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COP24 Approves Paris Climate Accord Guidelines

Participants in a civil society action organized by Corporate Accountability International call for ambition and equity at COP24, presenting the "People's Demands for Climate Justice." Dec. 4, 2018, Katowice, Poland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

Participants in a civil society action organized by Corporate Accountability International call for ambition and equity at COP24, presenting the “People’s Demands for Climate Justice.” Dec. 4, 2018, Katowice, Poland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

By Sunny Lewis

KATOWICE, Poland, December 18, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Glaciers are still melting, sea levels are still rising, extreme weather is still causing floods and droughts, but the planet may be better able to withstand these consequences of climate change now that delegates at the UN’s COP24 climate change summit in Poland have adopted implementing guidelines for the 2015 Paris Accord.

The nearly 200 governments gathered in Katowice early Sunday adopted the guidelines that will breathe life into the Paris Agreement, which is aimed at keeping global warming below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels.

As the Katowice Climate Package is adopted, delegates cheer and Michal Kurtyka, COP 24 President, jumps for joy. December 16, 2018, Katowice, Poland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

As the Katowice Climate Package is adopted, delegates cheer and Michal Kurtyka, COP 24 President, jumps for joy. December 16, 2018, Katowice, Poland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

He thanked the hundreds of delegates in the room for their “patience,” noting that the last night “was a long night.” Laughter rippled through the hall as the big screens showed a delegate yawning profoundly.

The meeting had been scheduled to wrap on Friday, December 14. But the conference continued Saturday, as delegates consulted throughout the day to finalize the decisions for the Paris Agreement Work Programme. The final plenary session was gaveled to a close early Sunday morning.

Agreement was not unanimous. The United States, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia are not onboard with the views of the majority of governments at COP24.

Judith Garber, principal deputy assistant secretary with the U.S. Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, delivered the U.S. National Statement, saying, “As President Trump announced last year, the United States intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, absent the identification of terms that are more favorable to the American people. He also made clear that the United States will continue to be a leader in clean energy, innovation, and emissions reduction.”

But many delegates at COP24 did not believe that the Trump administration’s championship of “clean coal” is the way to avert climate change.

On December 10 in Katowice, as the United States hosted a side event focused on the role of “clean coal,” carbon capture and storage technologies, delegates stormed out of the event and flooded the hallways, calling on the United States to “keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

That action followed a split last week among delegates over the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on the disastrous consequences if average global temperatures rise by 1.5°Celsius, and how to ensure they don’t go higher.

The IPCC report was widely regarded as a wake-up call for policy makers when it was released in October. Almost all the nearly 200 countries present in Katowice had wanted to “welcome” the IPCC report, making it a benchmark for future action.

But the United States sided with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in blocking endorsement of the study, calling for it to be “noted” but not “welcomed.”

“The United States was willing to note the report and express appreciation to the scientists who developed it, but not to welcome it, as that would denote endorsement of the report,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “As we have made clear in the IPCC and other bodies, the United States has not endorsed the findings of the report.”

The objections of the four governments to the IPCC report was based on its suggestion that fossil-fuel use must be phased out by 2050 to avoid the worst catastrophes of climate change. Coal, oil and gas are major sources of carbon dioxide, which traps heat in the atmosphere close to the planet.

Blasting the efforts of the United States, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia to undermine climate science as a “suicide mission” and “criminal enterprise,” California Governor Jerry Brown sent a video message imploring the world’s leaders to “wake up” and “take action now.”

In addition, several other alarming climate studies have been released during the past two months, including the

Global Carbon Budget 2018” published in this month’s issue of the journal “Earth System Science Data.” In this study, an international team of scientists shows that the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has increased from roughly 277 parts per million in 1750, the beginning of the industrial era, to 405 ppm in 2017.

“Over the last decade we have seen unprecedented changes in the human and biophysical environments (e.g. changes in the growth of fossil fuel emissions, Earth’s temperatures, and strength of the carbon sinks), which call for frequent assessments of the state of the planet and a growing understanding of and improved capacity to anticipate the evolution of the carbon cycle in the future.”

This means that a continuous stream of accurate data is necessary to allow scientists to understand and governments to have some control over climate warming.

What Is the Paris Agreement Work Programme?

One of the key components of the Katowice agreement approved by delegates is a detailed transparency framework, meant to promote trust among nations. It sets out how countries will provide information about their national climate action plans, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as well as mitigation and adaptation measures.

In Katowice, agreement was reached on how to uniformly count greenhouse gas emissions and that, too, is part of the Paris Agreement Work Programme.

On the difficult question of financing from developed countries in support of climate action in developing countries, the Katowice guidelines set a way to decide on new, more ambitious targets from 2025 onwards, from the current commitment to mobilize US$100 billion a year as of 2020.

Nations also agreed on how to collectively assess the effectiveness of climate action in 2023 and how to monitor and report progress on the development and transfer of technology.

“The guidelines that delegations have been working on day and night are balanced and clearly reflect how responsibilities are distributed amongst the world’s nations,” said Patricia Espinosa, who heads the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, secretariat.

“They incorporate the fact that countries have different capabilities and economic and social realities at home, while providing the foundation for ever increasing ambition,” said Espinosa.

There was one key issue upon which delegates could not agree – the matter known as “Article 6,” about carbon markets or carbon trading, which enable countries to buy and sell their emissions allowances to meet a part of their domestic mitigation goals.

The Paris Agreement recognizes the need for global rules on this matter to safeguard the integrity of all countries’ efforts and ensure that each tonne of emissions released into the atmosphere is accounted for.

But agreement was not reached in Katowice, and the issue will be back on the table at the next UN climate change conference, COP25, set to take place next December in Chile.

Commenting on the adoption of the Paris Agreement Work Programme, Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group, Gebru Jember Endalew of Ethiopia, said, “While there are parts of the package that could and should have been stronger, the implementation guidelines adopted today provide a strong basis to start implementing the Agreement. The next step, of course, is for countries to take urgent, ambitious action to fulfil their Paris Agreement commitments.”

“This year, it has been made very clear that no country is immune to the impacts of climate change, but it is the nearly one billion people living in the 47 least developed countries that are often hit the hardest, suffer the most, and have the least capacity to cope,” said Endalew.

“Parties need to revise and enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions before 2020 in line with their fair share,” he said. “It is well known that current pledges will not be nearly enough to limit warming to 1.5°C. To achieve the visions and the goals of the Paris Agreement, countries must commit to greater levels of climate action and support, and follow through on those commitments.”

Ambition Cruicial, But Achievement Relies on Funding

“From now on, my five priorities will be: ambition, ambition, ambition, ambition and ambition,” said UN chief António Guterres told delegates at the closing planery through spokeswoman Espinosa. “Ambition in mitigation. Ambition in adaptation. Ambition in finance. Ambition in technical cooperation and capacity building. Ambition in technological innovation.”

To achieve this, the UN Secretary-General is convening a Climate Summit on 23 September, at UN Headquarters in New York, to engage governments at the highest levels.

Some financial engagement is already underway. The Green Climate Fund has to date funded 93 climate-calming projects and the Fund’s first replenishment drive received top-level support from both developing and developed nations during COP24.

In October, the Green Climate Fund Board approved over US$1 billion of new projects and programs to support climate action in developing countries.

The most costly of the newly approved projects is US$280 million for Transforming financial systems for climate in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Egypt, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, and Uganda with the Agence Française de Développement.

Another high-dollar project approved in this round is US$100 million for the Indonesia Geothermal Resource Risk Mitigation Project with the World Bank. See the entire list here.

The two-week climate conference began on a positive note for the Green Climate Fund with an announcement by the German Government it will double its pledge to GCF to €1.5 billion. This was followed by Norway’s announcement that it will double its contribution to GCF’s replenishment. Ireland also indicated that it will commit additional financing to the Fund by the end of this year.

Other encouraging financial commitments for climate action were made. The World Bank announced it would increase its commitment to climate action after 2021 to $200 billion; and the Climate Adaptation Fund received a total of $129 million.

The private sector showed strong engagement with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Among the highlights of this COP, two major industries – the sports and the fashion worlds – joined the movement to align their business practices with the goals of the Paris Agreement, through the launch of the Sports for Climate Action Framework, and the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.

The COP24 Presidency announced the Driving Change Together – Katowice Partnership for Electromobility and the associated partnership between Poland and the United Kingdom.

The Driving Change Together Partnership will establish a platform for cities, regional and national governments, as well as nongovernmental organizations to develop and exchange their knowledge and experiences of e-mobility and foster establishing new practical initiatives at local and international levels.

Civil Society Critical of Progress in Katowice

UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, Dec. 14, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, Dec. 14, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

In addition to the political negotiations among UNFCCC Member States on the Paris guidelines over the past two weeks, the halls of COP24 were packed with 28,000 participants exchanging views, sharing innovative ideas, attending cultural events, and building partnerships for cross-sectoral and collaborative efforts.

Fossil Free, a worldwide campaign to end the age of fossil fuels, says country delegates “failed to deliver a strong enough set of guidelines.”

“Our movement has shown that we’re ready to fill the ambition gap – from the growing wave of kids’ school strikes to the way we’ve blown through a major milestone with over 1,024 divestment commitments” from institutions announced at COP24.

On Thursday in Katowice, a press conference celebrated the divestment commitments spanning 37 countries since 2012: cities like New York, Berlin and Cape Town; medical institutions like the American Public Health Association; faith groups like the Diocese of Assisi; insurance giants and investment funds like Norway’s sovereign wealth fund and the country of Ireland.

“To keep warming below 1.5°C we demand an immediate freeze on all new fossil fuel projects and a rapid and just transition to 100 percent renewable energy for all,” says Fossil Free.

Answering Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg’s call for school strikes, youth in Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, and Australia skipped school for the climate. And the #climatestrike continues to spread.

And back in the United States, more than 1,000 young people flooded the halls of Congress to demand action on a Green New Deal before the end of the year, resulting in over 100 arrests. And the call for a Green New Deal has spread to Canada.

A day before the start of COP24, 75,000 people marched in Brussels, Belgium and 35,000 came out in Berlin and Cologne, Germany. On December 8, activists staged a peaceful march in Katowice and took actions to sound the climate alarm around France and Europe.

The Paris Agreement, unanimously agreed by world leaders in 2015, has already produced positive results. According to the United Nations, notable achievements include:

  • At least 57 countries have managed to bring their greenhouse gas emissions down to the levels required to curb global warming.
  • There are at least 51 “carbon pricing” initiatives in the works; charging those who emit carbon dioxide per tonne emitted.
  • In 2015, 18 high-income countries committed to donating US$100 billion a year for climate action in developing countries. So far, over $70 billion has been mobilized.
  • The Paris Agreement, which provides the world with the only viable option for addressing climate change, has been ratified by 184 parties, and entered into force in November 2016.

The commitments contained in it are:

– Limit global average temperature rise to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.

– Ramp up financing for climate action, including the annual $100 billion goal from donor nations for lower-income countries.

– Develop national climate plans by 2020, including their self-determined goals and targets.

– Protect beneficial ecosystems that absorb greenhouse gases, including forests.

– Strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change.

– Finalize a work program to implement the agreement in 2018.

That last point, the Paris Agreement Work Programme, was indeed finalized by delegates at COP24 in Katowice, despite some disagreements.

Chile will host the next UN climate summit, working with Costa Rica and other Latin American nations.

Brazil withdrew its candidacy to host the COP25 conference citing budget limitations, but environmental groups believe the move is a favor to the incoming government led by the far-right Jair Bolsonaro, who has threatened to pull Brazil out of the Paris Agreement.

The next summit was expected to take place between November 11 and 22, 2019, but Chilean President Sebastian Piñera now says COP25 will be held in January 2020.


Maxtraining

Wallets Open for Climate at Poland’s COP24

COP24 President Michal Kurtyka, State Secretary in Poland's Ministry of Energy, welcomes the delegates during the conference's opening plenary session, December 2, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

COP24 President Michal Kurtyka, State Secretary in Poland’s Ministry of Energy, welcomes the delegates during the conference’s opening plenary session, December 2, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

By Sunny Lewis

KATOWICE, Poland, December 4, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Heads of state and government, diplomats and climate scientists, economists and bankers have gathered in Katowice for the UN’s annual climate conference, and this one is anything but routine. Known as COP24, it has a daunting task.

Over the next 12 days, negotiators are expected to finalize the rules for implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, unanimously agreed by 196 world leaders three years ago.

The Paris Agreement requests that each country outline and communicate their post-2020 climate actions, known as Nationally Determined Contributions.

The goal is to limit global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

COP24, formally the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, opened today under extreme pressure. A blizzard of dire climate science reports from the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, even the U.S. government, have all come out within the past two months warning that time is running out quickly to do anything about the climate crisis.

Extreme weather, droughts, wildfires, floods, sea level rise, wildlife displacement, melting glaciers, tropical disease spread, hunger, water scarcity, and climate migrants desperate to escape these disasters – all are being forecast for the near future – to appear in a decade or two at most.

COP24 President Michal Kurtyka, Poland’s Energy Secretary, said, “The 2015 Paris Agreement entered into force faster than any other agreement of its kind. I now call on all countries to come together, to build upon this success and to make the agreement fully functional.”

“We are ready to work with all nations to ensure that we leave Katowice with a full set of implementation guidelines and with the knowledge that we have served the world and its people,” Kurtyka said.

The Paris Agreement is voluntary, no country is forced to do anything, countries do only what they agree to do.

U.S. President Donald Trump, for instance, has decided to pull the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases out of the Paris Agreement altogether.

World Bank Pledges $200 Billion

Most countries want to participate, but for many the barriers are financial. The World Bank Group is stepping up to help them.

In 2018, the World Bank Group provided a record-breaking $20.5 billion in finance for climate action, doubling delivery from the year before the Paris Agreement and meeting its 2020 target two years ahead of schedule. Now the Bank has set a new target.

The World Bank Monday announced the doubling of its current five-year investments for 2021-2025 to around $200 billion in support of ambitious climate action to boost adaptation and resilience in the world’s poorest countries.

Entering the plenary hall, (from left) María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President, UN General Assembly; UN Secretary-General António Guterres; Poland's President Andrzej Duda, December 3, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

Entering the plenary hall, (from left) María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President, UN General Assembly; UN Secretary-General António Guterres; Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, December 3, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

“Climate change is an existential threat to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. These new targets demonstrate how seriously we are taking this issue, investing and mobilizing $200 billion over five years to combat climate change,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said.

“We are pushing ourselves to do more and to go faster on climate and we call on the global community to do the same,” urged Kim. “This is about putting countries and communities in charge of building a safer, more climate-resilient future.”

The $200 billion across the Group is made up of $100 billion in direct finance from the World Bank, and $100 billion of combined direct finance from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency and private capital mobilized by the World Bank Group.

“There are literally trillions of dollars of opportunities for the private sector to invest in projects that will help save the planet,” said IFC CEO Philippe Le Houérou. “Our job is to go out and proactively find those opportunities, use our de-risking tools, and crowd in private sector investment. We will do much more in helping finance renewable energy, green buildings, climate-smart agribusiness, urban transportation, water, and urban waste management.”

Multilateral Banks Join Forces

In a joint declaration issued on opening day, the nine multilateral development banks (MDBs) committed to working together in key areas considered central to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“The global development agenda is at a pivotal point,” the banks declared. “There is international consensus on the urgent need to ensure that policy engagements and financial flows are consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”

“To realize this vision, we are working together to develop a dedicated approach,” the banks said.

The MDBs plan to break their joint approach down into practical work on: aligning their operations against mitigation and climate-resilience goals; ramping up climate finance; capacity building support for countries and other clients; plus an emphasis on climate reporting.

This approach builds on the ongoing MDB contribution to climate finance, which, in 2017, amounted to $35 billion to tackle climate change in developing and emerging economies, while mobilizing an additional $52 billion from private and public sector sources.

The MDBs will report back to next year’s COP25 gathering on their progress.

The nine MDBs are: the African Development Bank Group, the Asian Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank Group, the Islamic Development Bank, the New Development Bank, and the World Bank Group.

Africa in the Spotlight

Today, the opening day of COP24, was devoted to Africa Day, a joint initiative of the African Development Bank, the African Union Commission, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

They estimate that Africa would need US$3 trillion to implement the adaptation and mitigation targets in their Nationally Determined Contributions by 2030.

But in reality Africa is receiving much less. Sub-Saharan Africa received an average of US$12 billion a year in 2015 and 2016.

The Africa Day meetings were focused on enhancing Africa’s access to funding, capacity-building, technology development and transfer.

As of November 2018, 49 African countries out of 54 – 90 percent – had ratified their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), demonstrating the continent’s level of awareness of and commitment to fight climate change.

“The People’s Seat” Initiative

British broadcaster Sir David Attenborough used his opening day speech to launch a new UN campaign – “The People’s Seat” initiative. Working through ActNow.bot, the campaign is designed to give people the power and knowledge to take personal action against climate change directly on the Facebook Messenger Platform.

The speech was preceded by a video produced with social media content posted in advance of COP24 using the hashtag #TakeYourSeat.

Attenborough called “The People’s Seat” initiative the result of new activism shaped by people from around the world. The initiative allows people from around the world to send direct messages to decision makers by posting contributions on social media.

“In the last two weeks,” Attenborough said of ActNow.bot, “the world’s people have taken part in creating this address, answering polls, creating videos and voicing their opinions.”

“The world’s people have spoken and their message is clear – time is running out. They want you, the decision makers to act now,” Attenborough declared.

“The people are behind you, supporting you in making tough decisions, but they are also willing to make sacrifices in their daily lives,” Attenborough said. “To make this even easier, the UN is launching the Act Now bot. Helping people to discover simple everyday actions that they can take, because they recognise that they too must play their part.”

What’s Next?

During COP24 action events will be held on human settlements, industry, transport, water, oceans and coastal zones, energy, forests, agriculture and land use. A high-level event on education will take place.

Roundtables will be held on:

Finance and climate action;

Resilience and climate action;

Land use, water and energy;

Oceans and coastal zones and transport; and

Three of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals:

SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and climate;

SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and climate.

SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) and climate;

Other groups will meet on: intergenerational inquiry; the fashion industry charter for climate action; sports for climate action; and tourism for climate action

Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s Climate Chief, told the opening day audience, “This year is likely to be one of the four hottest years on record. Greenhouses gas concentrations in the atmosphere are at record levels and emissions continue to rise. Climate change impacts have never been worse. This reality is telling us that we need to do much more – COP24 needs to make that happen.”

The outcome – a finalized set of implementation guidelines – is expected to unleash practical climate actions with respect to all the targets and goals of the Paris Agreement – adapting to climate change impacts, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing financial and other support to developing countries.

Featured image source: Sir David Attenborough delivers “The People’s Seat” address to delegates at COP24, December 3, 2018, Katowice, Poland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission


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Trump Dismisses U.S. Government’s Climate Warnings

Soldiers from the California Army National Guard conduct search and debris clearing operations in Paradise, California, a town leveled by wildfire in November 2018. (Photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman / U.S. Air National Guard) Public domain.

Soldiers from the California Army National Guard conduct search and debris clearing operations in Paradise, California, a town leveled by wildfire in November 2018. (Photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman / U.S. Air National Guard) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, November 27, 2018 (Maximpact.com ) – “Earth’s climate is changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities,” warns a bombshell report from the U.S. government, released Friday. Produced by 300 scientists from 13 federal agencies, it finds that global warming is creating new risks and aggravating current vulnerabilities across the United States.

“The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country. More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities,” states the Fourth National Climate Assessment, developed by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).

The report concludes that the United States will warm at least three more degrees by 2100 unless the burning of fossil fuels is limited immediately.

“Regional economies and industries that depend on natural resources and favorable climate conditions, such as agriculture, tourism, and fisheries, are vulnerable to the growing impacts of climate change,” states the report. “Rising temperatures are projected to reduce the efficiency of power generation while increasing energy demands, resulting in higher electricity costs.”

Yet this congressionally mandated report is being shrugged off by the Trump administration and Republicans although it warns of “growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.”

Although the congressionally mandated report is intended to be an authoritative assessment of the impacts of climate change on the United States, it was released over the Thanksgiving weekend, as if the Trump administration, led by a president who views climate change as a “hoax,” wants to deflect public attention from it.

This state-of-the-science synthesis of climate knowledge, impacts, and trends across U.S. regions and sectors is intended to inform decision making and resilience-building activities across the country.

But President Donald Trump told reporters that although he has read parts of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, he doesn’t believe it. “No, I don’t believe it,” the president said.

In 2017 Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, which, through voluntary measures taken by governments, seeks to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and aims to limit warming to just 1.5°C above those levels.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters dismissed the assessment, saying it was “…largely based on the most extreme scenario, which contradicts long-established trends by assuming that, despite strong economic growth that would increase greenhouse gas emissions, there would be limited technology and innovation, and a rapidly expanding population.”

Regardless, the Trump administration has rescinded Obama-era environmental regulations put in place to limit the burning of fossil fuels and the release of potent greenhouse gases such as methane, and has promoted the production of coal and other fossil fuels as part of Trump’s deregulatory agenda.

The report connects climate change to increasing water scarcity, worsening storms, deadly wildfires and greater exposure to tropical diseases across the United States.

And it warns that future climate change will aggravate existing challenges to prosperity posed by aging and deteriorating infrastructure, stressed ecosystems, and economic inequality.

Former Vice President (1993-2001) and environmental activist Al Gore said Friday, “Unbelievably deadly and tragic wildfires rage in the west, hurricanes batter our coasts – and the Trump administration chooses the Friday after Thanksgiving to try and bury this critical U.S. assessment of the climate crisis. The President may try to hide the truth, but his own scientists and experts have made it as stark and clear as possible.”

“The rest of us are listening to the scientists – and to Mother Nature. The impacts of the Climate Crisis are being felt in all regions across our country – extreme weather, heat waves, deeper and longer droughts, crop failures, strengthening wildfires, sea level rise – and they are disproportionately borne by the most vulnerable among us.

“Mr. President,” said Gore, “the majority of Americans are deeply concerned about the climate crisis and demand action. Even as local leaders are responding in the wake of fires and storms, national leaders must summon the will to respond urgently to the dire warnings of this report with bold solutions.”

One of the sternest warnings in the report relates to water scarcity. The report states, “Groundwater depletion is exacerbating drought risk in many parts of the United States, particularly in the Southwest and Southern Great Plains. Dependable and safe water supplies for U.S. Caribbean, Hawaii, and U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Island communities are threatened by drought, flooding, and saltwater contamination due to sea level rise.”

U.S. Senator Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the Senate Climate Change Task Force and is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement Friday, “We can see, feel, hear and experience the impacts of climate change when our communities suffer sea level rise, forest fires, and super-charged hurricanes.”

“The Trump administration may want to bury this report so that it doesn’t get attention, but we can’t bury our heads in the sand to the threat of climate change. We need to take action now to reduce carbon pollution and implement the clean energy solutions that will help save our planet,” Senator Markey said.

“Climate change remains the most critical challenge that human civilization faces, and today’s report affirms that conclusion,” said Markey. “In this National Climate Assessment, our best scientists are sending up an emergency flare – we need to take action now to mitigate carbon emissions or ignore the risks posed by climate change at our peril.”

And the risks are many, the report finds.

“Rising temperatures are projected to reduce the efficiency of power generation while increasing energy demands, resulting in higher electricity costs,” the report warns.

Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands, and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the United States, the report finds. Increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security, and price stability.”

Business will also feel the effects. “The impacts of climate change beyond our borders are expected to increasingly affect our trade and economy, including import and export prices and U.S. businesses with overseas operations and supply chains.”

The report acknowledges that, “Some aspects of our economy may see slight near-term improvements in a modestly warmer world. However, the continued warming that is projected to occur, without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts.”

While Democrats are taking the report’s findings seriously, Republicans are nonchalant.

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, Sunday called for “balance” in responding to heightened concerns that the U.S. may face large-scale disasters, an economic downturn and a loss of jobs due to climate change.

“Any time we are putting regulation out, we need to consider impact to American industry and jobs,” Ernst said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We want to make sure that it makes sense going forward. There is a balance that can be struck there.”

Hurricane Michael storm response from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement. With winds of 155 mph, Hurricane Michael was one of the most intense Atlantic hurricanes to make landfall in U.S. history, 43 people lost their lives, October 17, 2018. (Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife) Public domain.

Hurricane Michael storm response from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement. With winds of 155 mph, Hurricane Michael was one of the most intense Atlantic hurricanes to make landfall in U.S. history, 43 people lost their lives, October 17, 2018. (Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife) Public domain.

The USGCRP report warns that those likely to be worst affected by climate change include older adults, children, low-income communities, some communities of color and many Indigenous peoples, who rely on natural resources for their economic, cultural, and physical well-being.

Throughout the United States, climate-related impacts are causing some Indigenous peoples to consider or actively pursue community relocation as an adaptation strategy.

Many Indigenous peoples are taking steps to adapt to climate change impacts structured around self-determination and traditional knowledge, and some tribes are pursuing mitigation actions through development of renewable energy on tribal lands.

The report urges governments at every level to help cushion the blow, advising, “Adaptation and mitigation policies and programs that help individuals, communities, and states prepare for the risks of a changing climate reduce the number of injuries, illnesses, and deaths from climate-related health outcomes.”

While the efforts of communities, governments, and businesses to reduce risks and costs associated with climate change by lowering greenhouse gas emissions and implementing adaptation strategies have expanded in the four years since the last report, “…they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades,” the 2018 report warns.

“With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century – more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states,” finds the report.

There are a few hopeful signs. For instance, transformations in the energy sector – including the displacement of coal by natural gas and increased deployment of renewable energy – along with policy actions at the national, regional, state, and local levels are reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

But this assessment shows that more immediate and substantial global greenhouse gas emissions reductions, as well as regional adaptation efforts, will be needed to avoid the most severe consequences of climate change in the long term.

Featured Image: Fire consumes Florida’s Merritt Island in a prescribed burn to control vegetation. Feb. 12, 2013 (Photo: Michael Good / US Fish & Wildlife Service) Public domain


Climate Change Outlook: What Europeans Can Expect

UN Climate's top climate negotiators at the COP24 ministerial meeting in Krakow on October 23, 2018, Patricia Espinosa center in lavender. (Photo courtesy COP24) Posted for media use.

UN Climate’s top climate negotiators at the COP24 ministerial meeting in Krakow on October 23, 2018, Patricia Espinosa center in lavender. (Photo courtesy COP24) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, November 20, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – If global warming rises more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels and no adequate adaptation measures are taken, Europe is at risk of being exposed to more frequent, intense extreme weather conditions with serious economic impacts.

This outlook results from a detailed assessment of the impact of climate change on Europe’s economy, society and environment made by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Commission’s science and knowledge hub and released on Friday.

The assessment, written by Ignacio Pérez Domínguez and Thomas Fellmann, shows that under a high warming (above 2°C) scenario:

  • Rising temperatures and increased hot spells could result in an additional 132,000 yearly heat fatalities, while labor productivity could drop by 10-15 percent in some southern European countries;
  • Shifts in flower/plant blooming, growing season and changes in soil water content will affect agriculture productivity and habitat suitability, with a potential doubling of the arid climate zone;
  • Sea levels will rise along Europe’s coastlines, resulting in a five-fold increase in coastal flood damages;
  • Three times more people will be exposed to river floods, while river flood damages could rise from 5.3 billion Euro/year to 17.5 billion Euro/year.
  • Energy demand for heating will decrease, yet energy requirements for cooling spaces will rise rapidly;
  • Southern parts of Europe may face increasing water shortage and more droughts, whereas water resources will generally increase in northern Europe;

Most of these climate damages would be greatly reduced under a scenario that keeps warming below the 2°C threshold.

The Joint Research Centre PESETA III report is an agro-economic analysis of climate change impacts in Europe.

The PESETA (Projection of Economic impacts of climate change in Sectors of the European Union based on bottom-up Analysis) project responds to the need to provide quantitative modelling support to the European Commission services regarding the impacts of climate change in Europe.

It brings together experts in economics, biology, physics and engineering to calculate the physical impacts and economic costs of climate change in Europe.

Understanding the possible consequences of climate change is important to design adaptation policies that can help to minimize negative consequences and maximize positive effects.

The European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete is reaching out to other high-emitting countries to foster understanding of the EU’s climate control policies. He spoke at the Tsinghua University in Beijing on November 9, explaining European climate policy and what actions the EU is taking to avert the most dangerous effects of rising temperatures.

Currently, the European Union is implementing its 2020 climate and energy package, said Arias Cañete. Agreed by EU leaders in 2007, this package has three key targets:

  • a 20 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared to 1990
  • a 20 percent share of renewable energies in overall EU energy consumption by 2020
  • increasing energy efficiency in the EU so as to achieve the goal of saving 20 percent of the EU’s energy consumption

Southern Europe to Be Hardest Hit

It appears that the Mediterranean area will be the most impacted by climate change.

The PESETA III assessment shows that in several impact areas there is a clear geographical north-south divide; countries in southern Europe will be more affected by global warming than those in the north.

This is clearly the case for heat-related deaths, water resources, habitat loss, energy demand for cooling and forest fires.

Counting the Cost

The assessment analyzes the impact of climate change for 11 different impact categories: coastal floods, river floods, droughts, agriculture, energy, transport, water resources, habitat loss, forest fires, labor productivity, and heat-related mortality.

For most of these, the report compares a scenario where actions to limit warming to 2°C are successful, compared to one where they are not.

From the economic perspective, the losses associated with heat-related mortality represent “a very significant share of damages” in a high warming scenario.

Other shares, in order of importance, are: coastal flooding, labor productivity, agriculture and river flooding.

As the coverage of potential impacts is incomplete – damages due to possible climate tipping points and ecosystems services losses are not considered – the sum of the economic damage estimates is not equal to the total economic costs of climate change in Europe. The sum of the economic damage estimates is likely to be higher, the authors say.

The PESETA III report also estimates how climate change impacts in the rest of the world could affect Europe, considering four impact areas – residential energy demand, river flooding, labor productivity and agriculture.

The transboundary effect of these four impact categories was estimated to increase the EU welfare loss by 20 percent in a high warming scenario.

The authors stress that the boundary effects could be far greater when all potential impacts of climate change are considered.

In 2015, the world’s governments adopted the Paris Agreement on climate change, the first-ever universal and legally binding agreement to limit global warming, and deal with its dangerous impacts.

The Paris Agreement emerged after the world’s scientists concluded that global warming is happening, and that human activity – greenhouse gas emissions from our economies and industries – is the key cause.

Now, three years later, global negotiations are taking place to make sure that the Paris Agreement is properly implemented. In December, world leaders will gather in Katowice, Poland for the United Nations COP24 conference on climate, where they intend to finalize the Paris Agreement’s rules and guidelines.

Commitments Fall Short of 1.5°Celsius Goal

Miguel Arias Cañete Parlement européen Strasbourg 26 nov 2014 (Photo by Claude TRUONG-NGOC) Creative Commons license via Wikipedia

Miguel Arias Cañete Parlement européen Strasbourg 26 nov 2014
(Photo by Claude TRUONG-NGOC) Creative Commons license via Wikipedia

The 10-day COP24, which opens December 2, has a new global scientific assessment to guide policy-making and add urgency to negotiations. Released in October, the new special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), shows that a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees would avoid some of the worst climate impacts, and reduce the likelihood of extreme weather events.

But the IPCC report warns that current climate commitments are not enough to achieve this goal.

The IPCC report shows that, “… 1.5 degrees is achievable – as long as we act urgently, and use every tool at our disposal,” Commissioner Arias Cañete told his audience in Beijing. “So,” he said, “it is clear that we must work together and raise the collective global ambition.”

At the opening of a ministerial meeting in Krakow on October 23, designed to prepare for the outcome of COP24, the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change Patricia Espinosa outlined her expectations for the conference.

“The Special Report by the IPCC unequivocally states that the world is not on track to limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C, as outlined in the Paris Agreement – and the window to achieve this is closing rapidly. We’re almost out of time,” Espinosa declared.

“It’s not rhetoric – it’s reality,” she said. “It’s not politics – it’s science.”

“And it’s not a suggestion – it’s a warning … a warning that we are in danger of running out of time before runaway climate change is beyond our control.”

“This is frightening – for everyone,” Espinosa said. “And people throughout the world have made it very clear. They expect their representatives – you – to do something about it.”

Espinosa, who hails from Brazil, is urging all nations to get to work immediately to begin resolving the climate crisis.

Success at COP24 means finalizing the Paris Agreement Work Program– period,” she said. “We no longer have the luxury of time, nor do we have the luxury of endless negotiations.”

“Let us never forget,” Espinosa told the ministerial meeting, “that climate change, if left unaddressed, will take almost every single challenge humanity faces and make it worse.”

“It will destabilize the global economy, which will affect all nations,” she warned. “By 2030, the loss of productivity caused by a hotter world could cost the global economy US$2 trillion.”

“It will create conflict over resources and impact migration. It’s estimated that climate change could displace between 50 million and 200 million people by 2050. Worse, it will result in incredible suffering and hardship for people and societies throughout the world,” Espinosa

But addressing climate change, and committing to a low-emissions future—one that is more resilient and sustainable—offers incredible opportunity.

It’s not just an opportunity to do the right thing—it’s an opportunity to completely transform the way we produce and consume, and the way we live.

And that means new markets, new businesses, and, for so many people throughout the world, new jobs…quality jobs…a just transition to a future that is just for all people.

Featured image source: Drought shrinks the reservoir at El Grado, a municipality located in the province of Huesca, Aragon, in northern Spain. August 2012 (Photo by Jorge Franganillo) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Winners Change the Course of Climate Change

Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company, is making Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into "biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge into clean energy. All three treatment plants will be zero waste, energy self-sufficient, and carbon neutral by 2022. (Photo courtesy Aguas Andinas)

Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company, is making Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into “biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge into clean energy. All three treatment plants will be zero waste, energy self-sufficient, and carbon neutral by 2022. (Photo courtesy Aguas Andinas)

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, November 13, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – From a mobile app that fights food waste and hunger to a government that is taking 100 percent responsibility for its greenhouse gas emissions, 15 projects from around the world are demonstrating how fresh ideas, large and small, can change the course of climate change.

“These activities shine a light on scalable climate action around the world,” said Patricia Espinosa of Brazil, executive secretary of UN Climate Change . “They are proof that climate action isn’t only possible, it’s innovative, it’s exciting and it makes a difference.”

Human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, have triggered a change in the Earth’s climate system that could leave the planet uninhabitable before the end of this century, warns the latest scientific evaluation from hundreds of scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

And only human activities that protect the climate can reverse that calamitous course.

“Climate action leaders, including those recognized by the Momentum for Change initiative, are stepping up to meet the global climate challenge by delivering on the Paris Agreement,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“These inspirational leaders, from communities, governments, businesses and organizations, come from all corners of the globe and all levels of society,” Guterres said. “Their winning projects range from transformative financial investments to women-led solutions to protect people and the planet.”

“Through their leadership and creativity, we see essential change,” said the UN chief.

The Momentum for Change initiative, advanced by the UN Climate Change secretariat, illuminates some of the most practical examples of what people are doing to combat climate change.

“There is an enormous groundswell of activities underway across the globe that are moving the world toward a highly resilient, low-carbon future. Momentum for Change recognizes innovative and transformative solutions that address both climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges,” UN Climate Change said in a statement.

The 2018 Lighthouse Activities were selected by an international advisory panel as part of the secretariat’s Momentum for Change initiative, which is implemented with the support of The Rockefeller Foundation, and operates in partnership with the World Economic Forum, Masdar’s Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy Forum (WiSER) initiative, and Climate Neutral Now.

The 15 projects were chosen from more than 560 applications from businesses and governments, communities and nongovernmental organizations throughout the world.

Each of the 15 winning projects, called Lighthouse Activities, falls within one of Momentum for Change’s four focus areas: Planetary Health, Climate Neutral Now, Women for Results and Financing for Climate Friendly Investment.

They will be showcased in a series of special events during this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) taking place December 2-14 in Katowice, Poland.

The 2018 Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activities are:

Planetary Health

* Climate-Efficient School Kitchens and Plant-Powered Pupils | Germany: ProVeg International is providing healthy, climate-friendly meals in German schools. ProVeg International wants animal agriculture placed on the agenda for COP24, saying, “Animal agriculture is one of the world’s largest contributors to climate change. This issue must be prioritized at COP24.”

  • Santiago Biofactory | Chile: Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company together with its main shareholder SUEZ, is transforming Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into “biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge, a wastewater treatment by-product, into clean energy.
  • Composting Waste Treatment: An Ecological Solution to Poverty and Climate Change | Haiti: Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) is building composting toilets in Haiti, reducing the spread of diseases like cholera and typhoid, creating jobs, and restoring local environments.
  • Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Project | Sri Lanka: Seacology, a nonprofit environmental conservation organization, is helping Sri Lanka become the first nation in history to preserve and replant all of its mangrove forests.

Climate Neutral Now

  • Creating the Greenest Football Club in the World – Forest Green Rovers | United Kingdom: The Forest Green Rovers is bringing eco-thinking and technology to a new and large audience: football fans. In 2010, the team began its journey to becoming the world’s first carbon neutral football club. In 2017 FGR became the world’s first vegan football club because of the huge environmental and animal welfare impacts of livestock farming, as well as to improve player performance and give fans healthier, tastier food on matchdays. The club has since been described by FIFA, as “the world’s greenest football club.”
  • Monash’s Net Zero Initiative | Australia: Monash University, Australia’s largest university, has committed to reach net zero emissions by 2030 for all four of its Australian campuses.
  • Klimanjaro – Climate Neutral Supply Chain | Norway: Fjordkraft, the second largest electricity retailer in Norway, is using its purchasing power to inspire all its suppliers to be climate neutral by 2019.
  • Carbon Neutral Government Program | Canada: In 2010, the province of British Columbiabecame the first government at the provincial, territorial, or state level in North America to take 100 percent responsibility for the greenhouse gas pollution from all 128 of its public-sector organizations. B.C. is committed to reaching its 2050 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 2007 levels.

Women for Results

  • Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative | Syria: With the Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative women are defying traditional gender roles and combatting overcrowded streets by promoting bicycling as a healthy and sustainable mode of transportation in the war-torn city of Damascus.
  • Women Leading a Food Sharing Revolution! | UK, Sweden, USA: Women are leading a food revolution with OLIO, the world’s only neighbor-to-neighbor food sharing app. OLIO is co-founded and led by women and two-thirds of the app’s users are women.
A Syrian woman participates in a Yalla Let’s Bike event in the city of Damascus. September 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative) Posted for media use

A Syrian woman participates in a Yalla Let’s Bike event in the city of Damascus. September 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative) Posted for media use

Between 33-50 percent of all food produced globally is never eaten, and the value of this wasted food is worth over US$1 trillion annually.

OLIO points out that it takes a land mass larger than China to grow the food each year that is never eaten – land deforested, species driven to extinction, indigenous populations moved, soil degraded – all to produce food that we throw away. Food that is never eaten accounts for 25 percent of all fresh water consumption globally. Meanwhile 800 million people go to bed hungry every night.

  • HelpUsGreen | India: Women are creating compost from ceremonial flowers and simultaneously cleaning up the River Ganges. Through HelpUsGreen women collect 8.4 tons of floral-waste from temples in Uttar Pradesh on a daily basis. These sacred flowers are handcrafted into charcoal-free incense, organic vermicompost and biodegradable packaging material through the organization’s ‘Flowercycling®’ technology.

“Today,” says HelpUsGreen, “orthodox temples and religious authorities want to be a part of our mission -pointing to a change against a century old harmful religious practice of dumping temple-waste in the Indian rivers.”

  • Feminist Electrification: Ensuring Pro-Women Outcomes in Rural Energy Access | Haiti: Energy poverty, a lack of access to modern energy services, is disproportionally affecting women in rural areas. So, EarthSpark International, a women-run enterprise, is approaching all its energy access projects with a gender lens, referring to this as “feminist electrification.”

In 2012, EarthSpark turned on a first-of-its-kind privately operated, pre-pay microgrid in Les Anglais, Haiti, a small town that had never before had grid electricity. EarthSpark aims to build 80 microgrids in Haiti by the end of 2022.

Financing for Climate Friendly Investment

  • Rwanda Green Fund – FONERWA | Rwanda: The Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) is investing in public and private projects that drive transformative change. It is one of the first national environment and climate change investment funds in Africa.

The fund invests in the best public and private projects that have the potential for transformative change and that align with Rwanda’s commitment to building a strong green economy.

  • The MAIS Program | Brazil: The MAIS Program (Modulo Agroclimático Inteligente e Sustentável) is helping family agricultural operations adapt to climate change in the Jacuípe Basin, Brazil’s semi-arid region. It is one of the first ever climate-smart agricultural programs to mainstream climate disruptive technologies among farmers in Brazil.
  • Catalytic Finance Initiative | Global: Bank of America Merrill Lynch is working with partners to mobilize US$10 billion for innovative and high-impact climate mitigation and sustainability-focused investments.

Projects announced to date by Bank of America under the Catalytic Finance Initiative include new energy efficiency financing in partnership with the New York State Green Bank totaling $800 million, arranging a $204 million green project bond for wind developer Energia Eolica S.A. in Peru, and helping to structure a new $100 million facility with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

“A central way in which we are helping to build sustainable economies is through our financing of clean energy,” said Anne Finucane, vice chairman, Bank of America. “The Catalytic Finance Initiative demonstrates how all partners working together will achieve a greater collective impact.”

The UN’s Momentum for Change initiative is part of a broader effort to mobilize action and ambition as national governments work toward implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Featured Image: Tessa Cook, left, and Saasha Celestial-One, Co-founders of OLIO, the food sharing app. 2018 (Photo courtesy OLIO) Posted for media use.


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Climate Change Raises Mosquito-Borne Disease Risk

Students who are beneficiaries of the activities financed by UNICEF and developed together with their humanitarian partners. This photograph was taken as part of the coverage of recreational days for the prevention of Zika, during the development of the theater play "La Zancuda Patirrayas and the Zika Virus." Manta, Manabí, Ecuador. March 2, 2017. (Photo by UNICEF) Creative Commons License va Flickr

Students who are beneficiaries of the activities financed by UNICEF and developed together with their humanitarian partners. This photograph was taken as part of the coverage of recreational days for the prevention of Zika, during the development of the theater play “La Zancuda Patirrayas and the Zika Virus.” Manta, Manabí, Ecuador. March 2, 2017. (Photo by UNICEF) Creative Commons License va Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BATH, Somerset, United Kingdom, November 5, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Present-day climate change could result in the spread of deadly mosquito-borne diseases to new places or their return to areas where they have already been eradicated, scientists are warning, based on the largest-ever study of the mosquito evolutionary tree, going back 195 million years.

These diseases – such as malaria, Yellow fever, Zika virus, and Dengue fever – cause millions of deaths each year.

