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Greenest Big Companies Go 100% Renewable

Solar panels cover the roof of Sony's Jimmy Stewart Building in Culver City, California, 2018 (Photo courtesy Sony Pictures) Posted for media use.

Solar panels cover the roof of Sony’s Jimmy Stewart Building in Culver City, California, 2018 (Photo courtesy Sony Pictures) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

CUPERTINO, California, October 17, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Not every company, of course, but increasing numbers of corporations, led by some of the world’s largest tech firms, are taking responsibility to protect people and planet with renewable energy and other forms of low-carbon development.

As part of its commitment to combat climate change and create a healthier environment, Apple announced in April that its global facilities are powered with 100 percent clean energy. This achievement includes retail stores, offices, data centers and co-located facilities in 43 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, China and India.

The company also announced nine additional manufacturing partners have committed to power all of their Apple production with 100 percent clean energy, bringing the total number of supplier commitments to 23.

“We’re committed to leaving the world better than we found it. After years of hard work we’re proud to have reached this significant milestone,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.

Apple currently has 25 operational renewable energy projects around the world, totaling 626 megawatts of generation capacity, with 286 megawatts of solar PV generation coming online in 2017, its most ever in one year.

The company has 15 more renewable projects under construction. Once built, over 1.4 gigawatts of renewable energy generation will be spread across 11 countries.

Cook said, “We’re going to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the materials in our products, the way we recycle them, our facilities and our work with suppliers to establish new creative and forward-looking sources of renewable energy because we know the future depends on it.”

Just days ago, a little further north, T-Mobile signed on to Puget Sound Energy’s Green Direct program, giving the communications giant access to a blend of local wind and solar renewable energy sources. Relying on these sources, T-Mobile plans to power its Bellevue, Washington, headquarters with 100% renewable energy by 2021.

“At T-Mobile, we really mean it when we say we’re going to clean up wireless for good … and in this case that means cleaning up our impact on the planet by making a BIG commitment to renewable energy,” said John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile.

“We’ve put a stake in the ground to go 100% renewable by 2021,” he said, “because it’s the right thing to do and it’s smart business.”

The wireless company has been commended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Center for Resource Solutions for its industry-leading green energy initiatives.

“T-Mobile’s choosing green power because it makes sense for the planet and for our customers – plus it’s helping grow America’s green energy market big-time,” said Legere. “I’m incredibly proud of our team for earning recognition for their hard work – but there’s lots more to be done and you can be sure, we won’t stop!”

The move will help T-Mobile save millions of dollars in energy costs, while also putting it one step closer to its RE100 clean energy commitment to use 100% renewable energy across the entire company by 2021.

RE100

Businesses like the benefits of saving on energy costs, and so RE100 was officially launched in New York City at Climate Week NYC 2014.

Today, it’s a global, collaborative initiative of influential businesses committed to using 100% renewable electricity. RE100 members are companies large and small with operations all over the world, spanning a wide range of sectors, from telecommunications and IT to cement and automobile manufacturing.

RE100 shares the compelling business case for renewables and showcases business action, while working with others to address barriers.

Companies gain a better understanding of the advantages of going 100% renewable, and benefit from peer-to-peer learning and technical guidance, as well as greater public recognition of their ambitions and achievements as they work towards their goals.

RE100 is organized by The Climate Group in partnership with the Carbon Disclosure Project, or CDP as it is known today, as part of the We Mean Business coalition. The organizers believe it will accelerate the transformation of the global energy market and aid the transition toward a net-zero economy.

Sony Promises to Go 100% Renewable by 2030

RE100 member Sony  has brought forward its target year for reaching 100% renewable electricity in the United States to 2030.

Sony joined RE100 in September with a goal of going 100% renewable globally by 2040. By setting an earlier target for its US operations, the tech giant is demonstrating it is possible for businesses to go further and faster.

Sam Kimmins, head of RE100, The Climate Group , welcomed the news, coming as it does right after a new report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showing that limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require rapid and profound transitions in energy systems everywhere.

