3 big trends headlining a tumultuous year in food

December 11, 2020 by  
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3 big trends headlining a tumultuous year in food Jim Giles Fri, 12/11/2020 – 01:45 I’m going to try to make sense of this tumultuous year, starting with three trends from the past 12 months that I see as key to the immediate future of food. 1. An insane year for alternative proteins The trend: By Dec. 1, venture capitalists invested a whopping $1.5 billion in alternative proteins during 2020, according to the latest data from the Good Food Institute . That money — close to double the 2019 total — is making the industry increasingly visible. At the start of the year, the Impossible Burger was available in around 150 stores — now you can find it in more than 15,000. Newer alt proteins are also coming. Just last week, Singapore became the first country to approve the sale of lab-grown meat . And while the field may not need further incentives, it got one anyway: This week, the XPRIZE Foundation announced a new $15 million competition focused on chicken and fish alternatives .  The twist: Moving fast means breaking things. I see two bumps in the road. First, alternatives have a tiny market share because animal meat is cheap and, for now, tastes better. Consumption of animal products should and will decrease, but many alt protein brands and startups will disappear before that happens. The second challenge was summed up by the French ag minister’s response to the news from Singapore : “Meat comes from life, not from laboratories. Count on me so that in France, meat remains natural and never artificial!” I’d bet on seeing more of a backlash against alt proteins. The question is whether it will dent the industry’s trajectory. My take: The minister should visit a concentrated animal feeding operation and explain why he describes what happens there as “natural.” 2. How committed is your company? The trend: Where do we start? How about June, when Unilever committed to zeroing-out emissions from all its products by 2039 ? Or last week, when Nestlé, the world’s largest food company, said it would spend  $3.6 billion over the next five years as it moves toward a 2050 net-zero target? Or back in March at Horizon Organic, a U.S. dairy brand that committed to going carbon-negative by 2025 ? Those are just the first three that come to mind in a bumper year for target-setting. The twist: What’s the rest of the industry doing? Far less, in many cases. When experts at CDP, a nonprofit that tracks sustainability commitments, surveyed 479 food and ag companies , only 75 reported having emissions commitments in line with the Paris Agreement. The situation is worse for deforestation. Around half of companies that source soy told CDP that they can track their purchases to the country of origin and no further. This means that when it comes to Brazil and other forest nations, most food companies are blind as to whether their soy comes from newly cleared land. My take: I’m going for glass half-full, at least on emissions. The industry is way behind where it should be, but every company that sets a meaningful target heaps a little more pressure on those that haven’t. 3. The rush for regenerative ag  The trend: Another area where a flood of new initiatives in 2020 made it challenging to keep up. Big industry names such as Bayer and Cargill said they would help farmers transition to regenerative methods, and big names from the wider corporate world — JPMorgan Chase and IBM, for instance — bought some of the first carbon credits from Indigo Carbon, an soil offsets marketplace. Nori, an Indigo competitor, closed a $4 million funding round . Another disruptive company, Farmers Business Network, launched a service designed to help farmers earn a premium from regeneratively farmed grain . Again, those are just the first examples that come to mind. The twist: No one disputes that these efforts will be good for soil health. But do regenerative methods sequester as much carbon as advocates claim? Some prominent experts think not. In May, the World Resources Institute warned of regenerative ag’s ” limited potential to mitigate climate change .” If so, should we be building an offsets market around soil credits? Again, experts have doubts: One important step toward such a market, the creation of a protocol for soil carbon offsets, was the subject of multi-pronged criticism . My take: If I’m honest, this worries the hell out of me. Imagine the PR storm if a big company shrinks its carbon footprint using credits that later come under attack in the media. The ensuing controversy could do huge damage to efforts to pay farmers to store carbon in soils. That’s it for part one of my 2020 roundup. Look for more of my reflections (and maybe some predictions) before the end of December.  This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Topics Food & Agriculture Alternative Protein Regenerative Agriculture Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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3 big trends headlining a tumultuous year in food