While many of these diseases have been eradicated from Europe and are under control in other parts of the world, resurgence is possible.

New research from British and Chinese scientists at the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, University of York  and China Agricultural University, shows that the rate at which new species of mosquitos evolve increases when levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are higher.

Carbon dioxide levels today are higher than at any point in at least the past 800,000 years, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The global average atmospheric carbon dioxide in 2017 was 405 parts per million (ppm), with a range of uncertainty of plus or minus 0.1 ppm.

The scientists say this is concerning because the greater the number of mosquito species, the more potential exists for new ways of vectoring diseases, and perhaps for new variants of those diseases.

Professor Matthew Wills, from the University of Bath’s Milner Centre for Evolution, said, “It’s only the female mosquitos that take a blood meal, and they use the CO2 that mammals and other vertebrates exhale as a very general cue to locate their hosts.”

“One line of thinking is that as ambient levels of atmospheric CO2 rose, as they have done in recent decades, mosquitos may have found it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the CO2 from their hosts and those background levels,” Wills speculated.

“Vision, body heat and other smells might then have become more important in locating their blood meals, but many of these cues tend to be more specific to particular hosts,” said Wills. “As a general rule, we know that strong host specificity can be an important driver of speciation within parasites, and the same may be true in mosquitos.”

The Bath, York and China Agricultural research found that while there is a link between rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and mosquito diversification, the association is more complicated than previously thought. Other factors – such as the diversity of mammalian hosts – contribute to an increase in the species richness of mosquitos.

Dr. Katie Davis, from the University of York’s Department of Biology, said, “We found that the increase in the diversity of mammals led directly to a rise in the number of mosquito species, and also that there is a relationship between CO2 levels and the number of mammal species.”

“But there are still missing pieces of this puzzle, so we can still only speculate at this stage,” she said.

“It is important to look at the evolution of the mosquito against climate change because mosquitos are responsive to CO2 levels. Atmospheric CO2 levels are currently rising due to changes in the environment that are connected to human activity, so what does this mean for the mosquito and human health?

“Despite some uncertainties, we can now show that mosquito species are able to evolve and adapt to climate change in high numbers. With increased speciation, however, comes the added risk of disease increase and the return of certain diseases in countries that had eradicated them or never experienced them before.”

Chufei Tang, formerly at the Milner Centre for Evolution and now at the China Agricultural University, said, “The rising atmospheric CO2 has been proven to influence various kinds of organisms, but this is the first time such impact has been found on insects. This research provides yet another reason for people to participate in low-carbon lifestyles.”

More research is needed to understand what climate change means for the future of the mosquito, and this research is expected to contribute to further discussions about the value of mosquitos to the ecosystem and how to manage the diseases they carry.

The study, Tang et al (2018) “Elevated atmospheric CO2 promoted speciation in mosquitoes (Diptera, Culicidae)” is published in the journal “Communications Biology,” DOI: 10.1038/s42003-018-0191-7.

Featured Image: Mosquitos, Eldorado, Misiones Province, Argentina, 2012 (Photo by Oscar Fava) Public domain


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European Clean Energy Innovators to Get €100 Million

From left: Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the Commission for the Energy Union; billionaire co-founder of Microsoft and chair of Breakthrough Energy Ventures Bill Gates; European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, October 17, 2018 Brussels, Belgium (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use.

From left: Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the Commission for the Energy Union; billionaire co-founder of Microsoft and chair of Breakthrough Energy Ventures Bill Gates; European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, October 17, 2018 Brussels, Belgium (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 18, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates knows that €100 million can fund a lot of climate-friendly, clean energy research by European innovators, so as founding chairman of a new investment fund, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Gates is collaborating with the European Commission to provide that support.

Under Gates’ leadership, Breakthrough Energy and the European Commission Wednesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish Breakthrough Energy Europe (BEE), a joint investment fund to help innovative European companies develop and bring “radically new clean energy technologies” to market.

Breakthrough Energy Europe links public funding with long-term risk capital so that clean energy research and innovation can be brought to market more quickly and efficiently.

With a capitalization of €100 million (US$115.2 million), the fund will focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting energy efficiency in the areas of electricity, transport, agriculture, manufacturing, and buildings.

Gates said in Brussels, where he met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, “We need new technologies to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Europe has demonstrated valuable leadership by making impressive investments in R&D.”

“The scientists and entrepreneurs who are developing innovations to address climate change need capital to build companies that can deliver those innovations to the global market,” said Gates. “Breakthrough Energy Europe is designed to provide that capital.”

Breakthrough Energy Europe is expected to be operational in 2019. Half the equity will come from Breakthrough Energy and the other half from InnovFin, risk-sharing financial instruments funded through Horizon 2020, the EU’s current research and innovation program.

InnovFin, EU Finance for Innovators, is a joint financing initiative launched by the European Investment Bank Group with the European Commission under Horizon 2020.

The agreement signed Wednesday supports the Commission’s desire to lead the fight against climate change and to deliver on the Paris Agreement, giving a strong signal to capital markets and investors that the global transition to a modern, clean economy is here to stay.

President Juncker said, “Europe must continue to take the lead in tackling climate change head on, at home and across the world. We must push for the modernization of Europe’s economy and industry in order to meet the ambitious targets put in place to protect our planet.”

“Pooling public and private investment in new, innovative clean energy technology is key to enabling long-term solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Juncker. “If Europe is to have a future that can guarantee the well-being of all its citizens, it will need to be climate-friendly and sustainable.”

The EU views itself as playing a decisive role in building the coalition of ambition making the adoption of the Paris Agreement possible in December 2015. is a global leader on climate action.

The Commission has already brought forward all legislative proposals to deliver on the EU’s commitment to reduce emissions in the European Union by at least 40 percent by 2030.

Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the Commission for the Energy Union, said, “The scale and speed of what is needed to reach our climate goals require innovative thinking and bold action. Not only is this new public-private investment vehicle being set up in record time, it will also serve as an example of us joining forces to accelerate breakthrough innovation in Europe.”

Beyond updating and strengthening its energy and climate legislation, the EU is developing enabling measures that will stimulate investment, create jobs, empower and modernize industries.

The Commission is currently working on a long-term strategy for the reduction of greenhouse gases. The proposal will be published in November, ahead of the UN’s annual climate summit in Katowice, Poland.

Carlos Moedas, commissioner for research, science and innovation, observed, “We are delivering on our commitment to stimulate public-private cooperation in financing clean energy innovation. The €100 million fund will target EU innovators and companies with the potential to achieve significant and lasting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

On the margins of the COP21 climate conference in Paris in 2015, Mission Innovation was launched as an international partnership to accelerate clean energy innovation and provide a long-term global response to climate challenge.

By joining Mission Innovation, 23 countries and the European Commission, on behalf of the EU, pledged to double their clean energy research and innovation funding to about $30 billion a year by 2021.

Also at the Paris summit, from which the Paris Agreement on climate emerged, a group of investors from 10 countries announced their intention to drive innovation from laboratories to the market by investing long-term capital at unprecedented levels in early-stage technology development in Mission Innovation participating countries. It was the genesis of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition.

Featured Image: Renault’s electric car, the Zoe, in Sicily. Renault is supplying 200 Renault ZOEs for the rental fleet of Sicily by Car, a leading Italian car-hire firm. 2017 (Photo courtesy Renault) Posted for media 


The World’s Greenest Countries Revealed

Does your country make the cut?


Source: eCO2 Greetings

With ice caps melting at an alarming rate and worldwide coral reefs at risk of dying, we are becoming more aware of the role we play in combating global warming and saving the environment. But have you ever wondered if you’re living in a green country? This interactive map reveals all.

Using Yale data that measures the Environmental Performance Index, the interactive map reveals the World’s Greenest Countries. The environmental performance index (EPI) ranks performance of countries based on issues in two environmental areas: protection of human health and protection of ecosystems.

Finland is the greenest country of us all, with an EPI rating of 90.68, leading the way with their commitment to achieve a carbon-neutral society by 2050. Followed closely by Iceland and Sweden who bagged 2nd and 3rd spots.

There are 196 countries in the world, and the map also reports the UK and USA are lagging behind the environmental evolution. The UK were just shy of landing a place in the world’s top 10 greenest countries, and instead took 12th place with an EPI score of 87.38. In 2016 the UK’s wind power made history and overtook coal for electricity generation for the first time.

With an EPI score of 84.72, the USA have Obama’s historic conservation to thank for their Top 30 spot. 22 new parks were added to the US National Park system during his eight years in office, and he created the two largest marine reserves on Earth!

Those lucky enough to call their country a pioneer in the World’s Greenest Countries Top 10 include:

  1. Finland. With an EPI score of 90.68.
  2. Iceland. With an EPI score of 90.51.
  3. Sweden. With an EPI score of 90.43.
  4. Denmark. With an EPI score of 89.21.
  5. Slovenia. With an EPI score of 88.98.
  6. Spain. With an EPI score of 88.91.
  7. Portugal. With an EPI score of 88.63.
  8. Estonia. With an EPI score of 88.59.
  9. Malta. With an EPI score of 88.48.
  10. France. With an EPI score of 88.20.

It may, or may not come as a surprise to some that all of the Top 10 Greenest Countries are European. Projects including the world’s first solar panel road in Normandy, France, and plans to get rooftop gardens on buses and bus stops in Madrid, Spain, to combat CO2 emissions are original, important and revolutionary. The rest of the world needs to take note!

By: Roxanne Bracknell

Philanthropists Pledge US$4 Billion for Climate Change Battle

The Ferguson Fire burns in California's Sierra National Forest and Yosemite National Park. August 8, 2018. (Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region 5) Public domain

The Ferguson Fire burns in California’s Sierra National Forest and Yosemite National Park. August 8, 2018. (Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region 5) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

SAN FRANCISCO, California, September 24, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Philanthropic foundations from across the United States and around the world have just pledged $4 billion over the next five years to fight climate change – the largest climate-related philanthropic commitment ever made.

In a joint statement, the 29 contributing foundations said, “As climate philanthropists, we are committed to supporting the vast array of solutions required to tackle this global problem. We know that every moment, and every dollar, counts. Which is why we are proud to announce today the joint commitment of more than $4 billion over the next five years to combat climate change.”

“We know that it is only a down payment,” the philanthropists declared. “Everyone has a role to play—and philanthropy must be prepared to invest many billions more.”

The announcement, made at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco on September 14, is a broad global commitment to accelerate proven climate and clean-energy strategies, spur innovation and support organizations everywhere working to protect their communities and the air they breathe.

“Philanthropists can and must work together as catalysts to engage governments, the business community and NGOs to accelerate progress on climate change,” said Nat Simons, co-founder of the Sea Change Foundation. “The multi-billion dollar commitment announced today is only a down payment. Together we’ll need to invest billions more. And soon.”

The contributing foundations are working to form new global coalitions of philanthropic investors focused on high leverage issues like sustainable land use. The goal is to demonstrate their viability and enable investors of all sizes and capacities to participate for maximum impact.

“Now, more than ever, philanthropy has to step up and go big. The health of our children, our communities, and our economic future literally depends on it,” write MacArthur Foundation executives Debra Schwartz, managing director, impact investments, and Susan Phinney Silver, mission investing director, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, in an article on the MacArthur Foundation website.

“If we are going to keep the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, we can only afford to emit about another 600 Gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere. At current rates, that will take about 14 years (or perhaps a decade longer if we aim for 2 degrees). In either scenario, urgent action is needed,” write Schwartz and Silver.

The $4 billion worth of investments will support an array of strategies, with an emphasis on those addressing the five challenge areas addressed at the Global Climate Action Summit – healthy energy systems, inclusive economic growth, sustainable communities, land and ocean stewardship and transformative climate investments.

“The value of these investment strategies are clear in three critical areas that benefit from philanthropic capital that can be flexible and risk-tolerant: renewable energy, energy efficiency in the built environment, and sustainable forestry and land use,” write Schwartz and Silver.

Over the past 20 years, the nonprofit sector, supported by philanthropists, have broadened access to low-cost, reliable wind and solar energy; designed policies that are revolutionizing the integration of a new generation of electric vehicles; and provided critical support to countries working to meet the requirements of the historic Paris Agreement on climate.

“Tackling global climate change requires partnership and collaboration, and philanthropy has an important role to play,” said Patricia Harris, CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies.

“We’re proud to support efforts that are making incredible local progress around the world, but there’s so much more that needs to be done,” said Harris. “This landmark pledge is a key step to making even greater impact, together.”

The philanthopists say that by working together, sharing knowledge, welcoming new partners, and harnessing the actions of governments, the private sector and everyday citizens, the philanthropic community can be a catalyst in the fight against our world’s greatest threat.

Much of their $4 billion investment will support local organizations working on the front lines of climate change who are cutting greenhouse gas emissions and protecting carbon sinks such as the Amazon rainforest. They want the funding to “propel the expansion of successful local efforts to solve the climate crisis and allow those most affected by the climate crisis to shape the solutions to it.”

“Each day brings new evidence of climate change affecting lives – from extreme weather events, to increased food insecurity, to tragic impacts on human health,” said Kate Hampton, CEO of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

“We see the suffering that a steadily warming planet is causing to people around the world, but we also see hope,” Hampton said. “As philanthropists, we are committed to doing our part and to engaging on climate change like never before.”

“This initiative is a breakthrough, and very welcomed by civil society. Political leaders need to feel the pressure from their constituencies to prioritize action on climate change,” said Wael Hmaidan, executive director

the nonprofit Climate Action Network International. “By supporting a strong base of mobilizers, influencers and change agents in local communities around the world, this commitment can help accomplish that.”

Funders contributing to this effort include: Barr Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Bullitt Foundation, Sir Christopher Hohn and The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, The Educational Foundation of America, Pirojsha Godrej Foundation, Grantham Foundation, Grove Foundation, Growald Family Fund, George Gund Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, IKEA Foundation, Ivey Foundation, Joyce Foundation, JPB Foundation, KR Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Dee & Richard Lawrence and OIF, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, McKinney Family Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Oak Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Pisces Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Sea Change Foundation, Turner Foundation and Yellow Chair Foundation.

The $4 billion from philanthropic foundations can accomplish a great deal, but it is not the only investment being made by the private sector to mitigate global warming.

Investors Fight Funding Shortfall

The Investor Agenda, also launched at the Global Climate Action Summit, will support investors in accelerating and scaling-up the actions that are critical to tackling climate change and achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement across four key focus areas: investment, corporate engagement, investor disclosure, and policy advocacy.

Showcasing investor leadership on climate change will be used to inspire even more generous commitments and building on existing momentum.

Momentum is already evident, with 392 investors with US$32 trillion in assets collectively under management using The Investor Agenda to highlight climate action they are already taking and making new commitments.

To date, 120 investors are pursuing new and existing investments in low carbon and climate resilient portfolios, funds, strategies or assets such as renewable energy and energy efficiency projects; phasing out investments in coal; and integrating climate change into portfolio analysis and decision-making.

“The emergence of The Investor Agenda reflects the mounting urgency among the global investor community to address the greatest challenge of our time through measurable and transparent actions,” said Peter Damgaard Jensen, CEO of Danish pension fund PKA with over $42 billion in assets under management, and chair of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change.

At least 345 institutional investors with US$30 trillion in assets are urging governments to implement the Paris Agreement and enhance their climate policy ambitions by 2020. They are calling for: phase out of thermal coal power worldwide, greater investment in the low-carbon transition and improving climate-related financial disclosures.

Investor disclosure highlights the more than 60 investors committed to reporting in line with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure recommendations.

Corporate engagement highlights 650 investors with US$87 trillion in assets backing the Carbon Disclosure Project’s environmental disclosure request; and 296 investors from 29 countries with US$31 trillion in assets that are signatories to Climate Action 100+. This investor-led initiative engages the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters and asks them to limit emissions to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), supports these investor actions.

“Investors are showing great leadership to promote climate action in multiple fronts. Their efforts to meet the shortfall in the financial resources required to deliver the Paris Agreement goals, and further building on engagement with high-emitting sectors are a valuable contribution,” said Espinosa. “Yet we believe many more opportunities exist.”


Featured Image:  Human encroachment of Kenya’s Mau Forest by local communities has degraded the forest. Members of the Peace Ambassadors Kenya pambio.org/green-print-project are planting trees to restore the Mau Forest, Kenya’s largest water tower and the region’s rainfall catchment area. September 20, 2018 (Photo by Antony Odhiambo / Global Landscapes Forum) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Protecting Climate Health Keeps Humans Healthy

Solar panels cover the roof of Santa Clara, California Medical Center's parking garage. (Photo courtesy Kaiser Permanente) Posted for media use

Solar panels cover the roof of Santa Clara, California Medical Center’s parking garage. (Photo courtesy Kaiser Permanente) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

SAN FRANCISCO, California, September 18, 201 (Maximpact.com News) – The health care industry is committing to quickly transition from dependence on climate-destroying fossil fuels to an economy based on clean, renewable energies such as wind and solar.

The initiative comes from Health Care Without Harm, an international nongovernmental organization based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that aims to transform health care worldwide to reduce its environmental footprint and lead the global movement for environmental health and justice.

As Health Care without Harm puts it, “Climate change is an urgent threat to human health everywhere, and health care organizations and professionals are coming together around a collective vision of healthy people living in sustainable and equitable communities on a thriving planet.”

In San Francisco last week, Dr. Aparna Bole, Health Care Without Harm board member and division chief for general pediatrics and adolescent medicine at University Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, announced commitments by large health systems, hospitals, and health centers around the world to procure or install 100 percent clean, renewable electricity.

The commitments were made as part of the Global Climate and Health Forum at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), an affiliate event to the three-day Global Climate Action Summit.

Dozens of health organizations representing more than five million doctors, nurses and public health professionals, and 17,000 hospitals in more than 120 countries announced commitments and unveiled a Call to Action on Climate and Health aimed at accelerating stronger advocacy and action in addressing climate change.

To protect their patients and communities from the health impacts of climate change and air pollution, 18 health care institutions, representing the interests of more than 1,200 hospitals and health centers in 10 countries, committed to power their facilities with 100 percent renewable electricity.

When fully implemented, these institutions will collectively serve more than 23 million patients a year at facilities powered by 3.3 billion kilowatt hours of renewable electricity.

In doing so, they will have reduced their aggregate annual greenhouse gas emissions by over one million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), equivalent to preventing more than 453 tonnes of coal from being burned.

“Climate change is the greatest threat to health of this century. It is impacting health in every country today and is projected to reverse half a century of progress on global health. Global action is urgent and must be accelerated to avoid potentially catastrophic levels of global warming. The health sector has a vital role to play,” said the UCSF Institute for Global Health Sciences, an organizer of the Global Climate and Health Forum where these commitments were made public.

Health Care Without Harm president and co-founder Gary Cohen and Kathy Gerwig, Health Care Without Harm board member and Kaiser Permanente VP of environmental stewardship announced more commitments.

First, they said, 178 participants, representing the interests of more than 17,000 hospitals and health centers, have joined the Health Care Climate Challenge.

Launched in June 2018, the Health Care Climate Challenge mobilizes health care institutions around the world to protect public health from climate change.

The Health Care Climate Challenge now has over 335 participants, representing the interests of hospitals and health centers in 24 countries. It is supported by Global Green and Healthy Hospitals and Practice Greenhealth.

In another commitment announced in San Francisco, 21 U.S. health systems, representing 918 hospitals and over one million employees in 41 states signed the We Are Still In pledge, a reply to the move from President Donald Trump to take the United States out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate.

Finally, representing 119 hospitals in California, five of California’s largest health systems – Dignity Health, Kaiser Permanente, Providence St. Joseph Health, Sutter Health, and University of California Health – have formed the California Health Care Climate Alliance to drive stronger commitments from California’s health care sector and to work with policymakers to support the state’s climate goals.

Dignity Health CEO Lloyd Dean said, “At Dignity Health, we believe that our well-being is inextricably connected to the health of our planet. We also see the effect of environmental change on vulnerable populations – the elderly, our children, people with chronic diseases, and in low-income communities.”

Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest hospital systems in the United States, expects to be carbon net positive by 2025.

“Climate change causes extreme heat waves, wildfires and droughts that hurt people, make them sick—and worse,” said Elizabeth Baca, MD, senior health adviser in the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. “This alliance of large California health providers is taking action to help make our hospitals and healthcare systems more resilient and better prepared for the worst impacts of climate change.”

Alliance members have committed to reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions to help in the State of California’s effort to transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2045, known as Senate Bill 100 signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown earlier this month.

SB 100 sets three targets for California:

50 percent renewables by 2026

60 percent renewables by 2030

100 percent carbon-free energy by 2045

Thousands of hospitals, health centers and entire health systems around the world are already implementing climate-smart health care strategies.

Working with the UN Development Program <undp.org>, the government of Zimbabwe installed solar energy systems on more than 400 health centers across the country.

Health systems in New Zealand, Canada and Costa Rica are committed to becoming carbon neutral.

Health Care Without Harm is providing a series of tools and resources to support the implementation of climate-smart health care.

  •  A series of case studies from around the world demonstrating the viability of a diverse set of replicable strategies for health care infrastructure and community resilience.
  • A set of standardized measurement tools, and a detailed methodology for understanding health care’s contribution to carbon emissions by country and globally.
  • Technical, legal, and financial tools to help decarbonize large facilities and power health care in energy-poor settings.
  • Communications tools and trainings so that employees of member health care institutions can become communicators to their patients and in their communities.

Bob Biggio, senior vice president Facilities & Support Services, Boston Medical Center, is supportive of the health care industry’s move toward climate health. “As the largest safety net hospital in New England, we know first-hand how climate change is impacting the health of the most vulnerable members of our community,” he said. “That’s why Boston Medical Center has invested in a 60-megawatt solar farm in North Carolina, the largest renewable-energy project ever built in the U.S. through an alliance of diverse buyers.”

Featured Images: Doctors in an operating room at Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts (Photo courtesy Boston Medical Center) Posted for media use


Photo 2:

Caption: Solar panels cover the roof of Santa Clara, California Medical Center’s parking garage. (Photo courtesy Kaiser Permanente) Posted for media use

https://share.kaiserpermanente.org/article/kaiser-permanente-commits-to-increasing-onsite-solar-power-generation/

Global Climate Action Summit Strives to Stoke Ambition

By Sunny Lewis

SAN FRANCISCO, California, September 13, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Global leaders from across the private sector, local government and civil society are in San Francisco this week to showcase progress, unveil new climate commitments and to launch new platforms to work in partnership across sectors to accelerate implementation of the Paris Climate Accord.

California Governor Jerry Brown welcomes China to the Global Climate Action Summit, September 12, 2018, San Francisco, California (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor) Public Domain

California Governor Jerry Brown welcomes China to the Global Climate Action Summit, September 12, 2018, San Francisco, California (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor) Public Domain

The Global Climate Action Summit runs from September 12 to 14 in many venues across San Francisco, under the theme Taking Ambition to the Next Level.

To keep warming well below 2°, and ideally 1.5 degrees C – temperatures that could lead to catastrophic consequences – worldwide emissions must start trending down by 2020.

The Summit will showcase climate action around the world, along with bold new commitments, to give world leaders the confidence they need to go even further by 2020 to meet the Paris Climate Agreement goals.

The Summit’s five headline challenge areas are Healthy Energy Systems; Inclusive Economic Growth; Sustainable Communities; Land and Ocean Stewardship and Transformative Climate Investments.

Many partners are supporting the Summit and the mobilization in advance including Climate Group; the Global Covenant of Mayors; Ceres; the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group; BSR; We Mean Business; CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project; WWF; and Mission 2020.

The Global Climate Action Summit – the first ever designed exclusively for businesses, sub-national governments, and local leaders – sets the stage for the greater action needed by 2020 from all actors – from national governments within their national climate action plans, and from even more cities, states, businesses, and local communities around the world.

China Gets a Warm Welcome

Helping kick off the Global Climate Action Summit, California Governor Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown led his state’s delegation at the Under2 Coalition General Assembly and welcomed new signatories to the California-led coalition, which now represents 17 percent of the global population and 43 percent of the global economy.

Governor Brown also welcomed China’s 120-plus attendees – the largest country delegation at the event. “China has taken this global summit very, very seriously and we hope to build on that in the months and years ahead as California, the U.S. and China, and Jiangsu Province in particular, work ever more closely to combat climate change,” said Brown at the opening of the China Pavilion at the Summit.

“Let’s leave this Summit more committed than ever to get to – not low-carbon, zero–carbon, and then minus carbon – a prosperous world for all,” said Brown in welcoming China’s top environmental officials and representatives from Chinese provinces, cities, business and civil society at the opening ceremony of the China Pavilion, which showcases China’s progress on its climate goals.”

Governor Brown held a bilateral meeting with Vice Governor Miao Ruilin of Jiangsu Province – California’s sister-state and one of the first provinces in China to join the Under2 Coalition – to discuss agreements signed by the Governor in Nanjing last year and in 2013 to expand cooperation on areas including climate, clean energy and technology.

Governor Brown also renewed climate agreements signed with China in 2013 and 2015 – with then-National Development and Reform Commission Vice Chairman Xie Zhenhua, currently leading the Chinese delegation at the Global Climate Action Summit as China’s Special Representative for Climate Change.

The agreement signed Wednesday seeks to enhance cooperation between California and China on programs that mitigate carbon emissions and short-lived climate forcers, implement carbon emissions trading systems, share clean energy technologies, strengthen low-carbon development and other initiatives.

Indigenous People Make Their Voices Heard

On Monday, hundreds gathered outside the site of the Governors’ Climate and Forest Task Force meeting leading up to the Global Climate Action Summit.

From the Indigenous and Frontline communities organizing this protest, “People of the world are being led astray by polluting industries and elected officials promoting climate capitalist systems like carbon trading and carbon tax shell games. These systems do nothing to stop the fossil fuel industry from continuing to cause climate disruption. They allow the fossil fuel industry to continue to harm Indigenous people and communities around the world from extraction to transport to refining.”

“Today hundreds helped us demand that our Indigenous representatives from tribes and organizations that are resisting cap and trade schemes, and instead promoting real solutions be allowed to address the Governor’s Climate and Forests Task Force at the Parc 55 Hotel. Their voices were heard and they were given a chance to speak the truth [of] the tribal groups being courted by those promoting carbon trading in the place of real solutions to climate change.”

This action was organized by Idle No More SF Bay, Indigenous Environmental Network, It Takes Roots, Diablo Rising Tide, Indigenous Bloc at RISE Days of Action, and Indigenous Rising Media.

Food and Land Use Crucial to Climate Conservation

As a member of the Summit’s Advisory Committee, the global nonprofit WWF is coordinating the 30X30 Forest, Food and Land Challenge. The initiative calls on businesses, states, city and local governments, and global citizens to take action for better forest and habitat conservation, food production and consumption, and land use, working together across all sectors of the economy to deliver up to 30 percent of the climate solutions needed by 2030.

WWF is working with partners to unveil new efforts and commitments at the high-level thematic dialogues on land stewardship on September 13, such as:

  • Science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase sequestration in land-intensive supply chains;
  • Collaborations between multinational companies and local governments and communities to eliminate deforestation in vital ecosystems;
  • Institutional and chef-led programs to halve food loss and waste by 2030;
  • Major financing to help regional and local governments to promote more sustainable land use and restoration.

WWF and its partners in We Are Still In will unveil new commitments from American businesses, mayors, universities and other U.S. actors on September 12 at the We Are Still In Forum.

Since its launch in June 2017, We Are Still In has nearly tripled in size to include over 3,500 signatories, collectively representing more than 155 million Americans and $9.5 trillion in U.S. GDP.

“For too long, land has been the overlooked piece of the climate solution. When we improve the way we manage our land and improve our food systems, we can help reverse the impact of human-caused climate change and get closer to keeping warming below 1.5°C,” said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF’s global climate and energy program, and Summit advisory committee member.

“National governments need to follow the pace set by private sector and local leaders this week, looking for opportunities to enhance the ambition of their national climate plans through improved land stewardship,” he said.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change projects that current commitments made by the private sector and local government have the potential to halve the emissions gap between current trajectories and what is needed to stay below 2°C of planetary warming.

In the United States, for example, bottom-up progress can deliver half of what’s needed to achieve the country’s commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below the 2005 level in 2025.

“New targets from business and local leaders are a critical first step but alone they are not enough to transform our transportation, food and energy systems,” said Lou Leonard, senior vice president of climate change and energy, WWF-US.

“To change our trajectory, this Summit must generate new partnerships and new ways of working. In the U.S., this model of radical collaboration is working through efforts like the We Are Still In coalition. Together, unusual partners across American society are coming together to implement their goals,” enthused Leonard. “We can go further and reach higher by partnering across sectors of the economy to drive change.”

Featured Image: People demonstrate their support for action to control climate change, September 10, 2018 San Francisco, California (Photo by Peg Hunter) Creative Commons license via Flickr


I6AFi

World’s Forests Going Up in Smoke

A forest of Nothofagus antarctica trees burned in a fire that covered 40,000 acres in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile in 2012. (Photo by Dave McWethy) Posted for media use

A forest of Nothofagus antarctica trees burned in a fire that covered 40,000 acres in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile in 2012. (Photo by Dave McWethy) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

CONCEPCION, Chile, August 23, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Chile has replaced many of its native forests with plantation forests to supply pulp and timber mills that produce paper and wood products. As a result, highly flammable non-native pine and eucalypt forests now cover the region.

Eucalypt trees, which are native to Australia, and pine trees native to the United States contain oils and resins in their leaves that, when dry, can easily ignite.

Researchers have discovered some reasons why massive fires continue to burn through south-central Chile. Their results were published August 22, in “PLOS ONE,” an online scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science.

Lead author Dave McWethy, an assistant professor in Montana State University’s Department of Earth Sciences, received a Fulbright grant that sent him to Chile from 2015-2016 to research the wildfires and teach at the University of Concepcion.

“Chile replaced more heterogenous, less flammable native forests with structurally homogenous, flammable exotic forest plantations at a time when the climate is becoming warmer and drier,” said McWethy. “This situation will likely facilitate future fires to spread more easily and promote more large fires into the future.”

Besides low humidity, high winds and extreme temperatures – some of the same factors contributing to fires raging elsewhere in the world – central Chile is experiencing a mega-drought and large portions of its diverse native forests have been converted to more flammable tree plantations, the researchers said.

Co-author Anibal Pauchard, professor at the University of Concepcion and researcher at the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity in Chile, said wildfires have been a part of the Chilean landscape for centuries, but they have grown larger and more intense in recent decades, despite costly government efforts to control them.

“Unfortunately, fires in central Chile are promoted by increasing human ignitions, drier and hotter climate, and the availability of abundant flammable fuels associated with pine plantations and degraded shrublands dominated by invasive species,” Pauchard said.

In 2016-2017 alone, fires burned nearly 1.5 million acres of Chilean forests, almost twice the area of the U.S. state of Rhode Island. It was the largest area burned during a single fire season since detailed recordkeeping began in the early 1960s.

The devastation prompted the Chilean government to ask what land-use policies and environmental factors were behind these fires, McWethy said. That led to a national debate about preventing and reducing the consequences of future fires.

McWethy said wildfires in south-central Chile and the western U.S. are affected by many of the same conditions, but the main difference is that native forests in the western U.S. are well-adapted to fire. In Chile, most native forests in the central and southern regions are not.

To better understand the Chilean fires, the researchers compared satellite information with records from the Chilean Forest Service for 2001 through 2017. They studied eight types of vegetation, climate conditions, elevation, slope and population density across a wide range of latitudes in Chile.

“Now we have compelling evidence that after climate, landscape composition is crucial in determining fire regimes. In particular, exotic forest plantations need to be managed to purposely reduce fire hazard,” Pauchard said. “Which forestry species we plant and how we manage them matters in terms of fire frequency and intensity.”

The researchers recommend that Chile move away from exotic plantations toward more diverse, less flammable native forests.

“Protecting and restoring native forests would likely buffer the negative impacts of fires that are projected to continue to increase into the future,” McWethy said, but that will be difficult to do. “So much of the landscape has changed in south-central Chile,” he said, “that it’s going to be difficult to restore,”

Firefighter overlooks the Donnell Fire, which started from unknown causes on August 1, 2018 near Donnell Reservoir, burning into the Stanislaus National Forest. August 18, 2018 (Photo by Josiah Dewey) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Firefighter overlooks the Donnell Fire, which started from unknown causes on August 1, 2018 near Donnell Reservoir, burning into the Stanislaus National Forest. August 18, 2018 (Photo by Josiah Dewey) Creative Commons license via Flickr

North American Forests Drying and Frying

Rising average temperatures have led to forests in Western North America drying out, increasing the risk of fires.

There are 129 million dead trees in California alone. Across California, the total number of fires is trending downward, but the size of fires is going up.

The West Coast of the United States is shrouded in smoke. Currently, more than two million acres have burned in 111 large fires in 13 states. Over 1.9 million acres (768,900 hectares) are or have been ablaze.

Six new large fires were reported in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon over the weekend and eight large fires have been contained, including the Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park in California.

The weather concerns in the area include warmer than average temperatures that will continue in the west with daily winds and overnight humidity recoveries that are just marginal.

The Province of British Columbia on Canada’s West Coast has declared a state of emergency as thousands of firefighters battle more than 560 wildfires.

Fifty-eight large wildfires are destroying forests across the province, filling the skies with smoke. Overall, 565 fires are threatening more than 20,000 people who are on evacuation alert or under evacuation order.

“We’re going to throw everything we’ve got at these fires, but in a lot of cases, Mother Nature is going to be in the driver’s seat,” Kevin Skrepnek, the province’s chief fire information officer, told reporters.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet with first responders and British Columbians displaced by the wildfires on Thursday.

Trudeau met with B.C. Premier John Horgan in the British Columbia town of Nanaimo late Tuesday afternoon, ahead of a retreat with his newly-shuffled cabinet.

“Our thoughts are with the first responders, the firefighters and the residents who are struggling through the wildfires that are raging across the province,” Trudeau said.

In eastern Canada, firefighters from across the continent, from Wisconsin and Mexico are assisting Ontario forest firefighters in their battles with one of the worst fire seasons on record.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry reports 1,108 fires across Ontario this year, compared to 618 in 2017. The 10-year average is 643 fires in the province.

Fires Sweep Europe

England’s peatland moors, Ireland, Sweden, Scandinavia and even areas north of the Arctic Circle experienced major fires over the past two months.

At least 15 EU countries have experienced more wildfires than usual for this time of year, according to figures from the European Forest Fire Information System.

The number of wildfires ravaging Europe this year is 43 percent higher than the average for the last 10 years.

Several European countries are in the grip of unprecedented wildfires. While the deadly fires in Greece now are under control, dozens of fires are blazing across Turkey, Italy and Cyprus.

With Europe in the grip of a heatwave and with little rain to ease the drought, fires have now broken out as far north as the Arctic Circle, in Sweden.

An estimated 50 fires are now burning in Sweden. Through July there were three times as many fires during this period as last year.

Jonas Olsson from the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute said, “It’s very, very dry in most of Sweden. The flows in the rivers and lakes are exceptionally low, except in the very northern part of the country. We have water shortages.”

“Rainfall has only been around a seventh of the normal amount, the lowest since record-keeping began in the late 19th century,” Olsson said.

European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said, “The devastating forest fires in Sweden have highlighted once again the impact of climate change and that we are facing a new reality.”

The number of forest fires in the European Union more than doubled from 2016 to 2017, figures obtained by Euronews show. Experts blame climate change for the increase, saying it has lengthened the traditional wildfire season and raised the frequency of fires.

There were 1,671 blazes in 2017, a huge increase over the 639 the EU saw annually on average during the previous eight years.

Russian Fires Not Extinguished

This year, fires have already affected an estimated area of more than 90,000 hectares in Siberia and the Russian Far East.

Lakes in Yakutia were still frozen at the end of May, but that ice has been replaced by fire after persistent heat over Siberia.

For example, on July 29, a total of 66 wildfires covering an area of 14,888 hectares were put out over 24 hours across Russia, the press service of the Federal Aerial Forest Fire Service (FAFFS) reported.

The hardest hit by wildfires were the Krasnoyarsk Region and Yakutia, where 39,600 and 21,000 hectares of woodland respectively were engulfed in flames. About 3,200 hectares were hit by wildfires in the Magadan region, and more than 2,300 in the Irkutsk region.

These fires were not put out as the firefighting expenses exceed the forecasted damage, FAFFS stated.

The northern part of the world is warming faster than the planet as a whole, says the World Meteorological Organization. That heat is drying out forests and making them more susceptible to burning. A recent study found Earth’s boreal forests are now burning at a rate unseen in at least 10,000 years.

Featured Image:  Polish firefighters in action combating the wildfires Sweden. July 24, 2018 (Photo by Pavel Koubek / European Union) Creative Commons license via Flickr


MAXIMPACT_TRAINING

EU & China Shape ‘Sustainable Blue Economy’

The U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington prepares to anchor in Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong, for a routine port visit. June 16, 2017 (Photo by Beverly Lesonik Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class / U.S. Navy) Public Domain

The U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington prepares to anchor in Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong, for a routine port visit. June 16, 2017 (Photo by Beverly Lesonik Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class / U.S. Navy) Public Domain

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, August 16, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Two of the world’s largest ocean economies – the European Union and China – have agreed to work together “to improve the international governance of the oceans in all its aspects, including by combating illegal fishing and promoting a sustainable blue economy,” the Council of the European Union announced after the unique ocean partnership agreement was signed.

The pact was signed in Beijing at the 20th EU-China summit on July 16 by leaders at the highest level from both governments.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at a news conference in New Delhi May 20, 2013. (Photo by Adnan Abidi / Reuters) Public domain

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at a news conference in New Delhi May 20, 2013. (Photo by Adnan Abidi / Reuters) Public domain

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang hosted the summit. President Donald Tusk and President Jean-Claude Juncker represented the European Union. And the EU leaders had talks with President Xi Jinping as well.

The leaders marked the 15th anniversary of the EU-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, saying in a joint statement that, “This has greatly enhanced the level of EU-China relations, with fruitful outcomes achieved in politics, economy, trade, culture, people-to-people exchanges and other fields.”

Following the summit, Presidents Tusk and Juncker and Premier Li agreed the joint statement and the annex on climate change and clean energy.

President Juncker said, “Our cooperation simply makes sense. Together we account for around a third of the global economy. Europe is China’s largest trading partner and China is Europe’s second largest trading partner. The trade in goods between us is worth over €1.5 billion every single day.”

The leaders agreed to promote “the circular economy within the blue economy” based on “clean technologies and best available practices.”

The partnership contains clear commitments to protect the marine environment, tackle climate change in accordance with the Paris Agreement and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular the Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans.

The leaders reaffirmed the importance of fighting climate change. All said they are committed to advancing cooperation on the implementation of the Paris Agreement and fully support this year’s UN climate summit, the 24th, known as COP24, which is scheduled for December in Poland.

China, the EU and its Member States are parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and stated that they “respect the maritime order based on international law.”

The EU said it welcomes the ongoing consultations between China and ASEAN countries aimed at the conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. An estimated $5 trillion worth of goods are transported through South China Sea shipping lanes each year, including a third of all maritime traffic worldwide.

The South China Sea disputes involve island and maritime claims among: Brunei, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. In addition, non-claimant states want the South China Sea to remain international waters, conducting “freedom of navigation” operations there.

The EU and China jointly called upon “all relevant parties” to engage in dialogue, to settle disputes peacefully, and refrain from actions likely to increase tensions.

The EU and China say their goal is “to promote peace, security and sustainable development.” To that end, they have agreed to foster closer business-to-business interaction and exchanges of information among stakeholders such as enterprises, research institutes, financial institutions and industry associations.

Cooperation will extend to improving knowledge of the oceans through “better ocean literacy, enhanced ocean observation and open science and data.”

In their joint statement, the leaders welcomed “the increase in high-level contacts on environmental protection and natural resource conservation, and the importance of assuming greater leadership on the global environmental agenda, in particular on issues such as pollution prevention and control, biodiversity conservation, CITES implementation and enforcement and wildlife trafficking, and elimination of illegally harvested timber from the markets, as well as desertification and land degradation.”

The two sides welcomed the adoption by the UN General Assembly of a resolution titled “Towards a Global Pact for the Environment” and look forward to the presentation of a report by the Secretary General in the next General Assembly as a basis for further work.

The EU and China will work together actively with a view to achieving the preservation of biodiversity. The EU welcomes China’s commitment to organize COP 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020, which should mark the adoption of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

The two sides agreed on the transition to a circular economy as a priority for their cooperation, recognising the contribution of resource efficiency to meeting climate and sustainable development targets and agreeing to enhance cooperation and support joint actions in this field.

To formalize this aspect of their relationship, the two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Circular Economy Cooperation, thus establishing a high level policy dialogue.

Leaders confirmed the importance of strengthening EU-China cooperation on water in the framework of the EU-China

Water Policy Dialogue, and acknowledged the role of China Europe Water Platform (CEWP) in supporting the implementation of the water-related Sustainable Development Goals.

The EU-China partnership agreement sets out general lines for future collaboration in areas such as:

  • the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in the high seas
  • the fight against marine pollution including marine plastic litter and micro-plastics
  • the mitigation of and adaption to climate change impacts on oceans, including the Arctic Ocean
  • the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources
  • fisheries governance in regional and global settings and the prevention of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

The agreement pleases EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella, who is responsible for the environment, maritime affairs and fisheries.

“With the partnership signed today, the European Union and China are stepping up their joint efforts, towards a more sustainable future for our oceans and the millions that make their living from them,” he said.

“Across the world, I see growing awareness of the need for joint solutions to the challenges facing our oceans and seas,” said Vella. “From cleaning up plastic pollution to tackling overfishing, no one country or continent can shoulder these colossal tasks on their own.”

Featured Image: Striped dolphins play in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Lajes do Pico in POrtugal’s Azores Islands, August 15, 2013 (Photo by Tim Ellis) Creative Commons license via Flickr



Never Turn Your Back on the Ocean

Road sign warns of flooding in Wachapreague, Virginia on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Photo by Aileen Devlin / Virginia Sea Grant) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Road sign warns of flooding in Wachapreague, Virginia on Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Photo by Aileen Devlin / Virginia Sea Grant) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

ISPRA, Italy, August 14, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Famous Hawaiian swimmer and surfer Duke Kahanamoku always warned, “Never turn your back on the ocean.” He wanted people to watch out for the physical dangers of being hit by a wave from behind, and he wanted humankind to show respect for the ocean – a warning that today is more urgent than ever.

The findings of two Joint Research Centre (JRC) studies released on Monday show that without increased investment in coastal adaptation, the annual damage caused by coastal floods in Europe could increase from €1.25 billion today to between €93 billion and €961 billion by the end of the century.

One in three citizens of the European Union lives within 50 kilometers (30 miles) of the coast. Due to an increase in extreme sea levels driven by global warming, coastal floods could impact up to 3.65 million people every year in Europe by 2100, compared to around 102,000 people affected today.