“In a week when scientists are telling us we need to do more to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, you couldn’t have a more powerful message than one of the world’s largest electronics and entertainment companies stepping up the pace on climate action,” said Kimmins.

“This shows the business community what can be done, and we encourage all major companies to follow suit,” he said.

Executive Vice President with the Sony Corporation of America Mark Khalil said, “Our commitment to achieve 100% renewable electricity usage in the North American region by 2030 is a step toward our global goal. By joining RE100 and establishing global and regional targets, we hope to accelerate the usage of renewable electricity at Sony and inspire other companies to do the same.”

In 2001, Sony Pictures Studios (SPS) was certified under the international environmental standard ISO 14001 and has maintained and expanded it each year since, the first and only major studio to do so.

Sony installed solar photovoltaic cells on the roof of its Jimmy Stewart Building and is using 100 percent renewable energy in its Arizona data center. Combined, this will reduce the company’s carbon footprint by  1,000 tons over three years.

Sony Pictures Entertainment renovated and expanded the Central Plant on the Studio Lot to incorporate additional buildings in this efficient HVAC loop. This has avoided 550 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) annually.

L'Oreal products get sustainable packaging treatment, April 30, 2017. (Photo by Maria Martinez Dukan) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

L’Oreal products get sustainable packaging treatment, April 30, 2017. (Photo by Maria Martinez Dukan) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Greener French Cosmetics

L’Oréal S.A., the French cosmetics company headquartered in Clichy, Hauts-de-Seine with a registered office in Paris, is the world’s largest cosmetics company. Hair color, skin care, sun protection, make-up, perfume and hair care – L’Oréal makes and markets them all.

It was also “Newsweek” magazine’s #1 ranked Green Company last year, a ranking based partly on L’Oréal’s sustainable packaging policy.

“Today, for certain products, up to 100% of the plastic used in our packaging has been recycled,” says Philippe Thuvien, managing director of packaging and development at the L’Oréal Group, referring to the bottles of new shampoos from the Redken, Kiehl’s and Pureology brands.”

“In total, the amount of recycled plastic in our packaging increased by 33% in 2017,” said Thuvien.

“As an industry leader invested in the future of sustainable packaging,” he said, “the Group has been working with a specialist environmental consultancy, Quantis, to launch the Sustainable Packaging Initiative for Cosmetics (SPICE), which is designed to help the industry commit to more responsible packaging and improve the environmental performance of the entire packaging value chain.”

Unilever Adores Animals

Unilever, the British-Dutch transnational company, the world’s largest consumer goods firm, says that on any given day, “2.5 billion people use Unilever products to feel good, look good and get more out of life – giving us a unique opportunity to build a brighter future.”

Earlier this month Unilever announced its support for a global ban on animal testing for cosmetics as part of an ambitious new collaboration with the animal protection nonprofit Humane Society International.

David Blanchard, chief research and development officer at Unilever, explained, “Animal testing for cosmetics has been banned in the EU since 2013, and we hope that an adoption of similar bans in other countries will accelerate the regulatory acceptance of alternative approaches and thereby remove any requirements for any animal testing for cosmetics anywhere in the world.”

Unilever will support HSI’s global #BeCrueltyFree initiative, which is leading legislative reform in key beauty markets to prohibit cosmetic animal testing and trade, consistent with EU model.

Dove, Unilever’s largest beauty and personal care brand, has gained accreditation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Dove’s cruelty-free status recognizes the brand’s commitment to not conduct any tests on animals anywhere in the world. PETA’s cruelty-free logo will begin to appear on Dove packaging from January 2019.

We want to play our part in tackling climate change and reduce the depletion of natural resources. It makes business sense to reduce our risk by securing sustainable sources of supply for raw materials, to cut costs through reducing packaging materials and higher manufacturing efficiencies, and to appeal to more consumers with sustainable, purpose-led brands.

