priority of the federal government, up from only 30 percent at the beginning of Obama’s first term. If you think about where the United States was at the beginning of the Trump administration — and where the world was, in terms of taking climate change seriously — it’s a huge, squandered opportunity. Topics Climate Change Policy & Politics Oil & Gas Policy & Politics Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, which Trump shrunk by 85 percent in 2017, is in the crosshairs of uranium developers. Photo by Krista Hardin/Shutterstock.

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Will a Biden administration be able to reverse Trump’s climate damage?

Carbon ‘rainbow’: Unilever pledges $1.2B to scrub fossil fuels from cleaning products

September 8, 2020 by  
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Carbon ‘rainbow’: Unilever pledges $1.2B to scrub fossil fuels from cleaning products Cecilia Keating Tue, 09/08/2020 – 00:15 Unilever last week revealed plans to funnel close to $1.2 billion over the next 10 years into initiatives that will allow it to replace chemicals in its cleaning products made from fossil fuel feedstocks with greener alternatives — an investment it described as critical to meeting its aim of achieving net-zero emissions from its products by 2039. The new program, Clean Future, is largely focused on identifying and commercializing alternative sources of carbon for surfactants, the petrochemical molecules found in cleaning products that help remove grease from fabrics and surfaces. More than 46 percent of Unilever’s cleaning and laundry products’ carbon footprint is incurred by chemicals made from fossil fuel-produced carbon, most of which are used in surfactants.  However, the firm now intends to explore, invest and ramp up carbon capture and use technologies that will eliminate the need for fresh carbon feedstocks and instead allow it to tap recycled carbon already on or above ground, for example, through captured carbon dioxide or carbon captured from waste materials. Peter Styring, professor of chemical engineering and chemistry at the University of Sheffield, who has partnered with Unilever on the initiative, explained to BusinessGreen that Unilever’s investment could help catalyze a transition away from fossil fuel-derived petrochemicals, a lesser understood but necessary element of the move towards a net-zero emissions economy. “The move from fossil fuel is mainly associated with an energy transition. but similarly we need to look at a transition away from fossil fuel-derived petrochemicals,” he said. “The work we are doing is to try and replace existing chemicals within the supply chain, with not necessarily new chemicals but chemicals derived from a different supply.” Through a strategic partnership with Unilever, Styring’s team at the University of Sheffield is working to identity and develop the technologies that will allow the firm to divorce itself from chemicals made from fossil fuel feedstocks, a transition the multinational anticipates will reduce the carbon footprint of its laundry and cleaning products by as much as 20 percent. In an attempt to help consumers, competitors and partners understand its plans and the production processes behind the technologies it plans to explore, Unilever has devised a “carbon rainbow” model that outlines the alternatives to fossil fuel-produced carbon. On the carbon rainbow, carbon produced through captured carbon dioxide is dubbed “purple carbon”; plants and biological-sourced carbon is labeled “green carbon”; marine-sourced carbon is branded “blue carbon”; and waste material-sourced carbon is denoted as “grey carbon.” Conventional fossil fuel-derived carbon is simply known as “black carbon.” Unilever’s “carbon rainbow” classification system. Styring, a carbon capture and use expert, suggested that eliminating petrochemicals across industry will require active pursuit of all “shades” of the rainbow. “There is no silver bullet; nothing is going to cure the climate issue on its own,” he said. “There has to be a cooperative effect between different technologies. I would love to say purple carbon will be the No. 1 technology, but I can’t because at this stage I don’t know. It really will be a balance and the other shades on the rainbow have to be taken into account.” Unilever’s Clean Future program specifically will focus on funding biotechnology research, CO2 use and low-carbon chemistry, as well as biodegradable and water-efficient product formulations. It already supports a number of initiatives that aim to slash the environmental impact of the firm’s cleaning and laundry products. For example, in Slovakia, the company is working with biotechnology company Evonik Industries to develop the production of rhamnolipids, a renewable and biodegradable surfactant used in its Sunlight dishwashing liquid in Chile and Vietnam. And in Southern India, Unilever is sourcing soda ash — an ingredient in laundry powders — from CO2 capture technology. The firm expects to scale up the use of both technologies over the years to come. Meanwhile, liquid detergent made by Persil — one of Unilever’s largest and most popular brands in the United Kingdom — has been reformulated to rely on plant-based stain removers, with the new line expected to reach British supermarkets later this month. However, beyond the