It’s Giving Tuesday! Here are some eco-friendly ways to get involved

December 1, 2020 by  
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After the extreme materialism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes an opportunity to support your favorite causes — without acquiring more stuff. Instead, Giving Tuesday encourages people to do good. Since its creation in 2012, the day has turned into a global movement inspiring generosity. Here’s how to celebrate, plus some environmental charities to consider supporting. Ways to give The most obvious way to give on Giving Tuesday is through a monetary donation — and we’ll get to that in a minute — but don’t let a shortage of cash keep you from participating. If you have more time than money, donating volunteer hours can make a huge difference. You could also give voice as an activist, advocating for your nearest and dearest causes by signing petitions or amplifying their messages through your social media accounts. Maybe you have a special talent that a nonprofit organization needs, such as being able to consult on HR or IT. Taproot matches talented volunteers with the organizations that need their skills. You can also donate goods. Do you still have gifts from past holidays that you never or barely used? Consider giving those unused gifts to somebody who needs them more. Related: Survey shows most adults prefer volunteering at local parks and recreation areas Environmental causes to support The number of nonprofits that need support is truly staggering. Whether your heart lies with trees, the climate, whales or just about anything else, you’ll find an organization thrilled to accept your donation. Here are just a few of the many worthy environmental charities you might choose to support on Giving Tuesday. Cool Effect This crowdfunding platform began in 1998 by supporting clean-burning woodstoves in Honduras. Now, Cool Effect helps people support carbon-reducing projects around the world. As the nonprofit puts it, “We have made reducing carbon pollution as simple as tapping a button. Together, small actions can ignite planet-sized change.” All those small actions add up. Cool Effect has already reduced carbon emissions by more than 2 million metric tons. Heal the Bay This environmental nonprofit works to make water around Greater Los Angeles safe for marine life and human recreation. Heal the Bay started 35 years ago to protect the Santa Monica Bay. Now, the nonprofit provides water quality information every week for 450 California beaches. That’s a big job. They also monitor the quality of popular freshwater recreation areas such as the Malibu Creek, LA River and San Gabriel River watersheds. Rainforest Alliance This famous, internationally known nonprofit conserves biodiversity and helps ensure sustainable livelihoods for people who toil in rainforests. If you’ve ever bought a product with a certification seal featuring a frog, that’s the Rainforest Alliance letting you know that the product is environmentally sound and contributes to socioeconomic sustainability. Giving Tuesday is a good time to remember and help the lungs of our planet. Sea Turtle Conservancy Just about everybody likes turtles , so a donation to the Sea Turtle Conservancy in your friend or family member’s name could make for a great holiday gift. There are many turtle-focused organizations these days, but the Florida-based Sea Turtle Conservancy is the oldest. Founded in 1959, it was instrumental in raising turtle awareness and saving the Caribbean green turtle from the brink of extinction. Louisiana Environmental Action Network Louisiana is a beautiful state, but it is also one that has been unfairly exploited by petrochemical companies and other similarly toxic industries. Since the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN)’s founding in 1986, it has served as a voice for Louisianans who want to live in their state without seeing its beauty destroyed and their family members felled by cancer. The organization can use your spare dollars to continue the fight against huge polluting industries. Human Access Project Portland’s Willamette River has historically served as a dumping ground for industry. But a massive cleanup effort has made the Willamette safe for recreation. Still, locals are leery. Since 2010, the Human Access Project (HAP) has worked to improve the river’s reputation and increase people’s access to it. HAP is responsible for hosting an annual inner tube party on the river called The Big Float, organizing the River Huggers Swim Team and helping to build river beaches for people to swim, launch their kayaks or just hang out. Bat Conservation International People often fear bats , but these mysterious little creatures are crucial to ecosystems. Many have already died from human encroachment and white-nose syndrome. Bat Conservation International focuses its attention on the world’s most vulnerable bats and their habitats. The organization always remembers that it may be operating as a guest in other countries. “We are respectful visitors to the countries where we work — seeking to learn, understand, and honor the historical, cultural, political, and economic context of our projects,” BCI states on its website. Appalachian Trail Conservancy If you’re a hiker, you’ve probably thought about those usually unseen people who spend countless hours building and maintaining trails. Where would we be without them? Lost in the bushes. Remember your favorite trails on Giving Tuesday. Perhaps a donation to preserve the pathways, forests and clean water of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy would be in order. Community Solidarity If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you could donate to Community Solidarity , the largest all-vegetarian hunger relief food program in the U.S. Community Solidarity serves people in the New York City and Long Island areas with free groceries and warm, vegan meals. Defenders of Wildlife Can’t decide between supporting manatees, wolves or prairie chickens? Help them all with a donation to Defenders of Wildlife . The organization’s mission is to protect and restore endangered wildlife across North America and beyond. You can also help out by purchasing branded merchandise or supporting its adopt-an-animal program. Natural Resources Defense Council Founded in 1970, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a big organization that helps the environment in many ways. The New York Times has called NRDC one of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups. The organization works on overarching issues like food waste, wildlife conservation, climate change and renewable energy. + Giving Tuesday Images via Kat Yukawa , Joel Muniz and Josh Hild

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It’s Giving Tuesday! Here are some eco-friendly ways to get involved

Nwa, the design for a self-sustaining city on Mars

November 23, 2020 by  
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As part of scientific work for a competition organized by the Mars Society, an American non-profit dedicated to exploring the Red Planet, architecture firm Abiboo has unveiled design concepts for a sustainable city on  Mars . The project, called Nüwa, ranked as a finalist among 175 projects submitted from around the world for the 2020 competition. Abiboo presented the Nüwa proposal at the Mars Society convention in October, which was attended by Elon Musk from Space X, George Whitesides from Virgin Galactic and Jim Bridenstine from NASA. Working remotely from several global destinations, Abiboo collaborated with the SONet network on the project. This network includes an international team of scientists headed by  astrophysicist  Guillem Anglada and experts in astrophysics, architecture, astrobiology, space engineering, astrogeology, psychology and chemistry. Related: NASA Mars Habitat Challenge winner is a 3D-printed pod made of biodegradable materials To address the unique and harsh atmospheric conditions, the design features a vertical concept built into the side of a cliff. There are five cities , each accommodating between 200,000 and 250,000 inhabitants. Each city, apart from the capital city of Nüwa, follows the same urban strategy to make it flexible enough to apply to multiple surface areas on the planet. Modular , tubular “macro-buildings” are inserted into the cliffs through tunneling, linked together by a 3D network of tunnels and designed to include both residential and work spaces. The infrastructure also connects to “sky lobbies” designed with translucent skin and large overflying canopies that provide views of the Martian landscape and protection from external radiation. These canopies are constructed out of material recovered from the cliff’s tunneling excavation. Each module measures 10 meters by 60 meters and includes two floors with green areas, urban gardens, art spaces and condensation areas that help dissipate heat and clean air. The community  green spaces  include animals and bodies of water to promote physical and mental well-being, one type dedicated to experimental vegetation and another type acting solely as a recreational park. + Abiboo Images via ABIBOO Studio / SONet (Gonzalo Rojas & Sebastián Rodriguez)

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Nwa, the design for a self-sustaining city on Mars