The company said in a statement, “In 2017, our factory sites reduced CO2 emissions from energy by 47% per tonne of production compared to 2008. We have also increased our use of renewable energy within our manufacturing; in 2017, this increased to 33.6% compared to 15.8% in 2008. Additionally, 65% of all grid electricity used in our manufacturing operations was generated from renewable resources.”

Unilever has pledged to source 100% of its total energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Yet, all does not run smoothly, even in companies with the best of intentions. Unilever said in September that the greenhouse gas impact of its products has risen by 9% since 2010. Underlying sales growth over the same period was 33.1%, so, the company said, “…it is encouraging to see that we are decoupling our value chain greenhouse gas  impacts from our business growth.”

Featured Image: Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino is powered by 100 percent renewable energy, in part from a 17-megawatt onsite rooftop solar installation. (Photo courtesy Apple) Posted for media use


Countries Failing to Educate Girls Lose Trillions

Students in a second grade classroom at Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya, April 2017 (Photo by Kelley Lynch / Global Partnership for Education) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Students in a second grade classroom at Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya, April 2017 (Photo by Kelley Lynch / Global Partnership for Education) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, July 25, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Limited educational opportunities for girls and barriers to completing 12 years of education cost countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings, says a new World Bank report.

The report was released in honor of Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and co-founder of  Malala Fund, based out of Birmingham, England, which works to provide safe, quality secondary education and opportunities for girls.

When the Taliban took control of her hometown in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, writes Yousafzai, “…they banned many things, such as owning a television and playing music. They enforced harsh punishments for those who defied their orders. And they said girls could no longer go to school.”

Yousafzai’s father was a teacher who ran the girls’ school in her town, so she continued attending school. At the age of 15, on her way home from school, Yousafzai was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban.

Malala Yousafzai during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on the day that the European Union and the United Nations launched a Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. September 20, 2017 (Photo by Ryan Brown / UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Malala Yousafzai during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on the day that the European Union and the United Nations launched a Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. September 20, 2017 (Photo by Ryan Brown / UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

She survived – and now, at 21, Yousafzai is furthering her education, studying for a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

She is a world-renowned activist, campaigning for education, equality and peace for all children everywhere. The United Nations has declared July 12 to be Malala Day.

The World Bank report, “Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls,” documents that fewer than two-thirds of girls in low-income countries complete primary school, and only one in three girls completes lower secondary school.

Globally 89 percent of girls complete primary education, but only 77 percent complete lower secondary education, usually nine years of schooling.

The report finds that on average, women who have a secondary education are more likely to work, and they earn almost twice as much as women with no education.

Other positive effects of secondary school education for girls include: near-elimination of child marriage before the age of 18, lowering fertility rates by a third in countries with high population growth, and reducing child mortality and malnutrition.

“When 130 million girls are unable to become engineers or journalists or CEOs because education is out of their reach, our world misses out on trillions of dollars that could strengthen the global economy, public health and stability,” said Yousafzai.

“If leaders are serious about building a better world, they need to start with serious investments in girls’ secondary education,” she said. “This report is more proof that we cannot afford to delay investing in girls.”

Tech giant Apple® is doing just that. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 13, Apple launched a new collaboration between its 10 Apple Developer Academies in Brazil and Malala Fund to advance girls’ educational opportunities.

Apple’s academies are preparing thousands of future developers to code the advancements of the future. Apple CEO Tim Cook has long said that the company expects to bring the program to countries around the world.

“We share Malala’s goal of getting more girls into quality education and are thrilled to be deepening our partnership with Malala Fund by mobilizing thousands of Apple Developer Academy students and alumni across Brazil,” said Cook, announcing the new partnership.

“Apple has been committed to education since day one, and we can’t wait to see what our creative student developers come up with to help Malala Fund make a difference for girls around the world,” said Cook.

As part of its new expansion into Latin America, Malala Fund, too, has offered grants to local advocates in Brazil.

The advocates join Malala Fund’s network and will implement projects across the country designed to empower girls, teachers and policymakers through skills development, school enrollment efforts and education advocacy.

