Taking stock of Chase, HSBC, and Morgan Stanley’s recent climate commitments

November 24, 2020 by  
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Taking stock of Chase, HSBC, and Morgan Stanley’s recent climate commitments Whitney Mann Tue, 11/24/2020 – 00:40 Recent months have seen major moves on climate action by some of the world’s largest private banks, including JPMorgan Chase, HSBC and Morgan Stanley. What sets this latest wave of climate pledges by financial institutions apart from past announcements? Building on previous commitments that increase green investments or restrict financing to certain high-emitting activities, recent pledges add to growing evidence that banks are taking a more holistic approach to the climate emergency. Looking across their investments in different sectors and regions, more banks are considering how to reduce the carbon intensity of entire portfolios over time. After all, through their product offerings, lending activities and client engagement, financial institutions can play a key role in influencing the transformation necessary for a net-zero emissions economy. What we have given the market is an ambition that our total financing by 2050 will be net zero. That is a far bigger prize or goal than picking a sub-segment of our portfolio and saying ‘I am not going to bank you’ because that’s not what the world needs. That industry or that customer may then just go to Bank X, Bank Y, or Bank Z. They won’t have changed their business model. — Noel Quinn, CEO, HSBC, in an interview with Reuters on Oct. 9, 2020. While recent commitments signal increased ambition, they vary in content and structure across institutions. RMI established our Center for Climate-Aligned Finance in July to support financial institutions — as well as their stakeholders and shareholders — in overcoming practical challenges to align portfolios and investment decisions with a 1.5 degree Celsius world. As part of this work, the center seeks to bring transparency to the new landscape of climate commitments — discerning barriers to success and pinpointing opportunities to ensure measurable impact from this promising momentum. Climate commitments across institutions may have similar bumper stickers — Paris Alignment, climate alignment, or net zero by 2050 — but what’s under the hood? Unpacking commitments October announcements by JPMorgan Chase and HSBC outline their intended contribution to the low-carbon transition over a given time. Specifically, JPMorgan Chase announced in October that it would shape its financing portfolio in three key sectors to align with the Paris Agreement; three days later, HSBC announced its statement of net-zero ambition . This past year has seen a slew of similar statements, including from Barclays in May — making it one of the first banks to announce ambition to go net zero by 2050 — and then from Morgan Stanley in September. While this blog focuses on a subset of global banks, their commitments are part of a larger movement across the financial sector that includes institutional investors and broader coalitions. Climate commitments across institutions may have similar bumper stickers — Paris Alignment, climate alignment or net zero by 2050 — but what’s under the hood? Below, we identify signposts to help pick apart the differences between similar-sounding commitments. These categories represent critical questions facing a financial institution that has committed or may be looking to commit its portfolio to alignment with a climate goal. Coverage Coverage refers to the business units and financial products included in the commitment to measure, manage and reduce emissions. For instance, several banks have committed to align their lending portfolios. Barclays’ accounting additionally covers the capital markets activity it supports. Coverage also often can be delineated by sectors, such as BNP Paribas’s decision to prioritize decarbonization within its power portfolio, or ING’s inclusion of nine sectors in its annual Terra Report . ING has iterated further by indicating which part of the sectoral value chain is included in the scope (upstream oil and gas rather than trading, midstream, storage or downstream). JPMorgan Chase has committed to a sector-specific approach that will seek to address all emissions, including scope 3 emissions in their priority sectors. Targets and pathways For the designated coverage, commitments are further distinguished by targets (what will portfolio emissions be reduced to and by when?) and pathways (what trajectory will portfolio emissions take over time toward the specified target?). Pathways incorporate technology roadmaps based on a set of assumptions about what the world will look like over time. The extent of decarbonization achievable over time depends on which low-carbon technologies will be available when — projections that hinge on assumptions about investment rates, policies, demographic shifts and beyond. BNP Paribas and Barclays are among the institutions that will use the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) to guide their energy and power commitments, but many other pathways exist. RMI’s Charting the Course highlights that selecting a pathway from the nearly limitless options presents a key challenge to financial institutions taking meaningful steps toward alignment. Tools for analysis Many analysis tools, methodologies, models and platforms exist to support institutions in understanding where their emissions are today, and how they can transition their portfolios over time. For instance, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Citi recently announced their participation in the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials (PCAF)  — a coalition working on measuring financed emissions and improving transparency through disclosure. Other tools are more forward looking to support investing that steers portfolios in line with climate commitments over time. For instance, 17 global banks recently piloted PACTA for Banks to analyze their corporate loan books with different climate scenarios and inform future decision-making. And 58 financial institutions have committed to SBTi’s financial sector framework , which helps financial institutions “set science-based targets to align their lending and investment activities with the Paris Agreement.” Disclosure and reporting Disclosure in line with The Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure recommendations, much like other financial risk disclosure obligations, is critical for transparency and accountability, and to ensure risks are accurately priced in financial markets. There are currently many voluntary standards and frameworks for reporting material factors across sectors, creating a complex landscape and motivating five standard-setting groups — Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, Global Reporting Initiative, Climate Disclosure Standards Board, International Integrated Reporting Council and CDP — to collaborate toward a commonly accepted reporting framework. These existing standards ultimately could inform what disclosure and reporting mandates from forward-looking regulators might look like in the future. Implementation actions How do banks turn statements of ambition into progress along their pathway and, in turn, measurable impact in the real economy? When investing in a world believed to be on track to warm to 4 degrees Celsius, increasing the volume of green finance is essential. However, it cannot in and of itself create the low-carbon world and attendant investment opportunities needed for banks to achieve their climate alignment commitments. Rather, by influencing the availability and cost of capital, banks can more strategically and actively shape the real economy. When investing in a world currently believed to be on track to warm to 4C, increasing the volume of green finance is essential. ” Breaking the Code ,” RMI’s August survey of climate action efforts in the financial sector, outlines different influence levers financial institutions possess. These levers range from designing products to support the transition of high-emitting assets to offering services to support their clients’ transitions. These levers can and should be employed in unique ways across business units and asset classes based on an institution’s particular commitments and individual context. Organizational approach Finally, banks are adopting different organizational responses to support implementation of new products, offerings and services stemming from commitments. One such approach reflects an “embedded” model, wherein responsibility is dispersed across existing business verticals by, for instance, placing a climate expert within a bank’s asset management team. Alternately, banks may opt for a more “centralized” model involving some sort of systemic re-organization around their commitment. A centralized model may involve creating new business units with a dedicated remit spanning the institution. JPMorgan Chase, for example, is launching its Center for Carbon Transition , which will provide clients with centralized access to sustainability-focused financing, offer research and advisory solutions and engage clients on their long-term business strategies and related carbon disclosures. Of course, significant variation exists. Notably, Credit Suisse has adopted a somewhat hybrid approach involving elements of both a centralized and embedded model. JPMorgan Chase has put partnering with its clients in carbon-intensive industries at the center of its new commitment. — Paul Bodnar, Chair, Center for Climate-Aligned Finance JPMorgan Chase is one of the center’s founding partners , alongside Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America. Next steps The landscape of climate commitments by financial institutions is changing rapidly. At the center, we expect our analysis to broaden and deepen as we work with this sector to first crystallize and then actualize commitments toward climate alignment. Innovation is at the heart of competition among financial institutions, and actions advancing climate alignment should be no different. We expect future analysis to focus on frameworks for enabling comparability across institutions. Our goal is to broaden the path forged by these alignment pioneers, reinforcing their efforts to accelerate change at the scale demanded to meet the challenge of climate change. Pull Quote Climate commitments across institutions may have similar bumper stickers — Paris Alignment, climate alignment, or net zero by 2050 — but what’s under the hood? When investing in a world currently believed to be on track to warm to 4C, increasing the volume of green finance is essential. Contributors Shravan Bhat Brian O’Hanlon Topics Corporate Strategy Finance Banking 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 Photo by  wutzkohphoto  on Shutterstock

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Taking stock of Chase, HSBC, and Morgan Stanley’s recent climate commitments