In the JRC studies scientists project both how global extreme sea levels will change during the present century, and also how rising seas combined with socioeconomic change will affect future losses from coastal flooding.

Sea levels are rising, and the trajectory is expected to continue beyond the year 2100, even if greenhouse gas emissions are stabilized right now. Most scientists expect the sea to rise by at least one meter (39 inches) during this century, and many believe sea levels may even rise three meters by 2100, in view of new evidence on ice-cliff instability of the Antarctic.

Antarctica alone has the potential to contribute more than a meter of sea-level rise by 2100 and more than 15 meters by 2500, if emissions continue unabated, finds a 2016 study by Robert DeConto of the University of Massachusetts’ Department of Geosciences, and David Pollard of Penn State University’s Earth and Environmental Systems Institute.

DeConto and Pollard warn that atmospheric warming will become the dominant driver of ice loss, and prolonged ocean warming will delay ocean recovery for “thousands of years.”

With continued ocean and atmospheric warming, sea levels are likely to rise for many centuries at rates higher than that of the current century, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Flood damage to the city of Ōfunato, Iwate Prefecture, Japan caused by the 2011 tsunami that caused a meltdown at the coastal nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. July 2011, (Photo by George Olcott) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Flood damage to the city of Ōfunato, Iwate Prefecture, Japan caused by the 2011 tsunami that caused a meltdown at the coastal nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. July 2011, (Photo by George Olcott) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Global warming is expected to drive increasing extreme sea levels and flood risk along all the world’s coastlines. This year sea levels continue their upward movement, rising about three inches higher than levels measured in 1993.

Higher sea levels mean that deadly and destructive storm surges push farther inland than they once did, causing more frequent flooding.

In cities, rising seas threaten infrastructure underpinning local jobs and regional industries. Roads, bridges, subways, water supplies, oil and gas wells, power plants, sewage treatment plants, landfills – virtually all human infrastructure – is at risk from sea level rise, NOAA warns.

European scientists are issuing equally urgent warnings of “unprecedented flood risk unless timely adaptation measures are taken.”

The JRC researchers considered two scenarios – one where moderate policy efforts are made to mitigate climate change and a business as usual situation.

They concluded that in order for Europe to keep future coastal flood losses constant relative to the size of the economy, defense structures need to be installed or reinforced to withstand increases in extreme sea levels ranging from 0.5 to 2.5 meters (1.64 to 8.2 feet).

The researchers identified climate change as the main driver of the projected rise in costs from coastal flooding. This is a change from the current situation globally, where increasing risk has been driven by socioeconomic development.

In the United States, almost 40 percent of the population lives in high-population-density coastal areas, where sea level plays a role in flooding, shoreline erosion, and hazards from storms.

Globally, eight of the world’s 10 largest cities are near a coast, according to the United Nations Atlas of the Oceans . These are the cities most at risk of sea level rise. They are: Tokyo, Japan; Mumbai, India; New York City, USA; Shanghai, China; Lagos, Nigeria; Los Angeles, USA; Calcutta, India; and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

A flood inundates St. Marks Square in Venice, Italy, October 10, 2017 (Photo by Konstantinos Tamvakis)

A flood inundates St. Marks Square in Venice, Italy, October 10, 2017 (Photo by Konstantinos Tamvakis)

The frequency and severity of coastal flooding throughout the world will increase rapidly and eventually double in frequency over the coming decades even with only moderate amounts of sea level rise, according to a 2017 study in “Scientific Reports” from scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Hawaii.

The study, led by Sean Vitousek, a engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, projects increases in flooding for Pacific islands, parts of Southeast Asia and coastlines along India, Africa and South America in the years and decades ahead, before spreading to engulf nearly the entire tropical region.

Alarming projections by Climate Central, a U.S.-based climate change science and advocacy group, show that approximately one million South Africans live in areas that will be inundated by rising seas as the climate warms, unless carbon emissions are cut steeply by the year 2100.

A World Bank study  published in March identified coastal areas with low elevation, and assessed the consequences of continued sea-level rise for 84 developing countries, using satellite maps of the world overlaid with data on population growth.

Including 12 Southeast Asian nations: Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, D.P.R Korea, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – the World Bank study found that the impact of sea-level rise will be particularly severe for this region.

A one-meter rise may displace some 37 million people, the World Bank concluded. The number of vulnerable people would increase to 60 million with a two-meter rise. A three-meter rise can impact 90 million people, nearly equivalent to the population of Vietnam, the fourth most populated country in East Asia.

China and Indonesia are the two countries most vulnerable to permanent inundation.

In March, China’s oceanic authority called for measures to cope with rising sea levels.

A report released by the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said that the average sea level along China’s coast in 2017 was 58 mm (2.28 inches) higher than the average level between 1993 and 2011.

Over the past six years, the sea level along China’s coast has remained high compared with the previous 24 years.

The situation is the result of climate change and global warming, which have increased the temperature of China’s coastal regions and the ocean, according to the SOA report.

Rising sea levels will increase the area inundated by sea water, aggravate marine disasters, and harm the ecosystem, Chen Zhi, an SOA official, told the state-run Xinhua news agency in March.

The report said China’s ability to prevent and respond to disasters should be improved. The layout of coastal cities and infrastructure planning should take the rising sea levels into account, and emergency shelters and warehouses for disaster relief supplies should be located a safe distance from high-risk areas.

The SOA report advises that China’s coastal cities should verify the flood protection ability and upgrade design standards for important infrastructure projects in the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta, and the northern coastal area of Bohai, near Beijing.

The report calls for protecting ecological resources, including coastal mangroves and wetlands.

The management of coastal water resources must be strengthened, the SOA advised, saying that the overexploitation of groundwater and land subsidence in coastal regions should be controlled in order to reduce harm from salt tides, sea water encroachment, and soil salinization.

China’s State Oceanic Administration report proposes pushing forward international cooperation in global marine governance, such as observation and prediction, risk assessment, and the response to rising sea levels.

One response that promotes safety, as Duke Kahanamoku said, “Never turn your back on the ocean.”

Featured Image: Wave breaks on the coast of Ireland, September 29, 2013 (Photo by John Twohig) Creative Commons license via Flickr



Climate Financing Hits Seven-year High

 Climate Displacement in Bangladesh: The Jamuna River has swollen from heavier than usual monsoon rainfall causing severe flooding on the islands. Women on Dakkin Patil Bariare are forced to wade across waterlogged land. August 2011 (Photo by Stuart Matthews) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Climate Displacement in Bangladesh: The Jamuna River has swollen from heavier than usual monsoon rainfall causing severe flooding on the islands. Women on Dakkin Patil Bariare are forced to wade across waterlogged land. August 2011 (Photo by Stuart Matthews) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, August 2, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – The world’s six largest multilateral development banks (MDBs) increased their climate financing to a seven-year high of $35.2 billion in 2017, up more than 20 percent from the previous year.

The MDBs’ latest joint report on climate financing said $27.9 billion, or 79 percent of the 2017 total, was devoted to climate mitigation projects that aim to reduce harmful emissions and slow down global warming.

The remaining 21 percent or $7.4 billion of financing for emerging and developing nations was invested in climate adaptation projects that help economies deal with the effects of climate change such as torrents of rain, worsening droughts and extreme weather events.

In 2016, climate financing from the multilateral development banks had totaled $27.4 billion.

Climate finance addresses the specific financial flows for climate change mitigation and adaptation activities. These activities contribute to making MDB finance flows consistent with a pathway toward low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development, in line with the Paris Agreement.

For example, in December 2017, as part of the Global Environmental Facility’s Sustainable Cities Pilot project, the Government of Mexico, assisted by the Inter-American Development Bank as a GEF implementing agency, received a $13.7 million grant for the cities of Xalapa, La Paz and Campeche.

The project will help improve the ability of the three cities to adapt to, and mitigate the effects of climate change. The interventions will benefit more than 600,000 people.

Xalapa will get a biodigester plant to treat the organic component of its solid waste. In La Paz, photovoltaic solar energy plants will be installed to supply seven public buildings and two schools. And in Campeche the project will finance research for a cleanup of the Bay of Campeche, including sewerage and sanitation, storm drainage, recovery of the port area and mangrove conservation.

The latest MDB climate finance figures are detailed in the 2017 Joint Report on Multilateral Development Banks’ Climate Finance, combining data from the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development the European Investment Bank the Inter-American Development Bank Group and the World Bank Group. These banks account for most multilateral development finance.

In October 2017 the Islamic Development Bank joined the MDB climate finance tracking groups and their climate finance figures will be included in reports from 2018 onwards.

 Westmill Solar Park AGM is the largest community owned solar park in the world. Rated at five megawatts it covers 30 acres. June 29, 2013, Watchfield, England, UK (Photo by R.T. Peat) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Westmill Solar Park AGM is the largest community owned solar park in the world. Rated at five megawatts it covers 30 acres. June 29, 2013, Watchfield, England, UK (Photo by R.T. Peat) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Climate funds such as the Climate Investment Funds, the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund, the Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund, the European Union’s funds for Climate Action and others have also played a role in boosting MDB climate finance.

In addition to the $35.2 billion of multilateral development finance, the same adaptation and mitigation projects attracted an additional $51.7 billion from other sources of financing last year.

Of the 2017 total, 81 percent was provided as investment loans. Other types of financial instruments included policy-based lending, grants, guarantees, equity and lines of credit.

Juan Pablo Bonilla, manager of the IDB’s Climate Change and Sustainability Sector explains, “The Inter-American Development Bank Group channelled nearly $800 million principally to increase resilience of water-related operations and other built infrastructure.”

“To seize opportunities afforded by the region’s vast renewable energy resources, the IDB Group made available nearly $3.5 billion in 2017 to deploy solar and wind energy, improve energy efficiency, and support policy shifts towards decarbonized energy,” said Bonilla.

The report contains a breakdown of climate finance by country. Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia and the Pacific were the three major developing regions receiving the funds.

Asian Development Bank Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development Bambang Susantono said, “ADB acknowledges the critical role of external funding and has accessed $265 million in concessional financing from the Green Climate Fund to date. It also continues to establish innovative financing facilities, such as the Asia Pacific Climate Finance Fund, which supports financial risk management products that can help unlock financing for climate investments in clean technologies and that build resilience to climate risks.”

The upward trend in MDB climate financing continues this year. The World Bank Group announced July 19 that in fiscal year 2018, 32.1 percent of its financing had climate co-benefits. This already exceeds the target set in 2015 that 28 percent of its lending volume would be climate-related by 2020.

This amounted to a record-setting $20.5 billion in climate-related finance delivered in the last fiscal year – the result of an institution-wide effort to mainstream climate considerations into all development projects.

The 28 percent target was a key goal of the World Bank Group’s Climate Change Action Plan , adopted in April 2016, and was designed to support countries to deliver on their national goals under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“Mobilizing private capital in support of climate action is a core priority for us,” said Keiko Honda, executive vice president and CEO of the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency. “From wind and solar projects in Africa to green buildings in fragile and conflict-affected situations, we are committed to minimizing the impact of climate change on the most vulnerable.”

The sharp increase in investment came in response to the ever more pressing challenge of climate change. Calls to galvanize climate finance were at the heart of events such as the One Planet Summit in Paris in December 2017, two years after the historic Paris Agreement was adopted.

“Climate change poses an enormous challenge to development,” states the World Bank’s Climate Change Action Plan. “By 2050, the world will have to feed 9 billion people, extend housing and services to 2 billion new urban residents, and provide universal access to affordable energy, and do so while bringing down global greenhouse gas emissions to a level that make a sustainable future possible.”

“At the same time, floods, droughts, sea-level rise, threats to water and food security and the frequency of natural disasters will intensify, threatening to push 100 million more people into poverty in the next 15 years alone,”

warns the Climate Change Action Plan.

Multilateral banks began publishing their climate investment in developing countries and emerging economies jointly in 2011.

In 2015, the MDBs and the 23 national and regional development banks that belong to the International Development Finance Club agreed on joint principles for tracking climate adaptation and mitigation finance.

The multilateral development banks are currently working on the development of more specific approaches to reporting their activities and how they are aligned with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

Featured Image: The global heatwave and those to come will cost farmers many billions, if not their lives. July 30, 2018, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany (Photo by Ingo Vogelmann) Creative Commons license via Flickr


MAXIMPACT_TRAINING


Climate Change Could Shock Global Food Markets

A pile of corn purchased at Kurtkoy Market, Istanbul, Turkey, June 19, 2009 (Photo by CCarlstead) Creative Commons license via Flickr

A pile of corn purchased at Kurtkoy Market, Istanbul, Turkey, June 19, 2009 (Photo by CCarlstead) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

SEATTLE, Washington, June 13, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – The warming climate is likely to result in increased volatility of grain prices, maize production shocks and reduced food security, finds new research published Monday in the U.S. journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Volatility in the global grain market creates uncertainty for farmers and agribusinesses and can lead to price spikes that reduce access to food, warn researchers at the University of Washington, Stanford University and the University of Minnesota.

Corn, or maize, is grown more widely than any other crop. Used in food, cooking oil, livestock feed and vehicle fuel, corn is essential to the lives of billions of people. Price spikes could throw poorer people into hunger.

In their study titled, “Future warming increases probability of globally synchronized maize production shocks,” lead author Michelle Tigchelaar and colleagues estimated the probability of such shocks in maize production under future climate warming.

The study used global climate projections with maize growth models to confirm previous research showing that warmer temperatures will negatively affect corn crops.

“Previous studies have often focused on just climate and plants, but here we look at climate, food and international markets,” said Tigchelaar, a UW postdoctoral researcher in atmospheric sciences.

“We find that as the planet warms, it becomes more likely for different countries to simultaneously experience major crop losses, which has big implications for food prices and food security,” she cautioned.

Under 2°C of global warming, estimated mean yields declined, and yield variability increased worldwide, particularly in the United States, Eastern Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa.

The top four corn-exporting countries – the United States, Brazil, Argentina, and Ukraine – collectively account for 87 percent of global corn exports. Currently, the probability of all four of these countries experiencing simultaneous yield losses greater than 10 percent of the present-day mean yield is negligible.

But the authors estimate that the probability of such simultaneous losses might increase to seven percent under

2°C warming and to 86 percent under 4°C warming, triggering a higher frequency of international price spikes.

“When people think about climate change and food, they often initially think about drought,” Tigchelaar said, “but it’s really extreme heat that’s very detrimental for crops. Part of that is because plants grown at a higher temperature demand more water, but it’s also that extreme heat itself negatively affects crucial stages in plant development, starting with the flowering stage and ending with the grain-filling stage.”

The authors write that their results “underscore the urgency of investments in breeding for heat tolerance.”

“Even with optimistic scenarios for reduced emissions of greenhouse gases, results show that the volatility in year-to-year maize production in the U.S. will double by the middle of this century, due to increasing average growing season temperature,” said co-author David Battisti, a UW professor of atmospheric sciences.

“The same will be true in the other major maize-exporting countries,” he said. “Climate change will cause unprecedented volatility in the price of maize, domestically and internationally.”

The authors say their results emphasize the importance of aggressive carbon dioxide emissions mitigation and also breeding crops for improved heat tolerance. Efforts to pursue new agricultural technology to ensure food security for a growing global population would be worthwhile, they say.

 Vegetable display at the farmers' market, Hollywood, Florida, April 29, 2017 (Photo by Yellow Green Farmers Market) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Vegetable display at the farmers’ market, Hollywood, Florida, April 29, 2017 (Photo by Yellow Green Farmers Market) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Vegetables Shrivel as Climate Heats Up

A separate study, also published Monday in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” finds that the global production of vegetables and legumes could be “significantly reduced through predicted future changes to the environment.”

Led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), this research is the first to systematically examine how increases in temperature and reduced water availability could affect the production and nutritional quality of common crops such as tomatoes, leafy vegetables and pulses.

If no action is taken to reduce the negative impacts on agricultural yields, the LSHTM researchers estimate that the environmental changes predicted for the second half of this century in water availability and ozone concentrations would reduce average yields of vegetables by 35 percent and and legumes by nine percent.

In hot settings such as Southern Europe and large parts of Africa and South Asia, increased air temperatures would reduce average vegetable yields by an estimated 31 percent.

The researchers conducted a systematic review of all the available evidence from experimental studies published since 1975 on the impacts of changes in environmental exposures on the yield and nutritional quality of vegetables and legumes. Experiments were conducted in 40 countries.

Previous research has shown that raised levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide could increase crop yields, but this study identified for the first time that these potential yield benefits are likely to be canceled out in the presence of simultaneous changes in other environmental exposures.

Dr. Pauline Scheelbeek, lead author at LSHTM, said, “Our study shows that environmental changes such as increased temperature and water scarcity may pose a real threat to global agricultural production, with likely further impacts on food security and population health.

“Vegetables and legumes are vital components of a healthy, balanced and sustainable diet and nutritional guidelines consistently advise people to incorporate more vegetables and legumes into their diet,” said Dr. Scheelbeek. “Our new analysis suggests, however, that this advice conflicts with the potential impacts of environmental changes that will decrease the availability of these important crops unless action is taken.”

To lessen the risks that future environmental changes pose to these crops, researchers say that innovations to improve agricultural production must be a priority, including the development of new crop varieties as well as enhanced agricultural management and mechanization.

The LSHTM study was funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of its Our Planet, Our Health program.

Dr. Howie Frumkin, who heads Our Planet, Our Health at Wellcome, said, Improvements in agricultural technology have dramatically boosted the world’s food production over the last 80 or so years. But we mustn’t be complacent. Environmental changes, including more chaotic weather patterns and a warming climate, threaten our ability to feed the world’s people.”

“Some of the most important foods, and some of the world’s most vulnerable people, are at highest risk. This research is a wake-up call, underlining the urgency of tackling climate change and of improving agricultural practices,” said Frumkin.

The authors acknowledge the limitations of the study, including the shortage of evidence on the impact of environmental changes on the nutritional quality of vegetables and legumes. The research team identified this as an area requiring more research.

Professor Alan Dangour, senior author at LSHTM, said, “We have brought together all the available evidence on the impact of environmental change on yields and quality of vegetables and legumes for the first time.”

“Our analysis suggests that if we take a business as usual approach, environmental changes will substantially reduce the global availability of these important foods. Urgent action needs to be taken,” Dangour demanded, “including working to support the agriculture sector to increase its resilience to environmental changes, and this must be a priority for governments across the world.”

Featured images: A cornfield flourishes in Pennsylvania, July 18, 2010 (Photo by fishhawk) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Live Online Training

‘Carbon Bubble’ Could Cost World Trillions

SingaporeSuperTrees

Singapore-Supertrees are generating solar power, acting as air venting for conservatories, and collecting rain water, June 11, 2015 (Photo by Güldem Üstün) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

CAMBRIDGE, UK, June 7, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Globally, the consumption of fossil fuels will slow down or decline in the near future as a result of fast-moving technological change and new climate policies, creating a “dangerous carbon bubble,” finds a newly published study by an international team of scientists.

If not deflated early, the carbon bubble could lead to a discounted global wealth loss of between US$1 trillion and $4 trillion, a loss comparable to what triggered the 2007 financial crisis, the study shows.

Relying on groundbreaking modeling techniques, researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands, the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance (C-EENRG), Cambridge Econometrics, The Open University in the UK and the University of Macau were able to show that the demise of the fossil-fuel industry will have profound economic and geopolitical consequences.

The study is published in the current issue of the journal “Nature Climate Change.”

“If countries keep investing in equipment to search for, extract, process and transport fossil fuels, even though their demand declines, they will end up losing money on these investments on top of their losses due to limited exports,” explains co-author Dr. Jean-Francois Mercure of Radboud University and C-EENRG.

“Countries should instead carefully deflate the carbon bubble through investment in a variety of industries and steady divestment,” he advises. “The way in which this is done will determine the impact of the ongoing low-carbon transition on the financial sector.”

This transition will result in clear winners, importers such as China and the European Union, and losers, exporters such as Russia, the United States and Canada, which could see their fossil-fuel industries nearly shut down.

If these countries keep up their investment and production levels despite declining demand, the global wealth loss could be huge. Even the United States could not pull out from this transition, as it would only hurt itself even more, the researchers warn.

This new study is more conservative in its warnings than a 2013 research paper from Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. That paper calls for regulators, governments and investors to re-evaluate energy business models against carbon budgets, to prevent a $6 trillion carbon bubble in the next decade.

The Underlying Reasoning

Quite a few major economies rely heavily on fossil-fuel production and exports. The price of fossil-fuel companies’ shares is calculated under the assumption that all fossil-fuel reserves will be consumed.

But to do so would be inconsistent with the tight carbon budget set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, which limits the increase in global average temperature to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.”

According to a 2015 study in the journal “Nature,” an estimated third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and more than 80 percent of known coal reserves should remain unused in order to meet global temperature targets under the Paris Agreement.

To date the Paris accord has not deterred continuing investment in fossil fuels because of the belief that climate-friendly policies will not be adopted, at least not in the near future.

But the researchers show that ongoing technological change, by itself and even without new climate policies, is already reducing global demand growth for fossil fuels, which could peak in the near future.

Examples are clean technologies in power generation, cars and households that become more efficient and so reduce the use of fossil fuels.

For instance, countries, states and cities representing 75 percent of new passenger car sales in 2016 have established electric vehicle targets totaling 15.1 million, providing policy certainty of a transition away from oil consuming vehicles.

New climate policies would aggravate the impact of policies like this, Dr. Mercure and his colleagues believe.

Because the Trump Administration has proclaimed the United States’ intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the scientists also modeled what would happen if the United States did continue to invest in fossil-fuel assets instead of diversifying and divesting from them.

The analysis shows the GDP of the United States would be reduced even further.

Dr. Mercure clarifies this point, saying, “With a declining global fossil-fuel demand, fossil-fuel production in the USA is becoming uncompetitive, and may shut down.”

“If the USA remains in the Paris Agreement, it will promote new low-carbon technologies and reduce its consumption of fossil fuels, creating jobs and mitigating its loss of income, despite losing its fossil-fuel industry,” he said.

“If it pulls out, it will nevertheless lose its fossil-fuel industry, but by not promoting low-carbon technologies, will miss out on job creation opportunities, while increasing its fossil-fuel imports by not reducing its domestic fossil-fuel consumption. The outcome is therefore worse if the USA pulls out,” said Dr. Mercure.

The process of transition towards a low-carbon economy is now becoming “inevitable,” as policies supporting this change have been developed and gradually implemented for some time in many countries, the authors point out.

Hector Pollitt, study co-author from Cambridge Econometrics and C-EENRG, says, “This new research clearly shows the mismatch between the reductions in fossil fuel consumption required to meet carbon targets and the behavior of investors.”

“Governments have an important role to play in emphasizing commitments to meet the Paris Agreement to ensure that the significant detrimental economic and geopolitical consequences we have identified are avoided,” warned Pollitt.

The authors conclude that economic damage from a carbon bubble burst could be avoided by decarbonizing early.

Divestment is Prudent

“We should be carefully looking at where we are investing our money. For instance, much like companies, pension funds and other institutions currently invest in fossil-fuel assets. Following recommendations from central banks, commercial banks are increasingly looking at the financial risks of stranded fossil-fuel assets, even though their possible impacts have not yet been fully determined,” said Mercure.

“Until now, observers mostly paid attention to the likely effectiveness of climate policies, but not to the ongoing and effectively irreversible technological transition,” Mercure concludes. “This level of ‘creative destruction’ appears inevitable now and must be carefully managed.”

Another new study, released June 4, bolsters these findings.

Policymakers are being misinformed by the results of economic models that underestimate the future risks of climate change impacts, according to the new paper by authors in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Published in the “Review of Environmental Economics and Policy” calls for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to improve how it analyzes the results of economic modeling as it prepares its Sixth Assessment Report, due to be published in 2021 and 2022.

The IPCC is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. It has 195 member states.

The paper’s authors point to “mounting evidence that current economic models of the aggregate global impacts of climate change are inadequate in their treatment of uncertainty and grossly underestimate potential future risks.”

This study, “Recommendations for Improving the Treatment of Risk and Uncertainty in Economic Estimates of Climate Impacts in the Sixth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report,” was written by Thomas Stoerk of the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, Gernot Wagner of the Harvard University Center for the Environment and Bob Ward of the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

They warn that the assessment models used by economists “largely ignore the potential for ‘tipping points’ beyond which impacts accelerate, become unstoppable, or become irreversible.”

Featured image: Heavy seas engulf the Block Island Wind Farm, the first U.S. offshore wind farm, located off the coast of Rhode Island in the Atlantic Ocean. It came online in December 2016. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / National Renewable Energy Laboratory) Public domain


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Climate-Healing Strategy Emerges From Messy Waste

A "poo-powered" Fair Oaks bus rolls through a barn where cows munch grass and provide the poo that becomes renewable natural gas. (Photo courtesy Fair Oaks Farms) Posted for media use

A “poo-powered” Fair Oaks bus rolls through a barn where cows munch grass and provide the poo that becomes renewable natural gas. (Photo courtesy Fair Oaks Farms) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, May 22, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Wet organic wastes are mucky: livestock manure; sludge from wastewater treatment; inedible fats, oils, and greases from commercial and industrial food processing operations; food and yard waste – what a mess!

But all that waste is no longer lost. Some U.S. companies and municipalities are now making good use of wet waste materials by converting them into renewable natural gas (RNG), also known as biomethane or upgraded biogas. It’s an emerging strategy to slash greenhouse gas emissions by turning wet organic waste into a low-carbon vehicle fuel.

In a new working paper “The Production and Use of Renewable Natural Gas as a Climate Strategy in the United States,”, Rebecca Gasper and Tim Searchinger of the World Resources Institute (WRI) find that RNG has the potential to be an effective greenhouse gas reduction strategy when it meets two conditions: 1) it is produced from waste, and 2) its use reduces methane emissions to the atmosphere.

“The United States generates millions of tons of food scraps; inedible fats, oils and greases; sewage and manure. Some of this organic waste is used for energy or fertilizer, but most of it – around 50 million tons a year – is sent to landfills, incinerated, or otherwise left to decompose,” writes Gasper. “But this trash doesn’t have to be wasted.”

Gasper and Searchinger say that turning certain types of organic waste into renewable natural gas could provide heavy-duty vehicles with a fuel that avoids more greenhouse gas emissions than it creates over its lifecycle.

The most promising RNG projects include food and yard waste diverted from landfills and livestock manure projects on farms that aren’t already capturing methane. Analyses have shown that using RNG from these projects in heavy-duty vehicles can result in net greenhouse gas reductions on a life-cycle basis.

Municipalities, states, and companies considering RNG as a climate strategy will need to determine the net greenhouse gas impacts, costs, and benefits on a case-by-case basis, the authors say.

The WRI working paper, “The Production and Use of Renewable Natural Gas as a Climate Strategy in the United States,” documents that RNG production grew from 1.4 million ethanol-equivalent gallons in 2011 to nearly 190 million in 2016, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a 2017 report.

Cities and towns are increasingly using RNG to more efficiently manage local waste and power municipal vehicle fleets like garbage trucks and buses.

Private companies, particularly waste disposal services and companies that use heavy-duty vehicles for freight, are beginning to add RNG as a domestic, renewable, low-carbon fuel option in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Cities, towns and businesses from Louisiana, Indiana, Michigan, Colorado, Georgia among other states around the country are already using RNG to more efficiently manage local waste and power vehicle fleets like garbage trucks, city buses and freight vehicles.

Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana, for instance, found that powering its milk delivery trucks with RNG made from cow manure saves them $2.5 million in fuel costs each year while reducing methane emissions by the carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent of 24,000 tons.

“Our entire facility runs on cow & pig manure,” the dairy farm says on its website. “We transform our farms’ waste into energy by way of our anaerobic digesters, we reduce our dependency upon natural gas and electricity during the milk and manufacturing process. This year the use of CNG will reduce the amount of diesel that our milk tanker/trailers use by 2 million gallons. Our barns and plants are also powered by this cutting edge ‘poo power.'”

Private companies with large vehicle fleets like UPS are using RNG as one low-carbon fuel option to meet corporate sustainability goals. (For the record, UPS contributed financial support to the production of this WRI working paper, but the authors say UPS did not try to influence their work.)

The five-step process of transforming wet organic waste into renewable natural gas is straightforward. (Image courtesy World Resources Institute) Creative Commons license

The five-step process of transforming wet organic waste into renewable natural gas is straightforward. (Image courtesy World Resources Institute) Creative Commons license

RNG is part of California’s plan to reduce emissions 40 percent below 2020 levels by 2030.

RNG will typically replace conventional natural gas in existing natural gas trucks or displace diesel fuel when a fleet owner replaces a diesel truck with a natural gas vehicle that runs on RNG, the authors explain.

Here’s how it works.

When wet organic wastes decompose in typical management facilities – food scraps in a landfill or dairy manure in an open lagoon – they produce methane, a greenhouse gas that’s at least 28 times as potent as the most prevalent greenhouse gas, CO2.

Landfills, livestock manure and wastewater treatment facilities contribute around 30 percent of all U.S. methane emissions.

When RNG is made from waste that would otherwise lead to methane emissions, it can have a much lower lifecycle carbon footprint than conventional natural gas, diesel and other fuel options.

RNG from food scraps and dairy manure are considered carbon-negative under California’s low-carbon fuel standard, meaning the emissions avoided from RNG production and use completely outweigh the emissions it causes when it’s produced, transported and burned in a vehicle, explains Gasper.

RNG from food scraps and yard trimmings is about 120 percent less carbon intensive than fossil fuels under California’s low-carbon standard; RNG from dairy cow manure is nearly 400 percent less carbon intensive.

But each facility must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis, the authors caution.

“In cases where biogas produced by wet wastes is collected and flared as part of typical management practices – which is the case at many landfills and wastewater treatment plants – production of RNG may lead to a net increase in methane produced,” they warn.

For example, in 2014, the California Air Resources Board said that its certified wastewater sludge-to-RNG pathway indicated that RNG production at medium-to-large wastewater treatment plants could increase methane emissions by at least 34 percent, because biogas at these facilities would otherwise be flared.

Yet, in these cases, the calculated life-cycle carbon intensities may still be lower than fossil fuels due to the avoided carbon dioxide emissions from flaring, the authors point out.

Capital costs for RNG projects can be high, ranging from hundreds of thousands to tens of millions of dollars depending on the technologies used and the scale of production.

Gasper and Searchinger advise that project developers can limit the capital investments required by locating projects at sites that require relatively less buildout than others. Landfill projects, for instance, require only installation of a collection system to gather biogas that is already being produced from the organic waste disposed of on-site, rather than installation of a digester.

“Much recent research has focused on RNG’s potential benefits, but a detailed analysis of the conditions under which RNG can generate climate benefits and its potential risks is missing

from the discussion,” write Gasper and Searchinger. “This working paper begins to address that gap by providing an analysis of RNG’s potential as an effective and economically viable GHG reduction tool, drawing on and synthesizing relevant literature.”

Municipalities, companies, and states considering RNG as part of their climate strategy can use this WRI working paper as a resource to understand the basics of RNG production from organic waste, the conditions under which it can lead to large net greenhouse gas reductions, its costs and incentives, and critical gaps in data and analysis of the issue.

Featured Images: Anaerobic digesters at the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, Point Shirley, Boston, Massachusetts, September 20, 2014 (Photo by malone545) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Permafrost Not So Permanent Any More

Oregon State University and University of Michigan researchers discovered that a key combination of sunlight and microbes can convert permafrost organic matter in the Arctic to carbon dioxide. May 28, 2016 (Photo courtesy Rose Cory, University of Michigan) creative Commons license via Flickr

Oregon State University and University of Michigan researchers discovered that a key combination of sunlight and microbes can convert permafrost organic matter in the Arctic to carbon dioxide. May 28, 2016 (Photo courtesy Rose Cory, University of Michigan) creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, January 25, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Global warming will thaw about 20 percent more permafrost than previously thought, scientists are warning, potentially releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Scientists estimate that there is more carbon contained in the frozen permafrost than now exists in the atmosphere.

The extent of permafrost regions makes them a global issue. A quarter of the landmass in the Northern Hemisphere consists of permafrost soils, which have been frozen solid for thousands of years. A third of the world’s coastlines are permafrost and span Canada, Greenland, Norway and Siberia and the U.S. state of Alaska.

Permafrost, which covers 15 million square kilometers of the land surface, is extremely sensitive to climate warming. Researchers warn that loss of permafrost would radically change high-latitude hydrology and biogeochemical cycling.

Permafrost soils contain ancient, frozen organic matter. If permafrost begins to thaw, bacteria breaks down the organic matter, releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane. This leads to greater warming of the Earth’s climate.

How much warming is unclear, because many of the processes associated with permafrost thaw are not yet understood. But in the past year or two, more and more scientists are pursuing this knowledge.

An international research study, written by climate change experts from Norway’s University of Oslo, Sweden’s Stockholm University, and the UK’s National Meteorological Service, the University of Leeds and University of Exeter, reveals that permafrost is more sensitive to the effects of global warming than previously thought.

The study, published last April in the journal “Nature Climate Change,” indicates that nearly four million square kilometers of frozen soil – an area larger than India – could be lost for every additional degree of global warming experienced.

Permafrost is frozen soil that has been at a temperature of below 0ºC for at least two years. Large quantities of carbon are stored in organic matter trapped in the icy permafrost soils. When permafrost thaws, the organic matter starts to decompose, releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane which increase global temperatures.

Thawing permafrost has potentially damaging consequences, not just for greenhouse gas emissions, but also the stability of buildings located in high-latitude cities.

Roughly 35 million people live in the permafrost zone, with three cities built on continuous permafrost along with many smaller communities. A widespread thaw could cause the ground to become unstable, putting roads and buildings at risk of collapse.

Recent studies have shown that the Arctic is warming at around twice the rate as the rest of the world, with permafrost already starting to thaw across large areas.

The researchers, from Sweden and Norway as well as the UK, suggest that the huge permafrost losses could be averted if ambitious global climate targets are met.

Lead-author Dr. Sarah Chadburn of the University of Leeds said, “A lower stabilization target of 1.5ºC would save approximately two million square kilometres of permafrost.

Achieving the ambitious Paris Agreement climate targets could limit permafrost loss. For the first time we have calculated how much could be saved.”

In the study, researchers used a novel combination of global climate models and observed data to deliver a robust estimate of the global loss of permafrost under climate change.

The team looked at the way that permafrost changes across the landscape, and how this is related to the air temperature.

They then considered possible increases in air temperature in the future, and converted these to a permafrost distribution map using their observation-based relationship. This allowed them to calculate the amount of permafrost that would be lost under proposed climate stabilisation targets.

As co-author Professor Peter Cox of the University of Exeter explained, “We found that the current pattern of permafrost reveals the sensitivity of permafrost to global warming.”

The study suggests that permafrost is more susceptible to global warming that previously thought, as stabilizing the climate at 2ºC above pre-industrial levels would lead to thawing of more than 40 percent of today’s permafrost areas.

Co-author Dr. Eleanor Burke, from the Met Office Hadley Centre, said, “The advantage of our approach is that permafrost loss can be estimated for any policy-relevant global warming scenario. The ability to more accurately assess permafrost loss can hopefully feed into a greater understanding of the impact of global warming and potentially inform global warming policy.”

In October, American researchers sounded their own permafrost alarm.

In a research study published in the journal “Nature Communications” and supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, scientists found that both sunlight and the right community of microbes are keys to the conversion of permafrost carbon to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2).

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Oregon State University say the stakes are high because there is more carbon stored in the frozen permafrost than in the atmosphere. This carbon has accumulated over millions of years by plants growing and dying, with a very slow decaying process because of the freezing weather.

“We’ve long known that microbes convert the carbon into CO2, but previous attempts to replicate the Arctic system in laboratory settings have failed,” said Byron Crump, an Oregon State University (OSU) biogeochemist and co-author on the study. “As it turns out, that is because the laboratory experiments did not include a very important element – sunlight.”

“When the permafrost melts and stored carbon is released into streams and lakes in the Arctic, it gets exposed to sunlight, which enhances decay by some microbial communities, and destroys the activity for other communities,” Crump explained.

“Different microbes react differently, but there are hundreds, even thousands of different microbes out there, and it turns out that the microbes in soils are well-equipped to eat sunlight-exposed permafrost carbon,” he said.

As the climate continues to warm, there will be consequenses for the Arctic, says Crump, who is a faculty member in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

“The long-term forecast for the Arctic tundra ecosystem is for the warming to lead to shrubs and bigger plants replacing the tundra, which will provide shade from the sunlight,” Crump said. “That is considered a negative feedback. But there also is a positive feedback, in that seasons are projected to expand.”

“Spring will arrive earlier, and fall will be later, and more water and carbon will enter lakes and streams with more rapid degradation of carbon,” said Crump.

“Which feedback will be stronger? No one can say for sure.”

Indigenous Coastal Peoples Losing Homes Built on Permafrost

In November, a team of European scientists, coordinated by the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, concluded that retreating permafrost coasts threaten the fragile Arctic environment.

Now they are exploring the consequences for the global climate and for the people living in the Arctic.

Working together with residents of the Arctic region, the researchers will co-design strategies for the future that will help them cope with ongoing climate change.

Researchers have known for years that the permafrost is thawing ever more rapidly due to climate change. Yet they still don’t know exactly what consequences this will have for the global climate, or for the people living there.

Experts from 27 research institutions will spend the next five years answering this research question and determining the role of permafrost coastlines in the Earth’s climate system.

The EU project is named Nunataryuk, which translates as “land to sea” in Inuvialuit, a traditional language spoken on the west coast of Canada, will investigate coasts – the interface between land and sea.

Nunataryuk is unique because the scientists collaborate closely with local communities to determine how they can best adapt to thawing permafrost.

“What makes the project stand out is the fact that we’ll study both the global and the local impacts of this thawing, with co-designed projects in local communities,” says Alfred Wegener Institute geoscientist Hugues Lantuit, the project’s coordinator.

“The models view the permafrost as a uniform field, thawing from the top down, but that’s too simple,” Lantuit explains. “For example, on coastlines, permafrost is increasingly crumbling due to the effects of waves. The Arctic coastline is now receding by more than half a meter every year. The models don’t take this into account.”

The thawed soil, together with all of its carbon and nutrients, is now increasingly being transported to the Arctic Ocean by rivers and streams. This factor isn’t reflected in the computer models either, says Lantuit.

The Arctic also has large amounts of permafrost beneath the ocean floor. And scientists have no idea how rapidly these areas will thaw as the climate changes.

In the Nunataryuk project, scientists will for the first time feed a comprehensive map of coastal areas into climate models.

To gauge how much greenhouse gas is being released by coastal areas and the seafloor, airplane and helicopter flights will carry instruments used to measure the carbon dioxide and methane levels in the air.

Lantuit said, “Only then will the climate models be able to better estimate the thawing’s effects on the Earth’s climate.”

One of the Nunataryuk project teams will be tasked with determining the future environmental costs that we can expect to see in the future – in other words, the costs of permafrost thaw to the global economy.”

People living on the coasts of permafrost regions are already at risk: if the ground becomes too soft and fails, they lose their homes. Water pipes can break. Some oil and gas lines have already started to leak, contaminating soils.

The increased load of organic material coming from eroding permafrost soils at the coast is changing the marine habitat.

In the best case, this could increase the amount of nutrients available to marine organisms, especially fish.

On the other hand, it might harm the ecosystem. Contaminants and pathogens that have remained frozen in the soil for millennia could migrate into coastal waters.

“All of these aspects are of course very important to local populations, which is why we’ll work together with them over the next five years to devise new strategies and solutions,” Lantuit explains.

To make that happen, the soils will be precisely surveyed and mapped to identify areas that are thawing only slowly, or are solid and firm, providing locations where new houses can be safely built.

Says Lantuit, “We’re especially happy that the indigenous populations, which have lived in these regions for thousands of years, are also actively involved.”

Birds, Animals Suffer From Melting Permafrost

Two young ecologists from Germany’s University of Münster are studying the serious consequences fires on permafrost can have for vegetation, soils and endangered bird species. Even decades after the last fire, impacts on plant communities are clearly visible.

They presented their results at the Ecology Across Borders conference in Ghent, Belgium in December.

PhD student Ramona Heim from Professor Norbert Hölzel’s working group at the Institute of Landscape Ecology, University of Münster, compared two study sites in northeastern Russia, where the last fires occurred 11 and more than 30 years ago.

At the younger site, soil temperature and permafrost depth were higher and lichen cover was much reduced. Moss, grass and herb species were more abundant compared to control sites nearby.

The change in vegetation structure has important long-term consequences for plant communities, microclimates and animals depending on certain plants or structures. For instance, reindeer need specific lichens in their diet, These are less abundant even decades after a fire.

The surveys were conducted in cooperation with Andrey Yurtaev of the University of Tyumen and nine students from Russia and Germany.

Wieland Heim, another member of Hölzel’s working group, investigated the effects of the ever-increasing fires on breeding birds and plant communities in wetlands at Russia’s Muravioka Park.

While many plant species benefitted from the fires and the resulting niches and nutrients available, the diversity of bird species declined. Birds, such as ground and reed breeders that rely on special microhabitats were among the losers.

“Since fires usually break out in spring during the breeding season and many birds do not produce a second brood, the expanding and more frequent fires can have serious consequences for their reproduction,” reports Wieland Heim.


Featured image: Darker shades of purple indicate higher percentages of permanently frozen ground. (Map courtesy Philippe Rekacewicz UNEP/GRID Arendal) Posted for media use 

Grant_Writing

Trending Discovery Clears CO2, Creates Energy

At the University of Central Florida, Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo's blue LED photoreactor breaks down CO2. (Photo by Bernard Wilchusky / UCF) Posted for media use

At the University of Central Florida, Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo’s blue LED photoreactor breaks down CO2. (Photo by Bernard Wilchusky / UCF) Posted for media use

ORLANDO, Florida, January 9, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – The work of a chemistry professor in Florida who discovered a way to turn greenhouse gas into clean air and produce energy at the same time has attracted the most attention of all the thousands of science news items posted last year on EurekAlert! the online, global information service operated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The process, which triggers photosynthesis in a synthetic material, has great potential for creating a technology that could reduce greenhouse gases linked to climate change, while also creating a clean way to produce energy.

Attracting 898,848 views since April, the University of Central Florida release and video about the research of Assistant Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo is also the most-visited in the science-news service’s 21-year history and surpassed its 2016 predecessor by 116 percent.

“This work is a breakthrough,” said Uribe-Romo. “Tailoring materials that will absorb a specific color of light is very difficult from the scientific point of view, but from the societal point of view we are contributing to the development of a technology that can help reduce greenhouse gases.”

The findings of his research are published in the “Journal of Materials Chemistry A.

Uribe-Romo and his team of students created a way to trigger a chemical reaction in a synthetic material called metal-organic frameworks that breaks down the most abundant greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into harmless organic materials.