“My hope is that every girl, from Rio to Riyadh, can be free to choose her own future,” said Yousafzai in Rio. “Whether she wants to be a developer, a pilot, a dancer or a politician, education is the best path to a brighter future. By tapping into Apple’s network of student developers, Malala Fund will gain access to new tools to support our mission of free, safe, quality education.”

Many of the potential impacts of education on development outcomes apply to both boys and girls. But the World Bank report finds that not educating girls is especially costly because of the relationships between education, child marriage, and early childbearing, and the risks that they entail for young mothers and their children.

“We cannot keep letting gender inequality get in the way of global progress,” said World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria.

“Inequality in education is yet another fixable issue that is costing the world trillions. It is time to close the gender gap in education and give girls and boys an equal chance to succeed, for the good of everyone,” Georgieva said.

Today, some 132 million girls around the world between the ages of six and 17, the majority of whom are adolescents, are still not in school.

To remedy these missed opportunities, investments in education – both access and quality – are crucial. This is  especially true in some regions, such as Sub-Saharan Africa where, on average, only 40 percent of girls complete lower secondary school, says the World Bank report.

Countries also need policies to support healthy economic growth that will generate jobs for an expanding educated workforce.

The World Bank reports that universal secondary education for girls could increase their knowledge of HIV/AIDS and empower them to make decisions about their own health care. It could reduce the risk of intimate partner violence, improve their sense of psychological well-being, and reduce the risk of under-five mortality and malnutrition among their children.

Educating girls and promoting gender equality is part of a broader and holistic effort at the World Bank, which includes financing and analytical work to remove financial barriers that keep girls out of school, prevent child marriage, improve access to reproductive health services, and strengthen skills and job opportunities for adolescent girls and young women.

Since 2016, the World Bank has invested more than $3.2 billion in education projects benefiting adolescent girls.

The World Bank report was published with support from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Global Partnership for Education, and Malala Fund.

Featured Images: Girls from the tiny village of Karche Khar near Kargil, India. From left: Maqsuma is in class 5 at the army school; Fatima is in class 4 at the local school.


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Green Bond Surge Expands

SolarPowerChina

Solar photovoltaic power generation in Hong Kong, China. (Photo by WING / Electrical and Mechanical Services Department Headquarters) Creative commons license via Wikipedia.


By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, April 18, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The market for Green Bonds is developing rapidly, proving effective at channeling money into environmental projects. Offering insights into this fledgling, but fast-growing, market, “Environmental Finance,”the London-based online news and analysis service, has just announced its latest Green Bond Award winners.

The 25 awards recognize best practices, or significant issues in the development of the green bond market, during 2016. The winners were selected by a panel of judges made up of some of the world’s biggest green bond investors.

Poland was honored for the first ever issuance of Green Bonds by a national government. The world’s first sovereign green bonds, issued in December, will finance environmental projects in the country. Poland has been heavily reliant on coal as its energy source; its green bond auction represents a shift to more sustainable energy production.

Deputy Finance Minister Piotr Nowak said the green bonds would allow Poland to further diversify its investor base.

Global law firm White & Case, which advised the Polish Ministry of Finance on the €750 million issuance of its Green Bonds, took the award for best law firm.

Winners include the Dutch mortgage corporation Obvion, which won the title of best asset-based bond for its landmark green residential mortgage-backed security.

The Dutch bank Rabobank took the top spot for the second year running as the best bank issuer of green bonds. Rabobank is a major financier of both onshore and offshore wind farms, holding a Top 10 position worldwide and is the market leader in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands.

Rabobank has developed a Green and Sustainability Bond Framework for the two different types of bonds. Green bonds fund environmental projects, while sustainability bonds fund projects with a social impact that may or may not have environmental benefits.

Rabobank Green Bonds fund renewable energy projects such as solar and wind, while Rabobank Sustainability Bonds fund loans provided to small and medium-sized enterprises with sustainability certifications on products, processes or buildings.

Industrial Bank of China was named as the biggest bank issuer, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch as the biggest underwriter.