The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

November 12, 2020 by  
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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people? Alan Hoffman Thu, 11/12/2020 – 00:01 Are your transportation plans letting you down? Regions everywhere have adopted ambitious goals for their long-range plans, from climate change to land use to reductions in automotive dependency. Yet even with decades of spending on creating new transit and bicycle infrastructure, many cities still struggle to see the kinds of changes in their travel and growth patterns that point toward resilience and sustainability. COVID-19 has highlighted these issues, upending travel patterns and choices with what may be permanent reductions in office commuting, as well as big impacts on transit and shared ride services. At the same time, COVID-19 has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink our use of public space, much of which has been dedicated to automotive movement (roads) and storage (parking). Transportation planning can lead to better outcomes by focusing on three parallel strategies: Identify what solutions look like Invert the order of planning Update your computerized planning models 1. Identifying solutions Too often, transportation projects are pushed through with no clear sense of whether they will be able to solve the problems for which they are intended. Planners and politicians jump to efficiency and expansion before effectiveness can be established. Once planners learn how to produce a desired solution, then they can engage in value engineering by asking how they can achieve desired results more efficiently. A perfect example of this is Curitiba, Brazil, famed as one of the innovators of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Curitiba didn’t set out to develop a BRT system. What it did was identify, up-front, what its ideal transit network should look like. In its case, it was a subway (metro) system with five arms radiating out of downtown and a set of concentric ring routes surrounding the center. Curitiba’s “solution” to creating an effective transit network was based on five major corridors radiating from downtown and a set of concentric rings linking major transfer stations (“integration terminals”). Subways are incredibly expensive to build. So Curitiba’s leaders asked themselves how they could replicate the functionality of their ideal network as quickly as possible with available resources. They decided to create their ideal subway system on the surface, running extra-long buses along dedicated transitways in the centers of their major roads. Enclosed stations with level boarding were spaced every 500 meters (three to a mile). Major integration terminals, about every 1.2 to 1.9 miles apart, serve surface subway lines, an extensive regional express network, and local buses. They also feature government services, recreation centers, shops and eateries. This transit corridor in Curitiba features a dedicated center-running busway with auto traffic and parking relegated to the sides of the boulevard and to parallel roads. Besides moving passenger loads normally associated with rail systems, the strategy was tied to a land use plan that placed most of the region’s denser land uses within one block of surface subway lines. Use of transit for commuting rose from about 7 percent in the early 1970s to over 70 percent by the 2000s. As a look at the skyline of Curitba reveals, the city literally and conspicuously developed around its transit network. By restricting high densities to “surface subway” corridors, Curitiba literally grew around its transit system. Besides preserving more land for single-family homes, this strategy reduced the impacts of new growth substantially. 2. Invert the order of planning The order of planning reflects the priority assigned to different modes as solutions to your goals. It is fair to say that most regional strategies today embrace the importance of modes such as transit and bicycling, yet this is rarely reflected in the order of planning. Most cities begin or center their transportation planning by focusing on optimizing their automotive systems: expanding capacity; improving signaling; building new roads, often dictated by where road congestion is at its worst. The logic is impeccable: the auto is the primary mover of people, and too many new transit and bicycle projects have shifted only a relatively small number of trips, highlighting popular preferences. Once the automotive system is optimized, transit planning is then asked to fit around the automobile. In most places, transit either shares the right of way with cars or is delayed by traffic signals and cross traffic. In some cases, corridors are identified which could support rail or BRT infrastructure. Pedestrian circulation is then asked to fit around car traffic and transit. Finally, the bicycle is asked to fit around everything else. This bicycle lane along an 50 mph expressway in California puts cyclists at great risk from distracted drivers. The alternative is to engage in Advanced Urban Visioning, a process that identifies what optimized or ideal systems look like, much as Curitiba did decades ago. You get there by inverting the order of planning. You begin with transit, allowing an ideal network to emerge from a detailed analysis of urban form (how your region is laid out) and trip patterns. An optimized transit system focuses on three key dimensions: network structure (how you connect places); system performance (how long it takes to get from origins to destinations); and customer experience (essentially, what a person feels and perceives while moving through the system). The goal is to connect more people more directly to more likely destinations in less time, with an experience that makes them feel good about their choice of transit. The transit network at this point is still diagrammatic, a set of nodes and links more than a set of physical routes. Even so, it likely looks little like your current transit plan. This aerial of central San Diego shows many principal nodes of the zone and the likely connections between and among them. The rapid transit map, meanwhile, looks little like this network. Why does transit go first? To begin with, transit often requires heavy infrastructure, be it tracks, transitways, bus lanes, stations or garages. Stations, in particular, need to be located where they will do the most good; even short distances in the wrong direction can make a big difference in public uptake of transit. Second, transit otherwise takes up relatively little urban space when compared to the car. For example, two-lane busways in Australia move as many people during the peak hour as a 20-lane freeway would move. Third, transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Getting from an idealized transit network to an actual plan happens through a staging plan that focuses on “colonizing” whatever existing road infrastructure is needed, and specifying new infrastructure where necessary to meet strategic goals. In practice, this means identifying locations where new transitways, surface or grade-separated (free of cross-traffic or pedestrian crossings), can meet performance and connectivity goals. Planners also need to devise routes that minimize travel time and transfers for core commuting trips. Transit at this stage is free to take space from the auto, where warranted, to meet performance goals subject to expected demand. Brisbane, Australia’s, Busway system includes many grade-separations (bridges and tunnels) so that buses can operate unimpeded by traffic. Once an optimized transit plan is identified, the next step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to develop an idealized bicycle network. Drawing on the lessons of the Netherlands, perhaps the global leader when it comes to effective bicycle infrastructure, this network is designed and optimized to provide a coherent, direct, safe, and easy-to-use set of separated bikeways designed to minimize conflicts with moving vehicles and pedestrians. This approach is a far cry from the piecemeal incrementalism of many cities. It also gives the bicycle priority over cars when allocating space in public rights of way. Amsterdam and other Dutch cities have some of the best-developed bicycle infrastructure in the world, providing cyclists with an extensive network of separated bike lanes. The third step in Advanced Urban Visioning is to use major transit nodes to create new “people space”: walking paths; public plazas; parklands; and open space trail networks. These may colonize land occupied with motor vehicles. These new spaces and parklands also may be used to organize transit-oriented development; the combination of optimized transit and bicycle networks; and park access can increase the value of such development. In this example, from a conceptual plan developed for San Diego, a strategic investment zone (SIZ), supporting high-density residential and commercial uses, wraps around a linear park and two proposed community parks. The proposed underground transit and surface parks together add significant value to the SIZ, some of which may be captured through an Infrastructure Finance District mechanism to help fund much of the project. Only after transit, bicycles and pedestrians are accommodated is it time to optimize the automotive realm. But something happens when these alternative modes are optimized to the point that they are easy, convenient and time-competitive with driving: large numbers of people shift from personal vehicles to these other travel modes. a result, the auto is no longer needed to move large numbers of people to denser nodes, and investments in roadways and parking shift to other projects. The power of Advanced Urban Visioning is that it gives you clear targets to aim at so that actual projects can stage their way to the ultimate vision, creating synergies that amplify the impacts of each successive stage. It turns the planning process into a strategic process, and helps avoid expensive projects that are appealing on one level but ultimately unable to deliver the results we need from our investments in infrastructure. San Diego Connected, a conceptual plan developed at the request of the Hillcrest business community, demonstrates Advanced Urban Visioning in action, combining bicycle, transit, pedestrian and automotive improvements that optimize their potential contribution to the region. Advanced Urban Visioning doesn’t conflict with government-required planning processes; it precedes them. For example, the AUV process may identify the need for specialized infrastructure in a corridor, while the Alternatives Analysis process can be used to determine the time-frame where such infrastructure becomes necessary given its role in a network. 3. Update your models For Advanced Urban Visioning to make its greatest contribution to regions, analysis tools need to measure and properly account for truly optimized systems. Most regional agencies maintain detailed regional travel models, computer simulations of how people get around and the tradeoffs they make when considering modes. Many of these models work against Advanced Urban Visioning. The models are designed generally to test responsiveness to modest or incremental changes in a transportation network, but they are much weaker at understanding consumer response to very different networks or systems. Regions can sharpen the ability of their models to project use of alternative modes by committing to a range of improvements: Incorporate market segmentation. Not all people share the same values. Market segmentation can help identify who is most likely to respond to different dimensions of service. Better understand walking. Some models include measures as of quality of the walking environment. For example, shopping mall developers have long known that the same customer who would balk at walking more than 492 feet to get from their parked car to a mall entrance will happily walk 1,312 feet once inside to get to their destination. Likewise, people are not willing to walk as far at the destination end of a trip as they are at the origin end, yet most models don’t account for this difference. Better measure walking distance. Not only do most models not account for differences in people’s disposition to walk to access transit, they don’t even bother to measure the actual distances. Better account for station environment and micro-location. We know from market research that many people are far more willing to use transit if it involves waiting at a well-designed station, as opposed to a more typical bus stop on the side of a busy road. Incorporate comparative door-to-door travel times. No model I am aware of includes comparative door-to-door travel time (alternative mode vs. driving), yet research continually has demonstrated the importance of overall trip time to potential users of competing modes. Conclusion Advanced Urban Visioning offers a powerful tool for regions that are serious about achieving a major transformation in their sustainability and resilience. By clarifying what optimal transportation networks look like for a region, it can give planners and the public a better idea of what is possible. It inverts the traditional order of planning, ensuring that each mode can make the greatest possible contribution toward achieving future goals. Pull Quote Transit, when well-matched to a region, significantly can shape how that city grows, as access to a useful transit network becomes highly valued. Topics Cities Transportation & Mobility Urban Planning Public Transit Meeting of the Minds Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off New York City subway Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash. Close Authorship

