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Fortune 500 Firms Embrace Clean Energy

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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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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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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.

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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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Top 10 U.S. Carbon Market Trends of 2017

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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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Sustainable Tourism in an Unstable Political World

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Pima Point along Hermit Road on the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is one of the best places on the rim to see and hear the Colorado River. The paved Greenway Trail continues from here towards Hermits Rest, allowing bicyclists and visitors in wheelchairs to share the path with pedestrians. (Photo by Michael Quinn / National Park Service) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, December 22, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – 2017 is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the UN General Assembly has declared, but as Donald Trump takes over the helm of the United States with his natural resources extraction agenda, and the European Union gets used to the idea of life without Great Britain, can sustainable tourism thrive?

Luxury doesn’t have to cost the Earth, yet development often means altering beyond recognition the very sites to which visitors are attracted.

UNESCO maintains a list of World Heritage Sites in Danger. It lists many sites throughout the troubled Middle East. And, the United States, which environmentalists fear is soon to be plundered by President-elect Trump and his rapacious Cabinet, already has two World Heritage Sites on the list

Florida’s 1.5 million acre Everglades National Park has suffered damage due to Hurricane Andrew, and deterioration of water flow and quality due to agricultural and urban development has placed the Everglades in danger, and there has been continued degradation of the site resulting in a loss of marine habitat and decline in marine species, UNESCO warns.

Also on the list of World Heritage in Danger is Yellowstone National Park in Montana. Established in 1872, it is the first national park in the United States and is believed to be the first national park in the world.

But now Yellowstone is endangered by sewage leakage and waste contamination in parts of the park; potential threats to water quantity and quality, past and proposed mining activities, and a proposed control program to eradicate brucellosis in the bison herds.

As President Barack Obama, the president who has designated 23 national monuments, more than any other president to date, prepares to leave the Oval Office on January 20, he is considering at least one more.

Obama could designate a national monument around Grand Canyon National Park, a hot button issue in the Southwest.

One of the world’s great wonders, the Grand Canyon is protected from new uranium mining claims under an Obama-era withdrawal only through 2032.

In the event that Obama does not create a monument to further protect the Grand Canyon, U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona, a Democrat and Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, hopes to do so through Congress.

Grijalva was joined by tribal leaders from across Northern Arizona in October 2015 to introduce the Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument Act.

Grijalva’s bill permanently protects the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining claims; protects tribal sacred cultural sites; promotes a collaborative approach between tribal nations and federal land managers; protects commercial and recreational hunting; preserves grazing and water rights; and conserves the Grand Canyon watershed.

Arizona Wildlife Federation president Brad Powell said there could be movement on the legislation before Trump’s Inauguration Day.

Trump has said that as president he will sell off U.S. federal assets to pay down the national debt, and his administration, backed by the Republican Congress, is likely to remove protections from some of the public lands precious to visitors.

But in the United States, as well as in many other countries, the movement towards sustainable tourism has gone too far to be undone.

To help visitors find sustainable destinations in the United States, the Earth Day Network has partnered with Google for the launch of the new Google Maps Summer of Green, an environment-focused video and map guide to eco-tourism spots, including spas, hotels and restaurants. Google Maps Summer of Green enables users to discover green travel options by featuring guided virtual video tours of environmentally friendly destinations such as nature museums and horseback riding outposts.

Just to the south, Mexico Tourism Board used the UN’s Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity , held December 2-18 in Cancun, as the launching pad for a new campaign focused on the country’s biodiversity and its wealth of nature, culture and gastronomy.

Biodiversity is part of Mexico’s identity and is recognized abroad as one of its most emblematic characteristics, as well as one of the primary reasons why tourists visit the country. Visitors to Mexico can encounter 564 species of mammals, more than 1,000 species of birds, 864 reptile species and 376 amphibians, as well as over 23,000 types of plants.

Lourdes Berho, Mexico Tourism Board’s CEO, said at the launch, “As global travel trends suggest, travelers are seeking destinations that are rich in biodiversity and sustainability. As the fourth most mega biodiverse country in the world, Mexico is the perfect place for those looking to immerse themselves in authentic cultural, culinary and nature-filled experiences. We believe that what travelers are looking for lives in Mexico, and this is the basis of our campaign.