Green Bonds enable capital-raising and investment for new and existing projects with environmental benefits. In the past, most green bond issuers have been development banks and financial services firms.

In the United States green bonds have been issued by municipalities, power companies and a few other corporate entities.

Now this year, Environmental Finance Bond of the Year winners are U.S. corporate giants Starbucks and Apple.

In February 2016, Apple, headquartered in California’s Silicon Valley, issued a $1.5 billion green bond, boosting the young market’s prospects for attracting corporate issuers.

In May 2016, the Seattle-based coffee chain Starbucks issued a first-of-its-kind $500 million U.S. corporate sustainability bond. The funding will enhance sustainable coffee supply chain management and the operation of farmer support centers in eight coffee growing regions, as well as loans to farmers made through Starbucks Global Farmer Fund.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch was named again this year as the winner of both Best underwriter: corporate, and Best underwriter: municipality.

Click here to read about all the winners.

Environmental Finance also publishes the Green Bond Database, a table listing the 25 most recently issued green bonds.

Meanwhile, Canada is emerging as a green bond market force.

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) Capital Markets Green Bond Conference in Toronto on April 10 saw release of a report showing Canada’s capacity for green bond issues will be at least $56.3 billion in fiscal 2017/18.

The figures reported by the award-winning “clean capitalism” magazine “Corporate Knights,” are based on an analysis of the capital requirements, debt-raising capacity, and intended uses of proceeds on the part of 21 of Canada’s largest public and private bond issuers.

There’s clear momentum in green bond markets, but it’s still seen as a niche and perhaps even challenging financing tool,” says “Corporate Knights” CEO Toby Heaps. “A billion dollars worth of bonds formally labeled as green are currently being issued in Canada annually. This analysis shows there’s potential for exponential growth.

The analysis took a bottom-up approach to quantifying potential bond issues and is the first of its kind in Canada.

The report shows that in 2017/18, the 21 potential bond issuers have a need and capacity to fund $23.60 billion worth of “explicitly green projects” such as public transit, renewable energy, and loans for electric vehicle purchases and green power projects.

The Canadian potential bond issuers have a further need and capacity to fund $32.7 billion worth of “potentially green projects” such as energy efficient construction or retrofitting of public buildings and installation of broadband.

In Latin America, the Mexican government’s development bank Nacional Financiera, or Nafin, has tapped the green bond market with a issuance of $500 million in a deal that was five times oversubscribed.

China, too, is busily developing its green bond market.

More than 500 green finance experts from regulators and industry gathered at the annual Green Finance Summit in Beijing on April 15, the surging number of attendees reflecting the increased attention being placed on greening the financial system, reports Andrew Whiley, writing for Climate Bonds Initiative, an investor-focused not-for-profit based in London.

The Green Finance Summit has been held annually since 2015 by the China Financial Society’s Green Finance Committee which operates under the auspices of the People’s Bank of China.

Major issues on the summit’s agenda this year included:

  • opportunities and challenges facing green credit and green bond markets
  • establishment of green financial systems at a local level
  • innovation in green financial products

The summit saw the debut of the “Study of China’s Local Government Policy Instruments for Green Bonds” report.

Prepared by Climate Bonds & Syntao Green Finance, the new report examines green bond developments at a local government level and sets policy recommendations for growth.

Tracking the rapid growth in Chinese green bond issuance from almost zero in 2015 to RMB 238 billion (US$36.2 billion) or 39 percent of all green bonds issued around the world in 2016, the report outlines the policy steps taken by government regulators and stock exchanges in supporting such rapid growth.

China’s new Guidelines, issued by seven Chinese government ministries last September, call for government ministries and financial institutions to collaborate on the development of a wide range of financial instruments to move money from high-polluting to low-polluting sectors, including green credits, green bonds, green insurance, green equity indices, green development funds and carbon finance.

The guidelines are contained in the report “Establishing China’s Green Financial System” written by the Green Finance Task Force of the People’s Bank of China.

Two recommendations are particularly relevant to the international community’s current concerns about China’s financial system, wrote the World Resources Institute’s Shouqing Zhu last September.