The artificial photosynthesis process is similar to the way plants convert carbon dioxide (CO2) and sunlight into food. But instead of producing food, Uribe-Romo’s method produces solar fuel.

Scientists around the world have been seeking a way to do this for years, but the challenge has been finding a way for visible light to trigger the chemical transformation.

Ultraviolet rays have enough energy to allow the reaction in common materials such as titanium dioxide, but UVs make up only about four percent of the light Earth receives from the Sun.

The visible range – the violet to red wavelengths – represent the majority of the Sun’s rays, but there are few materials that pick up these light colors to create the chemical reaction that transforms CO2 into fuel.

Researchers have tried it with a variety of materials, but the ones that can absorb visible light tend to be rare and expensive materials such as platinum, rhenium and iridium that make the process cost-prohibitive.

Uribe-Romo used titanium, a common nontoxic metal, and added organic molecules that act as light-harvesting antennae to see if that configuration would work.

The light harvesting antenna molecules, called N-alkyl-2-aminoterephthalates, can be designed to absorb specific colors of light when incorporated in the metal-organic frameworks.

In his lab, Uribe-Romo synchronized it for the color blue.

His team assembled a blue LED photoreactor to test out the hypothesis. Measured amounts of CO2 were slowly fed into the photoreactor – a glowing blue cylinder – to see if the reaction would occur. The glowing blue light comes from strips of LED lights inside the chamber of the cylinder and mimics the Sun’s blue wavelength.

It worked. The chemical reaction transformed the CO2 into two reduced forms of carbon, formate and formamides – two kinds of solar fuel. In the process the air was cleaned of the greenhouse gas.

“The goal is to continue to fine tune the approach so we can create greater amounts of reduced carbon so it is more efficient,” Uribe-Romo said.

To see Uribe-Romo explain the process in his own words, click here.

He wants to see if the other wavelengths of visible light may also trigger the reaction with adjustments to the synthetic material. If they do, the process could become an important way to help reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

“The idea would be to set up stations that capture large amounts of CO2, like next to a power plant,” explained Uribe-Romo. “The gas would be sucked into the station, go through the process and recycle the greenhouse gases while producing energy that would be put back into the power plant.”

Homeowners of the future may be able to buy rooftop shingles made of the material, which would clean the air in their neighborhoods while producing energy that could be used to power their homes.

“That would take new technology and infrastructure to happen,” Uribe-Romo said. “But it may be possible.”

Eurekalert! officials paid tribute to the information officers at universities who write the press releases explaining some highly technical research.

Brian Lin, director of editorial content strategy at EurekAlert!, said, “Several of this year’s trending releases – including our all-time record-breaker – were based on very technical scientific papers which, without the efforts of public information officers, may have attracted little public attention.”

The 10 most popular news releases on EurekAlert! in 2017 were:

  1.  Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air (898,848 views) University of Central Florida, Journal of Materials Chemistry A
  2. Migratory birds bumped off schedule as climate change shifts spring (484,976) Florida Museum of Natural History, Scientific Reports
  3.  Gene therapy treats muscle-wasting disease in dogs (339,099) University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine, Molecular Therapy
  4. America’s youngest children most likely to live in poor economic conditions (333,716) Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health
  5. New research helps organizations deliver stronger diversity training (288,700) University at Buffalo, Psychological Bulletin
  6. In young bilingual children two languages develop simultaneously but independently (268,129) Florida Atlantic University, Developmental Science
  7. Watching birds near your home is good for your mental health – official (247,763) University of Exeter, BioScience
  8. Fruits and vegetables’ latest superpower? Lowering blood pressure (140,145) University of Southern California – Health Sciences, American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism
  9. Are we being watched? Tens of other worlds could spot the Earth (134,271) Royal Astronomical Society, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
  10.  Scientists find key to regenerating blood vessels (132,145) Sanford-Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Nature Communications

Featured image : Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo and his team have triggered a chemical reaction in a synthetic material that breaks down carbon dioxide into harmless organic materials and produces solar fuel. (Photo by Bernard Wilchusky / UCF) Posted for media use

One Planet Summit Inspires Climate Action

By Sunny Lewis

PARIS, France, December 12, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – Two years to the day after the historic Paris Agreement on climate, more than 50 heads of state, as well as environment ministers and regional leaders, bank and finance executives and celebrities are meeting today to drive action that will finance global efforts to meet the goals of the agreement.

The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The agreement also aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.

Today’s invitation-only One Planet Summit, convened by President of France Emmanuel Macron, was attended by British Prime Minister Theresa May, Spain’s Mariano Rajoy, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, among many others.

President Juncker said, “The time has now come to raise our game and set all the wheels in motion — regulatory, financial and other — to enable us to meet the ambitious targets we have set ourselves. This is a necessity dictated by our current living conditions as well as those of future generations. This is the time that we must act together for the planet. Tomorrow will be too late.”

The European Commission released its 10 item Action Plan for the Planet, consisting of: putting the financial sector at the Service of the Climate, investment in Africa and the EU Neighbourhood region, urban investment support, clean energy for islands, support for the transition of coal and carbon intensive regions, youth, smart buildings, clean industrial technology and clean, connected and competitive mobility.

Prime Minister May announced a big increase in UK aid for Caribbean countries devastated by hurricanes as part of a £140 million climate change grant for the world’s least developed countries.

“Tackling climate change and mitigating its effects for the world’s poorest are among the most critical challenges that we face,” said May.

“And by redoubling our efforts to phase out coal, as well as build on our world leading electric car production, we are showing we can cut emissions in a way that supports economic growth,” she said.

U.S. President Donald Trump was not invited to the summit, as he is streamlining fossil fuel exploration and development, even removing U.S. public lands from federal protection so industry can have at them.

Trump has vowed to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, a lengthy process that cannot begin until 2020, after that year’s presidential election. Countries cannot withdraw until three years after the Paris Agreement took effect on November 4, 2016. After that, the rules mandate a one-year notice period. Still, because the accord is non-binding, Trump could choose to just ignore the accord’s terms.

President Macron told NBC News in an interview in June, “I’m pretty sure that my friend President Trump will change his mind in the coming months or years, I do hope. It’s extremely aggressive to decide on its own just to leave, and no way to push the others to renegotiate because one decided to leave the floor.”

Syria last month ratified the Paris Agreement, leaving the United States as the only country to reject the accord.

President Macron unveiled the winners of the first “Make Our Planet Great Again” climate research grants established after Trump announced his intention to pull out of the Paris accord. The French president said that Trump’s decision was a “deep wake-up call for the private sector” to take action.

Thirteen of the 18 multi-year award winners are American scientists; all winners will conduct climate research in France. The three-year to five-year grants are worth up to €1.5 million each. Overall, the program totals about €60 million in direct funding and in-kind support.

Macron told the winners Monday night, “What you are showing here this evening, with your commitment, with the projects that have been chosen … is that we do not want climate change, and we can produce, create jobs, do things differently if we decide to.”

In any case, the One Planet Summit featured dire warnings, rich pledges and actions that two years ago were not even on the horizon.

“Those who fail to bet on a green economy will be living in a grey future,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned today, calling for greater ambition by governments, civil society, the private sector and finance partners to help tackle the global climate challenge.

“Green business is good business,” the UN chief said, speaking at the opening of the One Planet Summit. “Renewables are now cheaper than coal-powered energy in dozens of developed and developing countries.”

Guterres stressed that for climate action, it is not funding but trust that is lacking. To fix it, he said, first and foremost, rich countries must honor their commitment and provide US$100 billion a year through 2020 for developing countries to mitigate and adapt to the already-changing climate.

It also means that the Green Climate Fund must become an effective and flexible instrument, especially for the most vulnerable countries such as small island states and least developed countries.

“These two conditions are essential for trust between developed and developing countries,” said Guterres.

“Everyone is looking for paths to economic growth that are low carbon,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, as he announced that the World Bank <worldbank.org> will no longer finance upstream oil and gas, after 2019.

In exceptional circumstances, said Kim, consideration will be given to financing upstream gas in the poorest countries where there is a clear benefit in terms of energy access for the poor and the project fits within a country’s Paris Agreement commitments.

Alex Doukas, director of the Stop Funding Fossils Program at Oil Change International, said, “The World Bank’s monumental announcement that they are moving out of upstream oil and gas finance after 2019 stole the show in Paris. This move from the World Bank demonstrates real climate leadership, and could help signal a broader shift away from the tens of billions of dollars in public finance that G20 governments and multilateral development banks dump into fossil fuels each year.”

“These institutions still provide $72 billion in public finance to fossil fuels annually,” said Doukas, “which is why a shift away from fossil fuel finance is crucial if we hope to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement.”

“Government commitments to scale up climate finance are important, but they’re not enough. Others need to follow the lead of the World Bank and signal that they will stop funding fossils,” said Doukas.

Kim said that the World Bank Group is on track to meet its target of 28 percent of its lending going to climate action by 2020 and to meeting the goals of its Climate Change Action Plan, developed following the Paris Agreement.

For instance, last week, the World Bank and the Government of Egypt signed a US$1.15 billion development policy loan aimed at reducing fossil fuel subsidies and creating the environment for low-carbon energy development.

The World Bank Group will accelerate energy efficiency in India; scale up solar energy in Ethiopia, Pakistan and Senegal; establish a West Africa Coastal Areas investment platform to build resilience for coastlines there; and introduce the City Resilience Platform with the Global Covenant of Mayors so that up to 500 cities will have access to finance for climate change resilience.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a subsidiary of the World Bank Group has pledged invest up to US$325 million in the Green Cornerstone Bond Fund, a partnership with the European asset management company, Amundi, to create the largest-ever green bond fund exclusively dedicated to emerging markets.

“This is a $2 billion initiative aiming to deepen local capital markets, and expand and unlock private funding for climate-related projects. The fund is already subscribed at over $1 billion,” the IFC announced.

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) President Sir Suma Chakrabarti said his bank intends to invest up to US$100 million in “Amundi Planet – Emerging Green One.”

The EBRD joined other global development organizations in stepping up the momentum for global climate action.

Chakrabarti told summit participants that the bank expects to meet its ambitious climate finance goals set at the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement three years ahead of time. The EBRD is already dedicating close to 40 percent of its annual investments to climate finance, a target it had initially set for 2020.

In Paris, Chakrabarti unveiled plans to step up EBRD support for the promotion of green cities, launching the Green Cities Climate Finance Accelerator with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM), an international alliance of 7,498 cities and local governments moving towards a low-emission and climate-resilient society.

Under the new partnership, the EBRD and the GCoM are seeking to drive climate action in up to 60 cities, including many that to date have not been a focus for climate support.

At the One Planet Summit, from left, President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. December 12, 2017 (Photo courtesy Office of President Peña Nieto) Posted for media use

At the One Planet Summit, from left, President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. December 12, 2017 (Photo courtesy Office of President Peña Nieto) Posted for media use

The World Bank, too, is partnering with the Global Covenant of Mayors and will lend US$4.5 billion to ensure 150 cities have the funds to implement initiatives to increase sustainability and resilience and fight climate change.

Marking the two-year anniversary of COP21 where the Paris Agreement was signed, the Global Covenant of Mayors joined with C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, ICLEI, and various regional covenant partners, to announce the One Planet Charter – a new commitment campaign that will help cities swiftly implement actions to ensure Paris Agreement goals are met.

Through the One Planet Charter, cities will commit to specific climate action that drives investments, green public procurement, and policy decisions in renewable energy, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, and efforts for zero emission buildings and zero waste.

Cities will bring detailed descriptions of their commitments to the 2018 Global Action Summit in California.

Chakrabarti said, “We are delighted by our new financing initiative and partnership with the Global Covenant of Mayors

for Climate and Energy. … As cities around the world drive climate leadership, we are pleased that this investment will ultimately support the quality of life at the local level and contribute to addressing the global climate challenge.”

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, board member of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, who also chairs C40 Cities: “C40’s Deadline 2020 research revealed precisely what needs to be delivered by the cities of more than 100,000 citizens around the world, to deliver on the ambition of the Paris Agreement. The decisions being made by mayors right now on investments for sustainable and resilient infrastructure will determine the future of generations to come. The One Planet Charter will make it easier to build the argument for bold climate action and investment in these crucial months and years ahead.”

In a separate initiative, nine of Europe’s largest industrial issuers of green bonds – EDF, Enel, ENGIE, Iberdrola, Icade, Paprec, SNCF Réseau, SSE and TenneT – announced their joint pledge to further develop “one of the most dynamic segments of sustainable finance today, the green bond market.”

Their pledge came on Monday, Paris 2017 Climate Finance Day, the day before the One Planet Summit.

Ten years after the first green bond was issued, this market has turned into “an exciting place,” said the nine companies, who say they are committed to tackling climate change, to a growing awareness to environmental protection, low carbon

transport and buildings, as well as energy efficiency.

Said José Sainz Armada, chief financial officer of the Spanish public multinational electric utility Iberdrola, “Ever since incorporating Sustainable Development Goals to the company’s strategy, Iberdrola has become the largest European issuer of green bonds, the perfect source of long-term finance for projects making an environmental difference. Through independent certification, private investors guided by ethical principles ensure their funds are managed with a sustainable perspective and the strictest social criteria.”

To date, all nine companies have issued a total of €26 billion in green bonds, which accounts for over 10 percent of all the world’s outstanding green bonds.

The nine signatories of Monday’s pledge commit to a long-term presence in the market. They say that green bonds will be at the heart of their project financing and business lines, and that they will implement stringent reporting procedures. The pledge also calls upon other industrial corporations to consider issuing green bonds.

Also announced at the One Planet Summit is Climate Action 100+, a new initiative backed by 225 investors, including nearly 70 North American investors, with $26.3 trillion in assets under management.

Climate Action 100+ is a five-year global effort led by investors to scale up engagement with the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters to improve governance on climate change, curb emissions and strengthen climate-related financial disclosures.

“Moving 100 of the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters to align their business plans with the goals of the Paris Agreement will have considerable ripple effects,” said Anne Simpson, member of the Climate Action 100+ Steering Committee and investment director of sustainability at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest U.S. public pension fund.

“Our collaborative engagements with the largest emitters will spur actions across all sectors as companies work to avoid being vulnerable to climate risk and left behind,” said Simpson.

As part of today’s launch, investors released the list of the first 100 companies that they plan to engage as part of the initiative. The list includes companies in the oil and gas, electric power and transportation sectors that have been identified as the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters.

But all these actions and promises did not go far enough for the conservationists in the Climate Action Network, a global group of over 1,200 NGOs working to promote government and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels.

Pointing out that 2017 is likely to be among the five-warmest years since the Industrial Revolution, and that the planet has suffered massive hurricanes in the Atlantic and the Caribbean, devastating floods in south Asia, and out of control wildfires in California, the Climate Action Network is pressing for even more urgent action.

Brett Fleishman, 350.org senior finance campaigner, said, “President Macron and other world leaders, are meeting right now to supposedly discuss shifting capital to climate solutions. But we are here to ring the alarm by bringing attention to the unabated support of the fossil fuel industry. We have research that clearly demonstrates that the French government, through its many agencies, is still invested in the energies sources of the past. This acts as a drag on the climate finance summit. This charade of caring about the planet can’t go on. Every euro and dollar spent on adaptation and mitigation is undercut by even more money spent on the fossil fuel industry.”

“Whatever the outcomes from this summit,” said Fleishman, “the global climate movement will keep on pushing through 2018 to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable energy for all.”

MOre than 1,000 delegates participated the summit, which will continue Wednesday with various side events.

The One Planet Summit is organized jointly by France, the United Nations and the World Bank, in partnership with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the We Mean Business Coalition, the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, the European Commission, the C40 Cities Network, the OECD and Bloomberg Philanthropies.


Featured Image: President of France Emmanual Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May at the One Planet Summit, Paris, France, December 12, 2017 (Photo courtesy #10 Downing Street) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Maximpact_co

Insuring the Vulnerable in a Warming World

Devastation on the Caribbean island of Dominica after Hurricane Maria, November 19, 2017 (Photo by Tanya Holden/DFID) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Devastation on the Caribbean island of Dominica after Hurricane Maria, November 19, 2017 (Photo by Tanya Holden/DFID) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, December 4, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – The German government has just contributed €110 million (US$125 million) to bring affordable insurance against climate and other natural disasters to 400 million vulnerable people around the world by 2020.

The contribution from German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ, made in November follows a £30 million (US$39 million) commitment from the Government of the United Kingdom in July.

These contributions are earmarked for the InsuResilience Global Partnership for Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance Solutions, headquartered in Bonn.

Between 1980 and 2015, more than 60 percent of the people who lost their lives as a result of climate-related extreme weather events had an income of less than US$3 a day, according to the reinsurance company Munich Re in a 2016 statement.

The effects of extreme weather events force some 26 million people into poverty every year, according to a World Bank study published this year entitled “Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters.”

Although absolute economic losses are much higher in high-income countries, they only account for 0.2 percent of GDP, as compared to five percent in low income countries.

To close this protection gap, the G7 countries: Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada, the UK and the United States, launched the InsuResilience initiative for climate risk insurance at their summit in Elmau, Germany in June 2015.

The initiative aims to offer insurance against climate risks to an additional 400 million poor and vulnerable people in developing countries by 2020.

At the start of the initiative, only around 100 million poor and vulnerable people in Africa, Asia and Latin America were insured against climate-related risks.

At the climate negotiations in Paris in 2015 (COP21), the G7 partners made a commitment to provide US$420 million in funding for InsuResilience as a first step.

One year later, at COP22 in Marrakesh, two new partners joined the initiative: the European Union and the Netherlands. Together, the InsuResilience partners confirmed their commitment and increased their financial contributions for InsuResilience to US$550 million.

More progress on insuring the world’s most vulnerable people was made this year. The Insuring Resilient and Sustainable Cities Summit held on May 5 in Bonn was convened by the UN Environment Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI) Initiative and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.

Gino Van Begin, ICLEI’s Secretary General, said, “Cities are on the front line of sustainable development challenges such as climate change and natural disasters. That’s why cities are working more and more with the insurance industry to better manage risk.”

The PSI, the largest collaborative initiative between the United Nations and the insurance industry, and ICLEI, the global network of more than 1,500 cities, towns and regions, joined forces in December 2016 to create the largest collaboration between the insurance industry and cities for resilience.

The Summit was sponsored by Munich Re, a founding PSI signatory, and supported by other PSI signatories such as Allianz and Risk Management Solutions, as well as by city mayors and officials from ICLEI’s global network – from Iloilo in the Philippines and Honiara in the Solomon Islands, to Copenhagen, Denmark and Oslo, Morway.

Dr. Michael Menhart, head of Economics, Sustainability and Public Affairs at Munich Re, and a PSI Board member, said, “We are committed to implementing the UN Principles for Sustainable Insurance in our core business activities. By supporting the push for more resilient and sustainable cities, we can help turn the PSI into practice and make a contribution through our risk and resilience expertise. This is a great example of how the insurance industry can promote economic, social and environmental sustainability.”

Resilience is not only about climate. The main outcome of the PSI-ICLEI Summit was the “Bonn Ambition”, which aims to achieve three goals by June 2018, when ICLEI hosts its World Congress in Montréal, Canada.

The Bonn Ambition is strategically linked to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Bonn Ambition seeks to create “Insurance Development Goals for Cities,” which would harness the insurance industry’s triple role as risk managers, risk carriers and investors in the context of the SDGs, focusing on SDG 11 – “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”

The idea is for the PSI and ICLEI to convert SDG 11’s stated targets into Insurance Development Goals that would set the long-term global agenda for the insurance industry and cities.

Participants plan to organize the first-ever roundtable of insurance industry CEOs and city mayors at the 2018 ICLEI World Congress to accelerate global and local action. The Congress is held every three years and assembles hundreds of local governments and key stakeholders to set the course for globalizing urban sustainability.

Butch Bacani, who leads the PSI at UN Environment, and who conceptualized and chaired the PSI-ICLEI Summit, said, “The Bonn Ambition clearly supports the PSI’s vision of a risk-aware world, where the insurance industry is trusted and plays its full role in enabling a healthy, safe, resilient and sustainable society. We need ambitious and decisive action now – not in 2020 or 2030 – to make the transformation to resilient and sustainable cities a reality. Time is non-renewable.”

The PSI-ICLEI Summit showed how the insurance industry could support cities as risk managers, risk carriers and investors. It explored various ways to close three key gaps in cities:

  • Closing the disaster risk reduction gap – through catastrophe risk modelling, ecosystem-based adaptation, insurance loss data sharing, land-use planning, loss prevention, and disaster preparedness
  • Closing the insurance protection gap – through insurance solutions for low-income people, SMEs, local governments and green technologies, including index-based insurance and usage-based insurance
  • Closing the financing gap – through investments in sustainable infrastructure, energy, buildings and transportation, and instruments such as green bonds and catastrophe and resilience bonds

Jed Patrick Mabilog, mayor of Iloilo City in the Philippines, said, “To survive and thrive, we need a whole-of-society approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation and disaster risk reduction. I fully support the Bonn Ambition and look forward to its implementation.”

Andrew Leonard Mua, mayor of Honiara City in the Solomon Islands, one of the most climate and disaster-vulnerable countries, said, “No man is an island. Honiara needs to work with other cities and key stakeholders such as the insurance industry in shaping a resilient and sustainable urban future. We need to act urgently—the future is happening now.”


Featured image: Strong winds brought by Typhoon Haima toppled electric poles, damaged homes and flooded fields in the Isabela and Cagayan provinces of the Philippines, October 20, 2016 (Photo by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

COP23 Fertilizes Climate-Smart Agriculture

COP23LeadersHighLevel

COP23 leaders, from left: UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa of Brazil; President Emmanuel Macron, France; Frank Bainimarama, prime minister of Fiji and COP 23 president; Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany; and UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the opening of the High-Level Segment of the conference, November 15, 2017 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, November 21, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – New commitments and initiatives in the agriculture and water sectors were announced as nearly 200 countries gathered at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP23) hosted by the government of Fiji in Bonn, November 6-17.

Delegates made concrete progress on turning the historic 2015 Paris Agreement into action on the ground across the world, ahead of next year’s UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland.

COP23 delegates aimed at motivating greater climate action by public and private stakeholders as the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, enables countries to combat climate change by limiting the rise of global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius and strive not to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels.

About one degree of that rise has already happened, increasing the pressure on governments and the private sector to progress further and faster to cut the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

For the first time in the history of UN climate negotiations, governments reached an agreement on agriculture that will help countries develop and implement new strategies to both reduce emissions from agriculture and build resilience to the effects of climate change.

“Agriculture is a key factor for the sustainability of rural areas, the responsibility for food security and its potential to offer climate change solutions is enormous,” said Christian Schmidt, Germany’s federal minister of food and agriculture.

Investing more quickly and broadly in agricultural climate action and to support the sustainable livelihoods of small-scale farmers will unlock much greater potential to curb emissions and protect people against climate change, sector leaders and experts said.

New COP23 initiatives include a US$400 million fund established by the Government of Norway and the corporation Unilever for public and private investment in business models that combine investments in high productivity agriculture, smallholder inclusion and forest protection.

The European Investment Bank will provide US$75 million for a new US$405 million investment program by the Water Authority of Fiji. The plan will strengthen resilience of water distribution and wastewater treatment following Cyclone Winston, the world’s second strongest storm ever recorded, which hit Fiji in February 2016.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development signed up to free US$37.6 million of GCF grant financing in the US$243.1 million Saïss Water Conservation Project to make Moroccan agriculture more resilient.

The nonprofit World Resources Institute announced a landmark US$2.1 billion of private investment to restore degraded lands in Latin America and the Caribbean through Initiative 20×20.

“Climate change is a fundamental threat to the Sustainable Development Goal 2 that aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition,” said José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)  at a high-level event on hunger at the conference.

“To achieve SDG2 and effectively respond to climate change, we require a transformation of our agriculture sectors and food systems,” he said.

According to FAO’s “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017” report, hunger has grown for the first time in over a decade, mainly due to conflicts and climate change. An estimated 815 million people are now hungry.

Extreme climate impacts come down hard on small-scale farmers and pastoralists as well as fishing and forest communities, who still provide the bulk of the planet’s food.

Supporting these communities with innovative solutions to reduce their emissions and protect their communities meets many of the objectives of every one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Over 70 percent of the world’s extreme poor live in rural areas. They are also the most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition, natural resource scarcity, conflict, and climate impacts.

“The rural poor are part of a comprehensive response to climate change,” said da Silva. “They are key agents of change who need to be strengthened in their roles as stewards of biodiversity, natural resources and vital ecosystem services.”

Requests to direct more resources to the agriculture sector as a key strategy to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were made during Agriculture Action Day November 10.

“Countries now have the opportunity to transform their agricultural sectors to achieve food security for all through sustainable agriculture and strategies that boost resource-use efficiency, conserve and restore biodiversity and natural resources, and combat the impacts of climate change,” said René Castro, FAO assistant-director general.

In the livestock sector, for example, FAO estimates that emissions could be readily reduced by about 30 percent with the adoption of best practices.

At COP23, the FAO released a new “Sourcebook on Climate-Smart Agriculture,” which recommends scaling up public and private climate finance flows to agriculture, spurring public-private partnerships, strengthening a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder dialogue, investing in knowledge and information, and building capacity to address barriers to climate action.

The book features knowledge and stories about on-the-ground projects to guide policymakers and program managers to make the agricultural sectors more sustainable and productive, while contributing to food security and lower carbon intensity.

The COP23 meeting agreed that land needs to be managed in ways to increase soil carbon, particularly in grasslands, and that robust protocols for assessing and monitoring carbon stocks need to be developed with stakeholders.

Rehabilitating agricultural and degraded soils can remove up to 51 billion tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, according to some estimates.

For the livestock sector, FAO estimates that emissions could be readily reduced by about 30 percent with the adoption of best practices.

Tom Driscoll, director of conservation policy with the U.S. National Farmers Union, says, “Farming is one of the few professions with the ability to not only reduce ongoing greenhouse gas emissions, but to also remove existing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. National Farmers Union supports policies and programs that maximize agriculture’s GHG elimination potential by offering value to farmers for either climate-smart or emissions-reducing and carbon-sinking production and conservation practices.”

Cap-and-trade programs, which limit ongoing emissions from major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, are one means of offering farmers value for climate-smart practices.

Cap-and-trade programs can drive emissions reductions where they can happen in the most cost-effective manner, and farmers can often achieve emissions reductions and sequester atmospheric greenhouse gases for less money than the emitters these programs primarily regulate, says Driscoll on the NFU website.

The state of California has implemented a cap-and-trade program that allows for the creation and transfer-for-value of offset credits that meet regulatory criteria. Regulated entities may meet up to eight percent of their triennial compliance requirements by purchasing these credits.

In California, each credit must be quantified using a compliance offset protocol approved by the California Air Resources Board. Currently, ARB will approve credits some U.S. farmers create by capturing and destroying methane from manure management systems.

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), an organizer of COP23’s Agriculture Action day, announced that the Coalition will work in the next few years to create the conditions for greater agricultural climate action.

The voluntary partnership of more than 100 governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society organizations aims to help give countries the confidence to set realistic yet ambitious targets through the next revision of their national climate plans – the Nationally Determined Contributions.

“Agriculture is a large source of powerful greenhouse gases like methane and other short-lived climate pollutants but has great potential to store carbon and reduce greenhouse gases in our lifetime, that’s why we support and advocate for countries to improve their livestock emissions inventories,” said Helena Molin Valdes, head of the CCAC Secretariat.

CCAC partners signed onto the Coalition’s Bonn Communiqué which prioritizes initiatives to reduce methane and black carbon emissions from agriculture and municipal solid waste.

These initiatives support broader efforts to reduce air pollution, end hunger, and build sustainable cities and communities, while helping to limit global warming.

James Shaw, New Zealand Minister for Climate Change, said he was pleased with the Communiqué’s focus on agriculture as it was a large source of his country’s greenhouse gases.

“We hope this encourages partners to develop policies to reduce emissions from agriculture, while at the same time improving the productivity, resilience and profitability of farmers,” said Shaw.

Other agriculture-based solutions for addressing climate change were also presented at COP23. Discussions involved people from governments, civil society, the private sector, small scale and young farmers centered on livestock, traditional agriculture systems, water, soil, food loss and waste, and integrated landscape management.

Among the recommended actions and initiatives were to:

  • Scale up public and private climate finance flows to agriculture, and use them in a catalytic manner. Climate finance flows continue to favor mitigation over adaptation, and focus overwhelmingly on energy systems and infrastructure. These imbalances should be addressed.
  • Incentivize public-private partnerships. Strong dialogue and collaboration between the public and private sectors is key to ensure alignment between public policy and private sector investment decisions in agriculture and throughout the entire food system.
  • Strengthen a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder dialogue towards more integrated approaches to landscape management. This will require enhanced coordination of policy and climate action across multiple public and private entities.
  • Invest in knowledge and information. Additional analyses are needed to better identify the institutional barriers and market failures that are inhibiting broader adoption of climate-resilient and low-emissions agricultural practices in individual countries, regions and communities.
  • Build capacity to address barriers to implement climate action. Agricultural producers require additional capacities to understand the climate risks and vulnerabilities they face, and respond accordingly.

In the water sector, most national climate plans with an adaptation component prioritize action on water, yet financing would need to triple to US$295 billion per year to meet such targets, said experts at COP23.

“Sustainable use of water for multiple purposes must remain a way of life and needs to be at the center of building resilient cities and human settlements and ensuring food security in a climate change context,” said Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, president of the Women for Water Partnership.

The international water community co-signed what it called a “nature based solution declaration” to encourage the use of natural systems in managing healthy water supplies.

Around 40 percent of the world’s population will face water shortages by 2050, accelerating migration and triggering onflict, while some regions could lose up to six percent of their economic output, unless water is better managed, warned Verhoef-Cohen.

She said, “Involving both women and men in decision making and integrated water resources initiatives leads to better sustainability, governance and efficiency.”


2-DAY GRANT

Featured Image: G.H. MUMM champagne 2017 harvest in champagne vineyard near Verzenay, France, September 7, 2017 (Photo by Intercontinental Hong Kong) Creative Commons license via Flickr

China Seizes Global Green Finance Leadership

ChinaFloatingSolar

In May 2017, Sungrow Power Supply China switched on the world’s largest floating solar energy plant. The solar panels float on water that flooded a defunct coal mine near the city of Huainan in China’s eastern Anhui province. China has pledged to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in renewable energy by the year 2020. (Photo courtesy Sungrow Power Supply) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

SINGAPORE, November 17, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Trillions of dollars will need to be deployed each year to finance climate action and sustainability, and China is leading the way toward raising these funds, finds new research released Thursday. “China has become a new growth driver in the global green bonds market,” states the report by the United Nations‘ environment agency and the Beijing-based International Institute of Green Finance.

The report, “Establishing China’s Green Financial System: Progress Report,” reviews China’s development in green finance, and makes recommendations for future development.

The researchers found that China has established itself as a “global leader on green finance,” both domestically and internationally, but the country still faces serious challenges to mobilize its full potential.

The country’s leaders have acknowledged that the rapid growth of their economy, second-largest in the world after the United States, has brought expensive health and environmental problems to China – outdoor and indoor air pollution, water scarcity and pollution, desertification, soil pollution and biodiversity loss.

Speaking at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October, President Xi Jinping said the construction of “ecological civilization” and the maintenance of ecological security are the keys to China achieving stable and sustainable development.

“Green finance is essential to realizing China’s national strategic objectives in green development and ‘ecological civilization,'” said co-author Wang Yao, professor and director-general at the International Institute of Green Finance, a think tank established at China’s Central University of Finance and Economics in September 2016.

“Through approaches in practicing green credit, green bonds, green insurance and industrial funds, as well as implementation at local levels, China’s green finance development has contributed significantly to social and economic structural reforms and gained widespread recognition internationally,” said Wang.

The report finds that China, which put green finance on the G20 agenda during its 2016 presidency, is following through on its political commitment to boost the financing required to do this.

Ratings agency Moody’s predicts that, globally, green bonds could exceed US$200 billion this year, driven by the Paris Agreement and reform in China.

Let’s look at China’s recent activities as a way of gauging the country’s progress.

In the first half of 2017, China issued 36 green bonds worth RMB77.67 billion (US$11.7 billion).

In one year, China’s green bonds grew in number by 278 percent and in value by 28 percent, according to the report.

There are 7,826 green and low-carbon projects, at investment of RMB6.4 trillion (US$0.96 trillion), are listed in the public-private partnerships catalogue, and 121 new green regional development funds were set up in 2016, the report states.

The green and low-carbon projects account for 57.7 percent of all the projects and 39.3 percent of the investments in that catalogue.

In addition, many Chinese provinces and cities have established regional green development funds.

By the end of 2016, 265 green funds were registered with the Asset Management Association of China; of these 215 were green industry funds, and 121 of these were established in 2016.

China has demarcated five distinct green finance pilot zones to explore different development models for the local green financial system against different backgrounds.

The Chinese government and the business community have started to attach great importance to developing a green industry chain for outbound investment.

With the Guidelines on Promoting Green Belt and Road, the APEC Green Supply Chain Network, and the Initiative on Environmental Risk Management for China’s Outbound Investment, China is going global in its green investment practices, according to the report.

The Bank of China plans to issue its third set of green bonds in the offshore markets in the near term. The bank states, “…all the net proceeds of its offshore Green Bonds issuances will be used to fund new and existing green projects with environmental benefits.”

Dr. Ma Jun, who chairs China’s Green Finance Committee and serves as special advisor to UN Environment on sustainable finance, said, “China has made huge strides through government leadership to create a domestic green finance market, and has inspired many other countries in developing a green finance policy roadmap. However, to keep this momentum going, China still needs to overcome some challenges.”

The green finance progress report pinpoints where the work needs to be done for China to establish a fully functioning green financial system.

It recommends that China clearly define the term “green.” This would lower the costs of identifying truly green projects and preventing “greenwashing,” the report states.

In this critical recommendation, the report says authorities should clarify lenders’ responsibilities, litigation eligibility, and liabilities by improving laws and regulations on environmental protection. The authors say this would urge commercial banks to incorporate environmental risk analysis into the loan application process.

The authors recommend that China set up statistical systems for green finance, and construct performance evaluation systems for local green development.

Efforts should be made to improve the green finance database and expand channels for international investors to access information about China’s green finance market to help boost their confidence, the authors recommend.

And finally, they recommend that green indexes aligned with the international market should be developed as benchmarks to attract international investors to invest in green bonds and stocks in China.

The report is coauthored by the International Institute of Green Finance of the Beijing-based Central University of Finance and Economics, and UN Environment’s Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System.

The Inquiry was launched by UN Environment in January 2014 to improve the financial system’s effectiveness in mobilizing capital for sustainable development.

In October 2015, the Inquiry published the first edition of “The Financial System We Need,” with the second edition launched in October 2016.

The Inquiry has worked in over 20 countries and produced many briefings and reports on sustainable finance. It serves as secretariat for the G20 Green Finance Study Group, co-chaired by China and the United Kingdom, as well as for the Sustainable Insurance Forum of regulators.

In its 2017 Leaders Declaration, the G20 countries committed themselves to sustainable development, declaring, “A strong economy and a healthy planet are mutually reinforcing. We recognise the opportunities for innovation, sustainable growth, competitiveness, and job creation of increased investment into sustainable energy sources and clean energy technologies and infrastructure. We remain collectively committed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through, among others, increased innovation on sustainable and clean energies and energy efficiency, and work towards low greenhouse-gas emission energy systems.”

The UN Environment Inquiry and its partners this week launched another report on the state of play in green finance and upcoming investment opportunities.

On November 13, at the UN climate negotiations in Bonn, they issued “Roadmap for a Sustainable Financial System,” with the World Bank Group. This report is aimed at helping governments and the private sector design a global financial system for the era of sustainable development.

It finds that the transition toward a sustainable financial system is already taking place through the interaction of market-based, national and international initiatives.

“Sustainable growth must be the only growth option for the planet and will require sustainable financial systems that are inclusive, deep, and sound,” said Hartwig Schafer, World Bank vice president for Global Themes.

This report makes three key points:

  • Policy and regulatory measures targeting sustainability have grown 20 percent year on year since 2010
  • Climate action has opened up initial investment opportunity of US$22.6 trillion from 2016 to 2030
  • The next 24 months are crucial to build on existing initiatives and finance sustainable development

“The financial system has enormous transformative power, and has the potential to serve as an engine for the global economy’s transition to sustainable development,” said UN Environment head Erik Solheim. “The roadmap tells us who needs to do what, and when, for this to happen. Here we can see the very real potential to improve the lives of billions of people around the world.”


Featured Image: All three Chinese note-issuing banks are in this shot: Bank of China, HSBC (Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation), and Standard Chartered Bank, at dusk in Hong Kong, July 27, 2010 (Photo by Brian Sterling) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Climate-Neutral COP23 Aims for Sustainability

ElectricBusBonn

Bonn’s electric buses will transport conference attendees around the city free of greenhouse gas emissions. (Photo courtesy UNFCCC) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, November 7, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – This year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, which opened Monday and continues through November 17 under the presidency of Fiji, gives nations an opportunity to showcase their own climate actions at this “climate-neutral” event.

Up to 25,000 people are expected to participate in the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, known as COP23, including government delegates, representatives of observer organizations, businesses and journalists.

One year has passed since the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change, adopted by the 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2015. The agreement allows countries to make individual pledges of action to reverse climate change, called Nationally Determined Contributions.

The Paris Agreement aims to limit the rise of the global temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius and, if possible, below 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

These goals appear increasingly difficult to achieve. Last week, the World Meteorological Organization announced that atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, CO2, had surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016.

A new report from the UN Environment agency finds that even full implementation of current unconditional and conditional Nationally Determined Contributions makes a temperature increase of at least 3 degrees C by 2100 very likely.

The 8th edition of UN Environment’s Emissions Gap report, released ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, finds that national pledges only bring a third of the reduction in emissions required by 2030 to meet climate targets, with private sector and sub-national action not increasing at a rate that would help close this worrying gap.

This means that governments must deliver much stronger pledges when they are revised in 2020.

The organizers of COP23 have made sustainability the watchword of this year’s annual conference. In this context, unless stated differently, organizers say, the term sustainability refers to the environmental dimension of sustainable development as defined in 1987 by “Our Common Future,” the Brundtland Report, from the UN World Commission on Environment and Development.

The Brundtland Commission defined sustainable development as “development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

To that end, COP23 organizers are managing transport, waste management, catering, energy and offsetting, providing clean transportation and clean electricity to the greatest extent possible.

The COP23 Sustainability Taskforce estimates that most emissions caused by COP 23 are the result of transport, with delegates’ international travel responsible for the largest share.

Emissions from local travel will be reduced by renewable energy-powered electric vehicle shuttles that will transfer delegates between the two conference zones, Bula and Bonn.

The conference venue itself will be managed sustainably, including its use of resources such as energy, waste and water.

“The most important aspect is that local public transportation is free of charge for all registered participants from Parties, observer organizations and media,” says Dennis Winkler, who heads the COP 23 Sustainability Taskforce and is responsible for the sustainability of UN climate change conferences.

“Also, 600 bikes will be provided free of charge for participants to get from one conference zone to another, or even to the city,” Winkler said.

The city of Bonn has several electric and hybrid buses in service and special electric COP 23 shuttles, running on 100 percent renewable energy, will connect a brand-new UN Campus train stop with the nearby metro stop and the two conference zones.

“We think it is important for there to be electric transport at the Bonn Climate Change Conference, as it absolutely meets the key goals of COP23,” says Anja Wenmakers of Bonn’s public transport provider, Stadtwerke-Bonn. “We are committed to supporting climate action goals and believe that public transport in general can make an important contribution to quickly achieving these goals.”

In addition, a shuttle service with smaller electric vehicles through the Rheinaue Park will be organized by the German Environment Ministry. Electric buses will be clearly identified with a special label.

In an effort to use energy efficiently, COP23 organizers are seeking to keep all indoor areas at an average temperature of 21 degrees Celsius, and not warmer. Participants are requested to turn off room lights and ventilation as well as ICT equipment when not in use.

In addition to maximizing energy efficiency, the organizers are making sure that the energy that is used in buildings is from renewable sources when possible.

“We have a target of 80 percent renewable energy all over the conference,” said Winkler. He and his team will have to make an assessment of whether this target has been reached at the end of the conference.

The UNFCCC Secretariat runs on 100 percent renewable energy, some of it sourced from solar panels on the roof of its headquarters building.

In a another effort to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport, the UNFCCC has announced a partnership with Ethanol Europe Renewables Ltd, which aims to promote the use of biofuels as lower-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels.

When COP23 is over on November 17, the UNFCCC Sustainability Taskforce will calculate the overall greenhouse gas footprint of all aspects of the conference, including travel, food, local transport and accommodation.

Their calculations will be verified under the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme. All unavoidable emissions resulting from COP23 will be offset.

The Government of Germany has committed to the purchase of certified emission credits, preferably from Clean Development Mechanism projects registered in small island developing States, in recognition of the Fijian Presidency of COP 23.

“The human suffering caused by intensifying hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, floods and threats to food security caused by climate change means there is no time to waste,” said Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji, who took over as president of the COP23 conference from Morocco during the opening.

“We must preserve the global consensus for decisive action enshrined in the Paris Agreement and aim for the most ambitious part of that target – to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above that of the pre-industrial age,” he said. “Wherever we live, we are all vulnerable and need to act.”

COP23 is structured according to the principle of one conference, two zones. The UN intergovernmental negotiations take place in Zone Bula, a Fijian word expressing warm welcome.

Negotiating countries plan to design and launch the Talanoa dialogue, named after the spirit of open exchange and constructive debate of Pacific island nations, to run during 2018.

The dialogue will conclude at COP24 in Poland next year with the aim of setting the stage for a more ambitious response that better reflects the scientific state of climate change during 2019-2020.

Governments will work on the Paris Agreement’s operating system – the detailed ways and means to assist all governments to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement now and in the future.

“Fiji is helping build a Grand Coalition for decisive, coordinated action by governments at every level, by civil society, the private sector and all citizens on Earth,” said Bainimarama. “That’s why we installed an ocean-going Fijian ‘drua’ canoe in the entrance here to remind everyone of the need to fill its sail with collective determination to make COP23 a success and confront the biggest challenge humanity has faced.”

Featured Image: COP23 dignitaries ride bicycles through the streets of Bonn, Germany ahead of the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). From right: Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji and COP23 president; Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC. Nov. 5, 2017 (Photo courtesy UNFCCC) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Biochar: ‘Black Gold’ With a Hundred Uses

SINTEF researchers Maria Kollberg Thomassen and Markus Steen hold handsful of biochar at the Skjærgaarden nursery. 2017 (Photo by Lisbet Jære courtesy SINTEF) Posted for media use

SINTEF researchers Maria Kollberg Thomassen and Markus Steen hold handsful of biochar at the Skjærgaarden nursery. 2017 (Photo by Lisbet Jære courtesy SINTEF) Posted for media use

 

By Sunny Lewis

OSLO, Norway, October 17, 2017 (Maximpact.com   News) – Biochar can help address many environmental challenges, as people in Norway are just now discovering. This form of carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage reduces the need for fertilizers and may lead to better crop yields. It also can remove heavy metals from the soil.