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The ‘order of planning’ determines transit priorities. What if we inverted it to prioritize people?

Financing zero: The road to emission-free fleets

November 4, 2020 by  
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Financing zero: The road to emission-free fleets Tali Zuckerman Wed, 11/04/2020 – 02:00 In recent years, electric vehicle (EV) adoption has accelerated in the world of personal cars. Now, as ambitious climate goals gain momentum and renewable energy prices drop, attention is turning towards scaling such systems for commercial transport. But before zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) fleets can hit the road, stakeholders must find innovative ways to finance them in a way that is accessible, affordable and attractive to corporate buyers.   At the VERGE 20 conference last week, industry experts working on this very question joined moderator Niki Okuk, alternative fuels program manager at CALSTART, to discuss the biggest financial barriers to making large-scale ZEV deployments a reality and the innovative financial tools being designed to address them. Challenges on the road to commercial ZEVs One key challenge addressed by the panelists is the volatility of renewable energy — both in price and physical availability. Vic Shao, chief executive of charging infrastructure company Amply Power, highlighted that while fossil-fuel prices typically fluctuate about 25 percent per year, renewable energy prices can experience shocks of up to 400 percent in just one day. For large-scale fleet managers, this makes adopting ZEV solutions incredibly tricky.  “The CFOs of the organization can’t really understand the cost structure over weeks, months and years,” said Chelle Izzi, executive director of NextEra Energy Resources. “That makes it difficult for us to scale up.” Prices also vary across countries and states, due to inconsistencies in taxes and policies. Pooling a bunch of these different challenges under 1 contract would manage some of that new technology risk and those demand charge risks. In terms of physical abundance of electricity, Izzi was quick to add: “I had a power outage this week — it’s not just theoretical.” She was referencing proactive power shutdowns in Northern California made in late October to prevent the spread of wildfires. When looking to transition fleets to vehicles that use renewable energy, owners and managers must plan such instability into their operations from the start — a fact that makes financial forecasts and plans quite difficult, the panelists said. This reality is compounded by the lack of expansive infrastructure to support large-scale fleets. While EV charging stations have been popping up around the country, they are not enough to reliably power full commercial fleets, the panelists noted. Developing an ZEV infrastructure requires an immense upfront investment and introduces operational risks related to the general uncertainty and immaturity of the market. Andrew Kessler, a managing director at the NY Green Bank who works on financing such projects, said this risk has translated to limited access to capital for small companies trying to scale innovative solutions. Finance to the rescue Despite these challenges, the panelists remained hopeful. Each has introduced innovative solutions that range from new financing models to investment in research for disruptive innovations and technologies.  Discussing ZEV fleets in New York state, Kessler said that his team hopes to push agencies to evaluate these investments using operational expense financing models rather than considering the cost solely from a capital expenditure perspective. Using an OpEx financing model could make fleet conversion more affordable by providing purchasers the opportunity to make smaller payments over time, he said. Battery leasing is another model gaining traction, according to the panelists. Currently, batteries are the most expensive part of an electric vehicle; this model allows customers to purchase a vehicle upfront minus the battery, which is paid for in small increments comparable in cost to purchasing fuel for traditional trucks or buses. Although battery-leasing programs are still mostly under development, Kessler pointed to one successful collaboration in the field by companies Proterra and Mitsui, currently leasing batteries for an all-electric bus fleet in Park City, Utah. Leasing batteries also could become more affordable for fleets if stakeholders can determine that batteries have a higher residual value (such as for reuse or recycling). If lenders can be guaranteed some value at the end of a lease period, they can charge less for individual lease payments without losing out on profit, the panelists said. Fleets of ZEVs also could become more attractive through innovative bundling of products and infrastructure services, which may help mitigate the current fluctuations in cost and supply of renewable energy. “Pooling a bunch of these different challenges under one contract would manage some of that new technology risk and those demand charge risks,” explained Izzi. We are comfortable with that risk, but how we work with the operators and the degradation as a result of how they actually use the vehicles is a different risk that we all have to figure out together. Shao said Amply aspires to develop software to better understand, monitor and plan a fleet’s energy use, something which also could lower operational risks and make investments easier to justify. Finally, each panelist stressed the importance of finding a way to properly distribute risk between operators, manufacturers and investors in order to unlock more stable financing mechanisms and returns in the future. “We are very comfortable with storage as a technology, understanding degradation and the forward cost curves,” Izzi said. “We are comfortable with that risk, but how we work with the operators and the degradation as a result of how they actually use the vehicles is a different risk that we all have to figure out together.” Key takeaways Throughout the session, several themes reverberated between speakers. First, each panelist stressed the need for public-private partnerships in the industry. While public subsidies have contributed to the preliminary infrastructure for fleet electrification, private investment is necessary to truly scale ZEV fleets. Second, they discussed the ROI of electric fleets, each comparing the current state of the commercial ZEV market to that of solar power in the early days. Although investments now are full of risk, they also promise high rewards over time. Conversely, as ZEVs become commonplace, investment costs will plummet, but so will payoffs.  