The first relates to green bonds. Since the People’s Bank of China and the National Development and Reform Commission separately issued their directives on green bonds at the end of 2015, the market has witnessed exponential growth.

Following this rapid growth, there have been concerns about “greenwashing,” or businesses using green bonds to finance polluting projects instead of green ones due to a lack of a solid reporting and verification system.

Zhu writes, “The Guidelines call for harmonization of the two domestic green bond standards and development of third-party verification bodies in line with international practices.

International best practices are defined by the International Capital Market Association (ICMA) a UK-based industry membership association that publishes the Green Bond Principles .

Updated as of June 2016, the Green Bond Principles (GBP) are voluntary process guidelines that recommend transparency and disclosure and promote integrity in the development of the Green Bond market by clarifying the approach for issuance of a Green Bond.

The Green Bond Principles provide issuers guidance on the key components involved in launching a credible Green Bond. They are intended to aid investors by ensuring availability of information necessary to evaluate the environmental impact of their Green Bond investments. They assist underwriters by moving the market towards standard disclosures which will facilitate transactions.


Featured image: Trianel Windpark Borkum is an offshore wind farm of 40 turbines in the North Sea off the north coast of The Netherlands near the German border. A second stage of development is planned to start delivering power in 2019. It was financed in part by Rabobank. (Photo courtesy Trianel.com) Posted for media use. 

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USA: 100% Renewables by 2050?

altawindfarm

America’s most powerful wind farm – 1.5 gigawatts in size, generating enough electricity for a city of millions – is on the edge of the Mojave Desert at the foot of the Tehachapi Pass, site of one of the earliest and still largest collections of windmills in the world. In total, there are more than 5,000 wind turbines in the area. (Photo by Steve Boland) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, December 22, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – More than 450 organizations, local officials, academics, civic leaders and businesses are calling on Congress to support a shift to powering the United States entirely with renewable energy by the year 2050.

Although the lawmakers are on holiday recess, the renewable energy advocates Wednesday delivered a letter to Congress. The signers are urging support for H.Res. 540 introduced by Congressman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona and S.Res. 632 introduced by Senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, all Democrats. 

Both bills contain the same resolution calling for “rapid, steady shift” to 100 percent renewable energy. 

Burning coal, oil and gas is polluting our air, water and land. It is harming our health and changing our climate even faster than scientists predicted,” the letter warns. “At the same time, low-income communities, communities of color, and indigenous people often bear a disproportionate share of the impact.

Senators supporting the resolution include Democrats Ben Cardin of Maryland, Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Al Franken of Minnesota as well as Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, who ran in the presidential primary as a Democrat.

As a technological giant, the United States must continue to lead the clean energy revolution,” said Senator Markey. “ The question is no longer if we can power our country with 100 percent renewable energy, it’s when and how we will make the transition.”

The letter points out that dozens of major corporations, including General Motors, Apple, and Walmart, have set goals to meet all of their energy needs with renewable energy. Google announced last week that in 2017, renewable energy will power 100 percent of its global operations, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Kevin Butt, regional environmental sustainability director for Toyota Motor North America, has said he wants to take the company “beyond zero environmental impact” by eliminating carbon emissions from vehicle operation, manufacturing, materials production and energy sources by 2050.

Renewable energy is virtually unlimited and pollution-free, protecting our communities from global warming and other harmful pollution while revitalizing our local economies,” said Rob Sargent, energy program director for the nonprofit Environment America,  a national federation of statewide, citizen-based advocacy organizations.

America needs a rapid transition to clean, renewable energy and our leaders need to get on board,” said Sargent.

The letter stresses the environmental and economic imperatives for shifting to renewable energy – to help consumers, support the economy and national security of the United States, and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The letter says, in part, “We need to transform the way we power the country – and we need to do it fast. But, we still have a long way to go. That’s why we are calling for swift action to transition to 100 percent renewable energy.” 