Biochar is plant matter, such as wood, straw, woody debris, or corn stalks, that has been heated to high temperatures in a no-oxygen environment. The result is a black, carbon-rich material similar to charcoal.

Biochar technology, which is not widely known in Norway, makes it possible to capture CO2 from the atmosphere and store carbon in the soil. It offers benefits to the agricultural sector because it makes soils more nutrient-rich and counteracts the effects of drought conditions.

Norway has taken on the ambitious climate goal to be carbon neutral by 2050. This will require major changes in many sectors, and Norwegian agriculture has moved into a central role in the national debate on climate change.

Among the greenhouses at the Skjærgaarden nursery is Norway’s first biochar plant. The nursery is hosting the first biochar demo plant in Norway, which has been installed in collaboration with the cross-disciplinary research project CAPTURE+.

“Our motivation for starting biochar production is to improve the soil,” says Kristin Stenersen, who runs the Skjærgaarden nursery together with her husband Bjørge Madsen. “We want more robust and healthier plants, and to reduce our use of synthetic pesticides and artificial fertilisers. Of course, the fact that biochar also binds CO2 is an added benefit,” she says.

“If 4,000 Norwegian farms and nurseries produced biochar and mixed it with the soil, we could halve our emissions from the agricultural sector,” says Erik Joner at NIBIO, one of the partners in the CAPTURE+ project.

NIBIO is the organization with the longest track record in biochar research in Norway. Entirely natural, this approach also produces robust and healthy plants.

“People are welcome to come and see for themselves how it works in practice,” says Maria Kollberg Thomassen, project manager for CAPTURE+ and a senior researcher at Trondheim-based SINTEF, the largest independent research organization in Scandinavia.

In mid-June, the nursery welcomed more than 70 representatives from both private and public sector organizations, research scientists, and representatives from the agricultural sector in connection with the opening of the new biochar production plant.

Kollberg Thomassen picks up a handful of biochar from the plant, which can convert biomass to biochar at a rate of about 300 kilograms per hour. This plant is designed for small-scale production and can be used by everyday farmers.

“The project is ground-breaking because, on the one hand, we’re looking into how biochar technology can be improved by applying bio- and nanotechnologies,” says Kollberg Thomassen. “On the other, we’re studying the economic, social and political aspects linked to the use of a new technology.”

Sweden, Norway’s neighbor, is utilizing biocoal to a much greater extent. Kollberg Thomassen has recently returned from a visit to the Swedish water and waste management company Stockholm Vatten. It utilizes garden waste to produce biochar which is used to help cultivate trees and other plants in Stockholm.

The process is profitable because the plants require less care. It also has the advantage of handling surplus water following heavy rain.

In 2010, a research article was published in the journal “Nature” estimating that 12 percent of human-caused CO2 emissions could be captured in biochar each year without conflicting with other biomass utilization objectives.

Joner says that biochar contains stable carbon that is bound in the soil and does not return to the atmosphere. Coalification changes the molecular structure of the material such that bacteria and fungi are unable to break it down. When mixed with soil it constitutes about one half of one per cent of soil content.

In the Amazon region, NIBIO has found charcoal, or biochar, formed from residual plant material in the soil that is between 1,000 and 1,500 years old. The soil here is still more fertile today than soils which have not been provided with such additions of carbon.

Joner compares biochar with humus, which he calls the “black gold in the soil.”

NIBIO has estimated that the first two million tonnes of CO2 that can be bound each year in biochar in Norway can be sourced from easily accessible forestry and agricultural waste.

“Norway’s natural vegetation is rewilding, and there’s a lot of forestry waste just lying around and rotting away,” says Joner. “Timber volumes in Norwegian forests have increased by 25 million cubic metres, but only 12 million of these are harvested. The forests will benefit from thinning aimed at promoting growth and healthy forests.”

Professor Stephen Joseph from the University of New South Wales has been researching biochar for years and has visited Skjærgaarden to demonstrate how the plant works.

He has seen how biochar is being used for everything from the removal of heavy metals from soil, to the positive results from tests carried out in Australia where cattle manure has been added, and how the Chinese have now started to invest in biochar, which they mix with artificial fertilizer.

At the Skjærgaarden nursery, the initial plan is to mix the biochar with compost as a means of providing nutrients for plants and crops. Stenersen believes that biochar is an excellent agent for returning nutrients to the soil, and that it is a more natural and sensitive approach, similar to the methods used before artificial fertilizers became the norm.

“We’re only in the starting blocks and it will take time for us to find our feet. But the possibilities are enormous,” she says. “Stephen Joseph has inspired us to carry out an experiment that involves mixing biochar with silicon-rich waste from larvikite quarries. This can be used in addition to, or as a replacement for, artificial fertilisers,” says Stenersen.

Another benefit of adding biochar is that it raises the pH of the soil. Currently, Norwegian farmers use lime to increase pH values.

Markus Steen is a research scientist at SINTEF looking into the kinds of political measures required if biochar is going to become a means of mitigating climate change. He has also been studying the barriers that arise when a new technology is introduced.

If biochar is to become a factor in Norway’s climate change bookkeeping, a certification plan must be established to make sure that the carbon remains in the soil. This is essential if a carbon compensation scheme, paying farmers to plough biochar into the soil, is introduced.

At SINTEF, the scientists call biochar a “kinder egg” on the basis of all the opportunities it offers. It has the potential to address many challenges, including reducing the need for fertilizers and increasing crop yields.

Steen believes that during the start-up phase, it is important to provide incentives for establishing test plants at different scales, and in different parts of Norway. Users should be closely involved because this promotes interaction and confidence in the product.

“The public sector has an important role to play, and can take the lead in creating a niche market,” says Steen. “A good example of this is the inter-municipal waste management company IVAR, based in Stavanger and Sandnes in western Norway. IVAR is planning to invest in a biochar facility, from which the surplus heat will be used to heat public buildings,” says Steen.

Jon Randby works in the agriculture division at the offices of the County Governor in Vestfold, and has been following developments at the demonstration plant at Skjærgaarden. He agrees with Steen that incentives to start testing must start now.

“Biochar offers major opportunities to farmers, and there is now a greater willingness in the farming community to test new initiatives than there was 10 years ago,” he says. “For this reason, intensive research is needed to demonstrate that it works. We’re seeing that soils are becoming increasingly nutrient-poor, so we have to act now. Not least, we need climate change mitigation measures.”

The chemical giant Elkem is one of the world’s largest producers of silicon and ferrosilicon and is planning to use more biochar in its production processes in Norway. Elkem intends to increase the proportion of biochar in its reducing agent mixtures to 20 percent by 2021 and 40 percent by 2030.

This is equivalent to emissions reductions in Norway of 450,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). The emissions reductions will be achieved by replacing fossil coal with biochar.

“We’ve just started a four-year research project called PyrOpt, funded by the Research Council of Norway, in which our aim is to optimize the pyrolysis process used to manufacture biochar so that it meets Elkem’s requirements,” says Geir Johan Andersen, who is project manager for the PyrOpt project at Elkem.

The company is also aiming to exploit all pyrolysis by-products such as bio-oil, and surplus energy in the form of steam. There may also be some fractions of biochar that are more suited to purposes other than as a reducing agent.

Says Andersen, “We’re looking into opportunities to collaborate in the construction of a biochar plant of this type, and this is why it is useful to meet others and participate in demonstration projects such as that at Skjærgaarden.”

A world away in the U.S. state of Kansas, ICM Inc. plans to build a new state-of-the-art biorefinery next to its headquarters in Colwich. The US$175 million facility will showcase the company’s cutting-edge technologies.

The ICM patented gasifier there is capable of converting biomass and forestry feedstocks into producer gas or syngas, while cogenerating a biochar product with many applications.

In Texas, Rice University researchers have found that biochar from recycled waste may both enhance crop growth and save health costs by helping clear the air of pollutants.

Rice researchers in Earth science, economics and environmental engineering have determined that widespread use of biochar in agriculture could reduce health care costs, especially for those who live in urban areas close to farmland.

The study led by Ghasideh Pourhashem, a postdoctoral fellow at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, appears in the July 2017 issue of the American Chemical Society journal “Environmental Science and Technology.”

Pourhashem and his colleagues demonstrated that urban dwellers in the American Midwest and Southwest would gain the greatest benefits in air quality and health from greater use of biochar.

“Our model projections show health care cost savings could be on the order of millions of dollars per year for some urban counties next to farmland,” Pourhashem said. “These results are now ready to be tested by measuring changes in air pollutants from specific agricultural regions.”

“Agriculture rarely gets considered for air pollution control strategies,” said Daniel Cohan, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice. “Our work shows that modest changes to farming practices can benefit the air and soil too.”

Cornell University research published October 2016 in the journal “Nature Communications” suggests that biochar can be part of an economically viable model to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to thwart global warming until other removal methods become economically feasible and in regions where other methods are impractical.

“If we continue on current emissions trajectories, we will need to draw down excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere if we’re going to avoid catastrophic levels of climate change. We’re offering a mitigation model that can do that. It’s not a silver bullet, but it may be among the tools we need in a portfolio of carbon dioxide mitigation strategies,” said Dominic Woolf, Cornell University research associate in crop and soil sciences and lead author of the study.

Although it has been omitted from major atmospheric mitigation scenarios until now, the new model shows that including biochar in a suite of options unlocks the ability to achieve cost-effective CO2 removal earlier and deeper than would otherwise be possible.

But an environmental scientist at the University of East Anglia, UK warns that radical new ways of removing CO2 from the atmosphere – such as adding biochar to millions of hectares of soil – could prove to be a risky business.

Dr. Phil Williamson, employed by the Natural Environment Research Council at UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, published “Scrutinize CO2 removal methods” in the February 10, 2016 issue of the journal Nature.” He writes that much more research is needed before the wheels are set in motion on global-scale climate geoengineering’ schemes.

“Crucially, large-scale CO2 removal, by whichever means, will have knock-on effects for ecosystems and biodiversity. There could be benefits, but damage seems more likely,” says Williamson.

“For example, the amount of bioenergy crops we would need to grow could use up to 580 million hectares of land – or half of the land area of the U.S. This would in turn accelerate the loss of forests and natural grassland with impacts for wildlife, whilst also having implications for food security.”


Featured Image:  Biochar made from beetle-killed lodgepole pine, 2016. (Photo courtesy USDA Forest Service) Public domain.

Maximpact_consulting

EU Pours Millions Into Circular, Low-carbon Economy

BIPVFrance


A building integrated solar array at the Gare de Perpignan, Southern France. Part of the railway station was decorated in the style of Salvador Dalí, who proclaimed it to be the “Center of the Universe” after experiencing a vision of cosmogonic ecstasy there in 1963. (Photo by Issolsa via Wikipedia) Creative Commons license.

BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 10, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – Integrating solar panels into the glass facades of buildings could improve their energy performance to meet EU targets, as the buildings become a whole new source of renewable energy. A demonstration project will generate clean energy through building integrated photovoltaic facades fitted on refurbished and new buildings in Belgium and Spain, the final stage before market launch of the technology.

This is just one of 139 projects (Europa Press Release) soon to be funded by the European Commission as part of an investment package of €222 million to support Europe’s transition to more sustainable and low-carbon future under the LIFE programme for the Environment and Climate Action.

LIFE experts expect the solar panels to reduce the buildings’ carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 34 percent. The project will be coordinated by AGC Glass Europe, based in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.

Besides being a nice chunk of change all by itself, the EU funding will mobilize additional investments leading to a total of €379 million going to fund 139 new projects in 20 EU Member States.

“In its 25th year, the LIFE program continues to invest in innovative projects with high added value for people, businesses and nature. I am delighted to see that the program transforms close-to-market technologies into new, green businesses,” said Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

The newly approved funds will go towards financing a circular and low-carbon future. For instance, €181.9 million will go to projects in the fields of environment and resource efficiency, nature and biodiversity, and environmental governance and information.

In line with the European Commission’s circular economy package, projects will help Member States in their transition to a more circular economy.

Circular economy projects newly funded by LIFE include: testing an Italian prototype that could cost-effectively convert petrol cars into hybrid vehicles; creating bio-based products from wastewater sludge in the Netherlands; and applying a new biological treatment to remove pesticides and nitrates from water in southern Spain.

A LIFE Environment & Resource Efficiency project funded at €2.3 million will explore new road surfaces to reduce noise and urban heat.

Some 37 million Europeans are exposed to transport noise at levels dangerous for their health, according to LIFE. Most of them live in cities, where the health impacts of heatwaves also are more pronounced. Changes to road surfaces could easeboth problems.

With the new funding, the City of Paris is leading a LIFE project to devise durable asphalt surfaces with phonic and thermal properties that will reduce noise pollution and mitigate the urban heat island effect.

The measurable impact at three pilot sites is expected to be a two decibel reduction in noise experienced by neighboring residents and a 0.5°C to 1.5°C reduction in the urban heat island effect.  due to lighter road surfaces and increased water retention

Other funded projects will support the implementation of the Action Plan for Nature, in particular the management of Nature 2000 sites.

Species protection is another focus, such as in the Slovenian cross-border project to help the survival of a highly endangered Alpine lynx species.

The Danube river in western Bulgaria is one of Europe’s most important areas for the conservation of priority bird species, such as the white stork. But birds in Natura 2000 network sites here struggle with nearby urban and industrial centers, transport corridors, and hundreds of kilometres of encircling bird-unsafe overhead power lines.

In western Bulgaria, nesting white storks like this one are at risk from power lines. (Photo by aneye4apicture) Creative Commons license via Flickr

In western Bulgaria, nesting white storks like this one are at risk from power lines. (Photo by aneye4apicture) Creative Commons license via Flickr

A newly funded project will identify the power lines posing the most serious hazard for western Bulgaria’s wild birds in a GIS database, mapping areas of potential conflict and producing a detailed report.

The project will stop unnatural mortality among wild birds caused by electrocution on electricity pylons by retrofitting 4,000 pin-type pylons, 1,200 metal frame pylons and 200 switch towers. Project workers will install 120 km of aerial conductors marked with “bird diverters” to reduce bird-collisions by 90 percent in priority areas.

In the area of climate action, the EU will invest €40.2 million to support climate change adaptation, mitigation and governance and information projects.

Selected projects support the EU’s target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.

Hungary, for instance, is forecast to suffer a greater than average impact from climate change, including water scarcity and extreme, unpredictable floods. A €2.5 million LIFE project will build capacity among Hungary’s 3,000+ municipalities through demonstration actions, smart online tools, training and support networks.

The project will focus on promoting ecosystem-based natural water retention measures to manage and mitigate flooding caused by climate change in Hungary.

By applying the Paris Agreement Capital Transition Assessment (PACTA) model, one project in France will give financial regulators and policy-makers the ability to assess EU insurance companies and pension fund assets against global climate goals. This will help them better assess the risks of investments under a range of different decarbonisation scenarios.

At least 200 EU financial institutions are expected to adopt the PACTA model within three years of the project’s completion. The project is expected to contribute to the broader goal of standardizing climate-related accounting.

LIFE funding will also help improve the resilience of one of Europe’s busiest waterways, the Scheldt Estuary in Belgium, anddevelop tools to forecast desert dust storms.

Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, said, “The historic Paris Agreement on climate change has added wind to the sails of already accelerating climate-smart investments. With these projects, we use limited public finance in a catalytic way: we unlock private finance to protect the environment, fight climate change and provide cleaner energy to our citizens. These kinds of investments are of critical importance if we are to move from aspirations to action.”

Mximpact_Consul

High-Powered California Governor Leads on Climate

California Governor Jerry Brown, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (left) and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard (center) sign agreement to expand cap-and-trade partnership, September 22, 2017. (Photo by Sonia Cacoilo, Office of the Premier of Ontario.) Public domain

California Governor Jerry Brown, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (left) and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard (center) sign agreement to expand cap-and-trade partnership, September 22, 2017. (Photo by Sonia Cacoilo, Office of the Premier of Ontario.) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

SACRAMENTO, California, September 28, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – As President Donald Trump has abdicated his leadership on climate change by denying the legitimacy of the results produced by 99 percent of the world’s climate scientists, by defunding low-carbon efforts and embracing fossil fuels, and by declaring he will pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, someone else has stepped in to lead on this crucial issue – California Governor Jerry Brown.

California and Quebec Friday expanded their three-year carbon cap-and-trade partnership to include Ontario, Canada’s most populous province and leading industrial region. The agreement (Linkage) to officially integrate their carbon markets takes effect January 1, 2018.

The agreement was signed in Quebec City during the 7th joint meeting of Cabinet Ministers of the governments of Ontario and Quebec.

“Climate change, if left unchecked, will profoundly disrupt the economies of the world and cause untold human suffering,” said California Governor Jerry Brown. “That’s the reason why California and Quebec are joining with Ontario to create an expanded and dynamic carbon market, which will drive down greenhouse gas emissions.”

California’s cap-and-trade program, which launched in 2012 and linked with Quebec’s program in 2014, sets a declining limit on carbon pollution and creates a market to achieve the emission reduction targets in the most cost effective manner.

Expanding the partnership to include Ontario will further strengthen this market-based system and drive additional investment in clean energy and innovation, says Brown.

A strong cap-and-trade program, together with California’s full suite of climate programs and actions, will help ensure the state can cut carbon within its borders to meet its ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

While California, Quebec and Ontario developed their cap-and-trade programs through separate legislative and regulatory processes, the three jurisdictions have worked together to ensure that their programs complement each other and provide participants in all three jurisdictions with the benefits of an expanded program.

Under the linked program, carbon allowances and offset credits can be exchanged among participants in all three jurisdictions’ cap-and-trade programs.

The expanded market leverages additional greenhouse gas reductions at reduced cost and enhances the ability of jurisdictions to effectively work together to develop and implement cost-effective regional greenhouse gas emission reduction programs.

The linkage agreement reflects California, Quebec and Ontario’s shared commitment to operate an efficient, linked market and supports coordinated information sharing and continued consultation.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said, “Climate change is a global problem that requires global solutions. Now more than ever, we need to work together with our partners around the world and at home to show how our collaboration can lead to results in this international fight.”

“Today’s carbon market linking agreement will add to the success we have already seen in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario, California and Quebec. We are stronger together and by linking our three carbon markets we will achieve even greater reductions at the lowest cost.

The agreement sets forth a process for other jurisdictions to join the linked program and establishes a working model for other states and provinces that are seeking cost-effective approaches to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Brown and Premier Couillard on our common goals, including advocating for the adoption of carbon markets and emissions cap programs across North America and around the world,” said Wynne.

“Quebec has been active for many years in the fight against climate change,” said Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard. “We believe in concerted and coherent actions with our partners as well as in cooperation to face the challenges posed by this global challenge.”

Assuring Ontario and California of Quebec’s full cooperation, Couillard said, “We should rejoice in the progress made so far and the new milestones made today in strengthening our relations, which contribute to a more prosperous, more responsible and low carbon society.”

Known universally as Jerry Brown, Edmund G. Brown Jr. is approaching 80 years old. He was born in San Francisco on April 7, 1938. He graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 1955 and entered Sacred Heart Novitiate, a Jesuit seminary. He later attended the University of California, Berkeley, graduating in 1961 before earning a J.D. at Yale Law School in 1964.

California elected Brown Governor in 1974 and again in 1978. As Governor, he strengthened environmental protections and promoted renewable energy.

After his governorship, Brown lectured and traveled widely, practiced law, served as chairman of the state Democratic Party and ran for president.

Brown was elected to a third gubernatorial term in 2010 and to a historic fourth term in 2014. During his latest stint as governor, California has established nation-leading targets to protect the environment and fight climate change.

By 2030 the state will: reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels, generate half of its electricity from renewable sources, double the rate of energy efficiency savings in its buildings and reduce today’s petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent.

Governor Brown Advances Climate Efforts

California Governor Jerry Brown 2017 (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor) Public domain

California Governor Jerry Brown 2017 (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor) Public domain

Last week Governor Brown advanced his leadership of the fight against climate change at the subnational level at events and meetings tied to Climate Week NYC, the Yale Climate Conference and the UN General Assembly.

Over the course of the week, Governor Brown met with the UN Secretary-General, opened Climate Week NYC 2017 and discussed subnational climate action from governments and the business community at events with other global leaders.

At Climate Week NYC, the Climate Group launched a groundbreaking new campaign on electric vehicles. EV100 aims to fast track the drive towards electric vehicles. By signing up, companies can use their collective buying power and influence to build demand, cut costs and remove barriers to adoption.

Governor Brown announced co-chairs for the Global Climate Action Summit , which will be held September 12-14, 2018 in San Francisco.

He highlighted state, city and business-led climate initiatives at the Yale Climate Conference and joined fellow U.S. Climate Alliance co-chairs to release a report on the progress by member states to meet their portion of the U.S. commitment under the Paris Agreement.

In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, Jay Inslee of Washington State, and Jerry Brown created the United States Climate Alliance. This bi-partisan coalition of states is committed to the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

In addition, the Governor participated in a wide-ranging discussion organized by the Skoll Foundation and the UN Foundation on the need to mobilize all levels of society to decarbonize the economy, signed an agreement with Denmark on water and climate issues and welcomed the Republic of the Marshall Islands and other new members to the Under2 Coalition .

A total of 187 jurisdictions representing 38 countries and six continents have signed or endorsed the Under2 Memorandum of Understanding. Collectively, they form the Under2 Coalition, which represents more than 1.2 billion people and $28.8 trillion in GDP – equivalent to 16 percent of the global population and 39 percent of the global economy as of August 2017.

California’s Climate Leadership

Governor Brown continues to build strong coalitions of partners committed to curbing carbon pollution in both the United States through the U.S. Climate Alliance and around the globe with the Under2 Coalition.

The Governor has also launched America’s Pledge on climate change with Michael Bloomberg to help compile and quantify the actions of states, cities and businesses in the U.S. to drive down emissions.

In September 2018, the State of California will convene the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, where representatives from subnational governments, businesses and civil society will gather with the direct goal of supporting the Paris Agreement.

This November, Governor Brown is expected to take part in a climate symposium organized by the Vatican and in this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, ahead of which he was named Special Advisor for States and Regions.

Earlier this month, Governor Brown called for deeper Trans-Pacific collaboration on climate change at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia.

This followed meetings in June with China’s President Xi Jinping during the Governor’s week-long trip to China and with Germany’s top environmental official, Barbara Hendricks, in San Francisco.

The Governor’s efforts to broaden subnational collaboration on climate in recent years also include international agreements signed with leaders from the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Mexico, China, North America, Japan, Israel, Peru, Chile, Australia, Scotland, Sweden, Germany, Fiji, Norway and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Reaffirming California’s pioneering climate leadership, Governor Brown signed landmark legislation in July that extends and improves the state’s world-leading cap-and-trade program and establishes a groundbreaking program to measure and combat air pollution at the neighborhood level.

In recent years, Governor Brown has signed legislation establishing the most ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in North America; setting the nation’s toughest restrictions on destructive super pollutants; directing cap-and-trade funds to greenhouse gas reducing programs which benefit disadvantaged communities, support clean transportation and protect natural ecosystems; and requiring the state to generate half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and double the rate of energy efficiency savings in buildings.


CapacityBuilding

Is Climate Change to Blame?

Houston, Texas resident up to his knees in floodwaters dumped by Hurricane Harvey, August 28, 2017 (Photo by Jill Carlson) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Houston, Texas resident up to his knees in floodwaters dumped by Hurricane Harvey, August 28, 2017 (Photo by Jill Carlson) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

MIAMI, Florida, September 20, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Contemplating the destruction and suffering that four ferocious hurricanes have brought to the Caribbean over the past three weeks, UN Secretary-General António Guterres blames it on climate change.

This year’s hurricane season “fits a pattern,” he said at a high-level event at the UN to secure help for Hurricane Irma survivors. “Changes to our climate are making extreme weather events more severe and frequent, pushing communities into a vicious cycle of shock and recovery.”

“Extreme weather linked to climate change has an impact all over the world, including floods in southern Asia and landslides and droughts in Africa,” said Guterres. He also noted the impact of rising ocean surface temperature on weather patterns.

In the past month alone, four major hurricanes have ripped through the islands in the western Atlantic Ocean the Caribbean and lands lining the Gulf of Mexico. First Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, Texas; then hurricanes Irma and Jose tore through, and now Hurricane Maria blasted in with Category 5 winds on Wednesday.

AT little less intense as a Category 4 hurricane, Maria made landfall as dawn broke in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico on September 20 with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour (250 km/h).

“Maria is an extremely dangerous category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, and it should maintain this intensity until landfall,” said forecasters at the National Hurricane Center. The last category 4 storm to hit Puerto Rico was in 1932.

Maria is following a similar track as Hurricane Irma blew down in the first two weeks of September, again striking small island developing states that were already reeling from Irma.

It is exceptionally rare to have two category 5 hurricanes in such a short space of time and on a similar track.

On September 18, Maria intensified rapidly from a category 1 to a category 5 hurricane. It hit the island of Dominica with maximum winds of 159 mph (257 km/h), the first Category 5 hurricane ever to hit the island. The entire island was under the influence of peak eyewall surface winds and it took more than 150 mm of rainfall.

Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico with 155 mph winds, the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall on the island since 1932. Now all of Puerto Rico is without electricity.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center is warning of a life-threatening storm surge for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin islands.

Puerto Rico could get an additional 12 to 18 inches (300 to 460 mms) of rainfall, with 25 inches (640 mm) in some locations.

Earlier today, Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, asked President Donald Trump to declare the region a disaster zone. The White House gave the territory an emergency declaration, one designation below “disaster.”

And there’s more…

Dominca, a small mountainous island with about 70,000 residents, lost all communications during the storm.

As Hurricane Maria struck, Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit posted a message on Facebook, saying, “Initial reports are of widespread devastation. So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace. My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains.”

“So far,” wrote Skerrit, “the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with. The roof to my own official residence was among the first to go and this apparently triggered an avalanche of torn away roofs in the city and the countryside.

“Come tomorrow morning,” he wrote, “we will hit the road, as soon as the all clear is given, in search of the injured and those trapped in the rubble. I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating…indeed, mind-boggling,”

“My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured. We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds. It is too early to speak of the condition of the air and seaports, but I suspect both will be inoperable for a few days,” wrote Skerrit.

Skerrit is seeking help from friendly nations and organizations with helicopter services, because he is “eager to get up and get around the country to see and determine what’s needed.”

What many people believe is needed is a concerted decision to limit the greenhouse gas emissions they fear are driving climate change and causing these hurricanes to become even more devastating.

Most scientists say that changes in Earth’s atmosphere did not cause Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose or Maria to form.

But most agree that the effects of climate change, such as warmer oceans and rising sea levels, made these storms more destructive than they would have been in earlier decades.

“The short version is, climate change makes these very bad storms worse,” said Sean Sublette, a meteorologist with Climate Central, a nonprofit organization of scientists who conduct scientific research on climate change and journalists who inform the public of key findings.

“It’s not the proximate cause of the storm, but it makes these bad storms worse,” said Sublette. “And in the case of a really bad storm, climate change can make it totally disastrous or catastrophic.”

The question of how climate and extreme weather interact will be central to the upcoming Science Summit, organized by the World Meteorological Organization’s <public.wmo.int> Commission for Atmospheric Sciences in Bali, Indonesia from October 20 to 22.

The Summit is an opportunity to shape the WMO’s research agenda, building toward a closer collaboration between weather, climate, water and environment research.

Scientists have been hard at work analyzing the relationship between climate change and extreme storms for years.

Back in May 2016, Australian scientists published a study in the journal “Geophysical Research Letters” showing that cities face harsher, more concentrated rainfall as climate change intensifies storms and draws them into narrower bands of more intense downpours.

Engineers at the University of New South Wales found that this has major implications for existing stormwater infrastructure, particularly in large cities, which face high risks of flash flooding.

“As warming proceeds, storms are shrinking in space and in time,” said doctoral student Conrad Wasko, lead author of the paper. “They are becoming more concentrated over a smaller area, and the rainfall is coming down more plentifully and with more intensity over a shorter period of time. When the storm shrinks to that extent, you have a huge amount of rain coming down over a smaller area.”

That analysis will sound familiar to the residents of Houston, Texas who were flooded with record-breaking amounts of rainfall – at least 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, with a maximum of 51.88 inches – in late August.

Hurricane Harvey brought record multi-day rainfall to the Houston area, after it stalled in the region following landfall.  Harvey had intensified before landfall after travelling over unusually warm waters (~2°C) in the western Gulf of Mexico.

“There is no clear evidence that climate change is making the occurrence of slowly moving land-falling hurricanes in the Houston region, such as Hurricane Harvey, more or less likely. However, some aspects or “ingredients” of the Harvey event may have linkages to climate change,” said the WMO’s Expert Team on Climate Impacts on Tropical Cyclones, led by Tom Knutson of NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

Because the tropical atmosphere now holds about seven percent more water vapor than it used to due to climate warming, Knutson and the Expert Team say the rainfall rates associated with Harvey “were likely made more intense by anthropogenic climate change.”


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Conflict-Free Diamonds May Still Be Flawed

Artisinal miners in Zimbabwe endure punishing conditions in search of the precious stones. (Photo courtesy Zimbabweland) Posted for media use

Artisinal miners in Zimbabwe endure punishing conditions in search of the precious stones. (Photo courtesy Zimbabweland) Posted for media use

NEW YORK, New York, September 12, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – When it comes to gifts, it is said that the best things come in small packages, often in small turquoise packages from Tiffany & Co., the world-famous 180-year-old New York luxury jeweler.

In its seventh annual Sustainability Report, released late last month, Tiffany & Co. is detailing its progress in 2016 towards realizing its commitments to environmental and social responsibility, even as evidence surfaces that in Africa the conflict diamond trade still exists.

“Responsible behavior is an implicit part of the Tiffany brand promise. Along with artful design, great craftsmanship and gracious service, it is a critical dimension of our competitive advantage and defines the relationship with our customer,” writes Michael Kowalski, Tiffany’s chairman of the Board and interim chief executive officer in the 2016 Sustainability Report.

“We design and craft our jewelry and objects to stand the test of time. Clearly we owe the same commitment to the natural world that inspires our work and provides the precious materials we use,” writes Kowalski. “That is why we are absolutely committed to operating a rigorously controlled, transparent and ethical supply chain that can assure that promise of responsibility.”

The three big issues that define Tiffany’s move toward sustainability are:

  • ethical sourcing of diamonds, other precious stones and precious metals
  • protecting the planet from global warming
  • protecting public lands from destructive mining activities

Kowalski vigorously takes issue with President Donald Trump’s policies, declaring, “Even though the political landscape has changed, our approach to running a socially and environmentally responsible business has not.”

Containing Tiffany’s greenhouse gas emissions is a point of pride for the company, Kowalski writes, and Tiffany joined with many other companies in an appeal to the U.S. president not to abandon the Paris Agreement on climate, a policy Trump announced in June.

“We are backing this advocacy with a renewed focus on reducing impacts on climate change in our business and value chain,” Kowalski writes.

The iconic Tiffany blue gift box surrounded by jewels in the window of the Tiffany & Co. New York City store, Dec. 26, 2016 (Photo by Robert Fitzpatrick) Creative Commons license via Flickr

The iconic Tiffany blue gift box surrounded by jewels in the window of the Tiffany & Co. New York City store, Dec. 26, 2016 (Photo by Robert Fitzpatrick) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Tiffany also opposes the Trump administration’s proposed rollback of national monuments, announced in August, which Kowalski says will financially benefit the few “to the detriment of the many who value the extraordinary natural and cultural treasures these lands contain.”

Kowalski writes that Tiffany believes “the mining industry should embrace a new, thoughtful approach to public lands,” and supports “legislative reform that holds mines accountable for responsible closure and ensures the cleanup of abandoned mines.”

Tiffany also opposes mining in special places like Bristol Bay, Alaska, where the proposed giant Pebble Mine would extract copper, gold and molybdenum, threatening one of the world’s greatest remaining wild salmon fisheries.

All these are important issues, but the most crucial standard, the one that would cause the greatest harm if it is not met, is that of the ethical sourcing of diamonds to avoid trade in conflict diamonds, sometimes called blood diamonds.

These are defined as stones illegally traded to fund violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments, particularly in central and western Africa. Now the definition could be expanded to include human rights abuses.

In 2016, Tiffany counts among its achievements that the company sourced 100 percent of its rough diamonds either directly from a known mine or from a supplier with known mines.

Most Tiffany diamonds are dug from known mines in Botswana, Canada, Namibia, Russia, Sierra Leone and South Africa, according to the 2016 Sustainability Report.

Kowalski says Tiffany goes above and beyond the Kimberley Process to source its diamonds with even greater respect for the environment and human rights.

The Kimberley Process, by which diamonds are certified as ethically produced, began when Southern African diamond-producing states met in Kimberley, South Africa in May 2000 to discuss ways to stop the trade in conflict diamonds.

Later that year, the UN General Assembly adopted an international certification scheme for rough diamonds; the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme entered into force in 2003.

The Kimberley Process (KP) now has 54 participants, representing 81 countries, with the European Union and its Member States counting as a single participant. KP members account for roughly 99.8 percent of the global production of rough diamonds.

The World Diamond Council, representing the international diamond industry, and civil society organizations, such as Partnership-Africa Canada, also participate in the Kimberley Process.

Yet even as responsible companies like Tiffany try to polish their sparkling diamonds with ethical clarity, corruption and conflict in the diamond industry persists, according to a new report from Global Witness, a nonprofit organization based in London and Washington, DC.

The Global Witness report, “An Inside Job,” released September 11, states, “Powerful military and political elites and security forces have controlled and secretly exploited Zimbabwe’s once promising diamond sector, while concealing the scale of the loss to its people.”

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa, bordered by other diamond-producing countries – South Africa to the south and Botswana to the west. The Global Witness report examines five of the major mining companies that recently operated in Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond region.

Since 2010 Zimbabwe has officially exported over US$2.5 billion in diamonds, according to official figures from the Kimberley Process. But government reports show only around US$300 million of this as identified in public accounts.

“A find that offered such promise to the people of Zimbabwe has delivered only disappointment, primarily serving a secretive cabal of vested political and economic interests. There are clear indications of state complicity in the expropriation of these critical resources,” said Michael Gibb of Global Witness.

Mismanagement of the diamond sector has devastating consequences for Zimbabwe’s development and democracy. Not only have diamonds failed to benefit the Zimbabwean people, but evidence suggests that they have funded the state machinery consistently implicated in oppression. This casts serious doubt on President Robert Mugabe’s claim that private investors are solely to blame for billions of dollars of missing diamond revenues.

Global Witness’ key findings set forth in the report include:

  • Secret documents indicating that Zimbabwe’s feared spying agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), is believed to have a stake in a Marange diamond mining company, Kusena Diamonds. This company’s diamonds have been traded in Antwerp and Dubai, circulating freely on international markets, despite the risk they may have funded human rights violations. This may continue, as the company is now merged into the new Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company.
  • Zimbabwe’s military entered a partnership with a Chinese investor, to establish the diamond mining company called Anjin Mining. Evidence indicates Anjin’s diamonds were likely sold in Antwerp in violation of European Union sanctions against another of the company’s owners, linked to the Zimbabwean military.
  • Mbada Diamonds held the largest concession in Marange, yet the owner of a 25 percent stake in the company has remained a secret. Global Witness has found evidence to suggest that Robert Mhlanga, a retired member of Zimbabwe’s security forces, and an ally of the ruling party and the President, stands behind the hidden share.
  • The Diamond Mining Corporation was formed as joint venture by the Government of Zimbabwe with a private investor, despite evidence that the individuals behind the company were involved in extensive smuggling of Zimbabwean diamonds for years before obtaining a license.

The revelations come as Zimbabwe gears up for contentious presidential elections in 2018 to replace 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980.

Global Witness says that institutions and agencies named in the new report “have played significant roles in subverting Zimbabwe’s democracy and perpetrating serious human rights abuses at key points the in country’s tumultuous political history.”

“Undisclosed stakes in the country’s diamond industry have provided an off-the-books source of funding for their activities, undermining essential public oversight and scrutiny. The diamonds at risk of funding these harms continue to be traded relatively freely” on international markets Global Witness claims.

“Zimbabwe’s diamonds perfectly illustrate the limitations of current efforts to disrupt the sale of diamonds funding human rights abuses and conflict,” said Gibb.

“Zimbabwe’s diamond sector needs root and branch reform, and diamond companies the world over must take responsibility for the hidden history of the resources they profit from,” he said.

“The Zimbabwean people deserve better. With nearly three quarters of the population living beneath the poverty line and an estimated four million people in need of food aid, the need has never been greater,” said Gibb.

Another nonprofit organization, The Diamond Development Initiative International (DDI), based in the United States and Canada, is lobbying for changes to the Kimberley Process.

The Diamond Development Initiative works to support the artisanal and small-scale mining sector by convening interested parties in processes and projects that help turn precious stones and minerals into a source of sustainable community development.

Every three years, the Kimberley Process undertakes to update its policies and procedures, and 2017 is a reform year. In response to a call for recommendations from the KP Chair, DDI submitted a proposal to include human rights in the certification requirements.

The definition of conflict diamonds at the time of the original negotiations in the early aughts centered on the use of diamonds by rebel armies for the purchase of weapons.

“Since then,” says DDI, “other forms of violence and human rights abuse have appeared in connection with diamond mining and production.

But attempts to add to the definition of conflict diamonds, says DDI, “have been frustrated within the Kimberley Process, leading to major internal divisions and to a serious devaluation of our reputation and credibility among consumers and in the world’s media.”

DDI strongly believes that “a clear application of core human rights standards throughout the rough diamond pipeline must become an essential part of the Kimberley Process mandate and identity.”

Ethical jewelers are trying to eliminate the conflict diamond trade by serving as role models for responsible behavior.

The Brilliant Earth chain of jewelry stores says jewelers offering conflict free diamonds “are limiting themselves to the Kimberley Process’s definition, which narrowly defines conflict diamonds as diamonds that finance rebel movements against recognized governments.”

“What this definition leaves out is large numbers of diamonds that are tainted by violence, human rights abuses, poverty, and environmental degradation,” says Brilliant Earth.

This chain claims to go above and beyond the current industry standards to offer diamonds that originate from pure, ethical sources as well as lab created and recycled diamonds, both eco-friendly alternatives.

Ethically sourced natural diamonds originate from mines that follow strict labor, trade, and environmental standards, says Brilliant Earth.

Tiffany executives say the company already goes above and beyond the human rights requirements of the Kimberley Process to source its diamonds and precious metals.

“Tiffany believes we have both a moral and a business imperative to do our part to sustain the natural environment and contribute to the communities where we operate,” said Anisa Kamadoli Costa, Tiffany’s chief sustainability officer.

“From speaking out about climate change to advocating for precious landscapes, seascapes and wildlife,” said Costa, “we’ll continue to use Tiffany’s brand influence to have a positive impact and help set the standard for the luxury jewelry industry.”


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Drier Than Dry, Dry to the Bone

Aerial View of Auwahi Dryland Forest Restoration Project, Maui. Restoration of drylands is possible, as shown in this replanted forest on Maui, Hawaii, USA. Thanks to the volunteerism of the Maui community and contributions of landowner Ulupalakua Ranch, restored forest patches at Auwahi. These small forests on the leeward flanks of the Haleakala volcano, despite their size, now provide sanctuaries for native Hawaiian species found nowhere else in the world. June 17, 2010 (Photo by Arthur Medeiros, USGS) -Public domain

Aerial View of Auwahi Dryland Forest Restoration Project, Maui. Restoration of drylands is possible, as shown in this replanted forest on Maui, Hawaii, USA. Thanks to the volunteerism of the Maui community and contributions of landowner Ulupalakua Ranch, restored forest patches at Auwahi. These small forests on the leeward flanks of the Haleakala volcano, despite their size, now provide sanctuaries for native Hawaiian species found nowhere else in the world. June 17, 2010 (Photo by Arthur Medeiros, USGS) -Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

ORDOS, Inner Mongolia, China, September 5, 2017 (Maximpact.com News)  – Conflict, drought, displacement and disease are driving vast humanitarian crises in dryland areas of Africa and the Middle East, just as governments that are Parties to the UN Conference to Combat Desertification meet this week and next in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China.

Land degradation in drylands, known as desertification, could result in a 12 percent fall in global food production in the next 25 years. And it contributes to global carbon dioxide emissions, with about 60 percent of carbon in soils lost through land degradation, warns conference participant IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, as the 10-day conference gets underway in Ordos, a city of more than two million.

“Failure to increase investment in protecting and restoring drylands, soils in particular, could put future food supplies at risk and hamper efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change,” said IUCN Director General Inger Andersen.

“Drylands secure food and water supplies for local people, mitigate climate change and reduce the impacts of disasters. Their soils, however, form slowly and are easily damaged,” says Andersen.

Scientists estimate that between 25 and 35 percent of drylands are being degraded right now, suffering diminished productivity. Over 250 million people are directly affected, and a further one billion in over 100 countries are at risk, statistics show.

Ordos itself must cope with desert conditions. The city is surrounded by a hilly area in the east, high plateaus in the west and center, sandy deserts in the north and south, and plains at the southern bank of the Yellow River.

During the 20th century, dryland habitats expanded by four to eight percent and now cover 40 percent of the globe’s terrestrial surface. As the global climate warms, this expansion of drylands will likely continue, say climate scientists.

Often, it is the children who suffer – and die.

Under current conditions, “nearly 20 million people are at risk of famine across Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and northeast Nigeria, including some 1.4 million severely malnourished children at imminent risk of death,” calculates the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

In Somalia, the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating because of a severe drought that started in the north in 2016 and is now affecting most of the country, reports the UK Mission to the United Nations.

Other countries in the Horn of Africa have also been affected, especially Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya. In South Sudan, seasonal dry weather has reinforced competition for water among people and animals, causing already scarce water sources to be overused.

West Africa’s Lake Chad has lost some 90 percent of its water mass since 1963 due to climatic variability and population pressure, with devastating consequences on food security in the region.

And these crises now are spreading to surrounding countries.

With severe drought parching the Horn of Africa; more than one million South Sudanese refugees fleeing conflict are stretching capacity and resources in Uganda.

Displacement throughout the Lake Chad Basin resulting from conflict, climate change, environmental degradation and poverty is affecting millions of people and animals.

And this is happening in one of the most fragile and important of the world’s priceless areas.