impact on Unilever’s product lines, Styring is hopeful Unilever’s commitment to pour $1.2 billion over 10 years into purging fossil fuel-derived chemicals from its laundry and cleaning products will have a major impact on improving public understanding of the role of environmentally damaging petrochemical feedstocks. “The carbon dioxide utilization industry is developing, and over the last 10 years there have been a lot of development, but it tends to be in niche industries that the public don’t really see — the production of ethanol and methanol and various chemicals,” he explained. “This is a chemical — or a series of chemicals — that goes into households around the world. This will have a big impact.” Unilever has committed to spend a part of its $1.2 billion pot to support the development of “brand communications” that explain the various new technologies to customers. Perhaps even more crucially, Styring reckons the new investment has the potential to accelerate the commercialization of renewable and recycled carbon feedstock technologies that so far largely have been confined to research departments around the world. “What will happen with these strategic partnerships is that you can identify which tech are going to be world-leading, and you can put investment into these in a way that a research council can’t,” he predicted. “Because ultimately you are looking for a commercial success, a product that will give you a profit and at the same time reduce environmental impact. So I think the investment Unilever is making here will accelerate these technologies and allow them to move from small scale, bench scale and small laboratory scale and target a much better commercial operation.” His team, for example, will be working with Unilever to investigate how different technologies can be clustered together to form a local ecosystem that can produce alternatives to black carbon at scale. The move from fossil fuel is mainly associated with an energy transition. but similarly we need to look at a transition away from fossil fuel-derived petrochemicals. “At the moment, the emphasis will be location, location, location,” Styring said. “Have you got the energy to do the chemistry — energy in terms of renewables — do you have the carbon dioxide readily available, do you have hydrogen and water readily available, do you have the inorganics?” Carbon use can be developed at major existing sources of carbon dioxide such as power stations and heavy industrial plans, and could be ramped up within a “couple years,” Styring suggested. In contrast, more ambitious projects focused on direct air capture (DAC) could prove effective but will require much more time and money to reach commercial viability. That said, Styring is still enthusiastic about the long-term prospects for DAC as it is ramped up, predicting its impact could prove to be “phenomenal.” DAC technology also has one big potential advantage over conventional carbon capture systems: It is not tied to a particular location and as such would give operators the ability to tap carbon from the air for their products anywhere in the world, eliminating the need for complex and costly transportation infrastructure and supply chains to ferry the captured carbon to production sites. Styring is hopeful that Unilever’s commitment will encourage the government to throw its weight behind carbon capture and use, a field where he believes the U.K. could emerge as a world leader. “When you go to [carbon capture use] conferences, the U.K. is always the highest represented nation outside of the organizing nation,” he observed. “But the funding doesn’t reflect this, in terms of government funding. Germany is by far and away the biggest funder of this type of research. We have the opportunity to use the best British science and engineering, and psychology and supply chain management. … We have the opportunity to make Britain a leading force, but it needs that investment.” Styring said he has been pressing the government to divert a portion of the subsidies it funnels into oil and gas into carbon capture and use technology designed to produce petrochemicals and produce fuels. The government would argue that it has been listening and plans are progressing — albeit slower than campaigners would like — for new net-zero clusters that could deploy a range of carbon capture use and storage clusters at industrial sites across the U.K. The wide-ranging implications that would flow from such hubs could prove to be hugely significant, providing the fossil fuel industry with both a means to decarbonize and new markets for its capture carbon. At the same time, advances in green and blue carbon could slash demand for fossil fuels at a time when oil majors are betting on the petrochemicals market to pick up some of the slack as the transition to electric vehicles gathers pace. Unilever’s $1.2 billion investment could yet have a huge impact far beyond the consumer goods market. Pull Quote The move from fossil fuel is mainly associated with an energy transition. but similarly we need to look at a transition away from fossil fuel-derived petrochemicals. Topics Corporate Strategy Innovation Bio Economy BusinessGreen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The materials innovation laboratory at the University of Liverpool. Courtesy of Unilever Close Authorship

