Could green hydrogen be key to a carbon-free economy?

November 19, 2020 by  
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Could green hydrogen be key to a carbon-free economy? Jim Robbins Thu, 11/19/2020 – 01:30 This article originally was published on Yale Environment 360 . Saudi Arabia is constructing a futuristic city in the desert on the Red Sea called Neom. The $500 billion city — complete with flying taxis and robotic domestic help — is being built from scratch and will be home to a million people. And what energy product will be used both to power this city and sell to the world? Not oil. The Saudis are going big on something called green hydrogen — a carbon-free fuel made from water by using renewably produced electricity to split hydrogen molecules from oxygen molecules. This summer, a large U.S. gas company, Air Products & Chemicals, announced that as part of Neom it has been building a green hydrogen plant in Saudi Arabia for the last four years. The plant is powered by 4 gigawatts from wind and solar projects that sprawl across the desert. It claims to be the world’s largest green hydrogen project — and more Saudi plants are on the drawing board. Green hydrogen? The Saudis aren’t alone in believing it’s the next big thing in the energy future. While the fuel is barely on the radar in the United States, around the world a green hydrogen rush is underway, and many companies, investors, governments and environmentalists believe it is an energy source that could help end the reign of fossil fuels and slow the world’s warming trajectory. “It is very promising,” said Rachel Fakhry, an energy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Experts such as Fakhry say that while wind and solar energy can provide the electricity to power homes and electric cars, green hydrogen could be an ideal power source for energy-intensive industries such as concrete and steel manufacturing, as well as parts of the transportation sector that are more difficult to electrify. “The last 15 percent of the economy is hard to clean up — aviation, shipping, manufacturing, long-distance trucking,” Fakhry said in an interview. “Green hydrogen can do that.” Europe, which has an economy saddled with high energy prices and is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas, is embracing green hydrogen by providing funding for construction of electrolysis plants and other hydrogen infrastructure. Germany has allocated the largest share of its clean energy stimulus funds to green hydrogen. “It is the missing part of the puzzle to a fully decarbonized economy,” the European Commission wrote in a July strategy document. Germany has allocated the largest share of its clean energy stimulus funds to green hydrogen. Hydrogen’s potential as a fuel source has been touted for decades, but the technology never has gotten off the ground on a sizeable scale — and with good reason, according to skeptics. They argue that widespread adoption of green hydrogen technologies has faced serious obstacles, most notably that hydrogen fuels need renewable energy to be green, which will require a massive expansion of renewable generation to power the electrolysis plants that split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Green hydrogen is also hard to store and transport without a pipeline. And right now in some places, such as the U.S., hydrogen is a lot more expensive than other fuels such as natural gas. While it has advantages, said Michael Liebreich, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst in the United Kingdom and a green hydrogen skeptic, “it displays an equally impressive list of disadvantages.” “It does not occur in nature so it requires energy to separate,” Liebreich wrote in a pair of recent essays for BloombergNEF. “Its storage requires compression to 700 times atmospheric pressure, refrigeration to 253 degrees Celsius… It carries one quarter the energy per unit volume of natural gas… It can embrittle metal; it escapes through the tiniest leaks and yes, it really is explosive.” In spite of these problems, Liebreich wrote, green hydrogen still “holds a vice-like grip over the imaginations of techno-optimists.” Ben Gallagher, an energy analyst at Wood McKenzie who studies green hydrogen, said the fuel is so new that its future remains unclear. “No one has any true idea what is going on here,” he said. “It’s speculation at this point. Right now it’s difficult to view this as the new oil. However, it could make up an important part of the overall fuel mix.” Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical in the universe. Two atoms of hydrogen paired with an atom of oxygen creates water. Alone, though, hydrogen is an odorless and tasteless gas, and highly combustible. Hydrogen derived from methane — usually from natural gas, but also coal and biomass — was pioneered in World War II by Germany, which has no petroleum deposits. But CO2 is emitted in manufacturing hydrogen from methane and so it’s not climate friendly; hydrogen manufactured this way is known as gray hydrogen. Green is the new kid on the hydrogen block, and because it’s manufactured with renewable energy, it’s CO2-free. Moreover, using renewable energy to create the fuel can help solve the problem of intermittency that plagues wind and solar power, and so it is essentially efficient storage. When demand for renewables is low, during the spring and fall, excess electricity can be used to power the electrolysis needed to split hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Then the hydrogen can be stored or sent down a pipeline. The last 15 percent of the economy is hard to clean up — aviation, shipping, manufacturing, long-distance trucking. Green hydrogen can do that. Such advantages are fueling growing interest in global green hydrogen. Across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, more countries and companies are embracing this high-quality fuel. The U.S. lags behind because other forms of energy, such as natural gas, are much cheaper, but several new projects are underway, including a green hydrogen power plant in Utah that will replace two aging coal-fired plants and produce electricity for southern California. In Japan, a new green hydrogen plant, one of the world’s largest, just opened near Fukishima — an intentionally symbolic location given the plant’s