Old bathhouses get new life via NPS adaptive reuse program

November 19, 2020 by  
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After Rose Schweikhart, an avid homebrewer, settled in Hot Springs,  Arkansas , she began to wonder if the mineral-rich hot spring water that made “Spa City” famous could be used to brew beer. Since the springs are government-owned as part of Hot Springs National Park, she called the park superintendent to ask permission to use the water. Next thing she knew, she was filling out the long application to be part of the National Park Service’s adaptive reuse program for the crumbling, once-opulent bathhouses that line the city’s main drag, aka Bathhouse Row. Now, the 9,000-square-foot  Superior Bathhouse  finds new life as a restaurant, event space and the world’s first microbrewery to use hot spring water for brewing beer. This project represents one of the success stories revitalizing both the town of Hot Springs and the overlapping national park. Water is the soul of Hot Springs As you could guess from its name, the town wouldn’t exist without its natural hot springs.  Hot Springs National Park  is tasked with protecting 47 springs in the downtown area. “We’re really strict about the park,” said park ranger Ashley Waymouth as she led a walking tour of Bathhouse Row. “We don’t use herbicides. We don’t use pesticides. We’re really conscientious about what we do. Because we know everything that goes on the ground ultimately makes its way into the  water .” Waymouth explained the long route the water takes, how time, depth and pressure heat the water for thousands of years before it bursts through a geologic fault line in the park. Rain from ancient Egyptian times now comes out of the hots springs 4,000 years later, Waymouth said. “It really instills in us long term thinking.” Keeping that water safe requires daily monitoring by a team of hydrogeologists. Archeological evidence shows that people used the springs here for thousands of years, and early inhabitants considered them a neutral ground and a place of healing. Many Americans first learned about the springs when President Jefferson sent the Hunter-Dunbar expedition to check out this part of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase in 1804. Explorers returned with news of the wonders of Hot Springs’ healing waters, which soon began to attract people from all over. In 1832, the U.S.  government  proclaimed the area a federal reserve. Related: These adaptive reuse hotel suites in Amsterdam are built inside old bridge houses By 1900, Hot Springs was a major  health  destination. In addition to bathing, some of the bathhouses offered gymnasiums, physical therapy and medical professionals who would prescribe hikes and other exercises. The surrounding area was cultivated as a beauty spot, with gardens in front of the bathhouses, a series of trails groomed on the hills behind and cute little parks dotting the town. The earliest bathhouses burnt in fires. Built between 1892 and 1923, the eight huge buildings standing today feature a mishmash of Spanish, Italian, Roman and Greek styles. The Fordyce, built for the town’s wealthiest visitors, features sea-colored stained  glass  and carved Neptune heads on its facade. The Ozark is mission style, in a possible nod to the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, who searched for the fountain of youth. Hot Springs accommodated a variety of people, though facilities often reflected issues of the time. While the town hosted a free government-run bathhouse, Black visitors could only use a segregated bathhouse until the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed. Of course, there were also upscale options for the rich and famous, especially those with an ailment they hoped to heal. Australian-born international opera star Marjorie Lawrence made  Hot Springs  her home after contracting polio. Gangster Al Capone also frequently visited, hoping to cure his syphilis. But over the course of the 20th century, enthusiasm for public bathing faded. By 1980, Americans preferred to relax in backyard hot tubs than public bathhouses. All bathhouses but the  Buckstaff  closed down, some remaining vacant for decades. Since Bathhouse Row is part of Hot Springs National Park, the Park Service had to figure out what to do about the empty buildings. On one hand, the buildings were historical, architectural and cultural treasures. On another, they were hulking behemoths ranging from 9,000 to nearly 30,000-square-feet inside — expensive to retrofit, heat and maintain. In 2004, the National Park Service devised an innovative adaptive  reuse  program that has preserved the bathhouses, drawn more visitors and enriched their experience, and reinvigorated downtown Hot Springs. Hospitality and adaptive reuse Of the eight bathhouses, only the Maurice remains empty. The Buckstaff has continuously operated since opening in 1912. The other six have either been repurposed by the  National Park  Service itself or entered into public/private partnerships. Fortunately, the park had the foresight to turn the opulent Fordyce into a bathhouse museum. The men’s wing is much grander than the women’s, with a stained-glass skylight featuring topless mermaids and a statue in the center of a kneeling Native woman presenting de Soto with a jug of water. The best part is all the weird and fascinating hydrotherapy equipment. While this equipment — such as steam cabinets where people sat with just their heads sticking out, and a hydroelectric tub that somehow combined electricity with water for stunning results — must have been cutting edge in its day, it now looks more like a  medical  torture chamber. At the Superior Bathhouse Brewery, Rose Schweikhart has worked wonders with both the old bathhouse and the water itself. Under the NPS adaptive reuse program, Schweikhart got a 55-year lease on the  building . Built in 1916, the Superior is the smallest bathhouse on the row, but it still has 9,000 square feet that had to be improved and now require maintenance. Currently, Schweikhart is saving for a new roof. Since the building is a historic structure in a national park and has the federal government as a landlord, Schweikhart needs approval before changing the structure. “Usually they say yes, because a vacant building isn’t doing anyone any good,” Schweikhart said. The building closed as a bathhouse in 1983 and sat empty for 30 years before Schweikhart gave it a new life. Still, the NPS drew the line at letting her install a roll-up door. This meant Schweikhart had to carefully bring all the brewery equipment through the front  window , the historic building’s largest opening. “I had to get the manufacturer to measure everything very carefully,” Schweikhart said. The water is piped in at about 144 degrees, then heated to 160 degrees to make the beer and sell it locally in growlers. It’s a bathhouse-centric operation with no canning, bottling or distribution. So, you’ll have to go to Hot Springs to experience the Superior’s Goat Rock Bock or Desoto’s Folly. Next door, Ellen and Pat McCabe repurposed the Hale Bathhouse into a nine-room boutique  hotel  with a beautiful dining room open to all. The duo incorporated touches that appeal to aficionados of historic buildings, such as exposed rough brick walls and the original pine floors. But the  Hotel Hale’s  modern touches make it a very comfortable place to stay — coffee service delivered to your door at your chosen time every morning, signature orange-vanilla scented toiletries made by a local soap maker and, best of all, hot spring water piped into your own private bathtub. Hotel Hale is also known for laying out a fabulous brunch. If you’re really lucky, the McCabes might unlock a door in the corner of the dining room and let you peek into the old natural steam room cut into the mountain. It’s hot, muddy and too much of an insurance liability for modern use, but is a fascinating glimpse back into Spa City’s history. The  Quapaw  reuse project remains truest to the original bathhouse spirit. Constructed in 1924, the 24,000-square-foot Spanish Colonial building is now a modern  spa . Its 2007 makeover earned a LEED Silver certification and won the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas’ 2009 Excellence in Preservation through Restoration Award. The Quapaw offers both private services like massages and facials and public bathing in a series of shared pools of different temperatures, ranging from comfortably warm to roasting. A visit to either the Quapaw or the even more historic Buckstaff baths is the closest visitors can get to the old days where everybody from movie stars to gangsters made healing pilgrimages to Hot Springs. Images via Teresa Bergen

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Niraamaya Retreat honors traditional design with local materials

November 19, 2020 by  
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Located in Vayitharamattom, Kumarakom in the lakefront region of Southern India, the Niraamaya Retreat is a haven for wellness and rejuvenation with sustainable design elements throughout. A product of Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd, an award-winning architectural practice based in India, the 65,000-square-foot retreat offers a contemporary feel while still honoring the traditional style of the region with locally sourced building materials. The boutique resort is spread across seven acres facing Lake Vembanad and includes 27 independent luxury villas, two restaurants, a health club, a wellness center and a spa. The spa features multiple treatment rooms, a pool and yoga pavilions, while the business center contains meeting rooms and an amphitheater. Related: These charming timber cabins in South India are a retreat for nature lovers What sets this stunning coastal escape apart from the rest are the nods to classical Kerala architecture, a design style that incorporates traditional elements like sloping roofs, Mogappus and Charupadi, a type of built-in, ventilated porch bench. Locally sourced materials such as clay tiles for the roofing, granite pavilions and dados, laterite and wood are featured in the construction work. According to the designers, one of the biggest challenges for the project came in the form of high rainfall and water stagnation due to the site’s unique contours. To combat this, they enabled a network of natural bodies of water to allow for smooth surface runoff , even in the event of heavy monsoon showers. The landscape can only be described as tropical yet well-groomed, with native trees and plants leading to the onsite river. The intimate villas are scattered thoughtfully about the property, connected with peaceful pathways that wind through the lush surroundings. Each villa is about 100 square meters in size and includes a private moot pond, an open shower, a portico and bed facing the lake as well as a semi-open private landscaped area. + Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd Images via Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd