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Carbon ‘rainbow’: Unilever pledges $1.2B to scrub fossil fuels from cleaning products

Mysterious dolphin deaths linked to oil spill in Mauritius

August 31, 2020 by  
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Approximately 40  dolphins have been reported dead  in an area affected by an oil spill from a Japanese ship. The ship, MV Wakashio, ran aground on a coral reef on the southern tip of Mauritius in July. According to Nature , the ship was ferrying approximately 3,900 metric tons of oil, of which 1,000 metric tons spilled into the ocean. Officials in Mauritius have confirmed the death of 40 dolphins in the area at the time of writing. The deaths come just one month after the spill, sparking speculations that the dolphins have died because of the spill. Although there is no official evidence linking the deaths of the dolphins and the oil spill, several organizations are stepping in to ensure that there is transparency in analyzing the deaths. Related: Lapsed fishing moratorium endangers Amazon river dolphins Since the oil spill on August 6, there have been cleanup efforts in progress. Unfortunately, Mauritius was not prepared for such a catastrophe, and efforts to clean up the oil have been slow. According to Jacqueline Sauzier, president of the nonprofit Mauritius Marine Conservation Society in Phoenix, the organization has been helping with the cleanup in collaboration with other local organizations. On Monday, August 24, Greenpeace Africa and Japan joined a local organization, Dis Moi, in writing a joint letter to the Government of Mauritius calling for transparency. The organizations are urging the Mauritius government to speed up the process of analyzing the dead dolphins to determine their deaths. “The ocean is part of who we are. The whole country including coastal communities depend on its health,” said Vijay Naraidoo, co-directory of Dis Moi. “That is why many Mauritians woke up anguished and afraid that the oil spill may be killing it. Such biodiversity loss is an ominous development for what might come as a result of the oil spill.” As of Friday, August 28, Mauritius had reported that about 75% of the spill had been cleaned. The UN along with several countries, including France, Japan and the U.K, are offering Mauritius a helping hand to ensure that the spill is completely cleared out. + Nature + Greenpeace Via Reuters Image via Mokshanand Sunil Dowarkasing and Shav via Greenpeace

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Mysterious dolphin deaths linked to oil spill in Mauritius