Sustainable travel is more than just going green,” says Booking.com’s Todd Dunlap, managing director for the Americas.

It’s also about helping to support and retain local cultures, economies and environments while traveling. Most people don’t know how easy it is to weave sustainability into the types of trips they already want to take,” said Dunlap.

Available in 42 languages, Booking.com offers over 670,000 hotels and accommodations at more than 79,000 destinations in 212 countries and territories worldwide. It features over 49,000,000+ reviews written by guests after their stay, and attracts online visitors from both leisure and business markets around the globe.

There are many ways to be a conscientious traveler … without having to sacrifice comfort levels or relaxation,” Dunlap said. “Guests may not realize that as they sleep on organic cotton sheets, washed with water heated by energy generated from the hotel itself, they are staying sustainably. Or that when eating a meal made from ingredients sourced within 20 miles of their accommodation, they are a sustainable traveler supporting local business.

Many of the world’s best accommodations already provide these stealthily sustainable amenities to make sure their guests can enjoy all the luxuries of a vacation guilt-free,” he said. “In fact, you might already be a sustainable traveler and not even know it, that’s how seamless sustainable choices in accommodation can be!

Booking.com points to luxury hotels around the world that glory in their sustainability, such as The Savoy Hotel in London, which has become a pioneer of going green, winning numerous sustainability awards over the past nine years for its innovation in eco-friendly amenities and facilities.

The Rubens at the Palace hotel in London has the largest living wall, erected in an effort to combat the chronic stormwater run-off problem they have been experiencing due to vanishing green spaces.

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Hotel Milano Scala, a boutique hotel in the heart of Milan, is the first totally eco-sustainable hotel in Milan. Its 62 rooms and suites are dedicated to music, culture and sustainability. (Photo by Bruno Cordioli) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Visitors increasingly appreciate such efforts. A 2015 study by Booking.com found that 52 percent of travellers are likely to choose a destination based on its environmental impact, and that travellers are three times as likely to plan to stay in more green accommodations in 2015 than they did in 2014.

Rachel Dodds of the Canada-based website Sustaining Tourism points to a 2015 study by Expedia finding that almost a third of consumers (29 percent) would be likely to choose one company over another based on their environmental record, up from one in five (19 percent) in 2011.

There is growing sentiment amongst consumers that it is the travel company’s responsibility to be environmentally responsible,” she said.

Dodds gives the green nod to Hotel Milano Scala, Italy’s first zero emission hotel. “With their own rooftop garden growing herbs, room magnetic cards to optimize consumption and LEED certified, this hotel is green and groovy,” she says.

Civil society organizations throughout the world are engaging tourists to help protect the environment. For instance, the

Nature Conservancy’s Caribbean Challenge has, to date, designated 50 new marine/coastal protected areas. The aim is to conserve at least 20 percent of their nearshore marine and coastal environments in national marine protected areas by 2020, and to get the 40 million tourists who visit the Caribbean each year to help fund the cause with their donations.

Industry organizations are doing their part in Antalya, Turkey. There, for the first time in Turkey, the Belek Tourism Investors Association, Betuyab, founded in 1988 by investor companies with the leadership of the Ministry of Tourism, are ensuring sustainable tourism in the region.

For sustainability, all existing tourism establishments are connected to three wastewater purification plants. Some of the wastewater is used for irrigation, while the remaining water is completely cleaned and released back into nature.

Worldwide, the appetite for sustainable tourism and the will to satisfy it is growing.

A 2015 study for the Province of Ontario in Canada found that 61 percent of respondents were very or extremely interested in businesses or destinations showcasing their sustainability initiatives, and 73 percent are somewhat or extremely likely to consider sustainability in their travel plans.

The World Travel and Tourism Council  declares that members of the industry have generally improved their carbon efficiency by 20 percent in the last 10 years.

WTTC head David Scowsill writes in the organization’s latest report, “WTTC promotes sustainable growth for the sector, working with governments and international institutions to create jobs, to drive exports and to generate prosperity.

WTTC reports that, “Travel and tourism is one of the world’s largest economic sectors, supporting 285 million jobs and generating 9.8 percent of global GDP in 2015.

