From China’s stand to Walmart’s wish list: A Climate Week news cheat sheet

September 25, 2020 by  
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From China’s stand to Walmart’s wish list: A Climate Week news cheat sheet Heather Clancy Fri, 09/25/2020 – 00:30 As with virtually all gatherings of the climate community during the COVID age, this year’s Climate Week was convened as an online event — one hosted from more than 20 countries across myriad time zones rather than its usual host city of New York.  Instead of running between Manhattan locations, attendees platform-hopped among more than 450 presentations, panels, screenings and other events, including those hosted by the World Economic Forum and the United Nations, while iconic structures such as the Empire State Building turned their lights green to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis. As is their wont, many companies used the occasion to proclaim updated commitments — the buzzword du la semaine was “net-zero” with Walmart declaring a zero-emissions target by 2040 along with a big clean fleet promise and a pledge to “protect, manage or restore” at least 50 million acres of land and 1 million square miles of ocean by 2030. GE made headlines with its decision to stop making equipment for new coal-fired power plants to focus on its renewables business (although it doesn’t say anything about fixing the old ones).  More than 1,500 companies are committed to net-zero emissions, triple the number that had made those pledges by the end of 2019. Morgan Stanley offered its own twist with a promise to reach “net-zero financed emissions” by the critical 2050 timeframe. The intention is to align its portfolio with the goals of the Paris Agreement. (Morgan Stanley, along with Bank of America and Citigroup, has agreed to deeper disclosure.) In other words, stop financing the emitting stuff, as it has been criticized for in the past. The biggest national-level news of the week came out of the United Nations General Assembly, where Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that the country aims to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. Given the country’s status as the world’s largest emitter, the development is essential for progress against climate change.  While words aren’t action, the commitment stands in sharp contrast with the extensive environmental protection rollbacks adopted by the Trump administration, which has announced its plan to pull out of the Paris climate accord. At the state level, California Gov. Gavin Newsom put the transportation industry on notice with his executive order banning new gasoline-powered vehicles after 2035. Newsom also was named to a two-year term as co-chair of the Under2 Coalition, a network of states and regions looking to integrate the Paris Agreement goals with a mind to social justice.  On the other side of the U.S., New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo finalized a ban on hydrofluorocarbons, a superpollutant found in refrigerators, air conditioners and other cooling equipment. And the mayors of 12 cities — representing 36 million residents — announced their plans to divest from fossil fuels. Among the signatories to the C40 campaign: Berlin, Bristol, Cape Town, Durban, London, Los Angeles, Milan, New Orleans, New York City, Oslo, Pittsburgh and Vancouver. Throughout the week the heightened attention to supporting nature and biodiversity and to going beyond carbon emissions reductions was also a frequent theme — with a particular focus on the role of science-based targets in driving corporate action.  The Science Based Targets Network has created new guidance for companies interested in setting goals for land and freshwater use, biodiversity or ecosystem impacts using science-based principles, as many are doing to set emissions reduction targets.  “The best companies in the world are no longer satisfied with ‘doing better’,” said Andrew Steer, president and CEO of World Resources Institute, in a statement. “They insist on ‘doing enough’. That’s what science-based targets provide them.” Wondering what you missed from your home office? Below is a curated list of notable corporate commitments and campaign updates that emerged during Climate Week.  Accounting bigwigs suggest ‘universal’ ESG metrics Four iconic accounting firms — Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC  — teamed up with Bank of America to develop and release a set of standard metrics and disclosure frameworks that companies can use to report on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.  The new guidance, released by the World Economic Forum as part of the Sustainable Development Impact Summit , focuses on four pillars: Treatment of employees, including diversity, wage gaps, and health and safety Dependencies on the natural environment related to emissions, land and water use How a company contributes to community well-being, including what it pays in taxes Criteria for accountability  Amazon signs more Climate Pledgers, curates sustainable products shopping site Five more companies have signed the Climate Pledge, an initiative orchestrated by Amazon and Global Optimism : retailer Best Buy ; engineering firm McKinstry ; professional sports club Real Betis ; energy firm Schneider Electric; and manufacturer Siemens . This gesture commits them to reaching a net-zero carbon footprint by 2040, one decade before the deadline for the Paris Agreement.  The mighty e-commerce retailer also created a new “Climate Pledge Friendly” shopping section on Amazon.com dedicated to showcasing consumer products that hold one or more of 19 sustainability certifications such as Cradle to Cradle, Energy Star and Fairtrade.  The focus is on grocery, household, fashion, beauty and consumer electronics options — and some initial brands showcased are Burt’s Bees Baby, HP Inc. and Seventh Generation. Amazon also created its own externally validated certification, Compact by Design , which will recognize products designed to require less packaging, which makes them more efficient to ship.  Jenny Ahlen, director of EDF+Business, praised Amazon’s new strategy but said it doesn’t go far enough. “Certifications are a good starting point for companies to help shoppers make more informed and sustainable choices,” she wrote in a blog about the announcement. “But to truly make progress on creating safer, more sustainable products, retailers — Amazon included — need to work with their suppliers to improve the quality of all the products they sell and share that information with shoppers. Calling out a small portion of products that have met environmental standards isn’t enough.”  