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RBG left these 4 lessons for the climate fight

September 29, 2020 by  
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RBG left these 4 lessons for the climate fight Rushad Nanavatty Tue, 09/29/2020 – 01:30 Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a hero. The obituaries have focused on her legacy as a feminist icon, her singular determination, her deep humanity, and her profound common sense. These traits were exemplified by her famous dissents — equal parts restrained and biting — against a series of regressive Supreme Court majority decisions. We don’t immediately think of RBG as an environmental activist or climate champion ( Greta Thunberg fandom  notwithstanding). However, her life and career offer plenty of inspiration for our work at RMI — and for anyone concerned with preserving a livable planet. When I think about RBG, these are the lessons I take for the climate fight. 1. Climate action honors RBG’s legacy on equality RBG did more to advance the cause of equality than any justice since Thurgood Marshall. Her life and career were defined by it. As a schoolgirl in Brooklyn, she objected to the fact that the boys went to woodshop while the girls sewed. As co-founder of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, she convinced the Supreme Court to rule, for the first time, that gender discrimination was unconstitutional (despite being led by a Chief Justice who had  threatened to resign  if a woman were appointed to the court). As a member of the that court, she fought for voters’ rights (Shelby County v. Holder), comprehensive healthcare coverage (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby), and federalism (Bush v. Gore). She did it patiently and incisively, referring to her role in her ACLU cases as “a kind of a kindergarten teacher… because the judges didn’t think sex discrimination existed.” Showing how discrimination hurt men was often the tactic she used to generate empathy and understanding among the male judges she was dealing with. Climate action honors that legacy — because climate change is as stark an inequality issue as it gets and requires every bit as much doggedness to address. Climate action honors that legacy — because climate change is as stark an inequality issue as it gets and requires every bit as much doggedness to address. The impacts of global warming are deeply regressive, disproportionately hurting our poorest and most vulnerable communities. Black and Hispanic Americans are exposed to  63 percent and 56 percent  more pollution than they create. Our history of redlining has left low-income and minority communities  dangerously exposed to extreme heat . Americans are  far more vulnerable to climate disasters  if they are poor, elderly, disabled, don’t own a car, or can’t speak English. And during and after these events, the rich tend to leave and the poor tend to stay;  poverty rates can climb by a full percentage point  in areas hit by climate disasters. We’re seeing this starkly with our western wildfires — to which Native Americans are six times  more vulnerable  and Black and Hispanic Americans are 50 percent more vulnerable than Whites. And as Bill McKibben  points out , inaction on climate amounts to “generational aggression: it consigns the planet’s young people (and all future generations) to an ever-grimmer planet.” If anyone is inspired by RBG lifelong crusade as the “ Great Equalizer ,” then the climate fight is where it’s at. 2. If you fight well, a big loss can eventually turn into an even bigger win In 2007, Lily Ledbetter sued her employer, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, for years-long gender-based pay discrimination. A 5–4 court decision went in favor of Goodyear on procedural grounds (i.e., that Ledbetter hadn’t filed the charge early enough). RBG delivered her  dissent  from the bench — a rare open rebuke to her all-male colleagues’ “cramped” interpretation of the law: “The Court’s insistence on immediate contest overlooks common characteristics of pay discrimination, [which] often occur, as they did in Ledbetter’s case, in small increments… Small initial discrepancies may not be seen as meet for a federal case, particularly when the employee, trying to succeed in a nontraditional environment, is averse to making waves… Pay disparities, of the kind Ledbetter experienced, have a closer kinship to hostile work environment claims than to charges of a single episode of discrimination. Ledbetter’s claim… rested not on one particular paycheck, but on ‘the cumulative effect of individual acts.’” Because the court got it wrong, Congress was inspired to step up and get it right. The  Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act  of 2009 was the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Obama. The clarity and conviction of RBGs’ effort in a losing cause was key to achieving the much bigger legislative win. Ledbetter credited RBG’s dissent for giving her “ the dignity to go on ” as she testified before Congress multiple times in the run up to the Act’s passage. We are yet to see comprehensive federal climate legislation in the United States. But a stalled effort is also an opportunity to gather energy. With each serious attempt at a nationwide climate action — the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, the Green New Deal resolution, the Smith-Lujan clean energy standard proposal — the people on the right side of history sharpen their arguments and strengthen their coalitions. As my colleague Wendy Jaglom has  pointed out : In three short years  [since President Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris agreement], the number of EVs on the road has doubled, 16 states have committed to phase down HFCs, the number of cities committed to 100 percent renewable electricity has quintupled, and seven states and 27 gas companies have committed to methane leak reduction. Today, one-third of all Americans live in a jurisdiction committed to 100 percent clean electricity, six million people live in cities committed to all-electric new building construction, and two-thirds of Americans support a 100 percent clean economy by 2050, a carbon tax, and stronger fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks. If the administration’s rejection of the Paris agreement was the equivalent of a flawed interpretation of the law, our burgeoning trans-ideological climate movement may be the equivalent of changing the law itself — more consequential and more resilient. 3. “Speaking in a judicial voice” can help deliver outcomes we all want In a  1992 lecture , RBG talked about the importance of staying cordial and assuming good intentions even when voicing disagreement. In her own words (and quoting Roscoe Pound): “One must be sensitive to the sensibilities and mindsets of one’s colleagues, which may mean avoiding certain arguments and authorities, even certain words… I emphasize that dissents are not devoutly to be avoided. I question, however, resort to expressions that generate more heat than light… It is not good to burden an opinion with “intemperate denunciation of colleagues, violent invective, attributions of bad motives, and insinuations of incompetence, negligence, prejudice, or obtuseness.” The most effective dissent, I am convinced, spells out differences without jeopardizing collegiality or public respect for and confidence in the judiciary.” Given the state of Congress today, and our more general state of political polarization, it may be hard to resist the eye-roll — but resisting it is more important than ever. We need to suppress the friendly fire even within the climate action community. I’ve been in meetings on the Green New Deal where environmental justice groups automatically view all business and industry as evil — and in DC conference rooms where well-meaning business people and policy wonks dismiss those environmental justice groups as liberal “enviro” fantasists. RBG’s guidance echoes Amory Lovins’ longstanding philosophy: “If we  focus on outcomes, not motives , we can achieve results that we all want, but for different reasons… If we simply do what makes sense without having to agree on why it’s important, we and our planet will be better off.” This logic is profoundly applicable to the energy transition. Regardless of whether you care about jobs, industrial competitiveness, resilience, social equity, or simply not breaking the planet, the answer entails accelerating our movement away from fossil fuels and toward a combination of efficiency and renewables. 4. The cost of implementation is irrelevant when the cost of inaction is unthinkable Massachusetts v. EPA  was probably the most prominent environmental case handled during RBG’s time on the Supreme Court — with the court ruling that carbon dioxide is subject to regulation by the EPA under the Clean Air Act. But a more technical and obscure case may be more instructive in our current moment. The most effective dissent, I am convinced, spells out differences without jeopardizing collegiality or public respect for and confidence in the judiciary. In 2001’s  Whitman v. American Trucking Associations , the trucking industry argued that the EPA should consider implementation costs when setting  pollution limits . The court unanimously disagreed — because the statute contains several explicit “bright line” factors — without listing cost as one of them. If legislators wanted the EPA to consider cost, they would have said so; “Congress doesn’t hide elephants in mouseholes,” wrote RBG’s opera buddy, Antonin Scalia, on behalf of the court. Today, with a planet on fire, it is worth considering that principle. As we have written before, the cost of climate inaction  dwarfs  the cost of action to point that it renders the latter meaningless in comparison. There is over $5 trillion in value-at-risk to US assets under a middle-of-the-road global warming scenario—not including the cost of market volatility. Our country can clearly spend when it needs to (or Congress wants to); nearly $2.7 trillion in CARES Act funding approved within two weeks,  $2.4  trillion to $ 3 trillion  on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the annual $1 trillion a year that our fossil fuel-burning power plants cost America, based on the federal government’s base-case estimates on the social cost of carbon. The cost of greening our economy seems quaint in comparison;  $476 billion  for comprehensive grid modernization, for example, or $11 billion for a nationwide network of EV fast charging stations. A program to upgrade 120 million homes would cost  $3.6 trillion  — while generating  $1.4 trillion  in net value (energy cost savings minus retrofit costs). In the  Whitman  case ,  RBG and her colleagues ruled that implementation costs were irrelevant when stacked against the primary “requisite to protect the public health” with “an adequate margin of safety.” Replace “public health” with “planet,” and you have the argument for an ambitious green recovery and rebuilding program. — Losing a hero is hard. But it also creates the space — and the need — for others step off the sidelines and into the fray. Once we’re done mourning, we must get to work. Pull Quote Climate action honors that legacy — because climate change is as stark an inequality issue as it gets and requires every bit as much doggedness to address. The most effective dissent, I am convinced, spells out differences without jeopardizing collegiality or public respect for and confidence in the judiciary. Topics Climate Change Leadership 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 U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has lunch with a group of Wake Forest law students in the Worrell Professional Center on Wednesday, September 28, 2005. Photo by Wake Forest University School of Law/Flickr