In July 2000, Lake Chad was declared a Transboundary Ramsar Site of International Importance. Conservationists hope to create a network of national and regional conservation areas in the Chad Basin and set up institutions to manage them sustainably. To that end, the Chad Wetlands Initiative (CHADWET) was launched in June 2003, organized by The Ramsar Wetland Convention Bureau and its Mediterranean Coordination Unit.

But meanwhile, the human beings in the Lake Chad Basin are in crisis – not only a crisis of food insecurity but also of clean water, sanitation, disease prevention and treatment.

Water and sanitation are just as important as food for children and families facing famine and food insecurity, says UNICEF, which is fighting famine in these areas by providing safe water to more than 2.5 million people.

UNICEF is keeping children alive by trucking thousands liters of water to displacement camps daily, supporting hospitals and cholera treatment centres, repairing large water and sanitation systems in cities and much more.

In Yemen, UNICEF has reached over five million people since the start of the year through support in operating water supply networks and waste water treatment plans; supplying fuel and electricity supply to keep water treatment and pumping stations working; chlorinating water sources, water trucking and distributing hygiene kits.

As the waterborne disease cholera spreads through South Sudan, UNICEF has dug 22 boreholes to reach over 210,000 people with safe water. Across the country, around 207,000 people have gained access to sanitation and 610,000 gained access to safe water.

At the Risk of Their Lives

In conflict-affected areas of north-east Nigeria, UNICEF has worked with partners to reach around 845,000 people with safe water. Some of the most dedicated workers are in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) offices.

“Staffers in many WASH offices are risking their lives to provide these essential services to people in need,” UNICEF says.

In Somalia, UNICEF says at least 1.66 million people have been given temporary access to safe water, and more than 890,000 have been given hygiene kits, critical to disease prevention.

It’s easy for diseases to spread in the drylands.

Drylands, including savannahs, mist forests and oases, cover 41 percent of all land on Earth. They are home to one-third of the world’s population and store 36 percent of all global terrestrial carbon.

They sustain 44 percent of the world’s cultivated systems and 50 percent of the world’s livestock.

Most of dryland biodiversity is found in the soil, which determines the overall fertility and productivity of the land.

“Species and ecosystems below and above ground are the engines of life in drylands, whose importance in sustaining billions of lives around the world is often underestimated,” says IUCN’s Andersen.

IUCN is urging countries to invest in conserving these ecosystems for the vital services they provide, and for the crucial role they play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, unanimously agreed by world governments.

Contributing to the Carbon Cycle Dryland ecosystems, from deserts to dry shrublands, play a more important role in the global carbon cycle than previously thought, says Montana State University faculty member Ben Poulter.

Carbon dioxide moves constantly between land, oceans, vegetation and the atmosphere. When one of those absorbs more carbon dioxide than it releases, it’s considered a carbon sink, Poulter explains.

“La Nina-driven rainfall during 2010 and 2011, as well as the 30-year greening up of its deserts and other drylands contributed to significant changes across the globe,” he said.

Poulter and his collaborators have discovered surprising interactions between climate extremes and desert greening that increased in importance over the past 30 years. In this phase, dryland systems in the Southern Hemisphere, specifically Australia, had particularly high productivity in response to increased La Nina-phase rainfall.

But the large 2011 land carbon uptake is not expected to lead to long-term increases in ecosystem carbon dioxide (CO2) accumulation, the researchers warn. As the heat-trappiing blanket of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases thickens, drylands will become more degraded than ever.

IUCN calls for urgent investment in restoring and sustainably managing drylands as a high priority for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including the goals of combating climate change, reducing poverty, increasing food and water security, and boosting health and economic growth.

“Sustainable land management practices can prevent the degradation, and improve the productivity and resilience of drylands,” says Jonathan Davies, coordinator of IUCN’s Global Drylands Initiative.

Some traditional crop farming and livestock production practices developed by dryland communities are helpful, such as minimizing tillage and planting trees alongside crops to maintain soil organic matter and moisture.

“These practices involve protecting biodiversity, including the bacteria, fungi and insects that live in the soil and which maintain nutrient and hydrological cycles,” said Davies. “Biodiversity is also vital for pollination which is a major factor in overall agricultural production.”

“Sustainable land management is a viable policy option for countries to address development and environmental challenges,” said Davies, hopefully.

The IUCN estimates that by sustainably managing soils, food production could increase by up to 58 percent. Improved livestock production and rangeland management could sequester up to 2,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2030, which is more than the 2015 CO2 emissions of Russia.

IUCN urges countries to sustainably manage land by strengthening the rights of local communities and by facilitating finance opportunities for small and medium agribusinesses that engage in sustainable land management.

Countries are also encouraged to restore large-scale degraded dryland landscapes.

But now, climate change is coming on strong, with devastating effects, making landscape restoration even more challenging.

Projected global warming will likely decrease the extent of temperate drylands by a third over the rest of the 21st century, a situation made worse by an increase in dry deep soil conditions during the agricultural growing season, an international scientific collaboration led by the U.S. Geological Survey with members from seven countries has found.

Their study is presented in the journal “Nature Communications.”

These researchers predict a loss of 15 to 30 percent of temperate grasslands by the end of the century with a “substantial increase in deep soil drought conditions.”

Their results suggest that changes in precipitation and soil moisture associated with climate change will convert much of the area currently occupied by temperate grasslands and deserts to subtropical vegetation.

“The impacts can have large consequences for humanity,” they warn.

Until recently, uncertainty existed about the fate of temperate drylands. But this uncertainty is now disappearing because of improved supercomputer modelling of the movement of water through ecosystems, based on 20,000 locations around the world.

“I was impressed by the scope of the computer model, with many components of the water cycle calculated daily for 30 years, at 20,000 sites. All of this to simulate the current climate as well as 16 possible future climates. The variety of possible future climates gave pretty consistent outcomes, lending credibility to the results,” said Professor Scott Wilson, CIRC researcher and visiting researcher at Umeå University in Sweden.

Wilson explains that with the expansion of subtropical drylands as temperate drylands warm, cool season crops such as wheat and potato would no longer be economically viable.”

Wilson also warns of diseases driven to spread by the changing climate. “These subtropical drylands are home to aggressive diseases such as dengue and schistosomiasis. Given the predicted changes to dryland habitats globally, the outcome of this research is essential for developing strategies for adaptation by policy makers,” Wilson said.

All these issues and more will be on the table at the UN Conference to Combat Desertification, which runs from September 4 through September 15 in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China.

The high-level segment of the conference is scheduled on September 11 and 12.

Just last month, UNCCD joined the group of international observer organizations to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

As a major source of climate finance, GCF offers many opportunities for UNCCD member countries to finance preparation and implementation of large scale transformative land-based climate action projects.

The observer status enables UNCCD representatives to attend GCF board meetings and to contribute better to the orientation of climate finance to achieve land degradation neutrality.

At COP 13, UNCCD and the Green Climate Fund are partnering to organize a training session on “How to access Green Climate Fund financing for land-based projects?” Staffers at UNCCD national focal points and land use practitioners will learn the key messages and methodologies that can increase the volume of financing for dryland restoration.


Featured Image: Displaced Lake Chad Basin Women in a meeting with representatives of the UN Security Council in the Teachers’ Village IDP Camp in Nigeria. Dec. 13, 2014. (Photo by Lorey Campese courtesy UK Mission to the UN) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

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Japan Builds ‘Hydrogen Society of the Future’

A Toyota Mirai fuel cell car is ready to take on fuel at an Iwatani hydrogen fueling station. (Photo ©Iwatani Corporation courtesy Government of Japan)

A Toyota Mirai fuel cell car is ready to take on fuel at an Iwatani hydrogen fueling station. (Photo ©Iwatani Corporation courtesy Government of Japan)

By Sunny Lewis

TOKYO, Japan, August 31, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Hydrogen is already fueling cars and stationary power systems in Japan, North America and Europe. Now Japan is envisioning an entire society powered by hydrogen and has opened its wallet to make that happen.

A hydrogen society is a set of communities with sophisticated, integrated, green-energy networks powered by mini-hydrogen plants that create a carbon-free, hydrogen distribution system.

That’s the long-term dream. To make that dream come true, Japan is starting with Tokyo.

With less than three years until the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is pursuing plans to establish a hydrogen society.

Back in the spring of 2016, then Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe declared, “The 1964 Tokyo Olympics left the Shinkansen high-speed train system as its legacy. The upcoming Olympics will leave a hydrogen society as its legacy.”

And the current Tokyo government, headed by Yuriko Koike, is working to make the dream a reality.

Since March 2017 Tokyo has been operating two commercially sold fuel-cell buses on regular routes. Governor Koike says she aims to have 100 fuel cell buses, including vehicles operated by private bus operators, as well as 6,000 fuel cell cars, operating on the city’s roads by 2020.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has created a ¥45.2 billion (US$400 million) fund for hydrogen fuel cell vehicle subsidies and installing hydrogen refueling stations.

One issue is the high cost of the initial investments required. Setting up a standard hydrogen fueling station costs some ¥500 million (US$4.3 million), five times the cost of an ordinary gas station.

But with support from both the national and metropolitan governments, it has become possible to install one of these fueling stations for a net cost of ¥100 million (US$870,000).

Tokyo metropolitan authorities aim to increase the number of hydrogen stations to 35 by 2020. This will make it possible to reach a station within 15 minutes from most places in the metropolis.

Fuel cell vehicles are powered by electricity generated by a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, and emit no carbon dioxide, only water vapor.

With Japan relying more on fossil fuels since the shuttering of most of its nuclear reactors after the Fukushima disaster almost six years ago, the move to a hydrogen society is a push that has only gained urgency.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has become a vocal advocate for hydrogen, to stimulate developments in technology and to help  lower greenhouse gases.

“Hydrogen energy is an ace in the hole for energy security and measures against global warming,” Abe said in a speech to parliament on January 20. “Thanks to deregulation, a hydrogen society of the future is about to begin here in Japan.”

The creation of a hydrogen society aims at achieving four major goals.

First is the reduction of the burden on the environment. Unlike fossil fuels, hydrogen fuel cells emit only water vapor.

Second is the diversification of energy sources. Hydrogen can be produced with renewable energy sources, and its use can promote stability in the supply of energy.

Third, it will generate beneficial economic ripple effects. The shift to a new energy source will naturally mean new demand and new jobs.

And fourth, it can help in coping with natural disasters. Fuel cell cars generate electricity to power their motors using hydrogen from their tanks, and when disasters cause power outages, these vehicles can serve as large-scale movable generators. This adds to the appeal of hydrogen for Tokyo, which is highly conscious of the importance of disaster readiness.

Some progress in bringing Japanese companies together to accomplish these goals has already been made.

In May 11 companies agreed to collaborate on large-scale construction of hydrogen fueling stations for hydrogen fuel cell cars across Japan.

Several good looking, high performing hydrogen fuel cell models are on the market now, including four from Japanese and Korean automakers: the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell, the Nissan X-Trail and the Toyota Mirai FCV.

Yet in the first half of 2017, fewer than 500 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles were sold or leased in Japan and Korea, and only 1,600 were sold or leased globally, according to an August 24 report from Information Trends, a Washington, DC market research and consulting firm.

One important reason that new car buyers pass up hydrogen fuel cell cars is the lack of hydrogen fueling stations.

To make the leap to a hydrogen society will take cooperation and lots of money.

The 11 companies that signed the memorandum of understanding on collaboration toward the large-scale construction of hydrogen stations for fuel cell vehicles are:

Toyota Motor Corporation

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.

Honda Motor Co., Ltd.

JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy

Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd.

Iwatani Corporation

Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd.

Toho Gas Co., Ltd.

Air Liquide Japan Ltd.

Toyota Tsusho Corporation

Development Bank of Japan Inc.

The agreement is aimed at accelerating the construction of hydrogen stations in the current early stage of FCV commercialization using an “all Japan” approach centered on collaboration among the 11 companies and others than will be brought into a new company the initial 11 plan to create.

The initiative stems from the Japanese government’s “Strategic Roadmap for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells” of March 22, 2016, which aims to achieve a total of 160 operational hydrogen stations and 40,000 in-use fuel cell vehicles by fiscal 2020.

The Iwatani Corporation announced August 10 that it has partnered with two companies, the Toshiba Corporation and the Tohoku Electric Power Co. to construct and operate a large-scale hydrogen energy system in Namie-cho, Fukushima prefecture, based on a 10,000 kW class hydrogen production facility.

The system will use hydrogen to offset grid loads, and deliver hydrogen to locations in Tohoku and beyond, and will seek to demonstrate the advantages of hydrogen as a solution in grid balancing and as a hydrogen gas supply.

That project has won a positive evaluation from Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), and its continued support for the transition to the technical demonstration phase. The practical effectiveness of the large scale system will be determined by verification testing in fiscal year 2020.

Moriyuki Fujimoto, Iwatani general manager said, “Iwatani considers that this project will contribute to the early establishment of a hydrogen economy that draws on our experience in the transportation, storage and supply of industrial hydrogen, and the construction and operation of hydrogen stations.”

The Toyota Mobility Foundation (TMF) began soliciting research proposals to spur the development of a hydrogen society,  under the new program this month.

The ¥100 million (US$890,000) program will fund between 10 and 20 projects, giving each project selected up to ¥10 million (US$89,000).

The foundation is looking for projects that demonstrate progress in reducing carbon dioxide emissions and lowering the cost of using hydrogen by 2030.

A panel of hydrogen and energy experts from universities and public-sector research organizations will review the proposals and oversee their selection based on originality and viability of each proposal.

TMF wants to see innovations in the generation, storage, transportation, and use of hydrogen and will focus on attracting young researchers to participate in the program.

The program will last five years. In the first year, the foundation will solicit proposals from applicants from universities and public-sector institutions in Japan.

In years two through five, researchers from universities and public-sector research institutions worldwide will be eligible for funding.

Hydrogen can be produced using a variety of energy sources, including fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas, modification of methanol and methane gas from biomass, and electrolysis of water with wind and solar power.

Tokyo Institute of Technology Professor Takao Kashiwagi says the use of hydrogen is the key to a carbon-neutral world, but only if it is produced using clean technologies.

“The hydrogen that serves as the energy source is currently produced mainly by reforming fossil fuels like natural gas, and this process results in the emission of carbon dioxide,” said Kashiwagi. “But in the future it will become possible to greatly reduce the volume of these emissions by combining the process with technologies such as underground storage of carbon dioxide and the growing of tiny algae to produce biofuel.”

“In the future,” said Kashiwagi, “it will become a zero-emission energy source when produced using solar and other types of renewable energy.”


Feature Image: Hydrogen can supply energy for many uses as illustrated in this Government of Japan infographic.

The Cancer Risk of Carbon Capture

The International Energy Agency hosted a CCS meeting in June: From left: Jim Carr, Minister of Energy, Canada; Wan Gang, Minister of Science and Technology, China; Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency; Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy, USA; Terje Søviknes, Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Norway (Photo courtesy IEA) Posted for media use

The International Energy Agency hosted a CCS meeting in June: From left: Jim Carr, Minister of Energy, Canada; Wan Gang, Minister of Science and Technology, China; Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency; Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy, USA; Terje Søviknes, Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Norway (Photo courtesy IEA) Posted for media use.

 

 

 

 

By Sunny Lewis

OSLO, Norway, August 3, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – China has decided to develop and implement carbon capture and storage (CCS) on a massive scale. But there is a problem. The process of capturing carbon can lead to the formation of carcinogenic chemicals.

To resolve this issue, Chinese researchers are collaborating with Norwegian scientists from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oslo (UiO) and the Norwegian Technology Centre Mongstad (TCM), the world’s largest facility for testing and developing CO2 capture technologies.

“China is now the world’s most progressive nation when it comes to research on CCS, and they also have the most comprehensive plans for implementation,” says Professor Claus Jørgen Nielsen at the UiO Department of Chemistry.

“They have in fact decided that China is going to be the first nation in the world to implement CCS on a large scale. The reason is of course that CCS is one of the technologies that have the potential to save the global climate,” said Nielsen.

Current short-term, medium-term and long-term projections for global energy demand still point to fossil fuels being burned in quantities incompatible with levels required to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at safe levels in the atmosphere, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA defines carbon capture and storage as, “…a family of technologies and techniques that enable the capture of CO2 from fuel combustion or industrial processes, the transport of CO2 via ships or pipelines, and its storage underground, in depleted oil and gas fields and deep saline formations.”

“CCS can have a unique and vital role to play in the global transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy, in both power generation and industry,” the IEA says.

Still, the capturing part of the technology comes with a problem that has not been much studied in China, and certainly not in the United States, but where Norway is at the forefront of research.

“The problem is that the process for capturing carbon can give rise to carcinogenic chemicals in the environment. This is a problem that we Norwegians can help the Chinese to avoid, and at the same time we are making an important contribution towards reducing global climate problems,” said Nielsen.

Earlier this year, Nielsen was part of a Norwegian delegation to China that included UiO Senior Executive Officer Kari Kveseth and researcher Liang Zhu from the Amine Research and Monitoring project (ARM).

“China is today the world’s largest investor in research and development overall. The USA remains in the lead of R&D investments per capita, but China is in second place and is still growing. China has developed a remarkable policy with leaders who are convinced that research is going to lead to a renewed nation, and they are thus on the road to becoming the world’s leading R&D nation,” said Kveseth.

CCS falls into two parts. First, carbon in the form of CO2 gas must be captured or separated from the exhaust flue gases produced by combustion in, for example, fossil fueled power stations. After separation, the gas must be stored in a safe and permanent manner, so that it does not escape into the atmosphere.

The Sino-Norwegian cooperation is all about reducing the environmental impact of the technology for capture.

“The common way to capture CO2 from gases makes use of an old technology where amines, which are chemical bases, capture the acidic CO2 gas. When used to capture CO2 from exhaust in a chimney, some of the amines are emitted into the air,” explains Professor Rolf David Vogt, one of the pioneers in the Norwegian-Chinese research collaboration.

But in 2008, Nielsen and colleagues pointed out that amines emitted to air from CO2 capture plants can be broken down into nitroamines and nitrosamines.

The nitrosamines are known for being carcinogenic but short-lived, so they should not be released into the air in densely populated areas. The nitramines are more stable, and little is known about their effects on human health – but there is a risk that they are as bad as the nitrosamines.

The persistence of the nitramines makes it necessary to map their presence in the environment around CCS plants. Where do they end up? Are they stored in soils, so that they can affect the bacterial flora – or are they washed out so that they may be bio-accumulated in the aquatic food chain?

Are there other important sources for nitramines and nitrosamines in the environment?

The Norwegian researchers agree that these questions must be answered before choosing the best technology for capturing CO2.

“If we are to reach the IPCC target of only 2 ºC global warming the CCS technology must account for roughly 30 % of the solution. Then we are going to need qualified researchers, who are going to be educated both in Norway and China in a joint program,” says Nielsen.

The Sino-Norwegian cooperation is already underway. UiO researchers have collaborated with Chinese environmental research institutions for almost 30 years, with projects on acid rain, mercury and water quality. But the collaboration ground to a halt when the late Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. By the end of 2016, relations between China and Norway were normalized after Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende visited China.

The largest Chinese partners in the renewed cooperation are the Air Pollution Control Division at Tsinghua University; Huaneng Power International, which is China’s largest energy producer; and the Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics (IET) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences .

Tsinghua holds a leading role in research on air pollution, especially in Beijing and northern China. During the summer of 2017, their instrument park will be supplemented with measuring instruments from the Department of Chemistry in Oslo. Dr. Liang Zhu will contribute to this in Beijing.

But Norway is not the only country working with China on capturing and storing carbon.

The energy ministers of Canada, China, Norway, and the United States, as well as heads of delegation from Australia and the European Commission, along with leaders from the industry and key organizations, were invited by the International Energy Agency and China to review how to increase collaboration in order to drive further deployment of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS).

The meeting was held in June ahead of the 8th Clean Energy Ministerial, in Beijing. Ministers and panellists discussed the factors that have attracted investment to current CCUS projects and highlighted the importance of identifying where these factors could converge to replicate recent success with CCUS projects.

The discussion centred on the vital role of CCUS in reducing carbon dioxide emissions while ensuring energy security. Participants acknowledged the importance of revenue streams, such as from CO2 utilisation, available transport and storage options, and political leadership in securing investment in CCUS projects.

Hosting the event, IEA Executive Director Dr. Fatih Birol said the IEA would undertake detailed analysis of the conditions and factors that have led to the investment in existing CCUS projects, and how they may be replicated.

The countries represented in the discussion host 19 of the 22 projects currently in operation or construction globally.

China, the host of the 8th Clean Energy Ministerial, recently announced the beginning of construction on the country’s first large-scale CCUS project in Shaanxi Province. China’s Minister for Science and Technology Wan Gang, co-hosted the discussion.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said, “I don’t believe you can have a real conversation about clean energy without including CCUS. The United States understands the importance of this clean technology and its vital role in the future of energy production.”

“We have already seen the success of projects like Petra Nova in Texas, which is the world’s largest post-combustion carbon-capture system,” Perry said. “Our experience with CCUS proves that you can do the right thing for the environment and the economy too.”

The system at Petra Nova can capture 1.6 million tons of CO2 each year from an existing coal-fired power plant unit, a capture rate of up to 90 percent from a supplied slipstream of flue gas. By using CO2 captured from the plant, oil production at West Ranch oilfield is expected to increase from around 500 barrels per day to up to 15,000 barrels per day.

Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr said, “Carbon capture, use and storage holds enormous potential to enable economic growth and create jobs, while ensuring the environment is protected.”

“Canada hopes to continue working with domestic and international partners — including through the Clean Energy Ministerial and Mission Innovation — to help us all address the technical and policy challenges around wide scale implementation of this important technology.”

The IEA has consistently highlighted the importance of CCUS in low carbon energy systems. “Our analysis consistently shows that CCUS is a critical part of a complete clean energy technology portfolio that provides a sustainable path for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring energy security,” said Dr. Birol.

“Investment has flowed to CCUS projects where there is a confluence of factors which constitute a viable business case,” he said. “We need to find more such opportunities, where a commercial case for CCS can be built with reasonably modest, well targeted public interventions.”


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 Featured Image: View of rooftops and smokestacks, China. (Photo by Curt Carnemark / World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr)

Brutal Weather Hits Extremes

SmokeBCfires

Smoke from fires burning in British Columbia, Canada. Colin Seftor, an atmospheric scientist based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, has published data maps collected by the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite that show the smoke reaching as far as the U.S. Midwest and northern Quebec. July 18, 2017 (Image courtesy NASA) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, July 25, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – France today activated the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism as forest fires ravage southern regions of the country, threatening the resort of St. Tropez and the island of Corsica. French authorities have requested firefighting aircraft, and EU support is already on its way.

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said, “The EU stands in full solidarity with France. In an immediate response, the European Commission has helped mobilize a Canadair aircraft from Italy through our Civil Protection Mechanism.”

“Earlier this month, France helped Italy fighting forest fires and now Italy is showing its support to France. This is EU solidarity at its best,” said Stylianides. “Our thoughts are with all those affected and the brave first responders working in difficult conditions.”

Conditions are difficult around the world, with fires, floods and drought coming in waves of trouble.

June 2017 extended the spell of “exceptional global warmth” that has lasted since mid-2015. Average surface air temperatures were the second hottest on record, after June 2016, finds the latest analysis from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

In addition to high temperatures, extreme weather affected many parts of the world in June and July.

Rescue services and troops in New Zealand’s South Island worked around the clock over the weekend to help those affected by a severe storm that released floods and forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes.

A state of emergency was declared in the South Island cities of Christchurch, Otago, Timaru and Dunedin after some areas were hit with more than 200 millimetres of rain in 24 hours.

The New Zealand Meteorological Service says all of July has been marked by severe weather events, caused by low pressure systems from the Tasman Sea.

Australia had the second driest June on record, with rainfall 62 percent below average for Australia as a whole, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. June was the driest on record for large areas of southern Australia because of persistent high pressure and a lack of cold fronts.

Chinese weather authorities report that the annual monsoon season was accompanied by torrential rainfall in many parts of China for extended periods in June and early July, causing considerable economic losses and transport disruption.

For instance, more than 600 flights were cancelled at Beijing airport alone on July 6 as a result of rainfall.

The rainfall was one of the contributing factors to a deadly landslide with many casualties on June 24 in  Maoxian County, Sichuan. In north and northeast China, the National Meteorological Center said that from June 21 to June 24, the maximum hourly rainfall was between 20-40 mm.

Authorities issued warnings about water levels along key tributaries of the Yangtzee River basin. There was a red alert on July 2 along the whole course of the Xiangjiang River that was near or above record levels. The water level in the section of the river in Changsha, capital of Hunan, reached a record 39.21 meters on July 2.

Since June 22, floodwaters have inundated parts of several cities in Hunan, forcing more than 311,000 people to evacuate, damaging crops and destroying more than 6,300 houses, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

In Japan, tropical storm Nanmadol brought torrential rainfall to the southern part of the country. The city of Hamada in Shimane, which faces the Sea of Japan, saw hourly precipitation of over 80 mm on July 6, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Local governments issued evacuation orders to nearly 60,000 residents in affected areas.

Tropical cyclone Mora caused Bangladesh authorities to evacuate nearly one million people from low-lying areas, At least 10 people died. Heavy monsoon rainfall in June caused severe flooding and deadly mudslides. Nearly 900,000 people were affected by floods as of July 5, authorities said.

In Myanmar, heavy monsoon rains have prevailed across the southeast Asian country since early July. Today, riverbank erosion washed away a Buddhist pagoda. Rising floodwaters across large parts of the country have claimed two lives, washed away entire villages and displaced tens of thousands of residents.

In Indonesia, drought is drying the crops as they stand in the fields.

Much of South America and Africa were warmer than average during this two month period, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reports the Middle East is broiling. The Iranian city of Ahwaz recorded a temperature of 53.7°Celsius (128.66° Fahrenheit) on June 29 as part of a heatwave with temperatures in excess of 50°C across the region, including Iraq and Kuwait.

An even higher temperature of about 54°C (129.2°F) scorched the city of Turbat, southwestern Pakistan, in late May.

But this week in Turkey, it’s too much water, not too much heat. Istanbul traffic came to a standstill as severe storms inundated the city, flooding the streets.

Temperatures were much above average, and high in absolute terms, over Morocco and northern Algeria in June and July. Forest fires are burning across northern Algeria. An estimated 1,000 hectares have been consumed.

Southern and central Europe was very much warmer than the 1981-2010 average in June, especially over the Iberian Peninsula, where Portugal experienced devastating wildfires.

The heatwave shifted from the Iberian Peninsula to southeastern Europe, the Balkans and the Mediterranean towards the end of June, with temperatures well over 40°C ((104°F) in many countries. The high temperatures were sometimes accompanied by damaging summer storms, hailstorms, torrential rainfall and flash floods.

Fires this month in Croatia and Montenegro sparked requests for help in fighting the flames. Still, on July 18, the Adriatic coast was engulfed in wildfires.

The Deutscher Wetterdienst said July 7, “A period with significantly above-normal temperatures and heat waves, at least for the next week, is expected for most parts of the eastern Mediterranean – from Italy, Balkans to Caucasus and Middle East.”

Conversely, says the WMO, temperatures have been well below average over the northeast of Europe. The contrast between southwest and northeast continues a pattern that was present in April and May.

In Russia, June 2017 was widely called Junabre, meaning June plus November, because of the cold weather in the European parts of the country. June was the coldest month in the past 14 years for Moscow.

FloodingLondon

Caption: Flooded streets in London, UK, June 2, 2017 (Photo by Dmitry Dzhus) Creative Commons license via Flickr

The UK should be bracing for record rainfall, says Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The UK’s two wettest winters on record occurred in 2013-14 and 2015-16, leading to flooding in many parts of the country. As a result, the National Flood Resilience Review was begun, but it needs expansion to include surface water flooding, says Ward.

Commenting on the publication Monday of the paper, High risk of unprecedented UK rainfall in the current climate in the journal “Nature Communications,” Ward said, “I hope that the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, will carefully read this important Met Office analysis because it highlights the risk of extreme rainfall that could cause flooding.”

“We know that the risk of record rainfall is increasing due to climate change. From 2000 onwards, the UK has experienced 6 of the 7 wettest years since records began in 1910, and its 8 warmest years. The period between January and June 2017 was the third warmest such period on record. As the atmosphere warms, it can hold more water, increasing the risk of heavy rainfall.”

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that starting around June 18 and continuing for over a week, scorching temperatures hit the western United States of America from Arizona to the Pacific Northwest.

June 20 was a particularly hot day for the southwestern United States. Las Vegas, Nevada (47.2°C or 117°F), and Needles, California (51.7°C or 125°F), both tied their all-time records.

Forest fires have been devouring forests across the U.S. West.

For instance, the Detwiler Fire in California began on July 15. It covers 79,400 acres and is 65 percent contained.

The Snowstorm Fire in Nevada began on July 13. It has burned 60,000 acres and is just 13 percent contained.

In Arizona, from June 17-27, Phoenix International Airport has had 11 straight days with temperatures of at least 110°F (43°C), with one day hitting 48.3°C (119°F). The heat caused multiple canceled flights. The hotter the air, the less dense it is, which means less lift for airplanes as they take off. In order to take off, the planes would have needed a longer runway, which is not available in Phoenix.

As the heat wave continued, the hot air spread west and north. On June 25, Portland Oregon, reach 38°C (101°F) and Seattle, Washington, hit 35.6°C (96°F), tying its hottest June day on record.

In July, the forests of south-central British Columbia were primed to burn. Abnormally hot, dry weather had dried out vegetation and soil, and many forests were full of dead trees left by mountain pine beetles. When lightning storms passed over the region on July 7, more than 100 fires were sparked. Some of these fires are still raging.

As of July 19, 2017, the British Columbia Wildfire Service reported 50 wildfires burning in the Cariboo region and another 21 in the Kamloops region. The fires have charred roughly 300,000 hectares (1,000 square miles) and have forced nearly 50,000 people to flee their homes.

To far south, June temperatures were way above average offshore of parts of Antarctica, where sea-ice cover was unusually low, the WMO reports. But the agency also says temperatures were well below average over East Antarctica.

So, investors can no longer count on business as usual. The climate is changing – tending toward extremes of heat, cold, drought and rainfall, and the physical impacts of climate change will affect assets and investments.

Climate change and extreme weather events will affect agriculture and food supply, infrastructure, precipitation and the water supply in ways that are only partly understood.

Yet, decisions made by private sector investors and financial institutions will have a major influence on how society responds to climate change.

There will be significant demand for capital, with governments looking to the private sector to provide much of it.


Featured Images: Wildfires send thousands fleeing the Provence resport of St. Tropez, France. July 25, 2017 (Photo by CCI Riviera & Monaco) Posted on Twitter

CapacityBuildingBillboard970x250.160312

Mimicking Nature to Defeat Climate Change

The free Cool Down B'More bus takes potentially overheated Baltimore residents to cooling centers. (Screengrab from video by Mimi Yang)

The free Cool Down B’More bus takes potentially overheated Baltimore residents to cooling centers. (Screengrab from video by Mimi Yang)

ATLANTA, Georgia, July 20, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Five teams of entrepreneurs from around the world have been chosen to participate in the newest cohort of the world’s only business accelerator program dedicated to bringing nature-inspired solutions to market.

These five winning solutions were selected from nearly 100 entries from 28 countries. All the teams entered the 2017 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, answering the call to apply biomimicry, nature-inspired design, to develop solutions to reverse or adapt to climate change.

A team from Mexico City has created Thermosmart, an approach that mimics the circulatory systems of elephants and alligators to boost efficiency in the heating and cooling of high-rise commercial buildings.

Another team from Bogotá, Colombia has invented Cooltiva, a system that takes advantage of the wind and the sun to regulate temperatures inside city residences using minimal energy.

A third team from Baltimore, Maryland has created Cool Down B’More, a network that connects low-income communities to designated cool spaces via an affordable transportation system. They did it by emulating the mechanisms of blue crab and bay grass and their mutual relationship within the ecosystem of Chesapeake Bay, on the U.S. Atlantic coast.

A fourth team from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has used winged seeds, bromeliads and forest leaf litter as the inspiration for Nucleário, a reforestation solution designed for remote and hard-to-reach areas of the Atlantic rain forest.

And a fifth team from Taipei, Taiwan looked to the ways that living organisms like baleen whales and African violet leaves collect micro particles to create Refish, a device that can be attached to vehicles to collect fine particulate matter right on the road without the need for electricity and motors to pump air as used in conventional air purifiers.

The winning teams will receive a cash prize and an invitation to enter the 2017-18 Biomimicry Accelerator, where they will spend the next year working with biomimicry and business mentors to prototype and test their designs.

The Biomimicry Accelerator experience culminates in the $100,000 Ray C. Anderson Foundation Ray of Hope Prize.

The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge is an annual competition that asks teams of students and professionals to address critical global issues with nature-inspired solutions. The challenge is hosted by the Biomimicry Institute , in partnership with the Ray C. Anderson Foundation.

The Ray C. Anderson Foundation has pledged $1.5 million over four years to support the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, a multi-year effort to crowdsource, support, and seed promising innovations inspired by nature.

Each year, the Institute and Foundation award the $100,000 Ray of Hope Prize to the most viable prototype that embodies the radical sustainability principles of biomimicry.

The winning team will demonstrate the most viable biomimetic solution, including a functioning prototype, a tested business model, and customer validation.

The Ray of Hope Prize honors the legacy of Interface Founder and Chairman Ray Anderson, who funded the foundation upon his passing in 2011. Anderson was inspired by new approaches to centuries-old design and manufacturing techniques, and used them in his $1 billion, global carpet tile company. Anderson was known for his progressive policies on industrial ecology and sustainability.

There is also a student category in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge that offers cash prizes.

In the student category, the first-place winner is a team from California Polytechnic State University who designed a plant-inspired system that can be applied along freeways and main streets to capture and scrub carbon.

The second-place student team, from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, created a compostable patch that generates electricity by absorbing heat, inspired by the structure of the silk moth cocoon.

The third place winner in the student category is a team with members from the National Technical University of Athens, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and the Technical University of Crete who emulated coral calcification to create a design that sequesters carbon dioxide from the sea.

“Accelerating the path from idea to prototype to marketplace is our goal,” said John Lanier, executive director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation. “And we are excited about the potential for this new cohort to demonstrate viable and innovative solutions to our climate crisis.”

The goal is to show how biomimicry, one of “Fortune” magazine’s five business “Trends to ride in 2017,” can provide viable solutions to the current climate crisis.

Biomimicry Institute Executive Director Beth Rattner said, “This is what our Ray C. Anderson Foundation partnership makes possible, bringing these teams’ ideas from concept to functioning prototypes that are ready for field testing.”

A new round of the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge will open in October 2017, also focused on climate change solutions. This will be another opportunity for teams to join and compete for the $100,000 Ray of Hope Prize. Individuals and teams can learn more about the challenge at challenge.biomimicry.org.

Videos from each of the five winning teams are found on vimeo.com.


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Featured Images: Elephant in South Africa’s Sibuya Game Reserve, 2010. In hot conditions, elephants increase blood flow to the skin, creating areas that dissipate heat. (Photo by Jon Mountjoy) Creative commons license via Flickr

First Mover Banks Come Clean on Climate Risk

Mark Carney, left, and Michael Bloomberg are authors of the final recommendations of the G20 Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. Carney is a Canadian economist who currently serves as Governor of the Bank of England and chairs the Financial Stability Board. American businessman, author, politician, and philanthropist, Bloomberg is a former mayor of New York City. His current net worth is estimated at US$50.4 billion, ranking him as the world's sixth richest person. (Photo courtesy G20 Financial Stability Board) posted for media use.

Mark Carney, left, and Michael Bloomberg are authors of the final recommendations of the G20 Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. Carney is a Canadian economist who currently serves as Governor of the Bank of England and chairs the Financial Stability Board. American businessman, author, politician, and philanthropist, Bloomberg is a former mayor of New York City. His current net worth is estimated at US$50.4 billion, ranking him as the world’s sixth richest person. (Photo courtesy G20 Financial Stability Board) posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, July 18, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Eleven of the world’s most influential banks have committed to work with the UN Environment Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) to promote climate transparency in financial markets. The banks will develop analytical tools to strengthen their assessment and disclosure of climate-related risks and opportunities.

“The message from financial heavyweights is clear – climate change poses a real and serious threat to our economy,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, formerly known as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“At the same time, there are enormous business opportunities in taking climate action,” Solheim said. “Transparency on how financial institutions mitigate the risks and seize the opportunities of a two degrees pathway is crucial to move international markets towards actively supporting a low-carbon and climate-resilient future.”

The “two degrees pathway” is a reference to the Paris Agreement on climate, which has near unanimous support among world governments, for its goal of holding any rise in the global warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

UNEP FI, a partnership between UN Environment and the global financial sector created after the 1992 Earth Summit, works to promote sustainable finance. Over 200 financial institutions – banks, insurers and investors – work with UN Environment to understand today’s environmental challenges, why they matter to finance, and how to actively participate in addressing them.

Representing over US$7 trillion, the first-mover 11 banks are:

  • the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group;
  • the British multinational bank and financial services company Barclays;
  • Brazilian banking and financial services company Bradesco;
  • New York-based multinational bank and financial services company Citi;
  • Itaú Unibanco Holding S.A, the largest financial conglomerate in the Southern Hemisphere;
  • National Australia Bank;
  • Royal Bank of Canada;
  • Santander Group, which serves more than 100 million customers in the United Kingdom, Latin America, and Europe;
  • Standard Chartered, a British banking and financial services company operating more than 1,200 branches in 70 countries;
  • TD Bank Group, a Canadian multinational banking and financial services corporation headquartered in Toronto;
  • UBS, a Swiss global financial services company.

These banks’ commitments follow the publication late last month of the final recommendations by the G20’s Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) .

The initiative will enable banks to follow the recommendations of the Task Force headed by Mark Carney and Michael Bloomberg. The Task Force recommendations were presented in Hamburg, Germany at the G20 annual meeting last week.

“Increasing transparency makes markets more efficient and economies more stable and resilient,” said Bloomberg in the Executive Summary of the Task Force report.

Key features of the recommendations are that they must be: adoptable by all organizations, included in financial filings, designed to solicit decision-useful, forward-looking information on financial impacts, and have a strong focus on risks and opportunities related to transition to a lower-carbon economy.

The Task Force presents the financial side of climate change, saying, “For many investors, climate change poses significant financial challenges and opportunities, now and in the future. The expected transition to a lower-carbon economy is estimated to require around $1 trillion of investments a year for the foreseeable future, generating new investment opportunities. At the same time, the risk-return profile of organizations exposed to climate-related risks may change significantly as such organizations may be more affected by physical impacts of climate change, climate policy, and new technologies.”

The banks not only welcome the Task Force’s recommendations but are the first from their industry to work towards adopting key elements of the unique framework.

Bank executives say that by improving their understanding of climate-related risks and opportunities, financial institutions are better placed to help finance the transition to a more stable and sustainable economy.

Ed Skyler, ‎executive vice president for global public affairs at Citi, said, “The scale and sophistication of climate risk and opportunity continue to grow, and the finance sector has an important role in shaping the path forward. Working together to refine our approaches to enhanced disclosure will help accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.”‎

The Financial Stability Board, chaired by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, asked the Task Force to develop voluntary, consistent climate-related financial risk disclosures for use by companies, investors, lenders and insurers.

Jes Staley, CEO of Barclays PLC, said, “As a contributing member to the work of the FSB Task Force over the past 18 months, Barclays is pleased to be able to continue our involvement by joining this UNEP FI Working Group.  Putting the theory into practice – or exploring how best the Recommendations can be implemented – and creating greater transparency for all participants, is an endeavour we look forward to working on with our fellow Working Group participants.”

The Task Force warns in no uncertain terms about the dangers of continuing with fossil fuel business as usual, particularly after the Paris Agreement was adopted in December 2015.

“To stem the disastrous effects of climate change within this century, nearly 200 countries agreed in December 2015 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the transition to a lower-carbon economy. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions implies movement away from fossil fuel energy and related physical assets. This coupled with rapidly declining costs and increased deployment of clean and energy-efficient technologies could have significant, near-term financial implications for organizations dependent on extracting, producing, and using coal, oil, and natural gas.”

“While such organizations may face significant climate-related risks, they are not alone. In fact, climate-related risks and the expected transition to a lower-carbon economy affect most economic sectors and industries,” the Task Force states.

Its recommendations are being welcomed by financial institutions and civil society alike, as the role of the finance sector in meeting the Paris Climate Agreement’s goals becomes crystal clear.

This first mover project to implement the recommendations puts the 11 UNEP FI members in the vanguard of this effort. Its results will be made public to encourage banks worldwide to adopt the scenarios, models and approaches developed.

“Sustainable finance is about two imperatives – improving the contribution of finance to sustainable, low-carbon and inclusive growth, and ensuring financial stability in light of environmental risks such as climate change,” said Christian Thimann, group head of strategy, sustainability and public affairs at the AXA Group, and co-chair of UNEP FI and TCFD vice-chair.

“The TCFD framework emphasizes how achieving these two goals requires that financial and non-financial corporations provide more transparency on how they plan to address the risks and opportunities related to climate change,” said Thimann.

Denise Hills, sustainability superintendent, Itaú, and co-chair of the UNEP FI Steering Committee, said, “Our participation in this UNEP FI initiative strengthens our commitment to a global economy in transition. At the same time, it reinforces our purpose to be a transformation agent to add value for our clients, shareholders and society in an ethical, consistent and responsible way.”

“After the G20,” said Thimann, “the issue now is about implementation. How can the finance industry put the framework into practice and deliver disclosure that is meaningful? Through this and other industry-led working groups UNEP FI is helping the finance sector to do just that: move from awareness to action.”


Featured Image: The Citigroup Center in Chicago, Illinois (Photo by anokarina) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

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G20: Isolated on Climate, U.S. Empowers Women

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At the G20 Leaders meeting in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017, from left: British Prime Minister Theresa May, U.S. President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Photo by Bundesregierung / Bergmann)

By Sunny Lewis

HAMBURG, Germany, July 10, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Leaders of the G20 countries came to Hamburg July 7-8 and after a tense meeting during which the United States stood alone in its rejection of the Paris Agreement on climate, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the G20 nations would not attempt to conceal the dissent in their ranks.

“With a view to the fields of climate and energy, discussed at the G20 summit,” Merkel said, “Where no consensus can be achieved, the Declaration must reflect dissent.”

The G20 Leaders Declaration states, “We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The United States of America announced it will immediately cease the implementation of its current nationally-determined contribution and affirms its strong commitment to an approach that lowers emissions while supporting economic growth and improving energy security needs.”

Adopted by consensus in 2015, the Paris climate accord holds the increase in the global average temperature to less than 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. To date, 195 countries, have signed the agreement, and 153 have ratified it, including the United States.

Under the Paris Agreement, each country determines, plans and reports its own contribution to mitigating global warming. There is no mechanism to force a country to set a specific target by a specific date.