proximity to the site of the 2011 nuclear disaster. It will be used to power fuel cells, both in vehicles and at stationary sites. An energy consortium in Australia just announced plans to build a project called the Asian Renewable Energy Hub in Pilbara that would use 1,743 large wind turbines and 30 square miles of solar panels to run a 26-gigawatt electrolysis factory that would create green hydrogen to send to Singapore. As Europe intensifies its decarbonization drive, it, too, is betting big on the fuel. The European Union just drafted a strategy for a large-scale green hydrogen expansion, although it hasn’t been officially adopted yet. But in its $550-billion clean energy plan, the EU is including funds for new green hydrogen electrolyzers and transport and storage technology for the fuel. “Large-scale deployment of clean hydrogen at a fast pace is key for the EU to achieve its high climate ambitions,” the European Commission wrote. The Middle East, which has the world’s cheapest wind and solar power, is angling to be a major player in green hydrogen. “Saudi Arabia has ridiculously low-cost renewable power,” said Thomas Koch Blank, leader of the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Breakthrough Technology Program. “The sun is shining pretty reliably every day and the wind is blowing pretty reliably every night. It’s hard to beat.” BloombergNEF estimates that to generate enough green hydrogen to meet a quarter of the world’s energy needs would take more electricity than the world generates now from all sources and an investment of $11 trillion in production and storage. That’s why the focus for now is on the 15 percent of the economy with energy needs not easily supplied by wind and solar power, such as heavy manufacturing, long-distance trucking and fuel for cargo ships and aircraft. The Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R), a green hydrogen facility that can generate as much as 1,200 normal meter cubed (Nm3) of hydrogen per hour, opened in Japan in March. Source:  TOSHIBA ESS The energy density of green hydrogen is three times that of jet fuel, making it a promising zero-emissions technology for aircraft. But Airbus, the European airplane manufacturer, recently released a statement saying that significant problems need to be overcome, including safely storing hydrogen on aircraft, the lack of a hydrogen infrastructure at airports, and cost. Experts say that new technologies will be needed to solve these problems. Nevertheless, Airbus believes green hydrogen will play an important role in decarbonizing air transport. “Cost-competitive green hydrogen and cross-industry partnerships will be mandatory to bring zero-emission flying to reality,” said Glen Llewellyn, vice president of Zero Emission Aircraft for Airbus. Hydrogen-powered aircraft could be flying by 2035, he said. In the U.S., where energy prices are low, green hydrogen costs about three times as much as natural gas, although that price doesn’t factor in the environmental damage caused by fossil fuels. The price of green hydrogen is falling, however. In 10 years, green hydrogen is expected to be comparable in cost to natural gas in the United States. A major driver of green hydrogen development in the U.S. is California’s aggressive push toward a carbon-neutral future. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, for example, is helping fund the construction of the green hydrogen-fueled power plant in Utah. It’s scheduled to go online in 2025. A company called SGH2 recently announced it would build a large facility to produce green hydrogen in southern California. Instead of using electrolysis, though, it will use waste gasification, which heats many types of waste to high temperatures that reduce them to their molecular compounds. Those molecules then bind with hydrogen, and SGH2 claims it can make green hydrogen more cheaply than using electrolysis. California officials also see green hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels for diesel vehicles. The state passed a Low Carbon Fuel Standard in 2009 to promote electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles. Last month, a group of heavy-duty vehicle and energy industry officials formed the Western States Hydrogen Alliance o press for rapid deployment of hydrogen fuel cell technology and infrastructure to replace diesel trucks, buses, locomotives and aircraft. The price of green hydrogen is falling. In 10 years, green hydrogen is expected to be comparable in cost to natural gas in the United States. “Hydrogen fuel cells will power the future of zero-emission mobility in these heavy-duty, hard-to-electrify sectors,” said Roxana Bekemohammadi, executive director of the Western States Hydrogen Alliance. “That fact is indisputable. This new alliance exists to ensure government and industry can work efficiently together to accelerate the coming of this revolution.” Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $100 million investment to help develop large, affordable electrolyzers and to create new fuel cell technologies for long-haul trucks. In Australia, the University of New South Wales, in partnership with a global engineering firm, GHD, has created a home-based system called LAVO that uses solar energy to generate and store green hydrogen in home systems. The hydrogen is converted back into electricity as needed. All these developments, said Blank of the Rocky Mountain Institute, are “really good news. Green hydrogen has high potential to address many of the things that keep people awake at night because the climate change problem seems unsolvable.” Pull Quote Germany has allocated the largest share of its clean energy stimulus funds to green hydrogen. The last 15 percent of the economy is hard to clean up — aviation, shipping, manufacturing, long-distance trucking. Green hydrogen can do that. The price of green hydrogen is falling. In 10 years, green hydrogen is expected to be comparable in cost to natural gas in the United States. Topics Energy & Climate Renewable Energy Wind Power Solar Hydrogen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Hydrogen’s potential as a fuel source has been touted for decades, but the technology has never gotten off the ground on a sizeable scale — and with good reason, according to skeptics. Photo by petrmalinak on Shutterstock.