The organization reports that the tendency to buy holidays from socially responsible brands appears to be strongest in Asia-Pacific (64 percent), Latin America (63 percent) and Middle East/Africa (63 percent).

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Paris Climate Pact ‘Unstoppable’

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Celebrating the adoption of the Paris Agreement, from left, then UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and President of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21), President François Hollande of France, December 12, 2015. (Photo courtesy UNFCCC) posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis,

NEW YORK, New York, October 6, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The Paris Agreement on climate change is set to enter into force on November 4, less than a year after it was adopted by world leaders. With the ratifications deposited Wednesday, enough countries have approved the landmark accord to bring it to the emissions threshold that will trigger its implementation.

 “What once seemed unthinkable, is now unstoppable,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he accepted the latest instruments of ratification that pushed the agreement over the threshold.

Strong international support for the Paris Agreement entering into force is a testament to the urgency for action, and reflects the consensus of governments that robust global cooperation, grounded in national action, is essential to meet the climate challenge,” Ban said.

 Ban, who will step down as secretary-general on December 31, has made adoption of the world’s first global climate agreement a priority of his 10 years as UN leader.

 Over the past decade, Ban has labored to accelerate the global response to climate change. He has visited communities on the climate frontlines, from the Arctic to the Amazon, and has witnessed how climate impacts are already devastating lives, livelihoods and prospects for a better future.

On Wednesday, he reminded world leaders that the work of implementing the agreement still lies ahead, saying, “Now we must move from words to deeds and put Paris into action. We need all hands on deck – every part of society must be mobilized to reduce emissions and help communities adapt to inevitable climate impacts.

Adopted in Paris by the 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at a conference known as COP21 this past December, the Agreement calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low-carbon future, as well as to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.

It seeks to limit global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels to well below two degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The pact was signed in New York on April 22, Earth Day, by 175 countries at the largest, single-day signing ceremony in history.

It will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification, acceptance or accession with the secretary-general.

The requirements for entry into force were satisfied today when Austria, Bolivia, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Nepal, Portugal and Slovakia, as well as the European Union, deposited their instruments of ratification with the Secretary-General.

Earlier this week, New Zealand and India signed onto the Agreement, following the 31 countries which joined at a special event at the United Nations on September 21 during the UN General Assembly’s general debate.

Early in September, the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters, China and the United States, joined the Paris Agreement.

Wednesday in the Rose Garden at the White House, President Barack Obama said, “Today, the world meets the moment. And if we follow through on the commitments that this agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet.”

Now, the Paris Agreement alone will not solve the climate crisis. Even if we meet every target embodied in the agreement, we’ll only get to part of where we need to go,” said Obama. “But make no mistake, this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change. It will help other nations ratchet down their dangerous carbon emissions over time, and set bolder targets as technology advances, all under a strong system of transparency that allows each nation to evaluate the progress of all other nations.

By sending a signal that this is going to be our future – a clean energy future – it opens up the floodgates for businesses, and scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation at a scale that we’ve never seen before,” Obama said. “So this gives us the best possible shot to save the one planet we’ve got.

Mindy Lubber, president of the non-profit Ceres, said, “The world must ratchet up global investment in clean energy by an additional $1 trillion a year to achieve the Paris Agreement goals. Global investment in clean energy is currently tracking at about $300 to $350 billion a year, which is far short of the Clean Trillion target we need to hit every year to avoid catastrophic climate warming.”

 Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Ceres mobilizes investor and business leadership to build a sustainable global economy.

We have much more to do to navigate the transition to a sustainable economy, but today represents a major step forward,” Lubber said.

The Paris Agreement will enter into force in time for the Climate Conference (COP 22) in Morocco in November, where countries will convene the first Meeting of the Parties to the Agreement. Countries that have not yet joined may participate as observers.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said, “Above all, entry into force bodes well for the urgent, accelerated implementation of climate action that is now needed to realize a better, more secure world and to support also the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.

It also brings a renewed urgency to the many issues governments are advancing to ensure full implementation of the Agreement,” Espinosa said. “This includes development of a rule book to operationalize the agreement and how international cooperation and much bigger flows of finance can speed up and scale up national climate action plans.”