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RBG left these 4 lessons for the climate fight

This is the moment to reimagine public transportation

September 29, 2020 by  
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This is the moment to reimagine public transportation Amanda Eaken Tue, 09/29/2020 – 00:21 Back in April, the city of Seattle temporarily closed off nearly 20 miles of streets to most vehicular traffic in order to let residents bike, walk, jog and skate at a safe social distance during the height of the city’s COVID-19 pandemic. Seattle’s Stay Healthy Streets program was designed to encourage people to travel to essential services and small local businesses — or just to get outside for exercise or fun — at a time when many people felt anxious about doing so. While wildfires ravaging the West Coast and smoke clouding the air across Seattle create yet another barrier to getting outside, these hazy skies also underscore the importance of defending our air quality, right now and for years to come. Then, in early May, something unexpected happened: the temporary closure of these streets became permanent . Mayor Jenny Durkan — one of 25 mayors nationwide participating in the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge  — announced that the program’s popularity and success had convinced her to extend it beyond the end of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order. In explaining the rationale for the decision, the head of Seattle’s Department of Transportation described the impact of Stay Healthy Streets as “transformative,” adding that it had revealed a need “to continue to build out a transportation system that enables people of all ages and abilities to bike and walk across the city.”  If governments are serious about listening and responding to the needs of communities of color, they’ll make the improvement and expansion of our transit systems a top priority. These days, as wildfires ravage the West Coast and smoke clouds Seattle’s air, residents face yet another barrier to getting outside. These toxic, hazy skies underscore the importance of defending our air quality, right now and for years to come. And we’re not starting from scratch: For years, Seattle’s transportation department and others in city leadership have been working to reduce the health-harming pollution from cars, trucks and other sources. Seattle’s Stay Healthy Streets program is the latest in those efforts: In addition to being safe places to walk and ride, these streets are free of polluting cars. Beyond Seattle and wildfires in the west, the COVID-19 crisis has compelled cities all over the world to reconsider — and, in many cases, to reimagine — their previously held ideas about our transportation systems. First and foremost, it has forced them to acknowledge that bus drivers, subway conductors and other mass-transit personnel are essential workers , every bit as crucial to the continued functioning of society as the people who work at our hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants and pharmacies. Indeed, in New York City, public transportation is how most essential workers have been getting to their jobs during the pandemic. And for millions of residents who don’t have access to a car, including a disproportionate number of low-income people and people of color, it’s their primary means of getting around, pandemic or no pandemic. But our current crisis has forced us to admit something else, too: Transportation policy isn’t just about getting people from point A to point B. Rather, it’s inextricably connected to public health, racial and economic justice, climate action and civil society in ways that haven’t always been fully acknowledged, but that are becoming clearer every day. One surprising example? In San Francisco, a professional cellist gave impromptu performances from his doorstep, creating a magical experience for neighbors and people walking by — an experience that was only audible due to the reduction in car traffic.  Seattle’s decision to turn its streets into pedestrian- and bike-friendly zones is just one example of how cities are recognizing that transportation is about regional accessibility just as much if not more than mobility. In doing so, they’re putting themselves on a path towards a healthier, more equitable future. Here are three ways we can reimagine our city transportation systems.  1. Streets aren’t just for cars  Seattle was just one of many cities around the world to open up its streets as it (mostly) closed down for everyday business. From megacities such as London , Paris , and New York to Climate Challenge participants such as Austin and San Jose , officials have discovered the many and compounding benefits that come from redefining thoroughfares to promote walking, cycling and other emissions-free forms of transportation. Adding safe places to walk and bike to our urban landscapes invites people out of their automobiles, resulting in cleaner air and fewer planet-warming greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. But it does more than that: It improves public health by promoting exercise, and fosters community by beautifying our neighborhoods and making people excited to get out of the house and be around one another (while still practicing social distancing and mask-wearing, of course!). It also addresses inequities inherent in public safety: People of color and members of underserved communities are more likely to become victims of automobile traffic violence. In addition, “slow streets” programs in many cities are helping residents rethink what streets are for.  2. Our public transit infrastructure needs — and deserves — investment For decades, America’s public transit systems have languished in the shadow of a $98 billion backlog in deferred maintenance and replacement. These are the very same public transit systems that kept some of our biggest cities from collapsing entirely during the height of the COVID-19 crisis by transporting essential workers to their jobs and allowing people without access to a car to visit their doctors, buy food and obtain medicine. While we’re lauding efforts by cities to get more people moving around on foot or bicycles, we also should be pressuring local, state and national leaders to fill this backlog and update our mass transit infrastructure. And we need to be clear that “updating,” in this instance, doesn’t simply mean replacing the hardware — installing new tracks or buying new buses. Public officials must make investments that prioritize the needs of riders most affected by this crisis by reimagining public safety and promoting public health, affordable housing and economic opportunity in historically marginalized communities. COVID and post-COVID recovery plans need to make this a priority, and the congressional champions of infrastructure bills such as the INVEST in America Act and the Moving Forward Act need to fight hard for adequate funding and a holistic, equitable approach to spending. Which brings us to:  3. Access to safe, effective transit is very much a racial justice issue  Recent incidents of police brutality against people of color, and the mass protests that have occurred in their wake, have led to a long-overdue national discussion of how systemic racism and the legacy of white supremacy continue to permeate our public policy. For many Black and brown residents, transportation already means public transportation: the buses; subways; and light-rail lines on which they rely daily for getting to work, school or essential services. When we neglect these systems, we’re neglecting these communities and in our common humanity, neglecting ourselves. Any efforts to remedy and redress the inequities borne of institutional racism are incomplete if they don’t acknowledge that mobility is a right, and that hampering people’s mobility — be it direct through poor planning, gentrification, redlining or underfunding or indirect through an act of omission — is an unacceptable violation of that right. If governments are serious about listening and responding to the needs of communities of color, they’ll make the improvement and expansion of our transit systems a top priority. We’re living through several pivotal moments in American history at once. In responding to the simultaneous crises we currently face, we have a responsibility to not just return to the status quo, but to boldly and intentionally improve public health, racial equity and climate resiliency. Reimagining our transportation systems is the critical first step to shaping a more just future.  Pull Quote If governments are serious about listening and responding to the needs of communities of color, they’ll make the improvement and expansion of our transit systems a top priority. Topics Transportation & Mobility Equity & Inclusion NRDC Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off In May, some closures that started with Seattle Healthy Streets became permanent. Shutterstock VDB Photos Close Authorship

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This is the moment to reimagine public transportation