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Could green hydrogen be key to a carbon-free economy?

Biden-Harris: The work begins

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

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Green groups urge UN to raise climate ambition on global shipping

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

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Israel plans to enact a countrywide fur ban

October 13, 2020 by  
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Israel has announced plans to ban the use of animal fur and skin. In announcing the new regulations, the minister for environmental protection Gila Gamliel termed the use of animal fur and skin, particularly in the fashion industry , as “immoral.” If the ban does become law, anyone intending to use such products in the country will have to apply for a permit, which will only be issued under special circumstances. The decision has been widely welcomed by conservationists and animal rights groups around the world. PETA and Humane Society of the United States have made statements that they support the move. This fur ban would make Israel the first country in the world to enact such a policy. Today, only a couple of cities in the U.S. and Brazil have banned the sale of animal fur. Related: Nordstrom to end the sale of fur and animal skins Once the fur ban is enacted, any person who wishes to buy or sell fur in Israel must apply for a permit under strict regulations. Permits will only be considered in special cases including scientific research, education or religious/traditional purposes. “The fur industry causes the killing of hundreds of millions of animals around the world, and involves indescribable cruelty and suffering,” said Gamliel. “Utilising the skin and fur of wildlife for the fashion industry is immoral.” According to Elisa Allen, director of PETA, Israel has made the right choice in moving to ban the use of fur in the fashion industry. Allen said that Israel should be applauded “for recognizing that the trade-in coats, pom-poms, and other frivolous fashion items made from wild animals’ fur offend the values held by all decent citizens.” The fur ban will include fines of up to $22,000 or one year in prison per violation. Via BBC and VegNews Image via Markus Spiske

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

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

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

Eco-Friendly Benefits of Buying or Repurposing Used Furniture

September 28, 2020 by  
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Demand for furniture is rising in the United States and … The post Eco-Friendly Benefits of Buying or Repurposing Used Furniture appeared first on Earth 911.

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Eco-Friendly Benefits of Buying or Repurposing Used Furniture