Climate Group tallies up more members for RE100, EP100  Beverage and snack company PepsiCo set a new global target to source 100 percent of its electricity for company-owned and controlled operations using renewable power by 2030, and across its entire franchise by 2040. (It expects to reach this goal for its U.S. operations by the end of this year.) This move could result in the equivalent of removing 2.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca amped up its renewable energy with a deeper commitment to addressing industrial heat by joining the Renewable Thermal Collaborative, dedicated to decarbonizing tough-to-abate manufacturing and production processes. Currently, 13 percent of AstraZeneca’s power load comes from combined heat and power, and the company has committed to identifying renewable alternatives by 2025. Two energy-centric campaigns managed by the Climate Group welcomed new members this week. The EP100 initiative , which encourages companies to commit to higher levels of productivity and revenue while using less energy, has more than 100 members, with Japan’s Daito Trust Construction among the latest joiners. The RE100 , which represents more than 260 companies committed to using 100 percent renewable power, added new signatories including Intel , ASICS (the apparel company), pharma firm Sanofi and manufacturers SKF and VELUX .  Formidable food purveyors forsake food waste A group of powerful food retailers including Kroger , Tesco and Walmart and food service company Sodexo created the “10x20x30” initiative , which commits them to convincing at least 10 of their suppliers to halving food waste and loss by 2030. The effort is part of Champions 12.3, a group focused on addressing the challenge of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, which calls for a 50 percent reduction in food loss and waste by the end of this decade.  One example of the actions we might see as a result is Walmart’s move to source cucumbers that use a coating provided by startup Apeel that extends their shelf life through a natural coating that extends shelf life. “Cutting food loss and waste in half  — from farm to fork — by 2030 will require ambitious, collection action,” said Jane Ewing, senior vice president of sustainability for Walmart, in a statement. “The 10x20x30 initiative is accelerating progress by aligning and training shareholders across the industry on how to dramatically reduce food waste.” IKEA, Unilever, others bring 1.5 Celsius mindset to supply chains The Exponential Roadmap Initiative in Stockholm launched the 1.5 Degrees Supply Chain Leaders initiative , a group of multinational companies that have set targets to halve their absolute GHG emissions by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions across their supply chains by 2050 — in line with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. Initial supporters include BT Group , Ericsson , IKEA , Telia and Unilever . Among the commitments is making climate-related targets and performance a “key supplier purchasing criteria” by this time next year.  “To tackle the climate challenge, it is not enough for us to collaborate with the big global suppliers,” said Mikko Kuusisto, senior director of strategic sourcing for Telia, in a statement. “We need to engage also with the smaller, more local and often nonlisted companies to get them to commit to halving their emissions by 2030.” To help facilitate that transition, the Exponential Roadmap Initiative teamed up with the International Chamber of Commerce, the We Mean Business coalition and the United Nations Race to Zero Campaign to create the SME Climate Hub . The website will provide a set of resources intended to help smaller suppliers take these steps, including measurement tools, best practices frameworks and services.  Mars, Carrefour giants cultivate new coalition for forests The Forest Positive Coalition of Action, which includes close to 20 companies with a collective market value of $1.8 trillion, is a CEO-level group under the umbrella of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) vowing to address key commodity supply chains that often contribute to deforestation. Among the actions they are advocating include joining forces for forest conservation in “key production landscapes,” policy initiatives and regular reporting.  Aside from sponsors Mars and Carrefour , the list of participants includes Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Danone, Essity, General Mills, Grupo Bimbo, Jerónimo Martins, METRO AG, Mondel?z, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Unilever and Walmart. The launch was greeted with skepticism by environmental NGOs including the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), SumofUs, Friends of the Earth U.S. and Amazon Watch, which notes that the involved companies so far have fallen short on deforestation commitments and on protecting the rights of Indigenous people. “We’ve see 10 years of inaction, half-measures and greenwashing from the CGF, while human rights defenders and frontline communities have been putting their lives on the line to defend forests from rampant corporate expansion,” said Brihannala Morgan, senior forest campaigner at RAN, in a statement. Microsoft shares ‘positive’ vibes for water Building on its “carbon negative” pledge in January, a goal that will see it remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it historically has emitted, Microsoft is applying that same mindset to its water strategy. Only in reverse. Its new commitment will see it reduce the per-megawatt consumption of water related to the energy that powers its operations and also focus on water replenishment in 40 “stressed” regions in which it operates. The goal is to replenish more water than it uses by 2030. That will inspire measures such as: Wetland restoration Removal of impervious pavement Installation of on-site rainwater collection and water recycling systems across its newest offices, including the new Silicon Valley campus, the redesign at its central campus in the Seattle area and facilities in India and Israel A heightened focus on evaporative and “adiabatic” (outside air) cooling technologies for its data centers AI for Earth technologies, such as a project called Vector Center, for helping measure water risk and scarcity  It’s worth noting that Microsoft’s new strategy prioritizes not just availability but also accessibility, the issue of safe drinking water and sanitation. Were there other announcements this week? Sure, and I’m also sure I’ll get plenty of emails about what I “missed.” While I am grateful for every company that commits to taking practical, meaningful, un-greenwashed action, the common thread of the visions advanced above is that they set the bar higher — even if just a little bit. That’s what we need to move entire industries to support taking action on the climate crisis. Topics Corporate Strategy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off A moment in time for the climate clock on the metronome in New York’s Union Square.