For the past eight years, President Barack Obama has been a leader in bringing the world to act against climate change by moving away from fossil fuels and investing in renewables. The Obama initiative and partnership with China brought the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters into alignment on this issue. It culminated in the Paris Agreement on climate, which took effect in November, less than a year after it was agreed in December 2015, lightning speed for an international agreement.

But the renewable energy advocates will have a steep uphill path if they try to persuade the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump, whose Cabinet nominations demonstrate that he wants to rely on fossil fuels, extracting the maximum amount of coal, oil and gas without delay.

Trump has chosen the CEO of the world’s largest oil company, Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil, as his nominee for secretary of state, fossil fuel advocate and climate denier Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency,  former Texas governor Rick Perry, a fossil fuel supporter, as energy secretary, and Ryan Zinke of Montana to head the Department of the Interior.

Jeff Turrentine of the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council today called them “the Four Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse.

The renewable energy advocates point to the enormous job creation potential of transitioning to renewable energy sources, particularly in communities with high rates of unemployment or underemployment.

There are currently 310,000 people in the United States employed in the solar industry and 88,000 in the wind industry. 

The United States is projected to add more electric generating capacity from solar and wind than from any other source in 2016. More than half of all new electricity capacity added in the world in 2015 was from renewable sources.

Climate change is both the greatest threat facing humankind, and also a tremendous economic opportunity if our nation rises to meet it,” said Congressman Grijalva. “Every day our energy future becomes more obvious – either we live in the past and continue to degrade our environment, or we embrace the future of renewable energy which ensures our continued success on a global scale and leaves our children a clean and healthy planet.

Moving to 100 percent clean energy will power job creation that is good for all creation. We can and will meet this goal and now, more than ever, it is critical that we stand up and fight for our clean energy future,” said Grijalva.

The resolution is not just a pipe dream – it’s technically feasible. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the United States has the technical potential to generate more than 100 times the quantity of electricity it consumes each year as of 2016 solely from wind, solar, and other renewable resources.

Today’s resolution sends a message loud and clear to our Senate colleagues – it’s time to get serious about our climate efforts with big, bold and rapid moves to accelerate the clean energy economy,” said Senator Merkley. “Transitioning to clean and renewable energy is not only the right thing to do for clean air and a strong economy, it is what we must do to save our beautiful blue-green planet.

 


 Featured Image: Utility-scale solar power requires skilled workers. Here, workers monitor solar thermal parabolic troughs at the Adams County detention center in Brighton, Colorado. (Photo by Warren Gretz / National Renewable Energy Lab) Public domain.

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Food Supplies At Risk as Pollinators Vanish

ButterfliesThistlesBy Sunny Lewis

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, March 1, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Apples, mangoes and almonds are delicious, pollinator-dependent foods, but these dietary staples are at risk because bees and other pollinators worldwide are disappearing, driven toward extinction by the pressures of living with humans.

The holes they are leaving in the fabric of life threaten millions of human livelihoods and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of human food supplies, finds the first global assessment of pollinators, published Friday.

Conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the two-year study highlights ways to effectively safeguard pollinator populations.

Based in Germany, IPBES was founded four years ago with 124 member nations to develop the intersection between international scientific understanding and public policymaking.

The organization’s first biodiversity assessment, “Thematic Assessment of Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production” was compiled by a team of 77 experts from all over the world. It underwent two rounds of peer review involving experts and governments.

The final assessment was presented at IPBES’ 4th Plenary meeting, which took place February 22-28 in Kuala Lumpur, hosted by the government of Malaysia.

With citations from some 3,000 scientific papers, it is the first such assessment based not only on scientific knowledge but also on indigenous and local knowledge. Information about indigenous and local practices comes from more than 60 locations around the world.

“Pollinators are important contributors to world food production and nutritional security. Their health is directly linked to our own well-being,” said Vera Lucia Imperatriz Fonseca, PhD, co-chair of the IPBES assessment and a senior professor at University of São Paulo in Brazil.

The study finds that more than three-quarters of the world’s food crops are pollinated by insects and other animals. Nearly 90 percent of all wild flowering plants depend on animal pollination, the study notes.