While acknowledging disagreement with the United States, the 20 most industrialized nations tried to put a good face on it in the G20 Declaration, saying, “The United States of America states it will endeavor to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently and help deploy renewable and other clean energy sources, given the importance of energy access and security in their nationally determined contributions.”

The leaders of the other 19 members declared that the Paris Agreement is “irreversible,” and reinforced their commitment to help developing countries cope with the changing climate.

“We reiterate the importance of fulfilling the UNFCCC commitment by developed countries in providing means of implementation including financial resources to assist developing countries with both mitigation and adaptation actions in line with Paris outcomes,” they state.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said at the close of the G20 meeting on Saturday, “Like other world leaders here, I am dismayed at the U.S. decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement and I have urged President Trump to re-join it.”

“The UK’s own commitment to the Paris Agreement and tackling global climate change is as strong as ever,” said May. “Not only will this protect the environment for future generations, it will keep energy affordable and maintain a secure and reliable supply in order to protect the interests of businesses and consumers.”

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said as the meeting closed, “I strongly welcome the G20’s focus on climate change, the sustainable development goals, and the challenges facing low-income countries.”

“I commend, in particular, Germany’s leadership in launching the Compact with Africa, which is designed to boost private investment across the continent. The countries involved in the first wave of this effort are already receiving support from the IMF, to help strengthen their macroeconomic frameworks and institutions, including by increasing support for capacity development,” said Lagarde.

The G20 Declaration welcomed the May report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) “Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth.

The report describes the structural, financial and political changes that can enable transition to a low-carbon world. That is the path the other 19 members of the G20 say they will take, regardless of the position of the Trump administration.

“We reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris Agreement,” they declared, “moving swiftly towards its full implementation in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances and, to this end, we agree to the G20 Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth.

“Innovation in sustainable and clean energy technologies is a top priority for G20 members,” they say in the Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth.

The Plan excludes the United States, noting, “The United States is currently in the process of reviewing many of its policies related to climate change and continues to reserve its position on this document and its contents.”

The other 19 members of the group state their urgency to limit climate change as soon as humanly possible because the dangers are real and increasing.

“The impacts of climate change such as changes in temperature, precipitation, sea level rise and the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are already noticeably impacting global ecosystems, economies, and societies. This puts at risk past and future progress towards the 2030 Agenda, including the goals of ending poverty and hunger,” warns the Hamburg Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth.

“Whilst these impacts will be felt by all countries, poor and vulnerable people will be disproportionately affected. Faster and more effective responses for affected poor and vulnerable people, in particular women and children, are required. Therefore, taking appropriate steps to enhance adaptive capacity, including through support to adaptation planning, is becoming increasingly pressing,” the 19 group members warn.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel makes a point to U.S. President Donald Trump, Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017 (Photo by Bundesregierung / Bergmann) Posted for media use.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel makes a point to U.S. President Donald Trump, Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017 (Photo by Bundesregierung / Bergmann) Posted for media use.

Nevertheless, U.S. President Donald Trump views the G20 meeting as a success for the United States. “The G 20 Summit was a great success for the U.S.,” Trump tweeted at 4am on July 9. “Explained that the U.S. must fix the many bad trade deals it has made. Will get done!”

At the G20 meeting European President Jean-Claude Juncker described climate change as “the biggest challenge for the future.”

Juncker said, “We regret the decision by the US Administration to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The Agreement remains a corner stone for global efforts to effectively tackle climate change and implement the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and we consider that it cannot be re-negotiated.”

The European president reassured the international community that the EU remains “steadfastly determined to swiftly and fully implement the Paris Agreement and accelerate the low-carbon transition,” and support vulnerable countries in the fight against climate change.

“It is still important for us that we do not fall behind what we had arranged in Paris in terms of climate protection,” said Juncker on the first day of the G20 meeting.

“What we do today for climate protection prevents the causes of tomorrow’s future; What we leave today, accelerates flight from the areas affected by drought,” Juncker said. “To this extent, the issue of climate change must be pursued here with all intensity and seriousness. It is the great future, and Europe must make a contribution.”

The G20 leaders declared, “We recognize the opportunities for innovation, sustainable growth, competitiveness, and job creation of increased investment into sustainable energy sources and clean energy technologies and infrastructure.”

“We remain collectively committed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through, among others, increased innovation on sustainable and clean energies and energy efficiency, and work towards low greenhouse-gas emission energy systems,” they said.

Environmental groups naturally praised the 19 members of the group who remained steadfast on climate protection.

World Wildlife Fund senior vice president of climate change and energy Lou Leonard said, “The G20 was a gut check moment where the world stood firm on continued climate action, despite pressure from the Trump administration. By reaffirming the Paris Agreement as irreversible and offering a concrete plan to implement it, world leaders made clear that they are looking forward, unwilling to retreat from gains made.”

“These leaders stand with thousands of American businesses, colleges and universities, and state and local governments, who have made clear that they too remain committed to climate action, a clean energy economy and a safer future, regardless of what Washington does,” said Leonard. “Together, the leaders of the real economy in the United States and political leaders of the world’s other largest economies are united in saying ‘We Are Still In.'”

G20 Supports Empowerment of Women

At the G20 leaders’ summit, the World Bank Group announced the creation of an innovative new facility with more than US$1 billion to advance women’s entrepreneurship and help women in developing countries gain access to the finance, markets, and networks necessary to start and grow a business.

The United States initiated the idea for the facility and will serve as a founding member along with other donor countries.

“This incredible facility will have a significant impact on women’s economic development around the world,” said President Trump. “It will help increase opportunities and economic growth while addressing unique barriers women entrepreneurs face. I am proud the United States is helping to lead support of this unprecedented initiative.”

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said, “Women’s economic empowerment is critical to achieve the inclusive economic growth required to end extreme poverty, which is why it has been such a longstanding priority for us.”

“This new facility offers an unprecedented opportunity to harness both the public and private sectors to open new doors of opportunity for women entrepreneurs and women-owned firms in developing countries around the globe.”

“‎Everyone benefits when women have the resources they need to participate fully in our economies and societies,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “Our government is determined to help women gain the tools they need to be successful entrepreneurs and leaders. This important investment will help women in developing countries to create jobs, build economies that work for everyone, and have a real and fair chance at success.”

“I am happy that this initiative for women presents real added value. I want to sincerely thank everyone who worked on it especially the President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim and Ivanka Trump and others. We can see from the example of this Women’s Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative that the G20 is not just a two-day Summit, but that the G20 is a process,” said Chancellor Merkel.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said, “Women’s active participation in society is one of the pillars of Abenomics. Women’s empowerment and leadership will diversify and revitalize organization and societies. This facility embodies such belief in developing countries, and is promising initiative to achieve society where women shine.”

The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), the first World Bank-led facility to advance women’s entrepreneurship at this scale, will work to enable more than $1 billion of financing to improve access to capital, provide technical assistance, and invest in other projects and programs that support women and women-led SMEs in World Bank Group client countries.

The goal of the facility is to leverage donor grant funding, currently over US$325 million, to unlock more than $1 billion in IFI and commercial financing by working with financial intermediaries, funds, and other market actors.

The World Bank Group was invited to create the facility by the United States and Germany. The initiative received strong donor support from Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States, enabling the Bank Group to take the facility from concept to Board endorsement within the year of the German G20 presidency.

“It’s remarkable how quickly the international community has mobilized support for this new initiative, which has exceeded our target by nearly $100 million,” Kim said. “This demonstrates not only the importance of increasing women’s economic empowerment, but it scales up our efforts to help women open and grow businesses. We’re grateful to President Trump, Chancellor Merkel, and Ivanka Trump for being such strong champions of this facility and the broader cause of women’s entrepreneurship.”

The G20 will meet next in 2018 under an Argentinian Presidency. Then the G20 leaders will travel to Japan in 2019 and to Saudi Arabia in 2020.

The G20 includes: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and the European Union.


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Featured Image: German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks to reporters at the final news conference of the G20 meeting, Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017 (Photo by Bundesregierung / Gungor) Posted for media use.

Oceans Inspire Global Call to Action

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Diver explores a soft coral cave in Fiji, June 6, 2009 (Photo by thundafunda) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, June 13, 2017 (Maximapct.com) – Ending the United Nations’ inaugural Ocean Conference on a wave of enthusiastic determination, the 193 UN Member States Friday agreed on a Call to Action  listing specific measures to restore health to Earth’s degraded oceans by 2030.

This outcome document, together with 1,328 voluntary commitments to action, represents a breakthrough in the global approach to the management and conservation of the ocean.

The commitments address Sustainable Development Goal #14, Life Below Water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

“The Ocean Conference has changed our relationship with the ocean,” said President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji, which co-organized the conference with Sweden.

“Henceforth,” said Thomson, “none can say they were not aware of the harm humanity has done to the ocean’s health. We are now working around the world to restore a relationship of balance and respect towards the ocean.”

Recognizing that the wellbeing of present and future generations is linked to the health and productivity of the ocean, all countries agreed, “to act decisively and urgently, convinced that our collective action will make a meaningful difference to our people, to our planet and to our prosperity.”

The Call to Action recognizes the importance of the Paris Agreement on Climate; countries agreed to develop and implement measures to address the effects of climate warming on the oceans, such as acidification, sea-level rise and increase in ocean temperatures that harm corals and other marine life.

“We are particularly alarmed by the adverse impacts of climate change on the ocean, including the rise in ocean temperatures, ocean and coastal acidification, deoxygenation, sea-level rise, the decrease in polar ice coverage, coastal erosion and extreme weather events,” the UN Member States declared in their Call to Action.

“We acknowledge the need to address the adverse impacts that impair the crucial ability of the ocean to act as climate regulator, source of marine biodiversity, and as key provider of food and nutrition, tourism and ecosystem services, and as an engine for sustainable economic development and growth,” they stated.

“We are committed to halting and reversing the decline in the health and productivity of our ocean and its ecosystems and to protecting and restoring its resilience and ecological integrity,” they stated. “We recognise that the wellbeing of present and future generations is inextricably linked to the health and productivity of our ocean.”

The Call to Action includes measures to protect coastal and blue carbon ecosystems, such as mangroves, tidal marshes, seagrass and coral reefs, and wider interconnected ecosystems, as well as enhancing sustainable fisheries management, including to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield.

Wu Hongbo, UN under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs and secretary-general of the Ocean Conference, said the conference moved the world closer to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed unanimously by UN Member States in 2015.

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At the Oceans Conference, from left: President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji; Sweden’s Deputy Prime Minister and Green Party spokesperson Isabella Lövin; UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the Ocean Conference Wu Hongbo of China. June 8, 2017 (Photo by Evan Schneider courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

“Participants from member States, NGOs, civil society, the private sector, the scientific community and academia engaged in wide-ranging discussion and shared state-of-the-art knowledge and latest information on marine science and challenges,” Wu said. “They showcased and put forward many innovative solutions, which can help us achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14, and through its interlinkages the other SDGs and targets.”

Fiji’s President Frank Bainimarama emphasized the threats of climate change and ocean litter, declaring that greedy nations and commercial interests threaten livelihoods in small island developing states such as his South Pacific island home.

Among its many voluntary commitments as co-organizer of the Ocean Conference, the Government of Fiji launched the Fiji Whale and Dolphin Action Plan to protect whales and dolphins in Fijian waters. This commitment is a follow-up to Fiji’s declaration of its Exclusive Economic Zone as a whale sanctuary in 2003.

There are 10 confirmed species of whales and dolphins in Fijian waters. Humpback whales breed and calve there, and as many as 15 other cetacean species pass through on their migrations or reside there is small numbers.

But population levels of humpback whales and other whale species are at critically low levels, and the Oceania humpback whale sub-population has been declared endangered.

Sweden, the other Ocean Conference co-organizer, also has made many voluntary commitments to ocean restoration, including a contribution of 50 million SEK (US$5.5 million) to The Blue Action Fund, which makes funding available for the activities of national and international nongovernmental organizations in their efforts to help conserve marine and coastal ecosystems.

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in cooperation with KfW Development Bank founded the Blue Action Fund as a response to the funding gap for the conservation of marine biodiversity, networks of marine protected areas and transboundary conservation measures. The Fund will work in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific region.

“Do what you can, do it wisely, and most importantly do it now. A healthy ocean is not a luxury item. It is a necessity for survival,” Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden told the Stockholm Resilience Centre event on engaging the private sector in SDG 14 held on June 9 at UN headquarters.

“All alarm bells are ringing: We are coming dangerously close to fatal tipping points,” the princess said, emphasizing the critical role of the ocean in sustaining life on Earth. “Taking care of the ocean means taking care of ourselves,” she said.

The Crown Princess spoke at the side event featuring the efforts of nine of the world’s largest seafood companies, members of the science-based sustainability initiative Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS).

The princess praised the SeaBOS commitment to sustainable seafood by connecting the global seafood business to science; wild capture fisheries to aquaculture; and European and North American companies to Asian companies.

Conference organizers say commitments made at the conference indicate that the world is on track to designate more than 10 percent of the oceans as Marine Protected Areas by 2020.

Many countries announced steps to reduce or eliminate single use plastics and microplastics that end up in the oceans, where they harm sea birds and animals.

Numerous countries announced that they are stepping up their efforts to reduce the amount of sewage and pollution entering the ocean from land-based activities.

Many commitments focused on expanding scientific knowledge about the ocean and developing and sharing innovative technologies to address ocean challenges.

There were new commitments to protect and manage fisheries. Some countries announced “no-take zones” for certain fisheries.

Commitments were made to establish systems that allow consumers to more easily source sustainable fish.

New commitments were made to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and to curtail fishing subsidies that result in depleted fish populations.

In the Call to Action, the UN Member States agreed to develop an “international legally binding instrument” under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to govern the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, the so-called high seas.

They want the UN General Assembly to decide on the convening and on the starting date of an intergovernmental conference to negotiate this legally binding agreement on high seas governance before the end of its 72nd session on September 25.


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Featured Image: Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden at the UN Ocean Conference, June 9, 2017 (Photo courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

China Leads the New Clean Energy Reality

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Jim Carr, Minister of Energy, Canada; Wan Gang, Minister of Science and Technology, China; Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency; Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy, USA; Terje Søviknes, Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Norway (Photo courtesy IEA) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, June 8, 2017 (Maximpact.com) – Now that President Donald Trump has announced that he will exit the Paris Agreement on climate, the world’s major emerging economies, including China and India, are replacing the United States at the center stage of the clean energy transition.

By betting on energy efficiency, wind, solar and other renewables, these countries are increasingly leading the way, while the United States falls behind as Trump moves the country towards greater reliance on coal and oil.

The International Energy Agency projects that all of the growth in energy demand in the next 25 years will take place in emerging and developing countries.

“There is a new reality in clean energy,” says Christian Zinglersen of the International Energy Agency (IEA), who heads the new Clean Energy Ministerial Secretariat. Based at the IEA headquarters in Paris, the Clean Energy Ministerial is a global forum that promotes clean energy policies.

This is the importance of the top-level meeting of energy ministers from the world’s biggest economies taking plan in Beijing this week, said Zinglersen, formerly deputy permanent secretary at the Danish Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate.

“The fact that representatives from fossil-fuel producers like Mexico and Saudi Arabia will join renewable-energy pioneers like Denmark and Germany for a top-level meeting in China is not a coincidence,” he said. “We are witnessing a global consensus that the key to the energy transition will reside with decisions made in emerging economies.”

China, the world’s biggest emitter of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, is changing its coal-burning ways. “China is now the undisputable global leader of renewable energy expansion worldwide, and the IEA forecasts that by 2021, more than one-third of global cumulative solar PV and onshore wind capacity will be located in China,” said Zinglersen.

India was the first country to set comprehensive quality and performance standards for light emitting diodes (LEDs), and it expects to save as much as 277 terawatt-hours of electricity between 2015 and 2030, avoiding 254 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions – the equivalent of 90 coal-fired power plants.

On June 6, during a side event on efficient lighting at the Clean Energy Ministerial, 13 companies announced new commitments to the Global Lighting Challenge totaling nearly six billion LED lighting products.

The Global Lighting Challenge has now reached 14 billion high-efficiency, high-quality lighting products committed, surpassing its 10 billion light goal set at the sixth Clean Energy Ministerial two years ago.

Twelve Chinese solid-state lighting companies committed to deploy 3.29 billion LED Lamps and 5.77 million LED streetlights by the end of 2018.

Based on these commitments, the total cumulative energy savings from 2017–2018 is estimated at more than 45 billion kWh, which is roughly half of the Three Gorges Hydropower Station’s annual power generation (93.5 billion kWh in 2016).

These energy savings lead to CO2 a emissions reduction estimated at more than 40.5 million tons.

LEDVANCE, an international company for lighting products and networked light applications based in Germany, announced its commitment to sell 2.5 billion LED lamps by 2023.

LEDVANCE’s goal will save the equivalent amount of energy produced by 75 medium-sized coal-fired power plants, the company estimates.

“We made a very conscious choice in pledging this commitment and are very proud in taking part in the Global Lighting Challenge,” said Thomas Dreier, global head of research and development at LEDVANCE.

“LED lamps are not only ecologically sensible but also economically. In combination with smart lighting solutions, LED lamps in the current generation have a potential of reducing energy consumption and costs by 90 percent,” Dreier said.

“At LEDVANCE, we have been investing a lot in researching the potential of tomorrow’s LED lamps, which will continue to increase the scope of what is possible in energy efficiency.”

The number of electric cars on the roads around the world rose to two million in 2016, following a year of strong growth in 2015, according to the latest edition of the International Energy Agency’s Global EV Outlook.

China remained the largest market in 2016, accounting for more than 40 percent of the electric cars sold in the world.

With more than 200 million electric two-wheelers and more than 300,000 electric buses, China is by far the global leader in the electrification of transport. China, the United States and Europe made up the three main markets, totaling over 90 percent of all electric vehicles sold around the world.

Four large U.S. cities: Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Portland, are leading a partnership of over 30 cities to mass-purchase EVs for their public fleets including police cruisers, street sweepers and trash haulers. The group of cities is currently seeking to purchase over 110,000 EVs, a significant number when compared to the 160,000 total EVs sold in the entire United States in 2016.

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry told his counterparts in Beijing, “I don’t believe you can have a real conversation about clean energy without including carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS). The United States understands the importance of this clean technology and its vital role in the future of energy production.”

Perry made these comments at a meeting of the energy ministers of Canada, China, Norway, and the United States, as well as heads of delegation from Australia and the European Commission, business leaders and civil society organizations held ahead of the Clean Energy Ministerial in Beijing.

Carbon capture, utilization and storage is a process that captures CO2 emissions from sources like coal-fired power plants and either reuses it or stores it so it will not enter the atmosphere.

The ministers were invited by the International Energy Agency and China to review how to increase collaboration to drive further deployment of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS).

The meeting was held ahead of the 8th Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM8), in Beijing.

“We have already seen the success of projects like Petra Nova in Texas, which is the world’s largest post-combustion carbon-capture system,” Perry said. “Our experience with CCUS proves that you can do the right thing for the environment and the economy too.”

The system at Petra Nova can capture 1.6 million tons of CO2 each year from an existing coal-fired power plant unit, a capture rate of up to 90 percent from a supplied slipstream of flue gas. By using CO2 captured from the plant, oil production at West Ranch oilfield is expected to increase from around 500 barrels per day to up to 15,000 barrels per day.

Jim Carr, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources said, “Carbon capture, use and storage holds enormous potential to enable economic growth and create jobs, while ensuring the environment is protected.”

“Canada hopes to continue working with domestic and international partners, including through the Clean Energy Ministerial and Mission Innovation, to help us all address the technical and policy challenges around wide scale implementation of this important technology,” Carr said.

“There are many reasons to stand for clean energy today,” said Zinglersen. “These can range from reducing greenhouse gas emissions but also battling the scourge of air pollution, improving energy security by reducing the dependency of fossil fuels, diversifying supply, creating high-tech jobs or fostering innovation. As such, approaches to clean energy will vary from country to country.”

By committing to these new clean technologies, he said, countries like China are helping drive down costs for the benefit of the world.


Featured Image: Dabancheng is said to be China’s the wind power capital. The Dabancheng Wind Farm is situated on the road from Urumqi to Turpan in northwestern China. (Photo courtesy Asian Development Bank) Creative commons license via Flickr

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Mayday: All Hands on Deck for Oceans

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Common dolphins off the coast of Monterey Bay, California, Feb. 17, 2013 (Photo by John Kay) Creative commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, June 6, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – “We are here on behalf of humanity to restore sustainability, balance and respect to our relationship with our primal mother, the source of life, the ocean,” President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji declared on opening day of the inaugural UN Oceans Conference .

At UN headquarters in New York on Monday, he told thousands of participants: heads of State and Government, civil society representatives and business people as well as ocean and marine life advocates, “The time has come for us to correct our wrongful ways.”

Thomson spoke out against “inexcusable” actions, such as dumping the equivalent of one large garbage truck of plastic into the oceans every minute of every day, driving fish stocks to the points of collapse, and destroying marine life through acidification and deoxygenation.

The five-day Ocean Conference, initiated by Sweden and Fiji, opened Monday on the UN’s annual World Environment Day with a Fijian traditional welcome ceremony.

It is the first UN conference to focus on one specific Sustainable Development Goal: Number 14 – conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources to benefit present and future generations.

Isabella Lövin, Swedish deputy prime minister, minister for International Development

Secretary-General António Guterres (right) meets with Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden. (Photo by Mark Garten courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

Secretary-General António Guterres (right) meets with Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden. (Photo by Mark Garten courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

Cooperation and a Green Party member, said, “Saving our oceans requires global leadership now. The situation is urgent. The trend we are seeing with overfishing, emissions and littering means that unless we do something by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.”

As conference organizers, Sweden and Fiji want to mobilize and accelerate engagement on sustainable ocean management and development to strengthen sustainable development in the most vulnerable countries and regions.

Warning that the special relationship between people and the ocean that brings untold benefits for life is under threat as never before, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the opening of the Ocean Conference that the problems of the ocean—all created by human activity, can all be reversed and prevented with decisive, coordinated action.

“Oceans are a testing ground for the principle of multilateralism,” said Guterres. “The health of our oceans and seas requires us to put aside short-term national gain, to avoid long-term global catastrophe. Conserving our oceans and using them sustainably is preserving life itself.”

The sustainable oceans, seas and marine resources goal is central to the entire UN development agenda and is closely linked to other goals, such as combating poverty, food security, combating climate change, sustainable production and consumption, and supply of clean water and sanitation for all.

“Oceans are of vital importance to our survival and that of the entire planet. They are a crucial source of protein for the world’s poorest people. Failing to save the oceans will lead to widespread global insecurity,” warned Lövin.

But Lövin struck a note of optimism on opening day. “We are truly looking forward to seeing new partnerships being formed, and new voluntary commitments on SDG 14 being submitted during and after the conference, and warmly welcome the commitments already made,” she said. “The momentum is really energizing.”

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, the incoming president of the next UN Climate Conference in November, emphasized the links between ocean and climate health.

FijiWelcomeUNGeneralAssembly

The United Nations Oceans Conference opened with a traditional Fijian welcome ceremony in the Hall of the UN General Assembly, New York, NY, June 5, 2017 (Photo by Ariana Lindquist courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

“Climate change poses the biggest threat the world has ever known. And the quality of our oceans and seas is also deteriorating at an alarming rate. They are interlinked, because rising sea levels, as well as ocean acidity and warmer waters have a direct effect on our reefs and fish stocks and the prosperity of our coastal communities,” said the Fijian leader.

The main areas of work at the Ocean Conference will be a political call to action, a segment on partnership dialogues and voluntary commitments. To date, more than 830 voluntary commitments have been registered. See them at: Ocean Conference Commitments

The commitments should be specific, measurable, achievable, resource based, with time-based deliverables.

“The Ocean Conference is where we truly begin the process of reversing the cycle of decline into which our accumulated activities have placed the ocean,” said Thomson.

“By adding to the conference’s register of voluntary commitments; of producing practical solutions to Ocean’s problems at the Partnership Dialogues; and through the affirmation of the conference’s Call for Action, we have begun that process of reversing the wrongs,” he said.

A sampling of the voluntary commitments registered to date shows a wide variety of ocean protection efforts:

  • The International Labour Organization commits to achieving decent work through the elimination of exploitative labor conditions for fishers and seafarers
  • Panama commits to emissions reduction from international shipping through the Panama Canal.
  • Canada commits to protecting at least 10 percent of its marine environment by 2020 with 0.9 percent of its coastal and marine areas as of 2017 already protected.
  • Samoa commits to establish a National Marine Sanctuary together with scientific research, monitoring, and education programs to foster a marine ethic of conservation and marine stewardship.
  • Greece commits to establishment of a Marine Protected Area at the coastline of Plakias, Crete to protect endangered species, increase biodiversity, conserve important ecosystems and increase eco-tourism.
  • Turkey commits to conclude Marine Litter Action Plans at the end of 2018 which will be prepared for each province that borders the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea or Sea of Marmara. Strong waste management policies as well as reduction, reuse and recycling activities are encouraged by Turkish government.
  • Adidas, the shoe manufacturer, commits to produce one million pairs of shoes made from with recycled ocean plastic by the end of 2017, Phase out the use of virgin plastic, and invest to divert plastic litter from coastal communities and turn it into products.
  • The Walton Family Foundation commits to work with Indonesia, the United States, Mexico, Peru, and Chile to improve fisheries management for the benefit of fishing communities and ocean habitats over the next 10 to 20 years and work to ensure that fish entering the European Union, Japan and the United States are sustainably caught.
  • The civil society organization oneocean.fm commits to raise awareness for ocean conservation through the power of music. Collaborations bring together Dr. Sylvia Earle, Sir Richard Branson, Fabien Cousteau, and like minded platforms, organizations, businesses and radio stations from around the world.

Maximpact+WASTE

OECD: Climate Change Action Will Boost Economic Growth

FijiPM&workers

Construction workers and Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama at the official groundbreaking ceremony for a new cyclone resistant market in Rakiraki on Viti Levu, Fiji’s largest island. May 8, 2017 (Photo by Ariana Yett, UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

PARIS, France, May 30, 2017 (Maximpact News) – Incorporating climate change preventive actions into regular economic policy will have a positive impact on economic growth over the medium and long term, finds a new report “Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth” from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

“Far from being a dampener on growth, integrating climate action into growth policies can have a positive economic impact,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, presenting the report to German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin.

“There is no economic excuse for not acting on climate change, and the urgency to act is high,” Gurria said.

Thirty-five ministers from all regions of the world took part in the eighth Petersberg Climate Dialogue on May 22-23 to discuss the practical implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate and prepare for the UN Climate Conference, COP23, set for November in Bonn under the Presidency of Fiji.

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama urged quick and concerted climate action, saying, “Only by the entire world coming together as one to address the impacts of climate change can we effectively tackle this crisis.”

“Climate change affects every person on Earth and especially those in vulnerable countries like Fiji,” he said on May 23. “I am convinced that when we act in the interest of the most vulnerable, we are acting in the interests of us all. Because we are all vulnerable and we all need to act.”

German State Secretary for Environment Jochen Flasbarth, and OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría jointly present the new OECD study "Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth" at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, Berlin, Germany, May 22, 2017. (Photo by Thomas Koehler courtesy BMUB)

German State Secretary for Environment Jochen Flasbarth, and OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría jointly present the new OECD study “Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth” at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, Berlin, Germany, May 22, 2017. (Photo by Thomas Koehler courtesy BMUB)

The report, “Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth” shows that bringing the growth and climate agendas together, rather than treating climate as a separate issue, could add one percent to average economic output in G20 countries by 2021 and lift 2050 output by as much as 2.8 percent.

If the economic benefits of avoiding climate change impacts such as coastal flooding or storm damage are factored in, the net increase to 2050 GDP would be nearly five percent, according to the report, written by OECD experts with input from a distinguished international Advisory Council.                      

Prepared in the context of this year’s German Presidency of the G20, the report says G20 countries, which account for 85 percent of global GDP and 80 percent of CO2 emissions, should adopt a combination of pro-growth and pro-environment policies in developing their overall growth and development strategies.

This means combining climate policies such as carbon pricing with supportive economic policies to drive growth centered on investment in low-emission, climate-resilient infrastructure.

Infrastructure investments made over the next 10-15 years will determine whether the 2015 Paris Agreement’s objective to stabilize the global climate can be achieved.

The report calculates that delaying action until after 2025 would lead to an average output loss for G20 economies of two percent after 10 years as compared with taking action now.

The delay would mean that, eventually, even more stringent climate policies would have to be introduced more urgently, risking greater environmental and economic disruption and leaving more fossil fuel assets as economically unviable, the report warns.

Limiting the global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius, in line with the Paris Agreement, will require US$6.9 trillion per year in infrastructure investment between now and 2030.

This amount is roughly 10 percent more than the carbon-intensive alternative, the report calculates.

The report points out that infrastructure is at the heart of economic growth, and yet, in most G20 countries there has been chronic underinvestment in infrastructure.

In addition, climate-friendly infrastructure is energy-efficient and would lead to fossil fuel savings totaling US$1.7 trillion annually, more than offsetting the incremental cost.

Even in countries where the transition to a low-carbon economy will be economically challenging, such as in net fossil-fuel exporters, the report states that “the right combination of policies can mean that low-carbon growth offsets the cost in terms of the economy and jobs of putting in place mitigation policies.”

The report recommends that G20 countries:

  • Ensure the integration of climate objectives in pro-growth reforms to deliver better resource allocation, stronger investment and structural reforms in line with the low-emission transition.
  • Strengthen climate mitigation policies, including carbon pricing, fossil fuel subsidy reform, smart regulations and the use of public procurement to help drive low-carbon innovation
  • Scale up efforts to mobilize private investment in low-emission and climate resilient infrastructure through further efforts to green the finance system.
  • Engage local governments, employers and workforce in the transition of exposed activities and communities, to deliver a just transition for workers.

“Finally,” the report states, “international co-operation remains fundamental to managing climate risks. Countries’ current contributions to emissions reduction beyond 2020 are not consistent with the Paris temperature goal, and need to be scaled up rapidly.”

“Support for action in developing countries will be important, not just for mitigation but also to improve the resilience and adaptive capacity of countries facing the greatest climate challenges.”

“Climate impacts will grow, even if we achieve the Paris temperature goal,” the report warns. “We need flexible and forward-looking decision-making to increase resilience in the face of these risks.”

“Managing the interdependences between climate, food security and biodiversity goals will be critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and long-term robust growth.”


Maximpact+WASTE

China’s Multi-Trillion Dollar ‘Belt and Road’

Silk Road

Chinese President Xi Jinping, and his wife Peng Liyuan, accompany their guests, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, to a welcome banquet at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, Beijing, China, May 14, 2017. (Photo by Liu Weibing courtesy Xinhua) State media

By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, May 16, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – China’s ambitious new trade and infrastructure initiative One Belt, One Road follows the spirit of the ancient Silk Road that connected Asia and Europe, Chinese President Xi Jinping told world leaders Sunday in Beijing.

Xi was speaking at a high-level forum to gather cooperation for China’s Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road trade plan.

“About 2,000 years ago, our ancestors cherished the hope of friendly communications. They built the ancient Silk Road and started a period of grand exchanges in the history of mankind,” Xi said, toasting the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

Linking China with 64 countries that collectively account for 62 percent of the world’s population and 30 percent of global GDP, the One Belt, One Road project is long on ambition, and on funding.

Chinese state media calculate that roughly US$1 trillion has already been invested in the initiative, with another several trillion due to be invested over the next decade.

During his keynote speech, Xi pledged at least $113 billion in further funding for the initiative he first announced in 2013. The Chinese leader urged countries across the globe to join hands with him in pursuit of globalization.

“We have no intention to form a small group detrimental to stability,” Xi said. “What we hope to create is a big family of harmonious co-existence.”

Nearly 70 countries and international organizations have signed up to participate, said Xi at the close of the two-day summit on Monday.

Addressing the delegates, UN Secretary-General António Guterres of Portugal drew comparisons between China’s One Belt, One Road initiative and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, saying both are rooted in a shared vision for global development.

“Both strive to create opportunities, global public goods and win-win cooperation. And both aim to deepen ‘connectivity’ across countries and regions: connectivity in infrastructure, trade, finance, policies and, perhaps most important of all, among peoples,” said the secretary-general.

The One Belt, One Road initiative includes nearly $1 trillion worth of infrastructure investments in Africa, Asia and Europe, including bridges, nuclear plants and railways.

Guterres stressed the need to work together to uphold international environmental and social standards, ensuring that rural areas, not just cities, benefit.

“With the initiative expected to generate vast investments in infrastructure, let us seize the moment to help countries make the transition to clean-energy, low-carbon pathways – instead of locking in unsustainable practices for decades to come,” Guterres said, praising Chinese leadership on climate change.

The Joint Communiqué issued by world leaders at the conclusion of the forum Monday supports environmental values.

It states, “We are determined to prevent the degradation of the planet, including immediate action on climate change issues, to encourage the full implementation of agreements by all the parties to the Paris Agreement; to manage natural resources in an equitable and sustainable manner, to protect and sustainably use the oceans, freshwater, forests, mountains and drylands; the conservation of biodiversity, ecosystems and wildlife, combating desertification and land degradation, and achieving economic, social and environmental integration, balanced and sustainable development.”

Opposing all forms of protectionism, the Communiqué also underlines its green intentions, “Emphasizing the economic, social, financial, financial and environmental sustainability of the project, promoting high environmental standards, and coordinating the relationship between economic growth, social progress and environmental protection.”

But there are worries that the Belt and Road is really a vehicle for China’s view of itself as the central hub of the Eurasian continent.

This concern kept India from sending an official representative to the forum. The United States announced at the last minute that it would send a government delegation.

In his keynote speech Xi tried to calm these fears, saying, “We are ready to share practices of development with other countries, but we have no intention to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, export our own social system and model of development, or impose our own will on others. In pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, we will not resort to outdated geopolitical maneuvering. What we hope to achieve is a new model of win-win cooperation.”

The forum was attended by 29 government leaders, from: Argentina, Belarus, Cambodia, Chile, the Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Fiji, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

To a volley of international criticism, China included North Korea in the forum, just as Pyongyang fired off its latest missile test.

UN Secretary-General Guterres called on governments to settle peacefully any tensions related to the One Belt, One Road initiative, saying, “Just as the initiative opens new corridors for goods, let us also keep open the channels for dialogue.”

He praised the initiative for its “immense potential” to promote access to markets, and as “far-reaching in geography and ambition.”

Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet was supportive of the One Belt, One Road concept, telling the forum, “Chile welcomes the great effort made by China in the search for new mechanisms for rapprochement, connectivity, innovation and sustainable development.”

“Our presence here today signals our support for this initiative, reaffirming our ties of friendship and cooperation,” said Bachelet. “We are betting on the future, joining in an effort that will lead in the medium and long term to new options for joint work that favors development for all. Chile is a strong promoter of integration. We have defended the idea of convergence in diversity, seeking common interests rather than differences, particularly in the economic arena for mutual benefits.”

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, a Korea-born American citizen, told the forum he was “inspired” by One Belt, One Road.

“The World Bank Group very proudly supports the Government of China’s ambitious, unprecedented effort to light up that night sky. The Belt and Road will improve trade, infrastructure, investment, and people-to-people connectivity – not just across borders, but on a trans-continental scale,” said Kim.

The Belt and Road Initiative has potential to lower trade costs, increase competitiveness, improve infrastructure, and provide greater connectivity for Asia and its neighboring regions,” Kim said.

He explained that projects would require innovative financing mechanisms, “a mix of public and concessional finance and commercial capital.”

The World Bank Group has ongoing commitments of US$86.8 billion in numerous infrastructure, trade, power, and connectivity projects in countries along the Belt and Road route, Kim said.

In transportation alone, the Bank has commitments of US$24 billion, Kim said. “We’re financing projects like Afghanistan’s Trans-Hindukush Road Connectivity, Kazakhstan’s East-West Roads, Pakistan’s Karachi Ports, and Uzbekistan’s Pap-Angren Railway that are already reinforcing connections along the Belt and Road.”

The International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s private sector arm, is partnering with the Silk Road Fund and China’s Three Gorges Company to develop hydropower in Pakistan.

Kim said that at the invitation of China’s Ministry of Finance, the World Bank and other multilateral banks have signed an agreement to support the Belt and Road, declaring, “We’re ready to help make the promise of the Belt and Road Initiative a reality.”

China plans the next One Belt, One Road summit in 2019.


Featured Images: Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan welcome UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres before a banquet for the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, capital of China, May 14, 2017. (Photo by Yao Dawei courtesy Xinhua) State media

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Fortune 500 Firms Embrace Clean Energy

AlamosaSolar

With over 500 dual-axis, pedestal mounted tracker assemblies, each producing 60 kW, the Alamosa Solar Generating Project is the largest high-concentrating solar photovoltaic power generation system in the world, 2014, Alamosa, Colorado (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, May 2, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – A growing number of Fortune 500 companies are taking ambitious steps to slash their greenhouse gas emissions, buy more renewable energy and shrink their energy bills through energy efficiency, finds a new report from World Wildlife Fund, Ceres , Calvert Research and Management  and CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Findings from the new report, “Power Forward 3.0: How the largest U.S. companies are capturing business value while addressing climate change,” are based on 2016 company disclosures to CDP, which holds the world’s largest collection of self-reported corporate environmental data, and other public sources.

“CDP and the investors we work with, representing over US$100 trillion in assets, engage thousands of the world’s largest companies to measure and manage climate-related risks” said Lance Pierce, president of CDP North America.

“Voluntary corporate disclosure highlights the compelling business case for corporate clean energy procurement and clearly demonstrates the transition underway in the energy markets,” said Pierce. “Companies in turn have benefited, identifying billions of dollars in savings and new opportunities through their disclosures to CDP.”

The numbers tell the story.

Sixty-three percent of the largest companies, the Fortune 100, have set at least one clean energy target.

Nearly half of Fortune 500 companies, 48 percent, have set at least one climate or clean energy target, up five percent from an earlier 2014 report.

A greenhouse gas reduction goal is the most common target, set by 211 companies.

Roughly 80,000 emission-reducing projects by the 190 Fortune 500 companies reporting data showed nearly $3.7 billion in savings in 2016 alone.

Many large companies are setting 100 percent renewable energy goals and science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets that align with the global goal of limiting global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius set by the Paris Climate Agreement.

More than 20 Fortune 500 companies such as industry giants Wal-Mart, Bank of America, Google and Facebook, have committed to powering all corporate operations with 100 percent renewable energy, compared to only a few mega-companies just a few years ago.

Google announced in December that renewable energy will power 100 percent of its global operations in 2017, a year ahead of schedule. Nearly all of this renewable energy will come from wind power.

“American businesses are leading the transition to a clean economy because it’s smart business and it’s what their customers want,” said Marty Spitzer, World Wildlife Fund’s senior director of climate and renewable energy. “Clean energy is fueling economic opportunity from coast to coast without regard for party line. Washington policies may slow this boom, but these companies are making it very clear that a transition to a low-carbon economy is inevitable.”

American corporate giants are taking these steps despite the climate denial policies of President Donald Trump and his cabinet. Trump has threatened to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, for which President Barack Obama was a leading voice. Adopted by consensus of 195 world governments in December 2015, the pact has been ratified by 144 countries and took effect on November 4, 2016.

Trump has appointed climate change deniers Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency and Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy. Pruitt last week ordered removal of all Obama-era climate change data from the EPA website, calling it “outdated.”

On March 28, Trump signed an executive order to dismantle President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which would have moved the nation away from burning coal and toward cleaner energy sources such as natural gas and renewables.

More than 200,000 people marched in the streets of Washington, DC on Saturday in protest of these moves and tens of thousands more took part in climate marches across the country.

But the large corporations are not embracing renewables and energy efficiency in response to Trump policies or to public condemnation of them. Instead, they are doing so to benefit their bottom lines.

The report highlights the financial benefits companies are receiving from their clean energy investments. The emission reductions from these efforts are equivalent to taking 45 coal-fired power plants offline every year.

The growth in the number and ambition of renewable energy commitments is mainly the result of recent sharp declines in renewable energy costs, which saves companies money, and of price certainty that comes with renewable energy, the report finds.

Praxair, IBM and Microsoft are among the companies saving tens of millions of dollars annually through their energy efficiency efforts.

“We are encouraged to see significant improvement in both the number of Fortune 500 companies setting climate and clean energy goals and the ambition of those goals – in particular commitments to setting science-based and 100 percent renewable energy targets,” said Anne Kelly, senior director of policy and the BICEP network at Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit organization based in Boston, Massachusetts.

“But in order to meet our national and global emissions goals, more companies will need to join the champions highlighted in this report, both in setting goals and in becoming vocal advocates for continued federal and state policies in support of climate and clean energy progress,” said Kelly.

Ten percent (53) of companies have set renewable energy targets, and almost half of those (23) have committed to power 100 percent of their operations with renewable energy – among those, Wal-Mart, General Motors, Bank of America, Google, Apple and Facebook.

“Corporate commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy is an accelerating trend that illustrates broader recognition within the business community of the importance of clean energy and the financial benefits it can yield,” said Stu Dalheim, vice president of corporate shareholder engagement for Calvert.

“Many of the largest companies in the U.S. are achieving significant cost savings through clean energy programs and mitigating longer-term risks associated with energy price volatility,” he said.

Some of the strongest efforts are among Fortune 100 companies, with 63 percent adopting or retaining goals.

The report also shows strong improvement among the smallest 100 companies in the Fortune 500, with 44 percent setting goals in one or more categories, up 19 percentage points from the same group’s 2014 report, “Power Forward 2.0: How American Companies Are Setting Clean Energy Targets and Capturing Greater Business Value.

The report shows a spread in target setting among different sectors, with Consumer Staples (72%), Materials (66%), and Utilities (65%) sectors leading in setting clean energy goals and the Energy sector (11%), including oil & gas companies, lagging.

The report includes three key recommendations for companies, policymakers and investors to continue to scale clean energy efforts.

  •  Companies should continue to set, implement and communicate clean energy targets, while supporting local, state and national policies that make it easier to achieve their climate and energy commitments.
  •  Federal and state policymakers should establish clear, long-term low-carbon polices that will help companies meet their clean energy targets while helping the United States meet its carbon-reducing commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • Investors should consider allocating their investments to companies well-positioned for the low-carbon economy. Investors should continue to file shareholder resolutions and engage in dialogues with companies to encourage them to set climate and energy efficiency targets and position themselves for a low-carbon future.

Featured image : Wind turbines at the National Renewable Energy Lab facility in Golden, Colorado. (Photo courtesy NREL) Public domain

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Europe Finds Funds for Rewilding

Europe Finds Funds for Rewilding

At the signing ceremony in Brussels, from left: Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Frans Schepers, Managing Director of Rewilding Europe, Christopher Knowles, European Investment Bank, Head of Climate Finance and Jyrki Katainen, European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness. April 11, 2017 (Photo courtesy European Commission) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, April 25, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Catching on in Europe, rewilding is large-scale conservation to restore and protect natural processes and core wilderness areas, provide connectivity between such areas, and protect or reintroduce apex predators and keystone species.