 In Strasbourg, France, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said, “Our collective task is to turn our commitments into action on the ground. And here Europe is ahead of the curve. We have the policies and tools to meet our targets, steer the global clean energy transition and modernise our economy. The world is moving and Europe is in a driver’s seat, confident and proud of leading the work to tackle climate change.

Congratulating all of the signatories of the Agreement, the Secretary-General encouraged all countries to accelerate their domestic processes to ratify the Agreement as soon as possible.

 Specifically, the Agreement calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low-carbon future, and to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.

It also aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. The Agreement calls for appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity-building framework to support action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries in line with their own national objectives.


Featured Image: Open water in the usually frozen Canadian Arctic, Labrador, February 18, 2015 (Photo by Sterling College) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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IUCN Conservation Congress: Planet at the Crossroads

HumpbacksBy Sunny Lewis

HONOLULU, Hawaii, September 6, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – “The IUCN Congress will set the course for using nature-based solutions to help move millions out of poverty, creating a more sustainable economy and restoring a healthier relationship with our planet,” said World Bank Group president Jim Kim, as the conference opened in Honolulu September 1.

 Based in Switzerland, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) holds a World Conservation Congress every four years. This year, over 8,300 delegates from 184 countries, including Heads of State of many Pacific Island nations, are in attendance at the Hawaii Convention Center.

 Key issues under discussion include: wildlife trafficking, ocean conservation, nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and private investment in conservation.

To address an estimated US$200-300 billion annual funding gap in conservation, civil society organizations, private and public sector financial institutions and academia joined forces Friday to launch the Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation during the IUCN World Conservation Congress.

The Coalition’s goal is to help preserve the world’s most important ecosystems by creating new opportunities for return-seeking private investment in conservation.

The Coalition includes Credit Suisse, The Nature Conservancy, Cornell University and the IUCN as the founding members. Participants plan to develop new investment models and funding pipelines that will help close the conservation funding gap and contribute to the global goals for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

We already bring a wealth of experience into this Coalition,” says Lynn Scarlett, managing director of public policy for The Nature Conservancy. “At the Conservancy, we have already facilitated six impact investment deals totaling $200 million dollars in marine conservation and agriculture, and this new coalition should help us bridge our largest challenge, which is a lack of investment projects in the pipeline. We’ll know we’ve reached success when the big banks have enough projects as options that they can pick and choose where conservation investment will have the most significant impact.

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Members of the Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation, launched at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, Honolulu, Hawaii, Sept. 2, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) posted for media use.

 This week, IUCN Congress delegates, meeting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, will vote on a motion to increase marine protected area coverage for effective marine biodiversity conservation.

 Not far from where they are meeting, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument covering the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was expanded last week by President Barack Obama to create the world’s largest marine reserve.

On Midway Atoll, scene of a WWII battle that was a turning point in the war, Obama designated the newly protected area, calling it, spectacular as an ecosystem.

 “And our ability to not just designate, but build on, this incredible natural beauty, which is home to 7,000 marine species that sees millions of birds, many of them endangered, sea turtles, the Hawaiian monk seal, black coral – all sorts of species that in many other places we no longer see – for us to be able to extend that 550,000 miles in the way that we’ve done ensures not only that the Midway Atoll is protected, but that the entire ecosystem will continue to generate this kind of biodiversity.”

Obama said it is “critically important for us to examine the effects that climate change are taking here in the Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest body of water.

He pointed out that some Pacific island countries are now at risk and may have to move as a consequence of climate change. “There are enormous effects of the human presence in the ocean that creatures are having to adapt to and, in some cases, cannot adapt to.

Anote Tong, former president of the Republic of Kiribati, the world’s lowest-lying island nation, confirmed that his people may become climate refugees, saying, “You worry about the polar bears; so do we. But nobody is worried about us, because we will lose our homes too with the melting ice and the rising sea level.

 From microorganisms to whales, ocean warming is affecting many species and its effects are cascading through ecosystems, as outlined in a new IUCN report released in Honolulu.

The report, “Explaining Ocean Warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences,” reviews the effects of ocean warming on species, ecosystems and on the benefits oceans provide to humans. Compiled by 80 scientists from 12 countries, it highlights detectable scientific evidence of impacts on marine life, from microorganisms to mammals, which are likely to increase even if greenhouse gas emissions are kept low.