Third, each panelist mentioned the importance of market-based tools and tactics to prove returns, attract private capital and achieve the flexibility needed to support a growing market.  The tone of the panel was undeniably one of confidence in the promise of innovative financing to get ZEV’s to the finish line. “The appetite for growth is there,” concluded Izzi. “We all believe that we can bring the scalability of what we have done in renewables to EV infrastructure … once the vehicles and pricing are there.” Pull Quote Pooling a bunch of these different challenges under 1 contract would manage some of that new technology risk and those demand charge risks. We are comfortable with that risk, but how we work with the operators and the degradation as a result of how they actually use the vehicles is a different risk that we all have to figure out together. Topics Transportation & Mobility VERGE 20 Electric Vehicles Fleet Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Rendering of Amply’s Anaheim Transportation Network site. Courtesy of Amply Power Close Authorship

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Gina McCarthy: Protecting the planet for all people

November 4, 2020 by  
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Gina McCarthy: Protecting the planet for all people Sara Murphy Wed, 11/04/2020 – 01:30 Gina McCarthy thinks we should be more ambitious in our goals for a thriving planet and an equitable society. The former EPA administrator and current president and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has been a leading advocate for smart, successful strategies to protect public health and the environment for more than 30 years. During a  VERGE 20  virtual event Friday, McCarthy talked with GreenBiz co-founder Joel Makower about how racial justice and climate justice go hand in hand, and what we need to do to assure a bright future for everyone’s children. “We’re facing a lot of challenges at once,” McCarthy noted, “but they’re also an incredible signal about the future we need to deliver and the way to get there.” The first challenge is the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, we are facing a racial reckoning that is long overdue. Third, many people are feeling the painful effects of the economic fallout from the pandemic. Finally, the climate crisis is worse than it’s ever been. For too long, climate change was viewed as a problem for the planet instead of a problem for people. What do these four challenges have in common? “They stem from the system we chose when we grabbed and relied on fossil fuels,” McCarthy said. “For too long, climate change was viewed as a problem for the planet instead of a problem for people. The planet doesn’t give a damn if we’re around — we do!” McCarthy pointed out that we can protect our planet and natural resources in a way that grows jobs and well-being. “We have solutions,” she said. “Let’s grow the demand for them.” Social imperative McCarthy focused strongly on the need for equitable action in the face of society’s four major challenges, noting that data on COVID-19 show the disease is killing twice as many exposed Black people as their white counterparts. McCarthy observed that the pandemic is one more example of how our system has left some communities behind, drawing a parallel to the disproportionate impact of climate change and pollution on communities of color. “They’re in the crosshairs of the danger,” she said. McCarthy thinks that we as individuals must reckon with the fact that we can take action in our own communities. If we commit to doing so, the solutions will come, she said. McCarthy discussed regulators’ role in delivering solutions, noting the EPA’s obligation to protect people’s health. The agency sets standards that send market signals, she said, which supports growth and expansion. Business community role Big business needs to look at its entire supply chain and be transparent in how it tells us what it’s valuing, McCarthy said, so consumers can make choices accordingly. While we’re making progress on this front, we still have a long way to go, she said. “We’re not talking about sacrifices, but rather benefits,” McCarthy explained. I want twofers and threefers. I want something better than survival. Why aren’t we wanting it all and demanding it all? For example, people can make money from technological expansion, among other types of innovation. The transformation we need demands significant work in transportation, McCarthy offered. She sees no question that electric vehicles are the wave of the future, and we just need to work to get the technology up to critical mass by expanding the relevant infrastructure via public-private partnerships and other mechanisms. The same applies to hydrogen technologies for heavy vehicles and more. “If we work at the state level, it won’t matter who’s sitting at the federal level,” McCarthy opined. “If we drive the kind of change we want at every level of government, it will open up markets everywhere.” Trade-offs? “I want twofers and threefers,” McCarthy exclaimed, referring to the idea that we can and should have multiple ambitious goals at the same time. “I want something better than survival. Why aren’t we wanting it all and demanding it all?” She highlighted the imperative to raise up everybody in the process, pointing to the need for better housing, clean air and clean water for communities left behind by systemic racism. McCarthy also emphasized the United States’ outsized obligation to the rest of the world, given that “we’ve been shipping our pollution elsewhere, merrily going on our way as if we didn’t do that. We have a shot at an equitable, healthy, sustainable future. There is no reason we have to compromise on those goals.” Message of hope? Wrapping up her comments, McCarthy enjoined everyone to hug their children and to listen to them about the future they want. She called upon all parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, godparents and caregivers to deliver a future for the children in their lives that would bring them pride. “We humans care about taking care of our families more than anything else,” McCarthy concluded. “Let’s use that to lift all families up.” Pull Quote For too long, climate change was viewed as a problem for the planet instead of a problem for people. I want twofers and threefers. I want something better than survival. Why aren’t we wanting it all and demanding it all? Topics Policy & Politics VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Then EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks to the National Press Club on climate change and power plants in September 2013. Shutterstock Albert H. Teich Close Authorship