Each year, at least US$235 billion and up to US$577 billion worth of global food production relies on the actions of these pollinators.

BeeAppleTree

Honey bee in the apple tree, Ontario, Canada, 2007 (Photo by Mike Bowler) creative commons license via Flickr

There are more than 20,000 species of wild bees, plus other species: butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other animals, that pollinate the foods we love best.

Crop yields depend on both wild and managed species, the researchers found.

Pollinated crops are fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and oils – important sources of vitamins and minerals for human health and well being.

Chocolate, for example, comes from the seeds of the cacao tree. Two distinct kinds of midges are essential for the pollination of cacao trees, the study notes. No midges, no money. The annual value of the world’s cocoa bean crop is roughly US$5.7 billion.

“Without pollinators, many of us would no longer be able to enjoy coffee, chocolate and apples, among many other foods that are part of our daily lives,” said Simon Potts, PhD, the other assessment co-chair and professor of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, UK.

Historically, bees have inspired art, music, religion and technology. Sacred passages about bees occur in all major world religions.

Food crops are not the only kind that need pollinators – there are the biofuels, such as canola and palm oils; fibers like cotton; medicines, livestock forage and construction materials. Some bee species make prime quality beeswax for candles and musical instruments, and arts and crafts.

But pollinators are disappearing. The study team estimated that 16 percent of vertebrate pollinators are threatened with global extinction, a number that increases to 30 percent for island species, with a trend toward more extinctions.

Global assessments are still lacking, but regional and national assessments show high levels of threat, especially for bees and butterflies. Often more than 40 percent of invertebrate species are threatened locally.

“Wild pollinators in certain regions, especially bees and butterflies, are being threatened by a variety of factors,” said IPBES Vice Chair Sir Robert Watson.

“Their decline is primarily due to changes in land use, intensive agricultural practices and pesticide use, alien invasive species, diseases and pests, and climate change,” said Watson, a British atmospheric chemist who has served as a chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPBES study confirms declines in regional wild pollinators for North Western Europe and North America.

Local cases of decline have been documented in other parts of the world, but data are too sparse to draw broad conclusions.

José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said, “Enhancing pollinator services is important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as for helping family farmers’ adaptation to climate change.”

The assessment found that pesticides, including the notorious neonicotinoid insecticides outlawed in some countries, threaten pollinators worldwide, although the long-term effects are still unknown.

Pests and diseases pose a special threat to managed bees, but the risk can be reduced through better disease detection and management, and regulations on the trade and movement of bees.

The effects of genetically modified crops on pollinators are poorly understood and not usually accounted for in risk assessments.

The decline of practices based on indigenous and local knowledge is a factor too. The traditional farming systems; maintenance of diverse landscapes and gardens; kinship relationships that protect specific pollinators; and cultures and languages that are connected to pollinators are all important in safeguarding the tiny creatures.

“The good news is that a number of steps can be taken to reduce the risks to pollinators, including practices based on indigenous and local knowledge,” said Zakri Abdul Hamid, elected founding chair of IPBES at its first plenary meeting in 2012.

So, one solution is supporting traditional practices that manage habitat patchiness, crop rotation, and coproduction between science and indigenous local knowledge, the study finds.

Safeguards include the promotion of sustainable agriculture, which helps diversify the agricultural landscape and makes use of ecological processes as part of food production.

Achim Steiner, executive director, UN Environmental Programme, thinks humans have to take this situation seriously, saying, “The growing threat to pollinators, which play an important role in food security, provides another compelling example of how connected people are to our environment, and how deeply entwined our fate is with that of the natural world.”


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Main Image: In Lorton, Virginia, the Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area’s pollinator garden attracts butterfly species like these Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Papilio Glaucus. (Photo by Jennifer Stratton, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, BLM Eastern States) public domain
Featured Image: Red-belted Bumble Bee, Bombus rufocinctus, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 2014 (Photo by Dan Mullen) creative commons license via Flickr