Keeping IT in Play: Maximizing Value and Minimizing E-Waste

September 14, 2020 by  
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Keeping IT in Play: Maximizing Value and Minimizing E-Waste How can companies extend the useful life of IT assets and more effectively manage e-waste at the end of life? The material value of the electronic waste discarded globally each year adds up to $62.5 billion — more than the GDP of most countries — according to the United Nations. With complex, incongruous regulations across the globe, managing the end of life for technologies such as PCs, tablets, smartphones, data center servers, storage and networking gear is a complex affair. This discussion explores how to embrace a more circular approach to IT hardware and e-waste management. Whether your company is decommissioning a data center, upgrading its PCs or managing other gadgets that have reached the end of their usable life, learn how to unlock value from those systems; navigate complex policies surrounding collection, data protection and intellectual property; and maximize asset life cycles through refurbishment, deployment and recycling of old gear. Speakers Heather Clancy, Editorial Director, GreenBiz Group Kabira Stokes, CEO, Retrievr Jamesetta Strickland, Senior Vice President & Regional General Manager, Iron Mountain Holly Secon Mon, 09/14/2020 – 14:38 Featured Off

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A quiet cabin and outdoor adventures in Montana’s Seeley-Swan Valley

September 14, 2020 by  
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As Andy Aldeen strides across his Montana land, a can of bear spray stuffed in his back shorts pocket, you’d never guess the Midwestern-born hay farmer had spent 25 years working in finance in Hong Kong and Tokyo. Now, his three-generation family is rooted here in the Swan Valley, haying and running three VRBO units for visitors craving clean mountain air far from cities. A homesteader cabin That’s what brings my husband, dog and me here. With COVID-19 numbers rising, we hesitated to plan ahead. Then, we got lucky and snagged a last-minute reservation for a socially distant getaway at what was described as a pioneer homesteader cabin . So here we were, briskly touring Aldeen’s land with his black lab, Sis, acting as hostess and leading our dog Rudy through bushes and brambles. Related: 5 cozy getaway cabins that are perfect for fall The cabin has been thoroughly redone since a Norwegian fur trapper built it in the early 1900s. He surely didn’t have a hot water shower, a full kitchen and such a comfortable bed. Aldeen decorates in what he calls “Victorian explorer” style, which means a fun mix of cheery and unpredictable items, including a red-and-white-checked table cloth on the kitchen table downstairs, a cow-spotted plant stand and a sequined rainbow pillow on a daybed in the cabin’s attic library. Aldeen has scoured used bookstores all through the valley, furnishing his VRBO units with thousands of books of all genres. Best of all was the big front porch strung with Christmas lights. You can sit on an easy chair with a view of hay bales sitting in front of the Mission Mountains. In the morning, you may hear migrating sandhill cranes purring as they hunt for critters or see deer bounding by. Down the road, the ranch’s horses congregate under their favorite shade tree. With two bedrooms and a small, cozy living room, the homesteader cabin is the mid-range option among Aldeen’s VRBO units. The Lazy Bean is a 2,000-square-foot cabin that sleeps up to eight and has the most extensive library . Then, there’s a more primitive, 300-square-foot cabin with twin bunk beds. The Seeley-Swan Valley The cabins sit in the Seeley-Swan Valley in northwestern Montana, on the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and just off of Highway 83. This is known as one of Montana’s most scenic roads and is a popular route to Glacier National Park . But it’s also a destination in itself for people seeking outdoor adventures. Seeley and Swan are actually two back-to-back valleys. We were in Swan, the northern of the two, near the tiny town of Condon. The Mission Range of the Rocky Mountains towers to the west, the Swan Range to the east. This is an unusually wet part of Montana, with significantly higher rainfall than most of the state, which accounts for the greenness and abundance of water. Rivers, lakes, ponds and bogs left by long-ago receding glaciers cover about 16% of the Swan Basin — compare that to only 1% wetland habitat for the rest of the state. This is the part of the state to visit if you want to get in the water or if you like scenic hikes with dazzling lake views. With average July and August highs in the mid-80s, the lakes and rivers get lots of summertime use. “Be Bear Aware” One of the things I hadn’t realized until I got to Montana was how many bears call it home. “Greatest concentration in the Lower 48,” Aldeen told me proudly while I shook in my hiking boots. As we set out one morning for the Glacier Lake Trailhead , our route took us on a long stretch of gravel road. When we finally arrived at the parking lot, I was relieved to see other cars. Wilderness is great, but sometimes I gravitate toward safety in numbers. Still, there’s no guarantee that the presence of humans equals the absence of bears. Bears are big, and they go where they want. Signs at just about every trailhead exhort visitors to “ Be Bear Aware .” As we followed the Glacier Lake Trail, I took the information to heart. Bear spray on front backpack strap, check. Talking or singing before turning blind corners, yep. The mountains were gorgeous, and the trail was lined with huckleberries ripe for the picking. I relaxed and enjoyed it, as long as I didn’t think too much about who else loves huckleberries. Paddler’s paradise Bears swim, too. But at least it’s easier to see them coming over open water. This part of Montana is an absolute dream if you like to kayak , paddleboard or swim. Highway 83 has signs for lakes every couple of miles. If you favor motors on your watercraft, a big lake like Seeley will give you lots of space to explore. But if you prefer human-powered vessels, you can also find a quiet lake without motor traffic. The most touristy lake we visited was Holland Lake. This 400-acre glacial lake is popular for good reason, with its well-used campground, Swan Mountain views and easy access to the Holland Falls trailhead . You can rent a canoe, kayak or SUP from the Holland Lake Lodge . My favorite thing about Holland Lake was the cordoned off swimming area. Some of the lakes we visited were nice for paddling but mucky for swimming. Not Holland. You don’t have to worry about putting your feet on the bottom and having them disappear under questionable slime. Van Lake is too small to be of much interest for those with fast boats. A leisurely paddle around the perimeter took less than hour, including stops for wildlife viewing. From my SUP, I saw a bald eagle dive down and nab a fish off the line of somebody fishing from a rowboat. Watching bald eagles swoop, fish and fly above your SUP, and loons swimming alongside you, is a dream come true for any wildlife-enthusiast. The most remote lake we visited was Clearwater. It’s about a 0.7 mile walk from the road. The trail is mostly flat and would be easy an easy trip, if not for dragging an inflatable SUP. But it was worth it, as it was the only time I’ve ever been the only watercraft on a lake, accompanied only by electric blue damselflies. September average high temperatures for Seeley-Swan are in the 70s. There’s still time to get your Montana lake fix before the temperatures dip down and the snow begins falling, although that is another trip full of nature’s beauty. So if you get the chance to escape to a remote Montana cabin, grab your bear spray and go. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: We recommend taking the utmost care to keep those around you safe if you choose to travel. You can find more advice on travel precautions from the CDC and WHO .

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A quiet cabin and outdoor adventures in Montana’s Seeley-Swan Valley

Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library to honor conservation and community

September 14, 2020 by  
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After the passing of his wife and mother, Theodore Roosevelt traveled to the Badlands of North Dakota. Journeying through the United States, he took the same route that The Henning Larsen + Nelson Byrd Woltz design team would make more than 135 years later to visit the future site of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library . The team’s vision? To honor the landscape and community that the past president came to love all those years ago. “There is a unique and awe-inspiring beauty to everything about the Badlands that you simply cannot experience anywhere else,” said Michael Sørensen, design lead and partner at Henning Larsen. “The landscape only fully unfolds once you are already within it; once you are, the hills, buttes, fields, and streams stretch as far as you can see.” Related: San Francisco library boasts a green roof and LEED Gold status That persistent landscape is what inspired the team to design a property that will pay homage to the important cultural and ecological history of the Badlands that was so important to Roosevelt in his time of need. “The design fuses the landscape and building into one living system emerging from the site’s geology,” said Thomas Woltz, principal and founder of Nelson Byrd Woltz. “The buildings frame powerful landscape views to the surrounding buttes and the visitor experience is seamlessly connected to the rivers, trails, and grazing lands surrounding the Library.” The design will also serve to educate a national and international audience as well as hopefully create a new generation of those who would work to conserve the Badlands, according to Woltz. The building itself is made up of four sections. A large tower (the Legacy Beacon), will become a formal landmark visible from throughout the area to bring the community together, create a hub and help guide the way for visitors. The lobby follows a spiral path to the main exhibition level meant to mimic the way Roosevelt would have gathered around the hearth. Each phase of the exhibition contains a space that overlooks a specific part of the surrounding landscape. + Henning Larsen + Nelson Byrd Woltz Images via Henning Larsen