How cities can influence the energy system

August 12, 2020 by  
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How cities can influence the energy system Heather House Wed, 08/12/2020 – 00:45 As U.S. cities and counties transition to clean energy for their own operations and communities, many are finding that stakeholders and policies beyond their jurisdictions affect their ability to purchase clean energy. Policy and regulatory decisions made by states, utilities, public utilities commissions and wholesale market governing bodies determine the clean energy procurement options available to cities and counties. This can create challenges for meeting locally defined resolutions and commitments. To overcome these challenges and drive faster progress on renewables and carbon-free goals, local governments are starting to engage with old stakeholders in new ways to change the rules of the game. By removing regulatory and legislative obstacles, local governments are creating new pathways to access affordable, clean energy. To help cities and counties better understand potential high-impact engagement opportunities, the American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator released a new interactive tool, the Local Government Renewables Action Tracker . The tool highlights efforts by local governments to work directly with the institutions and decision-makers who influence their ability to access clean energy and control the broader electricity system. Here are four ways local governments are engaging with stakeholders to decarbonize their electricity supply: 1. Partnering with investor-owned utilities Cities and counties often are required by state law to buy electricity from a regulated investor-owned utility (IOU) and lack the ability to choose their electricity supplier or generation source. While some IOUs offer renewable energy programs, these options don’t always meet city needs. Worse still, some cities have no options for purchasing renewable electricity. To overcome these circumstances, some local governments are partnering with their utilities. For example, the city of Denver and Xcel Energy developed a partnership agreement in 2018 to define and collaborate on shared climate and energy goals. By removing regulatory and legislative obstacles, local governments are creating new pathways to access affordable, clean energy. These types of partnership agreements can lead to the creation of new renewables programs or custom utility solutions that enable local governments to purchase renewables on a large scale. In North Carolina, Duke Energy and the city of Charlotte signed an agreement that laid out the ways they could partner on clean energy work. One year later, Charlotte became the first city to sign a large-scale deal through Duke Energy’s new Green Source Advantage green tariff program. 2. Engaging in state-level regulatory proceedings Many key decisions around the implementation of state energy policies, including decisions that govern IOUs, are made by state public utility commissions (PUCs). PUCs allow stakeholders to voice their needs as electricity customers, which can be a good opportunity for local governments to advocate for more renewables. However, engaging in commission proceedings can be a time-consuming and cumbersome process for local governments with limited resources to navigate. Increasingly, cities and counties are asking for more renewables on the grid by commenting and providing testimony to their state PUC. This includes commenting on their utility’s integrated resource plans (IRPs), long-range plans that communicate how an electric utility intends to develop new generation assets over the next 10 to 20 years. In many states, utility IRPs are required by law and providing input on them can be an impactful way for local governments to influence their regional grid mix and increase renewable energy generation. During the Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL) IRP process, the city of Indianapolis submitted a public letter to encourage IPL to explore a more aggressive retirement scenario for the Petersburg Coal Generating Station and increase renewable generation. Indianapolis cited an October report by Rocky Mountain Institute that found that clean energy portfolios declined in cost by 80 percent since 2010, are lower-cost than new gas plants and are projected to undercut the operating costs of existing gas plants within 10 to 20 years. In comments to the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), the city of Atlanta asked Georgia Power to expand residential energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, provide greater access to utility data to improve energy efficiency efforts, increase municipal access to renewable energy and build a new local microgrid to improve community resilience. In response to customer comments such as these, the PSC required Georgia Power to more than double solar energy procurement over the next five years from one gigawatt (GW) to 2.2 GW. Local governments are also increasingly advocating for alternative forms of utility regulation and business models. This includes performance-based regulation (PBR), a type of utility reform that incentivizes electric utilities to demonstrate performance on metrics such as greenhouse gas reduction, efficiency and customer service. This approach contrasts with traditional “cost-of-service” business models that incent utilities to build more physical assets, which generally result in new buildouts of gas power plants and pipelines, locking in emissions for years to come. The city and County of Honolulu and the County of Hawaii have been actively engaged in advancing PBR through workshops, working group meetings, filing written comments to Hawaii’s PUC and creating thoughtful proposals recommending new PBR mechanisms for their utility to adopt. 3. Influencing statewide energy policy When stakeholders come together to voice their needs to legislators, it has the potential to create large-scale change. Local governments are starting to get involved at the state level by calling for changes to state climate and clean energy legislation. There are a few high-impact policy pathways that cities can pursue: Removing barriers to solar Local governments are asking state policymakers to remove barriers that prevent renewable energy procurement. Stakeholder input recently helped pass the Virginia Clean Economy Act of 2020 , which created the state’s first clean energy standard and lifted constraints on existing state laws that limited access to third party financing options that can bring down the cost of renewables. Similarly, the city of Fayetteville, Arkansas, alongside other large customers and local governments, successfully called for increased access to third-party financing for renewables , which ultimately would make clean energy procurement more affordable for consumers. In Utah, local governments came together to ask the state to enable high-impact pathways for procuring renewables , leading to the ratification of the Community Renewable Energy Act of 2019. These local governments are collaborating with the state’s electric utility, Rocky Mountain Power, to develop a utility program through