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Gina McCarthy: Protecting the planet for all people

Earth Overshoot Day comes 3 weeks later this year

August 14, 2020 by  
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In more silver-lining news related to COVID-19 , humanity’s ecological footprint contracted this year more than any time since researchers started tracking it in the 1970s. Earth Overshoot Day will fall three weeks later this year than it did in 2019. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, Earth Overshoot Day isn’t exactly a holiday. The date changes year to year and marks the time when humans’ use of ecological resources and services exceeds what our planet can regenerate in a year. This year, Earth Overshoot Day will fall on August 22, according to the Global Footprint Network. Last year, the grim day came three weeks earlier, on July 29. While this is a significant improvement, it still falls noticeably short, with humanity using a year’s worth of resources with more than four months of the year still to go. Related: Every year, humanity ‘overshoots’ the natural resources earth can replenish The Global Footprint Network calculates Earth Overshoot Day by dividing Earth’s biocapacity, or the amount of natural resources the planet can generate that year, by people’s demand for those resources. Then it multiplies the ratio by 365. We have COVID-19 to thank for this year’s 9.3% reduction of our ecological footprint. When you put humans on lockdown, carbon dioxide emissions suddenly drop. “This shift in the year-to-year date of Earth Overshoot Day represents the greatest ever single-year shift since the beginning of global overshoot in the early 1970s,” according to  the Earth Overshoot Calculation Report 2020. “In several instances the date was pushed back temporarily, such as in the aftermath of the post-2008 Great Recession, but the general trend remains that of a consistent upward trajectory.” Humanity is currently burning through natural resources 1.6 times faster than Earth can regenerate. So unless we can find an extra .6 planet, we will either have to change our ways ASAP or run short of resources. The Global Footprint Network’s ambitious goal is to move Earth Overshoot Day back five days per year, so that by 2050, we will be living within our ecological means. The group’s website suggests ways that people can move the date by focusing on five areas: cities, food , population, energy and planet. + Earth Overshoot Day Images via Earth Overshoot Day and Arek Socha

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Earth Overshoot Day comes 3 weeks later this year