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

How the climate crisis will crash the economy

September 14, 2020 by  
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How the climate crisis will crash the economy Joel Makower Mon, 09/14/2020 – 02:11 The chickens are coming home to roost. Even before the western United States became a regional inferno, even before the Midwest U.S. became a summertime flood zone, even before an annual hurricane season so bad that the government is running out of names to attach to them, even before Colorado saw a 100°F heatwave swan dive into a 12? snowstorm within 48 hours. Even before all that, we’d been watching the real-world risks of climate change looming and growing across the United States and around the world. And the costs, financially and otherwise, are quickly becoming untenable. Lately, a steady march of searing heat, ruinous floods, horrific wildfires, unbreathable air, devastating hurricanes and other climate-related calamities has been traversing our screens and wreaking havoc to national and local budgets. And we’re only at 1°C of increased global temperature rise. Just imagine what 2° or 3° or 4° will look like, and how much it will cost. We may not have to wait terribly long to find out. It’s natural to follow the people impacted by all this: the local residents, usually in poorer neighborhoods, whose homes and livelihoods are being lost; the farmers and ranchers whose crops and livestock are withering and dying; the stranded travelers and the evacuees seeking shelter amid the chaos. And, of course the heroic responders to all these events, not to mention an entire generation of youth who fear their future is being stolen before their eyes, marching in the streets. So many people and stories. But lately, I’ve been following the money. The financial climate, it seems, has been as unforgiving as the atmospheric one. Some of it has been masked by the pandemic and ensuing recession, but for those who are paying attention, the indicators are hiding in plain sight. And what we’re seeing now are merely the opening acts of what could be a long-running global financial drama. The economic impact on companies is, to date, uncertain and likely incalculable. The financial climate, it seems, has been as unforgiving as the atmospheric one. Last week, a subcommittee of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued a report addressing climate risks to the U.S. financial system. That it did so is, in itself, remarkable, given the political climes. But the report didn’t pussyfoot around the issues: “Climate change poses a major risk to the stability of the U.S. financial system and to its ability to sustain the American economy,” it stated, adding: Climate change is already impacting or is anticipated to impact nearly every facet of the economy, including infrastructure, agriculture, residential and commercial property, as well as human health and labor productivity. Over time, if significant action is not taken to check rising global average temperatures, climate change impacts could impair the productive capacity of the economy and undermine its ability to generate employment, income and opportunity. Among the “complex risks for the U.S. financial system,” the authors said, are “disorderly price adjustments in various asset classes, with possible spillovers into different parts of the financial system, as well as potential disruption of the proper functioning of financial markets.” In other words: We’re heading into uncharted economic territory. Climate change, said the report’s authors, is expected to affect “multiple sectors, geographies and assets in the United States, sometimes simultaneously and within a relatively short timeframe.” Those impacts could “disrupt multiple parts of the financial system simultaneously.” For example: “A sudden revision of market perceptions about climate risk could lead to a disorderly repricing of assets, which could in turn have cascading effects on portfolios and balance sheets and therefore systemic implications for financial stability.” Sub-systemic shocks And then there are “sub-systemic” shocks, more localized climate-related impacts that “can undermine the financial health of community banks, agricultural banks or local insurance markets, leaving small businesses, farmers and households without access to critical financial services.” This, said the authors, is particularly damaging in areas that are already underserved by the financial system, which includes low-to-moderate income communities and historically marginalized communities. As always, those least able to least afford the impacts may get hit the hardest. This was hardly the first expression of concern about the potentially devastating economic impacts of climate change on companies, markets, nations and the global economy. For example: Two years ago, the Fourth National Climate Assessment noted that continued warming “is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts.” It placed the price tag at up to 10.5 percent of GDP by 2100. Last month, scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said that while previous research suggested that a 1°C hotter year reduces economic output by about 1 percent, “the new analysis points to output losses of up to three times that much in warm regions.”’ Another report last month, by the Environmental Defense Fund, detailed how the financial impacts of fires, tropical storms, floods, droughts and crop freezes have quadrupled since 1980. “Researchers are only now beginning to anticipate the indirect impacts in the form of lower asset values, weakened future economic growth and uncertainty-induced instability in financial markets,” it said. And if you really want a sleepless night or two, read this story about  “The Biblical Flood That Will Drown California,” published recently in Mother Jones magazine. Even if you don’t have a home, business or operations in the Golden State, your suppliers and customers likely do, not to mention the provenance of the food on your dinner plate. Down to business The CTFC report did not overlook the role of companies in all this. It noted that “disclosure by corporations of information on material, climate-related financial risks is an essential building block to ensure that climate risks are measured and managed effectively,” enabling enables financial regulators and market participants to better understand climate change’s impacts on financial markets and institutions. However, it warned, “The existing disclosure regime has not resulted in disclosures of a scope, breadth and quality to be sufficiently useful to market participants and regulators.” An analysis by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure found that large companies are increasingly disclosing some climate-related information, but significant variations remain in the information disclosed by each company, making it difficult for investors and others to fully understand exposure and manage climate risks . The macroeconomic forecasts, however gloomy, likely seem academic inside boardrooms. And while that may be myopic — after all, the nature of the economy could begin to shift dramatically before the current decade is out, roiling customers and markets — it likely has little to do with profits and productivity over the short time frames within which most companies operate. Nonetheless, companies with a slightly longer view are already be considering the viability of their products and services in a warming world. Consider the recommendations of the aforementioned CFTC report, of which there are 20. Among them: “The United States should establish a price on carbon.” “All relevant federal financial regulatory agencies should incorporate climate-related risks into their mandates and develop a strategy for integrating these risks in their work.” “Regulators should require listed companies to disclose Scope 1 and 2 emissions. As reliable transition risk metrics and consistent methodologies for Scope 3 emissions are developed, financial regulators should require their disclosure, to the extent they are material.” The Financial Stability Oversight Council “should incorporate climate-related financial risks into its existing oversight function, including its annual reports and other reporting to Congress.” “Financial supervisors should require bank and nonbank financial firms to address climate-related financial risks through their existing risk management frameworks in a way that is appropriately governed by corporate management.” None of these things is likely to happen until there’s a new legislature and presidential administration in Washington, D.C., but history has shown that many of these can become de facto regulations if enough private-sector and nongovernmental players can adapt and pressure (or incentivize) companies to adopt and hew to the appropriate frameworks. Finally, there is collaboration among the leading nongovernmental organizations focusing on sustainability reporting and accountability. And there’s some news on that front: Last week, five NGOs whose frameworks, standards and platforms guide the majority of sustainability and integrated reporting, announced “a shared vision of what is needed for progress towards comprehensive corporate reporting — and the intent to work together to achieve it.” CDP , the Climate Disclosure Standards Board , the Global Reporting Initiative , the International Integrated Reporting Council and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board have co-published a shared vision of the elements necessary for more comprehensive corporate reporting, and a joint statement of intent to drive towards this goal. They say they will work collaboratively with one another and with the International Organization of Securities Commissions, the International Financial Reporting Standards Foundation, the European Commission and the World Economic Forum’s International Business Council. Lots of names and acronyms in the above paragraph, but you get the idea: Finally, there is collaboration among the leading nongovernmental organizations focusing on sustainability reporting and accountability. To the extent they manage to harmonize their respective standards and frameworks, and should a future U.S. administration adopt those standards the way previous ones did the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, we could see a rapid scale-up of corporate reporting on these matters. Increased reporting won’t by itself mitigate the anticipated macroeconomic challenges, but to the extent it puts climate risks on an equal footing with other corporate risks — along with a meaningful price on carbon that will help companies attach dollar signs to those risks — it will help advance a decarbonized economy. Slowly — much too slowly — but amid an unstable climate and economy we’ll take whatever progress we can get. 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 The financial climate, it seems, has been as unforgiving as the atmospheric one. Finally, there is collaboration among the leading nongovernmental organizations focusing on sustainability reporting and accountability. Topics Finance & Investing Risk & Resilience Policy & Politics Climate Change 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 Shutterstock