which they can purchase 100 percent renewable energy. When stakeholders come together to voice their needs to legislators, it has the potential to create large-scale change. Phasing out fossil fuels Cities and counties are advocating to retire uneconomic fossil fuel power plants by enabling or expanding securitization legislation. Securitization can be used to allow utilities to issue bonds based on the guaranteed returns they are making from the uneconomic plants and use the proceeds to build or buy cheaper renewable energy. The shift to lower-cost generation allows utilities to both make more money and lower rates for their customers while phasing out fossil fuel power plants. Forming a coalition with other local governments can help amplify a city’s message to its state legislators. For example, Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA), a coalition that consists of 33 Colorado counties and municipalities, regularly advocates for state climate policy. Members of the coalition meet with legislators, provide testimony at state legislative sessions, write op-eds and coordinate strategy for local governments. CC4CA’s collective voice was a powerful lever that helped pass one of the strongest state climate bills to date, which includes both short-term and long-term clean energy targets for Colorado. Enabling or expanding community choice aggregation Community choice aggregation (CCA) allows local governments to have full control over their electricity supply, providing the ability to procure renewable energy for their municipal operations, residents and in some cases, small businesses. To make progress toward community-wide renewable energy targets, cities are starting to push for legislation to enable CCA or to expand renewable procurement through an existing CCA. CCA can be a key mechanism for achieving community-wide clean energy goals if a city’s electric utility does not offer the procurement pathways needed to achieve its renewable energy target. Cincinnati has signed the largest municipal renewable energy deal in U.S. history, in part because of the control the city had through its CCA program. Forming a coalition with other local governments can help amplify a city’s message to its state legislators. For example, Colorado Communities for Climate Action (CC4CA), a coalition that consists of 33 Colorado counties and municipalities, regularly advocates for state climate policy. Members of the coalition meet with legislators, provide testimony at state legislative sessions, write op-eds and coordinate strategy for local governments. CC4CA’s collective voice was a powerful lever that helped pass one of the strongest state climate bills to date, which includes both short-term and long-term clean energy targets for Colorado. 4. Getting involved in wholesale energy markets Rules made in wholesale markets can impact local government clean energy goals and present obstacles for clean energy procurement. Participation in market-level decisions and stakeholder processes traditionally has been dominated by utilities and generators, but that is starting to change. One recent decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could hamper the development of renewables in states that participate in the PJM wholesale electricity market . The decision directs PJM to implement a  minimum offer price rule for renewable generation resources supported by state policies such as renewable portfolio standards and zero emissions credits. This rule effectively would raise the minimum price of renewables and, ultimately, ratepayer costs across the board. Some states, including New Jersey and Virginia, are considering leaving the PJM capacity market to preserve their ability to offer incentives to develop renewable energy. The PJM Cities and Communities Coalition is the first ongoing collaborative effort for cities to address barriers in the PJM wholesale energy market. As part of the coalition, cities such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago are joining together to provide education to members on market issues, considering becoming formal voting members and identifying priority issues where cities can engage. One of the coalition’s early efforts was a public letter o the PJM Board of Managers during its search for a new CEO, urging the search committee to hire a candidate who could move the PJM market toward a clean energy future. Cities and counties have struggled to understand their energy policy context and opportunities; how and when to engage with utilities, regulators and legislative staff; and whether to involve other stakeholders. Identifying and replicating local clean energy successes Engaging with utilities, commissions, state policymakers and wholesale market governing bodies is new and unfamiliar territory for many local governments. Cities and counties have struggled to understand their energy policy context and opportunities; how and when to engage with utilities, regulators and legislative staff; and whether to involve other stakeholders. Once they decide to engage, local governments often struggle to dedicate the resources and funding necessary to participate in ongoing efforts. Regardless of the approach, collaborative efforts are key to overcoming these challenges and enabling more effective participation. This allows local governments to leverage limited local resources, reduce political risks and develop a strong collective voice. This collective voice, in particular, often can be more powerful than one local government acting alone. The Local Government Renewables Action Tracker is an important new resource cities and counties can use to see how other local governments are engaging with stakeholders and evaluate the options available for advancing their own clean energy projects and goals. As cities and counties continue to develop their voices as large energy consumers, we should expect to see them get more involved in state regulatory proceedings and legislative hearings, innovative city-utility partnerships and market decision-making processes. Local government engagement such as this has significant potential to accelerate decarbonization in the United States by dramatically expanding local access to renewables for city operations and communities alike. Pull Quote By removing regulatory and legislative obstacles, local governments are creating new pathways to access affordable, clean energy. When stakeholders come together to voice their needs to legislators, it has the potential to create large-scale change. Cities and counties have struggled to understand their energy policy context and opportunities; how and when to engage with utilities, regulators and legislative staff; and whether to involve other stakeholders. Contributors Lacey Shaver Topics Energy & Climate Cities Policy & Politics Collective Insight Rocky Mountain Institute Rocky Mountain Institute Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Power pylons at sunset. Photo by  Matthew Henry  on  Unsplash Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash Close Authorship

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How cities can influence the energy system

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