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Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library to honor conservation and community

Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right

June 25, 2020 by  
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Whether pandemic or climate crisis, you better get your data right Paolo Natali Thu, 06/25/2020 – 00:30 According to polls, it was  mid-March  when most of us in the United States understood the severity of COVID-19. At the same time, we collectively were searching for data to drive lifesaving decision-making. Close all business and keep people inside homes? Or allow some degree of freedom? What would be the exact growth curve of virus cases, and most important, how could we flatten it? By early April, a consensus had emerged around the role of accurate data, even if it could not help contain a first wave of infections. This lesson on the importance of actionable data did not go unnoticed for those of us working on industrial decarbonization. With growing consensus on the gravity of the climate crisis, countries and companies are adopting carbon reduction targets. If we are to learn from the pandemic, there’s one critical element for any effort to have a chance of success. Less catchy than a target reopening date, and perhaps more like an immunologist telling you to get tested: Do we have the right data to act upon? Pressure is growing to take action The question is relevant because there is mounting pressure to take action against the climate crisis. Pressure to make emissions visible has been around for a while: Consumers want to know how much carbon is embodied in the products they buy. Investors are concerned about the viability of long-term assets in high emissions sectors at risk of being hit by negative policy or market developments. For example,  one chocolate bar  could emit as much as 7 kilograms of CO2, equivalent to driving 30 miles in a non-electric car. Alternately, if the cacao is grown alongside agroforestry or reforestation, the same bar could have zero or even negative emissions via the trees removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. If consumers knew the difference, would they pay a premium for the climate-smart chocolate? A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. This year, Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management company, made thundering news in his  annual letter to investors , touting, “The evidence on climate risk is compelling investors to reassess core assumptions about modern finance.” Since then, the asset manager  backed two proposals  at the annual general meetings of both Chevron and Exxon, related to the manner these companies conduct themselves in relation to Paris Agreement targets. Earlier in the year in Australia, investors at both Woodside Petroleum and Santos passed annual general meetings motions to  adopt a “Scope 3 ” (indirect emissions) reduction target. This trend of shareholder and consumer scrutiny has strengthened in recent months, and most S&P 500 companies — in fact, 70 percent of them — already make climate-related disclosures to the reporting platform CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project). Translating demands into dollars Yet, to date, there is no way to exactly translate these demands for action into dollar figures. You walk around trade conferences (or, more likely these days, Zoom workshops) and everyone is asking: What’s the premium that a consumer is willing to pay for low-carbon products? Is a bank really willing to decline loans for an investment that fails to fulfill certain sustainability standards, for example as pledged by the 11 global banks that signed the  Poseidon Principles  for shipping finance in 2019? If the European Union agrees on a border price for carbon, what should it be? All of this pricing talk begs the question: How can we have such discussions without clear metrics that everyone can stand by? A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. For a start, while financial accounts are reported via one of two standards — U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) — a variety of methods can be used for carbon accounting (CDP accepts 64 of them). While financials make the performance of a chemicals company comparable to an iron ore miner, the carbon accounting metrics differ in a way that is difficult to reconcile. This becomes a problem for an automotive company, which needs to combine the performance of both to make an accurate declaration about the carbon content of a product that has over 30,000 parts. It is also a challenge for a fund manager who needs to combine stocks of different sectors, and has a fiduciary duty to use financially material metrics to do so; or for a commercial banker who lends money to different asset classes, and needs to determine the amount of “climate risk” involved in each investment decision. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. Remember the core of the coronavirus debate: The number of confirmed cases are better known than the total number of cases. This uncertainty generates debatable data, upon which it is difficult to make decisions that will have an enormous impact on the destiny of societies. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. And if the cost of those gases to a community and ecosystem isn’t clearly visible, conversely, how can we measure good interventions so that investors feel confident to put their money toward them? This is particularly ironic because market demand for product sustainability creates a win-win situation for everyone involved: make a plan to increase product sustainability, shape the world to be a better place. In most cases, low-carbon technologies are either readily available, such as in the case of low-carbon electricity and carbon-neutral concrete, or less than a decade away, such as hydrogen-based trucking. But if it’s so easy, why isn’t it happening? And most importantly, what needs to happen? Harmonizing the efforts The current ecosystem of reporting is built on bottom-up efforts that are not harmonized. The previously mentioned CDP has a large database of disclosures. The Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) has a widely adopted set of metrics that companies use to report (including to CDP). The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board has — you guessed it — standards solid enough to guarantee “financial materiality,” that is, to allow the analyst in the above example to “buy with confidence” when making investment decisions based on sustainability. The Science-Based Targets Initiative promises to take all this to the next level and link carbon disclosures to the trajectories that companies need to undertake in order to comply with the Paris Agreement. Companies that need to report emissions lament that this is too complex or that it doesn’t allow apples-to-apples comparisons due to discrepancies in the way different methods prescribe calculations. Investors lament that they can’t base financial decisions on current metrics, because they aren’t reliable or standardized. Consumers still have to see eco-labels that are truly credible. It is imperative that emissions accounting shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. As confusing as it sounds, the good news is that between existing methods, standards and platforms, the elements of a functional system do exist. Despite the gloomy portrait that we often read in the news, of a humankind sleepwalking toward climate disaster due to a selfish inability to act together, this ecosystem actually represents a wonderful testament to the ability of society to recognize a challenge and address it. The importance of climate alignment A few years ago, the Smart Freight Center introduced the Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC) Framework, creating a common guidance for logistics companies to report in a unified manner. The GLEC Framework is a guidance that specifies how disclosures need to be made in each of the existing methodologies and platforms. Once a company discloses according to the GLEC Framework, analysts will be able to compare a disclosure made for different purposes using different methods, and trace back what it actually means. It is urgent that this expand to supply chains at large. It is also imperative that the emissions accounting focus shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. With unified and simplified standards, companies will be able to be easily ranked based on their actual and projected contribution to meeting the Paris Agreement, thus keeping climate change at bay. Why do this? To reap the benefits of being in sync with what stakeholders request more and ever louder. This is only wise, considering that not even a global pandemic and looming economic recession has silenced these requests. According to a recent Deloitte  report , 600 global C-suite executives remain firmly committed to a low-carbon transition. They are perhaps finding opportunity in shifting from risk and need clear data to make their decisions. Pull Quote A company’s financial accounts are used to make reasonable decisions about how that company will do in the future. Alas, to date the same isn’t true of carbon performance. From the perspective of the climate crisis, we still haven’t figured out how to attribute the right price to something nobody can see, such as the amount of noxious gases emitted by a factory in a land far, far away. It is imperative that emissions accounting shifts from a notion of disclosures (a still image of current emissions) to climate alignment, a forward look into a company’s future emissions. Contributors Charles Cannon Topics Energy & Climate COVID-19 Data 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

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Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics