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From China’s stand to Walmart’s wish list: A Climate Week news cheat sheet

Sasaki weaves an ecological landscape into Tianfu Vanke City

April 3, 2020 by  
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Sasaki Associates has recently completed the first phase for its landscape design of Tianfu Vanke City, a new 173-hectare community near the Western Chinese city of Chengdu. Located on land that had long been used for agriculture , the development takes a holistic approach to landscape and ecology restoration and will not only preserve and reintroduce native species but will also emphasize aquatic health. Nature has also been made a major focus of the built environment so that residents and visitors can enjoy the landscape through a wide range of outdoor activities. Unlike the relatively flat terrain of Chengdu , Tianfu Vanke City is surrounded by mountains and is rich in aquatic features. Sasaki Associates’ vision for the new urban community celebrates the local landscape by drawing design inspiration from the local environment, culture and materials. To that end, the team used GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping to analyze the site’s topographical features, which informed their plans for roadways, trail systems, water systems, landscape zones and outdoor activities. Related: Floating prefab architecture addresses climate change on Chengdu’s Jincheng Lake Site analyses also directed the division of the site into two interconnected neighborhoods — the North Valley and the South Valley — based on the ridgeline and the two sub-watersheds that feed into two scenic lakes at the mouths of the two valleys. To highlight successful landscape reclamation efforts and surrounding nature, the community will be integrated with a comprehensive trail system that will cater to mountain biking, hiking and camping. The project even includes an animal adventure park. Walls of locally sourced red sandstone will snake through the landscape to accentuate the rolling terrain. The first 13.5-hectare phase of the Tianfu Vanke City landscape was completed in October 2019 and features a three-zoned playscape, which encourages children to experience nature . The most eye-catching zone is the Hill Adventure Park with The Cloud, a 25-meter-by-13-meter netted play structure. The playscape also includes the Water Adventure Park with a sculptural wading “Ripple” pool and the Field Adventure Park with a “Maze” of boardwalks, meadows and pea stone paths. + Sasaki Associates Photography by Holi Photography via Sasaki Associates

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Sasaki weaves an ecological landscape into Tianfu Vanke City

Many businesses at sea when it comes to water stewardship

May 24, 2019 by  
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Concerns over scarcity and quality are rising. More companies are pledging action, but fewer have shared details of their plans.