How tree-planting startup Propagate Ventures monetizes land conservation

July 9, 2020 by  
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How tree-planting startup Propagate Ventures monetizes land conservation Heather Clancy Thu, 07/09/2020 – 01:30 Earlier this year, when I was chatting with venture capitalist Nancy Pfund of DBL Partners about which new areas of climate solutions were intriguing to her, she pointed to business models that had the potential to monetize land conservation. The example we discussed that day wasn’t one I would think of immediately: Better Place Forests, which is creating what it calls “conservation memorial forests.” It’s a different model for saving trees that takes a cue from the end-of-life industry.  Instead of buying a cemetery or mausoleum plot for cremated ashes, you or your family can pay toward the preservation of a tree —  the fee starts at $2,900. The ashes are mixed with soil at the base, along with a memorial marker. Currently, the company is protecting forests in Northern California and Arizona. But that’s not all: For every person and tree it memorializes, it plants at least 25 impact trees in collaboration with the nonprofit One Tree Planted . And as of July 2019, the company had raised $12 million in early-stage venture funding (led by True Ventures ) to help with its mission. When I started poking around to identify other for-profit ventures in the business of land conservation, two other organizations that have been working with Microsoft jumped to mind, both of which provide technology for mapping and measuring forests : Pachama and Silvia Terra .  In May, I spoke with another intriguing agroforestry startup, Propagate Ventures , part of the fall 2018 cohort at Elemental Excelerator. The company, which recently raised $1.5 million in seed funding from the Grantham Environmental Trust, is focused on helping agricultural operations figure out how to profit from planting trees.  How do we improve the pasture but make sure it isn’t a sink on the wallet? Like Pachama and Silvia Terra, Propagate’s competitive edge is analytics and information. It analyzes the costs of the investment, the potential revenue, the labor implications and the anticipated yield. Co-founder and CEO Ethan Steinberg said the concept is similar to the analysis tool a developer might use to assess the viability of a solar energy project.  “It’s focused on both the economics and the ecological value that is driven,” he told me. That includes formulating plans specific to keeping ownership of the investable assets (trees) separate from the real estate; that’s an important consideration for farmers who lease the land they are working. The idea is to help agricultural operations use land that is otherwise fallow or unused to plant trees, usually intended for fruit, nut or timber cultivation.  When I spoke with Steinberg, the company had more than 20 projects on the books — ranging from livestock producers looking for a source of shade for animals to those growing specialty grain crops who are looking to diversify their income. Most of these organizations so far are in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, where Propagate is proposing the most ecologically approach options for their particular region. “Farmers shouldn’t transition to something that isn’t viable for their land,” Steinberg said. What’s more, these arrangements generally are structured with a buyer or cultivation partners in place. “We are not having to recreate those relationships from scratch,” he noted. One organization testing out this model is Handsome Brook Farms , a network of pasture-raised egg farms in states including Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Chickens raised in this manner are free to roam in pastures — generally there are 400 birds to an acre. The farmers sell their eggs to Handsome Brook, which handles the processing and distribution. They have the autonomy to run their own operations, provided they meet the requirements for the pasture-raised model — the network farms are both certified and humane organic. Kristen Wharton, director of strategic planning and development for Handsome Brook, said the idea of incorporating nut trees on certain properties is appealing and it’s testing the idea over the next year with a limited number of farms, starting in Kentucky. The main concern is cost, but many farmers are also leery of managing a secondary project. “How do we improve the pasture but make sure it isn’t a sink on the wallet?” she mused. One possible option is a cost-sharing model, in which Handsome Brook would share some investment or investigate participation in grant programs that support soil health and water quality improvement projects, Wharton said. The top goal is to get the chickens to roam across a larger portion of the property, a habit that would counteract compacted soil and erosion around the barns where the hens take shelter. One question Handsome Brook hopes to answer: “How might this model set us apart?” What other for-profit agroforestry ventures have caught your attention? Share ideas with me at heather@greenbiz.com . This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe  here . Follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady. Pull Quote How do we improve the pasture but make sure it isn’t a sink on the wallet? Topics Food & Agriculture Conservation Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Fruit nut alley cropping in New York. Courtesy of Propagate Ventures Close Authorship

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How tree-planting startup Propagate Ventures monetizes land conservation

How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice

June 26, 2020 by  
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How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice Rachel Ramirez Fri, 06/26/2020 – 00:30 This story originally appeared in Grist;  and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story . “I can’t breathe.” These were among the final words that George Floyd and Eric Garner gasped before their deaths at the hands of white police officers. That plea has become part of the current rallying cry for racial justice and an end to police brutality in the United States. But for Black people living near industrial facilities, the phrase has an additional layer of meaning: a reminder of their disproportionate pollution burden. “While many in power seemed surprised that COVID-19 is killing twice as many Black Americans, those of us in the environmental justice movement know that the health impacts of cumulative and disproportionate levels of pollution in our communities have created underlying health conditions that contribute to our higher COVID-19 mortality rates,” said Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said at a virtual press conference in mid-June. Shepard is part of the National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBEJN) , a national coalition of Black environmental justice groups and grassroots activists founded in 1991. Although the network took a hiatus in 2006 after executive director Damu Smith died , the network just announced that it’s making a comeback against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and renewed calls to fight racial injustice. We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries. The network’s mission sends a clear message: Environmental injustice is not a single issue. Rather, it’s a constellation of issues including discrimination in housing, jobs and healthcare. It’s impossible to untangle Black communities’ current risks from America’s long history of racist policies and practices. Discriminatory policies such as banks’ government-sanctioned refusal to approve home loans and insurance for people in communities of color, also known as redlining, forced Black families into neighborhoods more likely to be exposed to industrial pollution and extreme heat . Now these same communities face a surge in unemployment and poverty rates as a result of the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic, and they also are  disproportionately dying from the novel coronavirus as a result of a lack of health insurance, unequal access to test sites and higher workplace exposure via employment in essential services. As if that weren’t enough, a recent Harvard study also found a link between air pollution and death from COVID-19. Given the systemic conditions that disproportionately expose Black people to the coronavirus pandemic, climate change and other worsening crises, NBEJN members — including the network’s co-chairs, environmental justice pioneers Robert Bullard and Beverly Wright — say they are looking to bring in Black lawyers, engineers, leaders and other experts to join forces to help create an equitable green stimulus package, take on the fossil fuel industry and fight the Trump administration’s seemingly endless orders to weaken environmental protections . “We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries,” said Bullard, an author and professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University. “The NBEJN is about dismantling systemic racism, and we’re talking about turning the dominant paradigm on its head.” Network leaders say COVID-19 recovery legislation could be an opportunity for lawmakers to pass a robust green stimulus package that would focus on environmental justice. Such a green stimulus package, the coalition said, needs to address core issues of systemic racism by, for example, providing green jobs to communities of color. NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America. “Green stimulus packages often only look at protecting the world, but not protecting people like us,” said Wright, executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. “Any stimulus package dealing with transportation to housing or whatever they’re talking about doing will have to include us and need to be viewed with equity and justice lenses.” Even if an equitable green stimulus package makes it through Congress and the White House, there still will be a lot more work to be done. Bullard said that even if the Democratic party wins the presidential election or takes control of the Senate, it will take time to reverse Trump-era environmental policy damages, including the country’s withdrawal from the 2016 Paris Agreement. Even then, he added, policymakers will need to take additional steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions and center frontline communities. And NBEJN leaders say the network will stick around to make sure those steps are taken. “Racism is baked into America’s DNA,” Bullard said. “NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America.” Pull Quote We see these environmental rollbacks as not just fast-tracking project permits, but as a fast-track to the emergency room and cemeteries. NBEJN is needed today to fight these conversing threats and underlying conditions that are denying Black people the right to breathe and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness enjoyed by white America. Topics COVID-19 Policy & Politics Environmental Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock Tverdokhlib Close Authorship