May 11, 2020 by  
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Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics Joel Makower Mon, 05/11/2020 – 00:44 At first glance, the sprawling industrial site, covering roughly 900 acres in Kingsport, Tennessee, appears to be just another chemical manufacturing facility. There are hundreds of buildings and countless miles of pipes, conveyors, distillers, cooling towers, valves, pumps, compressors and controls. It doesn’t exactly look or feel particularly noteworthy. But something extraordinary is going on at this Eastman chemical plant: two breakthrough processes to turn waste plastics of all kinds back into new plastics, continuously, with no loss of quality. Last year, the company announced two major initiatives: Carbon renewal technology , or CRT, which breaks down waste plastic feedstocks to the molecular level before using them as building blocks to produce a wide range of materials and packaging. The company claims this enables waste plastics to be recycled an infinite number of times without degradation of quality. Polyester renewal technology , or PRT, which involves taking waste polyesters from landfills and other waste streams and transforming them back into a raw material that the company claims is indistinguishable from polyester produced from fossil-fuel feedstocks. With both CRT and PRT, hard-to-recycle plastics can be recycled an infinite number of times, says Eastman, creating products that can claim high levels of certified recycled content — a true closed loop. Both technologies are or will be hitting the market, so it is too soon to call them a success. Still, they represent a story about a legacy industrial company seeking to reinvent itself by simultaneously addressing the climate crisis, the scourge of plastic waste and the need to accelerate resource efficiency to meet the material needs of 10 billion people by mid-century. If it works, this old-line corporate icon could find itself a leading light in the emerging circular economy . Chemical reaction Eastman, celebrating its centennial this year, was founded by George Eastman, the entrepreneur who, in the late 1880s, started the Eastman Kodak Company. (“Kodak” was a made-up word he appended to his last name.) Along the way, he nearly singlehandedly democratized photography (and spawned countless “Kodak moments” ) through the company’s production of cameras, film, processing chemicals and related goods and services. In 1920, in the wake of World War I, Eastman’s company was suffering a scarcity of raw materials, including photographic paper, optical glass and gelatin, and many chemicals — such as methanol, acetic acid and acetone — needed to produce and process film stock and prints. He determined that ensuring his company’s future would require self-reliance. He set out to find a suitable location for a Kodak-owned and operated chemical production facility. If it works, this old-line corporate icon could find itself a leading light in the emerging circular economy. Kingsport proved to be the right spot, situated in what is known as the Mountain Empire, which spans a portion of southwest Virginia and the mountainous counties in northeastern Tennessee. It had ready access to two key commodities vital to Kodak: wood fiber to make cellulose, the key material in photographic film; and coal, which powered its boilers to make steam and electricity, and later would be used to produce synthetic gas — syngas — to create the acetyl chemicals needed to make films, plastics and textiles. From those two feedstocks, Eastman Chemical, a subsidiary of Kodak, grew to become an economic powerhouse in the Mountain Empire, expanding into its own empire of more than 50 manufacturing sites worldwide. The company adapted to, and prospered from, the changing times. By the late 1920s, for example, the demand for home movie film and the growing need for X-ray film led Eastman Chemical to produce acetic anhydride, the base material for photographic emulsions. In the 1930s, the company turned to producing cellulose acetate to make textile fibers. The automobile boom of the 1940s and 1950s led Eastman to produce chemicals and materials critical to automotive design and production. During World War II, the Kingsport site infamously was used to make RDX, a powerful explosive — a million and a half pounds a day, at its peak. By the end of World War II, Eastman was managing a project to produce enriched uranium for the Manhattan Project. After the war, polyester fibers for textiles and other products became, and remain, a significant line of business. George Eastman didn’t live to see much of the success he catalyzed. He died in 1932 by suicide, a single bullet to the heart. In the 1990s, Kodak’s photography business darkened with the advent of digital cameras — the company was slow to adapt and got run over by more nimble competitors — and the company spun off its chemical division in 1994 to help pay down debt. (Eastman, the company, has dropped “chemical” from its branding, although not from its legally incorporated name.) Eastman’s latest innovations, as well as its pivot to make sustainability core to its strategy, has been energized by its current chairman and CEO, Mark Costa. A former management consultant — Eastman was one of his clients — and brandishing degrees from both Berkeley and Harvard, Costa joined the company in 2006 to lead strategy, marketing and business development before ascending to the corner office in 2014. Under his leadership, the company has accelerated its transformation from chemicals to specialty materials. “When we came out of the great recession in 2009 and were starting to think about our innovation portfolio, we were already thinking about sustainability in a very serious way,” Costa told me over lunch in his office in early March, with a sweeping view of a nature preserve and park deeded by Eastman to the city of Kingsport. “We knew that the circular economy and being a lot more efficient with carbon was a good idea.” Media Authorship Mark Costa, Courtesy of Eastman Close Authorship Eastman CEO Mark Costa (Photo courtesy of Eastman) “This idea of circularity isn’t new to us,” he added. “In all of our innovation — I had the responsibility for the innovation portfolio since 2009 — we required everything that we did be tied to a sustainability driver. All the way back then.” Plastic to plastic Eastman’s two new “renewal” technologies are, to some degree, natural extensions of products and services that have long been part of Eastman’s toolkit. Now, repurposed and modified for an era of sustainability and circularity, they position the company to address one of the holy grails of the circular economy: turning waste plastic back into new plastic with the same performance and quality characteristics. The rising attention being paid to the global plastic waste problem has illuminated many serious challenges of collecting, sorting and recycling plastic back into new plastic in a continuously closed loop.  For starters, only a couple kinds of plastics are being regularly collected and recycled, based on available infrastructure and market demand: PET and HDPE — Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the SPI resin identification codes developed in the late 1980s by the Society of the Plastics Industry. Most of the others — SPI Nos. 3 through 7 — are technically possible to recycle but lack both infrastructure and markets in most places. Worst of all is the growing mountain of packaging that is multi-material — layers upon layers of mixed polymers, papers, laminates and foils — in the form of juice boxes, ketchup packets, toothpaste tubes and countless other things. These Franken-materials are a nonstarter for most modern recycling systems. The best one can hope is that they be downcycled into some durable product — say, artificial turf, plastic furniture or an automobile fan blade — which itself will wear out eventually, ending up as nonrecyclable waste in a landfill. But only a tiny fraction of these plastics ever escape landfills as their final resting place. Eastman’s ability to turn all plastics back into their constituent molecules is a potential game-changer. Sorting all these plastics is another issue. Even if plastics 3 through 7 were readily recyclable, keeping various polymer types separate from one another is a highly labor-intensive task, assuming the infrastructure was even there to handle it. And given the historically low price of oil, even before the recent market crash, recycled plastic remains uncompetitive to virgin for many applications. Those petrochemicals are just too darn cheap. So, Eastman’s ability to turn all waste plastics back into their constituent molecules and back into productive use is a potential game-changer. A primer There are two basic ways to recycle plastics: mechanical and chemical. The former is most commonly used with soda bottles (PET) and milk jugs (HDPE) — plastics 1 and 2, respectively. It involves grinding, washing, separating, drying, regranulating and compounding waste plastic to create new raw materials. Mechanical recycling can be cost-effective but has limits and disadvantages: The process is heat-intensive — and, therefore, energy- and carbon-intensive — and produces air pollutants. Contamination by food and other foreign materials is another problem that literally gums up the works. And after plastic has been mechanically recycled once, it’s rarely suitable for another round of recycling. This means that the recycled material eventually will end up in waste streams. And there are physical limits to how recycled plastics produced through mechanical methods can be used in manufacturing. “You can only get up to maybe 50 percent recycled content in a bottle with mechanical, where you really start getting a pretty ugly product and all kinds of other performance issues,” Costa said. “So, there’s going to be sort of a quality performance limitation.” An alternative is chemical recycling, a technology that has been around since the 1950s but has become the focus of growing investment and innovation as the circular economy has gained steam. Plastic makers including BP and Dow, and consumer packaged goods companies such as Coca-Cola, Danone and Unilever, are testing or investing tens of millions of dollars in the technology, according to the Wall Street Journal . In chemical recycling, depolymerization breaks down plastics into their raw materials for conversion back into new polymers. Pyrolysis — heating of an organic material in the absence of oxygen — can turn mixed plastic waste into naphtha, which can be transformed back into petrochemicals and plastics. With only about 9 percent of the more than 400 million tons of plastic waste produced globally each year currently being recycled, according to U.N. Environment , that leaves the other 90 percent or so as potential feedstock.  