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How the climate crisis will crash the economy

Scaling Composting Infrastructure in North America

September 11, 2020 by  
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Scaling Composting Infrastructure in North America What will it take to build robust composting infrastructure at scale in the United States? Composting should be a win-win. In theory, corporations and cities could divert food waste from landfills and create a valuable agricultural product in the process. Yet examples of large-scale composting infrastructure are hard to find in the United States. According to the most recent EPA data, less than 10 percent of food waste finds its way into composting systems. Contamination of waste streams, haulage costs and “compostable” materials that don’t actually biodegrade are all part of the problem. Meet the entrepreneurs, city officials and corporate leaders who are turning things around. Speakers share details of successful composting businesses, systems for scaling up food waste collection and strategies for diverting corporate food waste into composting systems. Speakers Alexa Kielty, Residential Zero Waste and Special Projects Assistant, San Francisco Department of the Environment Kevin Quandt, Vice President of Supply Chain & Sustainability, sweetgreen Jim Giles, Food and Carbon Analyst, GreenBiz Group  Holly Secon Thu, 09/10/2020 – 20:34 Featured Off

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Scaling Composting Infrastructure in North America

Circular by Design: Physical Criteria for Circular Products

September 11, 2020 by  
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Circular by Design: Physical Criteria for Circular Products What physical attributes must be considered and prioritized when designing circular products? When creating circular products, businesses face a daunting task: They must balance product performance, health and safety, regulatory compliance, cost, and a host of physical criteria (such as durability, repairability and modularity) to name a few of the countless considerations — along with frequent barriers. With an ever increasing demand to deliver products to market with speed, effectively evaluating and prioritizing these attributes is a critical yet challenging hurdle. This discussion explores how businesses have balanced physical criteria when creating circular products. Speakers Joel Makower, Chairman & Executive Editor, GreenBiz Group  Sripriya Narayanan, Product Manager, Cisco Lauren Smith, Product Sustainability Manager, Columbia” Holly Secon Thu, 09/10/2020 – 20:26 Featured Off

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Circular by Design: Physical Criteria for Circular Products

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