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Many businesses at sea when it comes to water stewardship

3 takeaways from that failed Amazon employee shareholder resolution on the climate crisis

May 24, 2019 by  
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This issue isn’t going away for the e-commerce giant — and other industry leaders should consider themselves on notice.

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3 takeaways from that failed Amazon employee shareholder resolution on the climate crisis

The hidden relationship between the plastics industry and fracking in the US

May 24, 2019 by  
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Plastic production runs on natural gas — and both pose dangers to the public.

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The hidden relationship between the plastics industry and fracking in the US

Bringing the power of plastic recycling to the people

May 24, 2019 by  
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A new project can help empower local communities to take recycling into their own bins.

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Bringing the power of plastic recycling to the people

Over a third of all cars were electric a century ago

February 26, 2018 by  
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Electric cars are cutting-edge technology these days, and it seems like people everywhere are switching. However it might come as a surprise to learn that 118 years ago, 38% of all cars were electric . Porsche’s first car was electric . The fastest car in the world was electric. Henry Ford and Thomas Edison collaborated on an electric car. Electric cars were the future – a century in the past. ? In 1900, 40% of cars were powered by steam, 38% by electricity and a mere 22% by gasoline. By 1912, there were nearly 39,000 electric cars on the road. Electric cars were popular because they were quiet, didn’t require a cumbersome crank start, and had no smelly fumes or smoke. An electric car could go 65.79 mph (a record set in 1898) and some had a range of up to 100 miles on a single charge. Since roads outside of cities were rough or non-existent, electric cars were perfect for urban dwellers. Related: Porsche’s First Car Built in 1898 Was Electric! At one point, Henry Ford was determined to create an affordable electric car. “Within a year, I hope, we shall begin the manufacture of an electric automobile. I don’t like to talk about things which are a year ahead, but I am willing to tell you something of my plans. The fact is that Mr. Edison and I have been working for some years on an electric automobile which would be cheap and practicable,” he said in 1914. It’s a shame that Ford’s EV never made it into production – imagine how much it could have changed the vehicle market. Edison, who worked with Ford on the EV, believed that the electric automobile was the transportation of the future. Sadly, it was Ford’s mass-produced Model T that ultimately killed the electric car. At their peak, there were many EV manufacturers competing in the market. Detroit Electric was churning out electric cars, Denver-based Fritchle motors were proud of their 100-mile range battery, President Woodrow Wilson owned a Milburn Electric vehicle, and New York-based Babcock had its own line of EVs. Sadly, electric cars started to disappear in the 1920s as gas automobiles became the most affordable option. Gas guzzlers also had the benefit of being able to go much further than an electric car, (a problem electric vehicles are still working on tackling), which was important as roads became better outside of cities. It wasn’t until gas shortages in the 1970s that people started to explore alternative-fuel cars once again. Via Clean Technica Images via Porsche , Wikimedia and Wikimedia

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Over a third of all cars were electric a century ago

Wave-inspired Rainbow Bridge in Long Beach is covered in mini gardens and twinkling LED lights

February 26, 2018 by  
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California-based SPF Architects just unveiled a beautifully breezy pedestrian bridge connecting two major Long Beach venues. The Rainbow Bridge – whose wavy form was inspired by the local beaches – is an elegant 600-foot walking path interspersed with mini garden spaces. The bridge’s canopy features 3,500 color-changing LED nodes , which can be programmed and synced with music to create a beautiful light show as people wander cross. The pedestrian bridge was designed to help people move from the Long Beach Seaside Way Convention to the Performing Arts Center. Previously, guests to the area had an uncomfortable journey walking between the two sites, including having to climb numerous flights of stairs and crossing a busy intersection. Related: Colorful rainbow bridge pops up to brighten a gloomy Monday in London The Rainbow Bridge will now offer visitors a beautiful walkway surrounded by 76 custom-welded bent steel ribs, which create the tunnel-like shape, but open the walkway up to natural light and ventilation. The base of the bridge is made of poured-in-place concrete, interrupted by a serene garden area planted with trees. There are wide cutouts in the bridge’s canopy so that the trees have enough space to grow upwards and outwards. Drainage for the walkway plantings is concealed in the concrete spine of the flooring. Initially called Riptide, the bridge ‘s wavy form and hull-like girth was inspired by the area’s beaches. Attaching the LED nodes to the cables enabled the architects to convey a net-like structure or the rigging of a ship. Stretching the length of the bridge, the thin ribs are installed with 3,500 color-changing LED nodes , 100 downlights and 70 floodlights, all of which can be programmed and synced with music. The lights on their own give the bridge a beautiful glow in the evenings. + SPF Architects