There’s big potential here, according to a 2019 report from the American Chemistry Council. It found that if widely adopted, chemical recycling — which it refers to as “advanced plastic recycling and recovery” — could create nearly 40,000 direct and indirect U.S. jobs, as much as $2.2 billion in annual payroll and $9.9 billion in direct and indirect economic output.  Calling on the carpet Eastman’s carbon renewal and polyester renewal technologies are forms of chemical recycling. But they aren’t intended simply to displace mechanical recycling. For PET and HDPE plastics, mechanical recycling already is reasonably efficient, creating recycled materials streams that have proven cost-competitive in many markets. “We don’t want to compete with that,” Costa said. “Frankly, the value of it is too high. From a sustainability point of view, you shouldn’t touch it.” Media Authorship Courtesy of Eastman Close Authorship Besides, there’s a much bigger opportunity. Eastman’s Polyester Renewal Technology is a chemical recycling process specifically for polyester waste, which produces virgin-like materials, even from colored PET, according to Eastman. The process involves using glycolysis — the breakdown of PET by ethylene glycol — to disassemble waste PET into its fundamental building blocks. Those building blocks then can be reassembled to produce new polyesters with high levels of recycled content. In its search for waste plastics, Eastman easily can forgo tapping into recycling markets for plastic water and soda bottles. There are plenty of other sources of waste polyester — from carpets, for example. In one recent initiative, Eastman partnered with Circular Polymers , a company that reclaims post-consumer products for recycling. Circular Polymers is collecting and densifying the PET it retrieves from waste carpeting. It then converts the PET waste into pellets, which are shipped by railroad from its plant in California to Eastman in Tennessee. Eastman uses its CRT process to turn the pellets into new materials with certified recycled content. Those materials end up in textiles, packaging for cosmetics and personal care products, and eyeglass frames. Costa says Eastman could divert millions of pounds of carpeting a year through partnerships such as this, although that’s still a mere fraction of the more than 3 billion pounds of carpet sent to landfills in 2018, just in the United States, according to Carpet America Recovery Effort , an industry group. And it’s not just polyester. Eastman sees potentially unlimited opportunity in all the other types of plastic waste — especially the stuff that’s hard to recycle, from a cost and logistics perspective, including those dreaded Franken-materials. The company’s goal is to extract the value of the carbon molecules contained in these waste materials and put them back into productive use as like-new plastics. Said Costa: “If there’s a way to bring carbon back in through products that’s better than the fossil-fuel approach of the linear economy, we should do that, right? I mean, this isn’t complicated.” Fashion forward Eastman’s goal is to substitute its “carbon renewal” materials for their virgin counterparts wherever they are economically viable. Beyond pure economics, Costa described to me Eastman’s three criteria for determining when it makes sense, from both a business and ecological perspective, to recycle waste plastic. First, the waste has to go back into products — not be incinerated or burned to make energy. Second, the carbon footprint of the recycled material must be better than its fossil-fuel equivalent, based on life-cycle analysis. And third, “Consumers shouldn’t give up a lot in their quality of life.” That is, few if any tradeoffs in price or performance. So far, CRT and PRT processes are finding their way into several of Eastman’s many brands of polymers, including Tr?va, a cellulose-based thermoplastic made from trees, used in automotive, packaging and electronics applications; CDA, a bio-derived material, used in injection-molded applications, such as ophthalmic frames and tool handles; Cristal, designed and engineered specifically for high-end cosmetics packaging applications; and Tritan, a durable clear plastic used to make Camelbak and Nalgene water bottles, and Rubbermaid food storage containers. And then there is Naia , a fiber made from certified sustainably managed pine and eucalyptus plantations, widely used in the fashion industry. It is essentially cellulose acetate, the same material used in photographic film, being made by Eastman in Kingsport for about 100 years. In this case, it is spun into a yarn that is used to make fabric. Naia is made in a closed-loop process, in which chemical inputs — acetic acid and acetone — are continuously recycled. Naia is made in a closed-loop process, in which chemical inputs — acetic acid and acetone — continuously are recycled. According to company marketing materials, it compares favorably to silk, cotton, viscose filaments and polyester in terms of environmental impacts — water usage, climate emissions, ecosystem disruption — and feel. Its yarn can be knitted or woven and easily blended with other fibers. Garments made with Naia are easy to home-launder compared with many fashion-forward fabrics, which require dry cleaning, says Eastman. The company claims that Naia produces no microfibers when washed. There’s one big challenge from a sustainability perspective, however: The fossil fuels used as a feedstock to produce the syngas to make one of the principal ingredients for Naia. Eastman’s Naia textile yarn for fashion. (Photo courtesy of Eastman) Eastman is developing the technology to eliminate the fossil fuels from Naia production, replacing them with gases derived from breaking down waste plastics, a process called reforming, a carbon renewal technology . The resulting product, Naia Renew, is being launched this fall. The company describes it as “a cellulosic yarn sourced from 100 percent circular content, produced from 60 percent certified wood fibers and 40 percent recycle waste plastics.” Used textiles are another potential feedstock for Naia, creating a virtuous cycle that turns no-longer-wearable garments back into new ones. Eastman is in discussions with leading fashion brands about the potential of take-back programs in the future, Steve Crawford, Eastman’s chief technology and sustainability officer, told me during my visit. “They could collect the garments, send them to us, and we could make them back into the same fiber to make new garments.” Mining landfills? There’s yet another disruptive opportunity here: mining landfills to cull plastic waste to be “renewed” through Eastman’s processes. The company says it is working closely with waste management companies to evaluate how to create the availability of such feedstock. “As part of our work, there’s a lot of focus on how we partner, how we collaborate with the parties in this space,” explained Cathy Combs, Eastman’s director of sustainability. “How do we create an infrastructure that will be able to supply chemical recycling?”  “We’ve demonstrated that the new Eastman recycling technologies are capable of utilizing a broad array of waste plastics, including plastics that aren’t currently utilized in mechanical recycling,” Crawford added. “But we’ll need to partner with key players in both the waste collection and waste management systems, and key end-use value chains. We also need brands to help create demand for these materials to become valuable sources of feedstocks for these new technologies.” Of course, all of this innovation is taking place amid a pandemic, not to mention what appears to be a global recession. The textiles sector, like most others, has taken a hit from COVID-19, with a dramatic slowdown in global retail sales resulting in global supply-chain disruption, furloughs throughout the value chain and mounting inventories and liquidity challenges. But industry participants and influencers believe the textiles industry will emerge with an increased emphasis on sustainability as the industry rebuilds, said Jon Woods, Eastman’s general manager of textiles and nonwovens. Mark Costa, for his part, remains bullish on the company’s future, including on the impact the company could have both locally and globally — particularly in the economic development that come from mining plastics from local waste streams. “I think there’s going to be real economic opportunity, and a lot of small-business job creation — which is great for this country as well as in Europe — who are going to jump into this,” he told me. “I mean, the waste management guys will do it, and they’ll be big and at scale. But there’s also a lot of opportunity for local, small businesses to work with municipalities on how to do that. And just like we saw with carpet and the way they densified it, people are going to get creative. Once there’s policy and economic incentive, that’s what America does great.” There’s going to be real economic opportunity, and a lot of small-business job creation — which is great for this country as well as in Europe — who are going to jump into this. Costa believes that technologies such as CRT and PRT can give new life to plastics recycling if they can dramatically improve its economics. “The aluminum guys would have never succeeded if they could only take 10 to 20 percent of the aluminum and had to throw away 80 percent. I doubt you’d have high aluminum recycling rates because you just couldn’t justify the effort.” And, he added, some of Eastman’s sustainability and circular ingenuity just might rub off on the beleaguered chemical sector. “Everyone wants to focus on the things that are negative about the chemical industry, and we have lots of room for improvement. So, how do we collaborate to take this seriously, which I think the industry very much does right now, and solve the next set of solutions to make the environment better at the same time as you’re improving quality of life? That’s our ultimate goal. That’s what we get up every day trying to focus on doing.” 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. Pull Quote If it works, this old-line corporate icon could find itself a leading light in the emerging circular economy. Eastman’s ability to turn all plastics back into their constituent molecules is a potential game-changer. Naia is made in a closed-loop process, in which chemical inputs — acetic acid and acetone — are continuously recycled. There’s going to be real economic opportunity, and a lot of small-business job creation — which is great for this country as well as in Europe — who are going to jump into this. Topics Circular Economy Leadership Plastic Waste Recycling Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An aerial view of Eastman’s Kingsport, Tennessee headquarters facility. Courtesy Eastman Close Authorship

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Inside Eastman’s moonshot goal for endlessly circular plastics

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