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How Black environmentalists are organizing to save the planet from injustice

Lyft plans to electrify all of its cars by 2030

June 17, 2020 by  
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Lyft plans to electrify all of its cars by 2030 Katie Fehrenbacher Wed, 06/17/2020 – 10:00 In an unprecedented move, the ride-hailing company Lyft revealed Wednesday it plans to electrify every car on its platform — those owned by Lyft and rented to drivers as well as cars owned by drivers — by 2030. The decade-long goal could result in millions of electric vehicles purchased for ride-hailing operations, encourage greater electric vehicle charging deployments and motivate stronger city, state and federal policies that could make EVs more economical. Lyft said its electric vehicle transition would remove more than 16 million tons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere by 2030, equivalent to taking 3 million traditional cars off the roads.  On a media call Wednesday, Lyft Chief Policy Officer Anthony Foxx (former Secretary of Transportation under President Barack Obama) described the announcement as “a big deal.” Lyft co-founder and President John Zimmer said, “It’s on us to lead. We’re looking at bold opportunities. We intend to push hard and lean into this.” Lyft has been exploring how to make its vehicle fleet more sustainable for a couple of years. But the new EV goal is a huge step for the company, which is in fierce competition with Uber and has been positioning itself as the friendlier ride-hailing choice.  Two years ago, Lyft launched a program to buy carbon offsets for all of the rides organized on its network. Lyft followed that up by launching “green mode” on its app. That feature lets riders in certain cities request a ride in an electric car, and drivers can rent electric vehicles through Lyft’s Express Drive program. In addition, Lyft operates bikes, e-bikes and e-scooters in certain regions and integrates its app with public transit data.  The new electric vehicle target, however, is a game-changing move that could transform the company and could provide environmental leadership to the rest of the ride-hailing industry. Lyft says in its release that “Lyft is willing to go first, but others need to follow if we want to hit mass-market electrification.” Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship GreenBiz Collage Close Authorship The move won’t be easy. Lyft recently announced a first-quarter loss of $85.2 million on quarterly revenue of $955.7 million, and said it plans to cut $300 million in expenses by the fourth quarter. While EVs can be cheaper to operate, compared to gasoline costs, high battery costs still can make many EVs more expensive than traditional cars. Many regions also still lack adequate public charging infrastructure. Shelter-in-place directives adopted to combat spread of the COVID-19 pandemic have battered ride-hailing companies as riders have stayed inside and avoided rides. But as states nationwide — and cities around the world — have started to open up for business, ride-hailing services have started to pick up.  Lyft says that the COVID-19 crisis forced the company to “rethink our priorities and focus on cost-effective investments. COVID-19 presented us with a choice to ‘hunker down or ‘grow back better’ by accelerating the transition to EVs. We are choosing to ‘grow back better’ by making sustainability an integral part of our path to profitability,” said the company in a statement. Light-duty electric vehicles, such as the General Motor’s Bolt or the Nissan LEAF, are being adopted by some public and commercial fleets for administrative work and are helping companies and cities cut fuel costs. These vehicles are particularly attractive in states such as California that have strong policies in place to incentivize EVs.  But ride-hailing companies face a unique challenge when it comes to electrifying their fleets. Most cars on their network are owned by drivers, many of whom already operate on low margins.  Lyft will need to take a systemic approach to try to make electric vehicles more attractive to its drivers, including influencing state policies, providing incentives and encouraging infrastructure providers to build out EV chargers for drivers.  All of the initial projects will be in the United States. Media Source Courtesy of Media Authorship Lyft Close Authorship Charging networks could be the biggest hurdle for the EV goal. A couple of years back in Washington, D.C., a lack of charging infrastructure flummoxed taxi drivers that agreed to adopt electric taxis. Like taxi drivers, ride-hailing drivers will have various needs for when they’d want to charge a vehicle, whether at home or at a ride-hailing charging depot, depending on where they live and their preferred routes. While the pandemic and recession likely will dampen sales of passenger EVs in the short term, electric vehicles are still expected to grow substantially over the next two decades. The researchers at Bloomberg New Energy Finance predict there will be 500 models of EVs available by 2022, and 28 percent of new vehicle sales globally will be electric by 2030. That percentage is supposed to grow to 58 percent of new sales by 2040.  Aggressive policies around the world are helping spur this electric transition. California’s clean air regulators (the California Air Resources Board, or CARB) are in the process of implementing a first-of-its-kind clean miles standard that requires the ride-hailing companies to have a certain portion of the miles driven through their platforms be with zero-emission vehicles.  Under the bill SB 1014, Lyft and Uber are required to submit electrification plans at the beginning of 2022, with the program beginning in 2023. In the first phase of the legislation, CARB established that the carbon emissions of Lyft and Uber’s vehicle fleet per passenger mile are over 50 percent higher than regular cars that drive on the roads. That’s largely because ride-hailing drivers travel around looking for passengers (called dead-head miles) for about 40 percent of their time. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) put out a report earlier this year that found that ride-hailing trips are 69 percent more polluting than the trips they replace. UCS’s Don Anair, the lead author on the report, said in an interview with GreenBiz: “It’s very clear that steps need to be taken to reduce climate emissions from ride hailing. Electrification is one of the largest steps to address these emissions.” Lyft says it plans to join The Climate Group’s EV100 group, which asks members to make commitments to electrify 100 percent of their fleets. Lyft is already a member of the RE100 group, which has pledged to use 100 percent clean energy by 2030.  Updated: This article was updated June 17 with information from Lyft’s media call. Topics Transportation & Mobility Ride Hailing Electric Vehicles Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Electrify America and Lyft partnered to bring chargers to Lyft EV drivers in Denver. Courtesy of Electrify America Close Authorship

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