The Dutch nonprofit Rewilding Europe says rewilding ensures that natural processes and wild species will play a much greater role in both landscapes and seascapes. Rewilding helps landscapes become wilder, while providing opportunities for people to reconnect with such wilder places for the benefit of all life.

Now the concept of rewilding Europe has attracted substantial investment to turn these goals into reality.

Earlier this month, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank announced the first loan agreement backed by the Natural Capital Financing Facility.

The €6 million loan agreement with Rewilding Europe Capital is expected to provide support for more than 30 nature-focused businesses across Europe.

Rewilding Europe Capital (REC) is Europe’s first conservation and rewilding enterprise financing facility. With this first project, an ambitious new initiative to protect biodiversity and support climate adaptation in Europe has been realized.

The REC investment capital available is €6.5 million. This loan finance contract represents the first project of the Bank on Nature Initiative, set up by the European Commission. The signing ceremony took place April 11 in the Berlaymont Building, headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels.

The Bank on Nature Initiative builds on the Natural Capital Financing Facility, an established financing partnership between the European Commission and the European Investment Bank supporting nature and climate adaptation projects through tailored loans and investments, backed by an EU guarantee.

It recognizes and fosters the business case for investing in natural capital for biodiversity and climate change adaptation purposes.

Nature is essential for our lives, well-being and also underpins our economy,” said Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, at the signing ceremony.

The recent evaluation of the EU Nature Directives has shown that creating new means to attract investment in nature protection and its sustainable use is more important today than ever before. I am particularly pleased that the first project signed under the Natural Capital Financing Facility will directly contribute to the implementation of our EU Nature Directives and also boost our rural economies and create jobs,” Vella said.

Since its formal launch in September 2013 and supported by the Adessium Foundation and Dutch Postcode Lottery, REC has demonstrated its potential through a pilot phase which Rewilding Europe has now extended in this new partnership with the European Investment Bank and their Natural Capital Financing Facility.

REC provides loans to small and medium-sized enterprises that catalyze, support or achieve positive environmental outcomes.

Loans may go to fund natural forest regeneration, natural water systems, natural grazing, safe corridors for wildlife, natural habitat extension, reduced hunting and fishing pressure, operational support of wildlife breeding areas including spawning sites, and direct natural comeback of wildlife.

“In places like Namibia and Costa Rica, significant nature-based economies have been developed by stimulating private sector involvement and investment,” says Frans Schepers, managing director of Rewilding Europe. “In Europe, where such economies are still in their infancy, we can learn a lot from these countries.”

“The Bank on Nature Initiative has the potential to stimulate the development of nature-based economies and I am excited that Rewilding Europe Capital can help facilitate it,” said Schepers. “Both nature and people will benefit.”

Since the launch of its pilot phase in 2013, REC has provided €445,000 in loans to 17 enterprises in five countries – Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Netherlands and Romania.

These are collectively leveraging the protection of 20,000 hectares of natural landscapes and will inject over €25,000 of direct cash funding per year towards protecting and sustaining these host natural environments and their wildlife.

Naturally, this investment also directly and indirectly stimulates local socio-economic growth and employment.

“Signed today, this contract with the EIB is a great step forward for Rewilding Europe Capital,” says Ilko Bosman, executive director of Rewilding Europe Capital B.V. “It will allow us to really scale up our efforts and beneficial outcomes. But more than this, it also throws a spotlight on the ability of commercial finance to contribute positively to nature conservation and rewilding.”

The long-term goal of Rewilding Europe Capital is to create 250 jobs through the businesses which it supports. Going forward, it will continue to stimulate and underpin wildlife and nature-based businesses in rural areas, thereby making an essential contribution to the comeback of wild nature and wildlife in European landscapes.

Rewilding Europe Capital was established and developed with business and financial expertise from Conservation Capital, an initiating partner of Rewilding Europe, and who will also support the investment management of the portfolio.

The entire effort is supported by the European Commission’s LIFE Programme, the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects throughout the EU.

Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 4,306 projects. For the 2014-2020 funding period, LIFE will contribute roughly €3.4 billion to the protection of the environment and climate.


Featured Image: One of the resident Konik ponies on the UK’s Ashdown Forest. These wild horses originate from Poland, bred from the original, now extinct, wild horses of Europe known as Tarpan. Konik ponies show numerous primitive features, associated with their ancestors: adaptation to harsh climates, intelligence and resilient immune systems. February 13, 2017 (Photo by Tom Lee) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Earth Day Global March for Science

ScienceDiCaprioSellers

Academy Award winning actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio visited NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He interviewed Dr. Piers Sellers, right, an Earth scientist, former astronaut and current deputy director of Goddard’s Sciences and Exploration Directorate. They discussed the different missions NASA has underway to study changes in the Earth’s atmosphere, water and land masses for DiCaprio’s climate change documentary. April 23, 2016. (Photo by Rebecca Roth / NASA Goddard) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, April 20, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The importance of science is the rallying point for activities on Earth Day‘s 47th anniversary, Saturday April 22. Earth Day 2017 will open in grand resistance style with a worldwide March for Science to counter the denial of well-established climate science and other scientific facts affecting the environment.

Marches for Science are happening in Washington and in 517 communities across the United States and around the world, including in: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Ghana, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Nepal, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, South Korea, and throughout the European Union.

Each satellite march is organized independently, but all are united under shared principles and goals . Click here to read the Marchers’ Pledge.

We are growing a global grassroots movement for science, and we are all in this together,” say the March for Science organizers.

We’re excited for this event that brings together people from all walks of life to stand up for science together,” said Valorie Aquino, co-chair of the March for Science. “Through my work as a scientific researcher, I see how sound science and the relationship of science’s services to society are at risk.

Science can improve and save lives, and that’s why scientists, doctors, mothers and fathers, teachers, students, and concerned folks around the globe feel compelled to act on April 22. So much is at stake,” said Aquino, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico.

It is no coincidence that Earth Day, April 22, marks the March for Science and the first anniversary of the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network.

Since its inception, Earth Day has served as a day of action and mobilization. Without science, there would be no Earth Day, which is why Earth Day Network is partnering with March for Science for the Earth Day March for Science Rally and Teach-Ins on the National Mall,” Rogers said.

Using the teach-in concept deployed during the first Earth Day in 1970, Earth Day Network and the March for Science are co-organizing a rally and teach-in on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

The rally and teach-in will focus on the need to hold political and scientific leaders accountable to the highest standards of honesty, fairness, and integrity.

Speeches and trainings with scientists and civic organizers, musical performances, and a march through the streets of the nation’s capital are all on the agenda. In Washington, DC, the crowd will gather at 8:00 in the morning at the Washington Monument, and the teach-in will begin at 9:00.

March for Science organizers say they want a wholly peaceful expression of the marchers’ support for science and do not condone violence.

We value inclusion, diversity, equity, and access,” organizers declare. “We do not condone harassment within or without the March for Science community. This includes expressions of sexism, ableism, racism, xenophobia, intolerance regarding religious, agnostic and atheistic beliefs, and other forms of abuse in person, online, or in signage.

We request that supporters at the D.C. march and satellite marches respect all relevant laws where they are participating as they exercise their right to assemble, speak out, and petition their leaders for change,” the organizers say.

One important change the Earth Day Network is seeking is for the Trump administration to reconsider its threat to back out of the Paris Agreement on Climate, unanimously agreed by world leaders in December 2015. It took effect at record speed in November 2016.

The Earth Day Network is gathering signatures on a petition to the Trump administration to support the Paris Agreement.

In a message today, the Earth Day Network said, “The United States was a leader in crafting the historic Paris Climate Agreement – now the Trump administration is reviewing whether or not to back out of it. It’s up to us to urge U.S. leaders to maintain our momentum in this vital climate accord.

The Paris Agreement unites all nations around a common cause for our planet – to reduce the pollution changing the Earth’s climate and causing dangerous global warming that affects human health and our environment… The United States can’t afford for other countries to take the lead on the new climate economy, and the world cannot afford for the United States to abandon its role as a global leader in meeting this challenge,” said the Earth Day Network.

Ken Kimmell, president of the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, is a former commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and chair of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the first U.S. cap-and-trade program to cut heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

Reacting to President Donald Trump’s executive order in March directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to rewrite President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the nation’s first-ever limits on global warming emissions from power plants, Kimmell said, “We estimate the cumulative effect of repealing the Clean Power Plan and the vehicle standards will be a nine percent increase in energy-related emissions in 2030, or 439 million metric tons. That means emissions will go up in the U.S., just when the rest of the world is transitioning to a cleaner, healthier economy.”

This is terribly irresponsible. But it won’t alter the scientific reality – that climate change is real, already happening, caused by burning fossil fuels, and requires immediate action to limit its worst impacts,” said Kimmell.

Another supporter of the March for Science is Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., head of the Hip Hop Caucus, who is marching in support of black scientists.

From George Washington Carver to Mae Jemison African American scientists have made tremendous contributions to America since its inception. That is why it is imperative and critical for the Hip Hop Caucus and young people of color to not only stand up for scientists but to ensure that their work is protected and respected for future generations,” Yearwood said.

We march for countless individual reasons, but gather together as the March for Science to envision and sustain an unbroken chain of inquiry, knowledge, and public benefit for all,” said March for Science organizers.

Yet the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund (CSLDF) is warning that contrary to the March’s stated aims, some people still believe that the March is a partisan statement.

CSLDF has seen well-meaning scientists and academics experience problems after advocating for science or taking a personal political stance, so the organization has suggestions for scientists to help them avoid ending up in the political crosshairs.

First, scientists must separate their work and private lives. They must participate in demonstrations as private citizens and make statements on their own behalf, and not on behalf of their employers.

Maintain distinct personal and professional email accounts. Even discussions with work colleagues about the March should take place via private email. Engage in organizations or discussion about the March after work hours.

Check out whether your institution or employer is supporting the March. The best approach is to directly ask the employer.

Do not use government-funded computers, printers, or other supplies to prepare for the March. When marching, says CSLDF, do not wear a university sweatshirt or a work-issued lab coat.

Click here for a complete list of suggestions.

March for Science organizers say they are taking a decisive step “toward ensuring a future where the fullness of scientific knowledge benefits all people, and where everyone is empowered to ask new scientific questions.

Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, and a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under President Bill Clinton, is supporting the March for Science.

Scientific research is critical to ensuring that our water is safe to drink, our food is safe to eat, our air is safe to breathe and that our environment is free of toxic chemicals,” she said. “It is essential to helping us understand and respond to the effects of climate change and plan for its impacts on people, communities and wildlife.

Put simply,” said Clark, “the public benefit of sound science is immeasurable. Yet science is being attacked by those who don’t like or don’t agree with what we’re learning.”

Growing out of the first Earth Day in 1970, Earth Day Network works year-round with tens of thousands of partners in 192 countries to broaden, diversify and mobilize the environmental movement. More than one billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.


Featured Image: Chemist Karena Chapman peers inside the vacuum tank of the new high-energy Si Laue monochromator installed to increase the number of photons focused on a sample being studied by a factor of 17. Argonne National Laboratory, Chicago, Illinois, USA (Photo by Peter Chupas / Argonne National Laboratory) Public domain

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Cities Seek US$1 Trillion for Low-Carbon Construction

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Women at the C40 Financing Sustainable Cities Forum, from left: Naoko Ishii, CEO and chairperson of the Global Environment Facility; Sue Tindal, chief financial officer at Auckland Council; Val Smith, director, Corporate Sustainability at Citi; Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor of London for Environment and Energy.

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, April 12, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The world’s largest cities are not sitting around waiting for national governments to hand them a climate-safe future. They are taking the initiative to build their own low-carbon opportunities.

To address climate change arising from urban development, there are over 3,000 low-carbon infrastructure projects in the planning stages across a network of 90 of the world’s megacities known as C40 Cities .

Cities have reported costs for just 15 percent of these projects, but even this small percentage amounts to US$15.5 billion in required investment.

There are 90 megacities in the C40 Cities network. They include: Durban, Nairobi, Lagos, and Addis Ababa in Africa; Delhi, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Tokyo, in Asia; Auckland, New Zealand in Oceana; Amman, Jordan in the Middle East; Copenhagen, Paris, Rome, London, Berlin, Athens and Amsterdam in Europe; Bogota, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Buenos Aires in South America; and in North America, Houston, New York, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Vancouver.

Roughly one in every 12 people in the world lives in a C40 city, and these 90 cities generate about one-quarter of the world’s wealth, as expressed by GDP, or Gross Domestic Product.

These numbers highlight an enormous opportunity for collaboration between cities and the private sector to invest in sustainable projects, and also the need to accelerate investment and development in sustainable infrastructure to deliver a climate-safe future.

Rachel Kyte, chief executive, Sustainable Energy for All, an initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General, has said, “Buildings account for one-third of global energy use and with cities growing rapidly, there’s an urgent need for partnerships that help cities and citizens use energy better.”

Recent C40 research, contained in the report “Deadline 2020,” estimates that C40 cities need to spend US$375 billion over the next four years on low carbon infrastructure in order to be on the right track to meet the ambition of the Paris Agreement on Climate that took effect in November 2016.

Under this agreement, world governments pledged to keep Earth’s temperature increase to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Deadline 2020” estimates before 2050, C40 cities will need to invest over US$1 trillion on new climate action and in renewing and expanding infrastructure to get on the trajectory required to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement.

But how are the megacities to attract this mega-investment?

On April 4, the C40 Financing Sustainable Cities Forum gathered over 200 delegates from cities, investors, national governments, academics, private sector experts, civil society groups and technology providers to identify the key barriers in financing sustainable urban infrastructure.

The Forum was hosted in London by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the Greater London Authority, with the support of the Citi Foundation and World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

City action can deliver 40 percent of the Paris goal,” Mark Watts, executive director, C40 Cities, said at the Forum.

Participants looked at unlocking finance for low-carbon investments in cities. They agreed that cities must improve project development information in order to accelerate climate action, a conclusion articulated in a new report, “The Low Carbon Investment Landscape in C40 Cities.

They recognized that accessing and attracting finance are some of the biggest barriers that mayors face in delivering their climate change plans, especially in developing countries and emerging economies with a lack of expertise in securing investment.

To help solve this problem, the C40 Cities Finance Facility was launched during COP21, the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where the Paris Agreement on Climate was approved by world governments.

The C40 Cities Finance Facility will provide US$20 million of support by 2020 to help unlock and access up to US$1 billion of additional capital funding, by providing the connections, advice and legal and financial support to enable C40 cities in developing and emerging countries to develop more financeable projects.

For developing markets, public-private partnerships are key to getting sustainable projects off the ground,” said Val Smith, director, Corporate Sustainability at Citi.

But the financial industry tells C40 Cities that they are experiencing a lack of corporate understanding of the low carbon technology being deployed.

They lack understanding of the financing models cities use to fund low carbon infrastructure and, in addition, financiers are seeing inadequate capacity within city governments to form partnerships and collaborate on sustainable infrastructure projects.

CDP’s Matchmaker program aims to overcome these challenges by engaging cities early in the project development process and standardizing how these projects are disseminated to the market.

CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, is a not-for-profit that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts.

Since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, CDP says they have seen a 70 percent increase in cities disclosing their carbon emissions.

CDP says this year’s disclosures reveal that many cities are actively looking to partner with the private sector on climate change. Cities highlighted a total 720 climate change-related projects, worth a combined US$26 billion, that they want to work with business on.

Matchmaker will publicize these low-carbon infrastructure projects to CDP’s growing number of investor signatories that currently represent over US$100 trillion in assets.

And these are by no means all of the opportunities for sustainable investment in urban low-carbon construction.

On April 4, at a meeting of the Sustainable Energy for All Forum in New York City April 3, five new cities and districts committed to improve their buildings by adopting new policies, demonstration projects and tracking progress against their goals.

They joined the Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA), a public-private collaboration that now includes over 35 global organizations and 28 cities in 18 countries.

The cities and districts joining the BEA are Kisii County, Kenya; Merida, Mexico; Nairobi City County, Kenya; Pasig City, Philippines; and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

World Resources Institute (WRI) leads the BEA, convening businesses, nonprofits and multilateral development organizations to support local governments in implementing policies and programs that make their buildings more efficient.

Jennifer Layke, global director, Energy Program, World Resources Institute, encapsulated the push for sustainable construction, saying, “People want schools, homes, and offices that are healthy and comfortable without the burden of high energy costs due to inefficiency. Prioritizing efficiency in buildings can save money and reduce pollution. Our new Building Efficiency Accelerator partners are signaling their intent to avoid the lock-in of decades of inefficient development.

Supporting these new members are ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the India Green Building Council, the Kenya Green Building Society, Pasig and WRI Mexico.

We must transform our urban systems to meet the challenges of sustainability and climate,” said Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility, a funding organization. “Through this partnership, we can provide awareness raising, policy advice and technology transfer directly to sub-national governments ready to take action.”

Follow C40 Cities on Twitter


Featured Image: Duke Energy Center in Charlotte, North Carolina is a LEED Certified Platinum building, the highest sustainability rating awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. (Photo by U.S. Green Building Council) Posted for media use

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Green Climate Fund Disburses Hope

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Dwellings on the banks of Samoa’s Vaisigano River are at risk during increasingly extreme storms. (Photo courtesy UN Development Programme)

By Sunny Lewis

SONGDO, South Korea, February 23, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Just three days before he left office on January 20, U.S. President Barack Obama transferred a second installment of US$500 million to the Green Climate Fund, based in South Korea’s Songdo International Business District.

To be financed by wealthy countries, the Green Climate Fund was established by 194 governments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries, and to help vulnerable societies adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.

The Fund was key to the Paris Agreement on climate which took effect throughout the world on November 4, 2016. The Agreement’s stated aim is to keep climate change “well below” 2°Celsius and, if possible, to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

At the UN climate treaty talks in Paris, wealthy governments, including the United States, pledged to contribute US$100 billion a year by 2020 for climate change adaptation and mitigation projects in the Global South, primarily through the Green Climate Fund.

As of January 2017, contributions to the Green Climate Fund total US$10.3 billion.

Initially, the United States committed to contributing US$3 billion to the fund. President Obama’s most recent installment still leaves US$2 billion owing, with President Donald Trump expected to stop payments entirely.

In his “Contract With the American Voter,” which defines his program for his first 100 days in office, President Trump pledges to “cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.

President Obama’s move followed a campaign coordinated by the nonprofit Corporate Accountability International , with more than 100 organizations and nearly 100,000 people asking Obama to transfer the full US$2.5 billion to the Fund.

Although that didn’t happen, the Green Climate Fund Board is already disbursing what money it does have. To date, the Fund has approved more than US$1.3 billion to support low-emission and climate-resilient projects and programs in developing countries.

This year has demonstrated that the Fund is rapidly gathering pace with regard to scaling up climate finance,” said then Board Co-Chair Zaheer Fakir of South Africa, who held developing country role on the Board. “I am proud of the progress we have made over the past 12 months in improving Fund performance and growing our portfolio of investments.

That developing country role has now passed to Ayman Shasly of Saudi Arabia, representing the Asia Pacific group.

Fellow Co-Chair Ewen McDonald of Australia, who this year retains his role representing the developed countries on the GCF Board, said, “I have high hopes that 2017 will be the year of climate finance for the Pacific.

In December, following the last GCF Board meeting of 2016 in Apia, Samoa, McDonald said, “I am really pleased that the Board approved US$98 million for Pacific proposals at this meeting. This is the largest climate finance meeting to ever be held in the region and it comes on the cusp of 2017, the year Fiji will host the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties.”

The 2017 UN Climate Change Conference, COP23, will take place from November 6 to 17 at the World Conference Centre in Bonn, Germany, the seat of the Climate Change Secretariat. COP23 will be convened under the Presidency of Fiji.

The approved projects are funded in cooperation with accredited partners of the Green Climate Fund, which can be multi-lateral banks or UN agencies, such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

One of the projects approved by the GCF Board in Apia was US$57.7 million for integrated flood management to enhance climate resilience of the Vaisigano River Catchment in Samoa, with the UNDP.

The Vaisigano River flows through the Apia Urban Area, Samoa’s capital and largest city, the island nation’s primary urban economic area.

As a Small Island Developing State in the Pacific, Samoa has been heavily impacted by increasingly severe tropical storms blamed on the warming climate.

GCFcochairs

Green Climate Fund Board Co-chairs Ewen McDonald of Australia and Zaheer Fakir of South Africa join in the applause for multi-million dollar decisions to support developing countries as they mitigate and adapt to the Earth’s changing climate. Apia, Samoa, December 15, 2016. (Screengrab from video courtesy Green Climate Fund) Posted for public use

The Integrated Flood Management project, proposed by the government, will enable Samoa to reduce the impact of recurrent storm-related flooding in the Vaisigano River Catchment.

Some 26,528 people in the catchment will benefit directly from upgraded infrastructure and drainage downstream, integrated planning and capacity strengthening, including planning for flooding caused by extreme weather events, and flood mitigation measures, such as riverworks and ecosystems solutions.

Another 37,000 people will benefit indirectly from the project, which is expected to run from 2017-2023.

Peseta Noumea Simi, who heads Samoa’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said the project is about improving the protection of people living near the river.

You might be aware that during the cyclone in 2012, the extensive damage caused was as a result of the Vaisigano River flooding,” she told the “Samoa Observer” newspaper.

And that extended from the mountain down to the ocean. So this is the basis of this program. You will also recognize that along the Vaisigano River route, we have extensive and very important infrastructure initiatives by the government including hydropower, the bridges, the roads as well as the water reservoirs up at Alaoa. So this is what gives importance to this program.

The Vaisigano River project is one of eight proposals approved by the Board at its December meeting. And it wasn’t the only good news for the host of the biggest climate-funding meeting ever held in the Pacific region.

Of three approvals related to the Pacific, Samoa is involved in two. The second is a US$22 million grant for a multi-country renewable energy program with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The Pacific Islands Renewable Energy Investment Program will assist Cook Islands, Tonga, Republic of Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, and Samoa to move away from burning polluting diesel fuel to generate electricity and towards solar, hydropower, and wind energy.

The program offers an excellent opportunity for Pacific islands countries to share experiences and learn from the innovation ongoing in the region,” said Anthony Maxwell, ADB principal energy specialist. “It will help finance transformation of the power grids in the region.

The GCF board approved an initial US$12 million grant for Cook Islands to install energy storage systems and support private sector investment in renewable energy. This investment will see renewable energy generation on the main island of Rarotonga increase from 15 percent to more than 50 percent of overall supply.

The GCF funding will allow Cook Islands to ramp up renewable energy integration onto the grid, and lower the cost of power generation,” said Elizabeth Wright-Koteka, chief of staff, Office of the Prime Minister, Cook Islands. “This will have significant benefits to our economy and help achieve the government’s objectives of a low carbon sustainable economy,

The GCF Board also approved a US$5 million capacity building and sector reform grant to develop energy plans, build skills, implement tariff and regulatory reforms, and foster greater private sector participation in the energy sector.

To see all projects approved at the GCF Board’s December 2016 meeting, click here.


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Disaster Risk Reduction: Wetlands Keep Us Safe

UkraineNewRamsarSite

One of Ukraine’s two new Ramsar sites, Byle Lake and Koza Berezyna Mire. (Photo by Oksana Golovko, 2011 courtesy Ramsar Convention) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

GLAND, Switzerland, February 2, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The frequency of natural disasters worldwide has more than doubled in just 35 years and their frequency is expected to increase due to climate change. Experts estimate that 90 percent of natural hazards are water related, so wetland conservation is essential for reducing risks.

By 2050, loss of wetlands, increasing populations, the changing climate and rising sea levels are forecast to increase the number of people vulnerable to floods to two billion.

Today, more than 1,000 events have been organized around the world to mark World Wetlands Day, the annual recognition of the eco-services wetlands provide. This year’s theme is apt in this time of increasing natural hazards, “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction.”

These events are being held to raise global awareness of the importance of wetlands and the need for their conservation and sustainable use.

Healthy, well-managed wetlands function as a natural infrastructure defending human civilization from the catastrophic effects of natural hazards.

Coastal wetlands such as mangroves, coral reefs, sea grass and tidal marshes protect against flooding and storm surges.

Inland wetlands, such as floodplains, lakes and peatlands, act as natural sponges, storing excess rainfall and reducing flooding, then releasing stored water during dry seasons to delay the onset of droughts.

But wetlands are being destroyed or degraded faster than any other type of ecosystem, according to officials of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. This treaty uniting 169 countries is named for the Iranian city on the coast of the Caspian Sea where the treaty was signed in 1971.

The latest figures show that 64 percent of the world’s wetlands have disappeared in the last century. Every year one percent of those remaining disappear as wetlands are drained or degraded to meet demands for water and land for agriculture, industry and growing urban populations.

Wetlands are vital because they provide food for more than three billion people worldwide and are a source of freshwater and livelihoods for over one billion.

Martha Rojas Urrego, secretary general of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, is encouraging more action to preserve these bulwarks against natural disasters.

It is crucial that more voices speak up for wetlands, more people become informed of their value and more decisive actions are taken to conserve and restore this valuable ecosystem. We seek to mobilize global actions that will lead to the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of all wetlands,” Rojas said.

We encourage policy-makers, experts and community leaders to consider wetlands as an extremely cost-effective and win-win solution for disaster risk reduction,” she said. “Decision-makers should therefore make significant efforts to integrate wetlands in cross-sectoral disaster risk reduction policies and strategies.

Wetlands are crucial for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, water experts explain. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without a decisive action for wetland conservation.

Parties to the Ramsar Convention have designated over 2,250 Wetlands of International Importance, known as Ramsar sites, covering over 2.15 million square kilometres, which are protected for the benefits they provide.

Ten new Ramsar sites, known as Wetlands of International Importance, have been designated for World Wetlands Day 2017.

Madagascar has designated five large Ramsar sites. The country now has 15 sites, which support the protection of over 1.5 million hectares of habitats critical to the island’s unique biodiversity, achieved with the support of WWF Madagascar.

These sites host unique, rich ecosystems, and are of great economic, social and cultural importance in their regions of Madagascar, an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of southeast Africa.

In southeast Asia, Myanmar has designated Meinmahla Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary, a coastal wetland in the southern part of the Irrawaddy Delta, which is also an ASEAN Heritage Park. There are around 30 imperiled Irrawaddy dolphins in the rivers and creeks around the sanctuary. It supports one of the largest remaining mangrove areas in the delta, where mangroves have declined due to logging, fishing and development of shipping lanes.

France has designated Marais Breton, Baie de Bourgneuf, Ile de Noirmoutier et Forêt de Monts as a new Ramsar site. This 56,000 hectare site of coastal marshes and tidal bays on the French Atlantic coast is France’s 45th Ramsar site.

Italy has designated Trappola Marshland – Ombrone River Mouth as its 53rd Ramsar site. Located on the Tyrrhenian coast of Tuscany, this is one of the last remnants of a partly salty and partly freshwater complex of wetlands and sandy dunes.

Ukraine has designated two new Wetlands of International Importance, Byle Lake and Koza Berezyna Mire and Archipelago Velyki and Mali Kuchugury.

Byle Lake and Koza Berezyna Mire is located in southwestern Ukraine between the Stokhid, Prypiat and Styr rivers. It includes a bog, one of the biggest karst lakes in the region, swamp forests, pine woods and a small channelled river. More than 900 native plant species and 500 animal species have been seen there.

This wetland complex plays an important role in the maintenance of hydrological regimes of the region, in addition to carbon storage and climate regulation.

Archipelago Velyki and Mali Kuchugury is an archipelago of sandbank islands and shallows in the upper reaches of the Kakhovka Reservoir in the floodplain of the Lower Dnieper River in south-eastern Ukraine where fish breed and grow. The wetland is of great importance as a natural filter of fresh water in the reservoir.

The Sundarbans National Park in India, and the neighboring Sundarbans in Bangladesh together account for the world’s largest area of protected mangroves.


Featured Image: Delta de Casamance in Senegal, where coastal mangroves act as natural safeguards against disasters. (Photo courtesy  Ramsar Convention) Posted for media use

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Top 10 U.S. Carbon Market Trends of 2017

LouisianaTribalLand

Sea level rise caused by climate warming has inundated Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles, displacing the Biloxi-Chitimacha Tribe, the first official U.S. climate refugees. (Photo by Karen Apricot) Creative commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

PORTLAND, Oregon, January 24, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The Climate Trust, a nonprofit that specializes in mobilizing conservation finance for climate benefit, announced its fourth annual prediction list of 10 carbon market trends to watch in the coming year.

Trends range from U.S. citizens becoming climate refugees in one of the hottest years on record, to more native tribes joining carbon markets, to China taking the global climate leadership role, to environmental justice concerns playing an increased role in climate policy decisions.

These trends were identified by The Climate Trust based on interactions with their group of working partners: governments, investors, project developers, large businesses, and the philanthropic community.

Our team has identified areas of potential advancement, despite the anticipated inaction around climate at the federal level,” said Sean Penrith, executive director for The Climate Trust.

This year, more than ever, we felt there was a need for positivity, and have primarily chosen to share industry insights that are positive in nature, yet still strongly based in reality,” said Penrith. “We expect that the New Year will bring together unlikely, yet strong, domestic partnerships with corresponding resolve to address climate change, and we look forward to seeing what we can accomplish by banding together.

The Top 10 U.S. Carbon Market Trends

1. As our nation heads into uncertain times with respect to climate change policy and action, states, cities, and regional collaborative groups are going to lead the fight against climate change.

In New York City, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that if the Trump Administration withdraws from the Paris Accord, mayors from 128 cities will pick up the cause.

In the Midwest, wind turbines continue to rise out of the cornfields.

In Oregon, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken recently issued an opinion and order  denying the U.S. government and fossil fuel industry’s motions to dismiss a climate change lawsuit filed by 21 young people.

In Oregon, the Department of Environmental Quality is wrapping up the draft considerations for a cap-and-trade program for the state. In the vacuum created by a Scott Pruitt-led EPA, and a Rex Tillerson-led State Department, rulings like the one issued by Judge Aiken, and statements like the one from California Governor Jerry Brown challenging Trump on climate change, indicate where the action on climate change is going to be for the next four years.

2. Progressive states and foundations will pick up support for domestic climate finance in the absence of federal action. We expect that climate denial from federal leaders will alarm foundations and progressive states. Many foundations previously had an international climate focus, and The Climate Trust anticipates that these institutions will refocus on their U.S. agenda.

The political will for carbon pricing will grow in progressive states, demanding more immediate state action.

Increasingly, public entities are aware that their dollars are most effectively used when they leverage private capital. In 2017, states and foundations will look for opportunities to mitigate risks to private climate finance providers investing in the United States through new financial mechanisms like first loss capital contributions, loan guarantees, credit enhancements, and other new structures.

YouthPlaintiffs

The 21 young plaintiffs in Our Childrens’ Trust’s landmark lawsuit against the federal government celebrate the judge’s order backing their right to sue. November 2016 (Photo courtesy Our Childrens’ Trust) Post for media use.

3. Global climate litigation campaigns will gain momentum during 2017, legitimizing our children’s right to a healthy planet.

This is no ordinary lawsuit,” U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken wrote in her ruling on November 10, 2016 on a landmark case filed in Oregon by 21 young people and Our Children’s Trust. The plaintiffs allege that over the last 50 years, the government, including President Barack Obama, violated their constitutional rights and imperiled their future by failing to adequately reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Also acting as a plaintiff is world-renowned climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, serving as guardian for future generations and his granddaughter, who is a youth plaintiff in the case.

Whether the case is heard in federal court or settled, it provides a solid legal foundation for future climate litigation, and gives hope to the growing ranks of youth climate activists and their supporters.

We believe that more judges will acknowledge that the climate change crisis is within their purview, and that the constitutional rights of youth plaintiffs will be upheld against other governmental branches.

The world is watching this historic precedent set in Oregon. We predict the optimism gained from this victory will encourage judges and activists to look to the courts to validate the science behind climate change and allow judicial systems to require governments to take tangible action.

4. Private industry picks up U.S. government slack, making progress towards Paris commitments. During his campaign, President-elect Trump referred to climate change as a Chinese hoax and asserted that he will cancel the Paris Agreement. While he has walked back these statements, most recently saying that “nobody really knows” if climate change is real, his choice of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency suggests that Trump is going to try and make his campaign promises.

In the days after the November 2016 election, business leaders called on Trump to honor America’s agreement to the Paris Accord. Savvy business leaders and people like Bill Gates who recently drew attention to his $1 billion clean-technology fund, not only understand that climate change is real, but understand that taking no action will have a negative impact on their bottom line.

Progress will be made toward our U.S. Paris commitments due to the efforts of private industry. The Climate Trust anticipates that the Trump Administration will be left on the sidelines while the rest of the world rallies to meet the commitments made in Paris to keep greenhouse gas emissions at levels that will prevent global climate change increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

5. Environmental justice community concerns are increasingly built into climate policy discussions throughout the United States. The environmental justice community in California has brought into sharp focus the need to balance the impact on disadvantaged communities with climate policy and programs.

Meeting the ambitious greenhouse gas goals now required by law in California in the cheapest manner possible is a central equity issue.

There will be continued attention given to these environmental justice concerns both in California and across the country as state climate policy evolves.

6. U.S. citizens become climate refugees in one of the hottest years on record. The top 10 hottest years in human history have all occurred since 1998, and 2016 is among them. It is anticipated that this continued trend will give rise to an increasing number of climate refugees within U.S. borders.

The Biloxi-Chitimacha Tribe in Louisiana is considered the first official community of climate refugees in this country. Whether it’s a 1,000-year flooding event in Louisiana, or wildfires on the west coast, global warming is altering the country in ways that will displace thousands of Americans.

This changing geography will necessitate the development of new solutions that not only sequester carbon, but also focus on adaptation. Some of these solutions are already under development, such as the Blue Carbon Initiative, which seeks to restore coastal wetlands to sequester carbon in plants and soils and protect against dangerous storm surges.

7. More native tribes will join carbon markets. The California Compliance Offset Protocol, U.S. Forest Projects, now has more than 34 million offset credits issued, including over 7.7 million tons from properties owned by Native American Tribes; nine projects located in six different states. The second largest individual issuance to date in the California carbon market is from the White Mountain Apache tribe project in Arizona.

Tribes that have taken part in carbon transactions have indicated that credit sales provide a new way to make money while improving wildlife habitat, expanding the tribe’s natural resource program, and acquiring and protecting land in its ancestral territory.

Last year, the protocol rules for the California market were expanded beyond the lower 48 U.S. states to include Alaska, opening the door for even more tribes to engage.

8. China takes the lead in carbon markets, encouraging linkages. The year of the rooster in the Chinese calendar is also the year China will take a leading role in using markets to fight global climate change.

After several years of piloting regional emissions trading programs, China will launch a national system that will cover over four billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, making it twice as large as the next biggest market in Europe.

As a developing nation and large emitter, China’s bold commitment to carbon markets will send a signal that will be felt in America and beyond,” says Erika Anderson, a climate change attorney doing business in China.  

9. U.S.-based institutional investors will increase commitments to investments that hedge out carbon risk. Following the example of Norway’s sovereign fund, and other large European institutional investors, U.S.-based pensions and family offices will continue to de-risk their portfolios from the negative impacts of climate change, and take advantage of opportunities in the sustainable real assets space.

Lindsey Brace Martinez, founder of StarPoint Advisors, LLC and advisor to institutional investors and asset managers, says, “Given the prevailing sentiment for a low return environment, U.S. institutional investors are looking for investment managers who have a competitive edge and can deliver value over the long-term. Investment managers who systematically review and update their risk management approaches and apply their expertise through focused strategies will have a competitive edge.”

10. California Air Resources Board prevails in CalChamber lawsuit and commits to cap and trade. A long-standing lawsuit filed by the California Chamber of Commerce, Morning Star Packing Co.,and the National Association of Manufacturers has hung over the cap and trade market. The lawsuit argues that the auctioning of the cap and trade allowances constitutes an illegal tax since it does not have the approval of two-thirds of the Legislature.

Oral arguments are scheduled in Sacramento for January 24, 2017.

There are three possible outcomes for the lawsuit. It may be deemed a tax, and cause California to have a cap and trade system without the auction element unless the Legislature approves with a two-thirds vote.

It could be deemed a regulatory fee, and thus uphold the validity of the allowance auctions. Or, the third possibility is that the court finds that the auction is neither a tax nor a fee but something else not subject to the strictures of tax voting requirements under the state constitution.

The Climate Trust believes that this third option will be the outcome of the suit and be a complete victory for the cap and trade program.

In 2016, a number of our predictions came to fruition, including an increased number of institutions committing to divest from fossil fuel companies as part of the transition to a clean energy future,” said Kristen Kleiman, director of investments for The Climate Trust.

The divest movement has provided a valuable market signal to support the needed flows of conservation finance,” Kleiman said. “Riding this wave of interest from large institutions, late last year, The Trust executed a milestone contract with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, securing a $5.5M Program-Related Investment to seed our first-of-its-kind carbon investment fund.


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Hopscotching Through Davos 2017

WECDavos

Snow on the peaks above Davos, Switzerland where just two weeks ago there was little snow. (Photo by Valeriano Di Domenico courtesy World Economic Forum) Posted for media use on Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

DAVOS, Switzerland, January 17, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab welcomed participants to the 47th Annual Meeting today with the thought that despite the “disruptive economic and political models,” now underway, the meeting is a way to construct a positive vision for the future.

Sometimes it seems that the world is overwhelmed by pessimism and cynicism,” said Schwab. “But we have to look in a confident way into the future.

Co-chair Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, called for optimism “amid a daunting wave of technological change,” offering hope that technology can help resolve the toughest problems.

Convening under the theme Responsive and Responsible Leadership, more than 3,000 participants from nearly 100 countries are taking part in over 400 sessions.

The meeting is focusing on critical leadership challenges for 2017 – strengthening global collaboration, revitalizing economic growth, reforming capitalism, preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and restoring a sense of shared identity.

Responsive means that we listen to and interact with those who have entrusted us with leadership,” Schwab said, emphasizing  values and ethics. “It is always important to prioritize the public social good over our own interests. We must emphasize humanization over robotization.

Networked sensors, machine to machine communications, and data analytics are just a few of the trends driving a global transformation of today’s cities into the smart cities of the future, Johnson Controls chairman and CEO Alex Molinaroli informed the participants today in Davos.

Around the world, governments are investing in innovative technologies and private-sector solutions to make their cities safer, smarter and more sustainable, he blogged at the annual event.

Yet, Molinaroli calls networked sensors a “foundational component of smart cities,” explaining that the technology exists today to “mimic all five of the human senses plus many additional ones” and use that data in computerized monitoring and management systems.

Whether “seeing” security incidents through video surveillance, “hearing” gun shots through audio processing or “smelling” polluted air through chemical and particulate detectors, networked arrays of sensors provide the basis for more accurate analysis and decision-making,” Molinaroli explained.

He points to one growing concern for highly interconnected systems, such as the electric power grid – the risk of cybersecurity breaches.

While individuals have always been at financial and privacy risk from their use of the Internet, interconnected devices and systems communicating and operating autonomously over networks raise significant safety and security concerns,” said Molinaroli. “The cybersecurity of critical infrastructure and the IoT [Internet of Things] is currently being addressed by a number of government bodies and business alliances.

Improving efficiency and resilience are two of the most important drivers of smart city investment, he said.

In 2016, Johnson Controls completed its 10th Energy Efficiency Indicator survey of more than 1,200 organizations with commercial, institutional and industrial facilities in Brazil, China, Germany, India and the United States. Of those polled, 72 percent said they were planning to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy investments in 2017.

From cities to forests, this year’s World Economic Forum covers a lot of ground.

Florian Reber, manager, Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, a global public-private partnership to reduce the deforestation associated with harvesting palm oil, soy, beef, and paper and pulp, told the Forum that, “Globally, the link between climate change, forests, land use and economic development is one of the most urgent challenges to solve if we are to avoid costly and irreversible impacts of climate change.

Climate change has already come to Davos, Reber points out. Switzerland is experiencing record low snow levels after the driest December since recordkeeping began in 1864.

The now snowy streets and frosty temperatures in Davos certainly meet the weather expectations of those participants who have travelled to the Forum’s Annual Meeting,” Reber said. “Yet, had they come to the highest town of the Alps just two weeks earlier, they would have experienced a very different backdrop: no snow at all up until high altitudes with only thin slopes made with artificially produced snow.

In a normal year, the natural seasonal hazard would be avalanches,” he said. “This year, not far away from Davos in the southern parts of Graubünden, some of the biggest forest fires in the recent history of Switzerland happened between Christmas and early January. The now missing forest will increase the exposure of villages to future avalanche and rock-fall risk.”

President Xi Jinping spoke at the opening plenary this morning, offering Chinese remedies for the world’s economic ailments. It is the first time a top Chinese leader has attended the event.

The Chinese economy is experiencing “unprecedented and profound changes,” Xi said. He spoke of “innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared” development that offers solutions for China’s current economic problems and indicates a direction for its long-term development.

Xi said that efforts to promote deeper overall reforms, the simplifying of administrative procedures and the delegating of central government power to lower levels of government, along with innovation-driven development, the rule of law, and the fight against corruption, will carry the world’s most populous country into the future.

Big business rules, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

Fewer than 10 percent of the world’s public companies account for 80 percent of all profits. Firms with more than US$1 billion in annual revenue account for nearly 60 percent of total global revenues and 65 percent of market capitalization. “The quest for size is producing a global bull market in mergers and acquisitions,” the McKinsey data shows.

One session coming up later today aims to explore what operating at this gigantic scale means for competition, collaboration and innovation.

Sir Martin Sorrell, who heads Great Britain’s WPP plc, the world’s largest advertising company by revenues, tweeted today, “Brexit and [U.S. President-elect Donald] Trump’s victory have generated a populist trend where big business is in the front line.

But Sorrell also gave an encouraging nod to small business, saying, “Leveraging the benefits of scale and size are crucial, but small businesses create jobs.

Ruth Porat, CFO of Google parent company Alphabet, believes that progress results when people take risks and push the frontiers. “Success is just as much about what you do, as what you stop doing,” she declared. “Competition is fierce, and you need to remain focused on that.

Brian Moynihan, CEO of the Bank of America, says inclusiveness and sustainability are important as the global economy grows.

We have to grow, no excuse, but you have to do it the right way,” Moynihan said. “The growth that has to take place has to focus on all participants, it has to include everybody, it has to deal with the ups and downs of market-based forces.”

Growth has to avoid excessive risk and be environmentally sustainable, he said, as well as being “sustainable in building safety nets around the world to make sure all citizens are dealt with fairly.

The World Economic Forum continues through January 20 at Davos.


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