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Wave-inspired Rainbow Bridge in Long Beach is covered in mini gardens and twinkling LED lights

Cities in Scotland to start universal basic income trials

December 27, 2017 by  
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Select residents of  Glasgow , Edinburgh, Fife, and North Ayrshire will soon begin receiving unconditional monthly payments as part of a Scottish universal basic income experiment. Universal basic income (UBI) is a policy that offers direct unconditional income for all citizens to ensure that everyone benefits from a basic standard of living. UBI is currently being tested in Scotland, as well as countries like Canada and Finland, and has attracted £250,000 (~$334,500) in public funding for feasibility studies. The selected cities must submit their plans for locally implementing the basic income program by March 2018. Proponents of a basic income claim that it will be necessary to implement UBI in some form in order to compensate for the major economic disruption and potential job losses from increasing automation due to advanced artificial intelligence . While the idea is still controversial, it is being increasingly taken seriously in cities and countries around the world. “It might turn out not to be the answer, it might turn out not to be feasible,” said Scotland ‘s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. “But as work changes as rapidly as it is doing, I think its really important that we are prepared to be open-minded about the different ways that we can support individuals to participate fully in the new economy.” Related: Wind power supplied 124% of household electricity needs in Scotland from January through June Scotland is not alone in its endeavor to understand how UBI might feasibly function. California , the Netherlands, Ontario, India, Italy, and Uganda all took steps in 2017 towards someday being able to implement a UBI system. In California, this work is being supported by companies like Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s largest start-up accelerator. “In a world where technology eliminates jobs, it will mean that the cost of having a great life goes down a lot,” tweeted Sam Altman, president at Y Combinator. “But without something like basic income, I don’t think we can really have equality of opportunity.” Via ScienceAlert Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Cities in Scotland to start universal basic income trials

Historic White House tree to be chopped down

December 27, 2017 by  
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The Jackson Magnolia that has adorned the White House South Lawn since the 1800s is coming down. Brought by President Andrew Jackson from Tennessee, and said to be planted in memory of his wife Rachel who died not too long after his 1828 election, the tree is slated for removal later this week. According to CNN , First Lady Melania Trump made the call as the tree is reportedly too decayed to stay in place. The Jackson Magnolia is the oldest on White House grounds, reported CNN. There have been many efforts to preserve it over the years, such as a cabling system. United States National Arboretum specialists came in at the request of the White House to assess the tree, and CNN obtained documents that said, “The overall architecture and structure of the tree is greatly compromised and the tree is completely dependent on the artificial support. Without the extensive cabling system, the tree would have fallen years ago. Presently, and very concerning, the cabling system is failing on the east trunk, as a cable has pulled through the very thin layer of wood that remains. It is difficult to predict when and how many more will fail.” Related: Washington DC’s national monuments are getting slimed White House officials fear the tree could fall when President Donald Trump’s helicopter takes off nearby. The First Lady’s director of communications Stephanie Grisham told CNN, “After reviewing the reports, [Mrs. Trump] trusted that every effort had been made to preserve the historic tree and was concerned about the safety of visitors and members of the press who are often standing right in front of the tree during Marine One lifts,” adding the First Lady asked that wood from the Jackson Magnolia be preserved. CNN reported offshoots of the tree have grown to around eight to 10 feet tall at an undisclosed location nearby, and there are plans for a new Jackson Magnolia to be planted in place of the old. Via CNN Images via U.S. Pacific Command and achuertas on Flickr

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Historic White House tree to be chopped down

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