From the poles to the tropics, plankton, jellyfish, turtle, fish and seabird species are on the move, shifting by up to 10 degrees of latitude to find cooler habitats, while some breeding grounds for turtles and seabirds disappear,” says the IUCN.

In response, the IUCN Congress passed a motion that recognizes the important role of marine and coastal ecosystems in climate change, as natural carbon sinks; recognizes the role that marine protected areas play in both climate change mitigation and adaptation, and preserves marine ecosystems from climate change “by promoting the establishment of a coherent, resilient and efficiently managed networks of protected marine areas…

 Another motion to be voted on this week at IUCN Congress deals with advancing conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity on the high seas, which account for two-thirds of the world’s oceans.

A motion to achieve representative systems of protected areas in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean also will come up for a vote.

The Congress is also expected to decide on motions dealing with regional approaches to tackling the global problem of marine litter, and on the protection of marine and coastal habitats from mining waste.

But as important as ocean conservation has become, Congress delegates are spending most of their time grappling with the toughest land-based conservation issues.

 A total of 85 motions  have been put to the electronic vote by the IUCN Membership, who adopted all 85 motions, some with amendments.

Delegates Sunday considered guidelines on climate change best practices, the place of the law in the future of conservation, how to manage transboundary ecosystems through experiences in “hydro-diplomacy” and governance of shared waters, and ways of transforming Africa’s development through Chinese investments.

Our planet is most certainly at a crossroads,” declared IUCN President Zhang Xinsheng at the opening ceremony on Thursday.

The path we take as a global community, and how we choose to walk down that path in the next few years, will define humanity’s opportunities for generations to come. These decisions will also affect the boundaries of those opportunities,” said Zhang. “As we all know, there are limits to what our Earth can provide, and it is up to us to make the decisions today that will ensure those resources are still here tomorrow.

The latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, released at the conference, indicates that many of the world’s gorillas may not be here tomorrow.

The Eastern lowland gorilla, called Grauer’s gorilla, Gorilla beringei graueri, is newly listed as Critically Endangered due to illegal hunting for bushmeat, which is taking place around villages and mining camps established by armed groups deep in the forests in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gorillas are divided into two species, Eastern and Western, each with two subspecies. Both species and all four subspecies of gorilla are now listed as Critically Endangered.

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Inger Andersen, Director General, IUCN, left, and Hawaii Governor David Ige, at the World Conservation Congress, Honolulu, September 1, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) posted for media use.

To see the Eastern gorilla, one of our closest cousins, slide towards extinction is truly distressing,” said Inger Andersen, IUCN director general.

We live in a time of tremendous change and each IUCN Red List update makes us realize just how quickly the global extinction crisis is escalating,” said Andersen. “Conservation action does work and we have increasing evidence of it. It is our responsibility to enhance our efforts to turn the tide and protect the future of our planet.

The IUCN’s Red List update also reports the decline of the Plains Zebra, Equus quagga, due to illegal hunting.

The once widespread and abundant Plains Zebra has moved from a listing of Least Concern to Near Threatened. The population has reduced by 24 percent in the past 14 years from around 660,000 to a current estimate of just over 500,000 animals.

Three species of duiker, a small African antelope, also have been moved from a listing of Least Concern to Near Threatened.

Illegal hunting and habitat loss are still major threats driving many mammal species towards extinction,” says Carlo Rondinini, coordinator of the mammal assessment at Sapienza University of Rome “We have now reassessed nearly half of all mammals. While there are some successes to celebrate, this new data must act as a beacon to guide the conservation of those species which continue to be under threat.

The IUCN Red List update holds some good news for the Giant Panda and the Tibetan Antelope, demonstrating that conservation action can deliver positive results.

Previously listed as Endangered, the Giant Panda is now listed as Vulnerable, as its population has grown due to effective forest protection and reforestation.

The improved status confirms that the Chinese government’s efforts to conserve this species are effective. Still, climate change is predicted to eliminate more than 35 percent of the panda’s bamboo habitat in the next 80 years and as a result, the panda population is projected to decline, reversing the gains made during the last two decades.

Due to successful conservation actions, the Tibetan Antelope has been moved from a listing as Endangered to Near Threatened.

The Tibetan Antelope population crashed from around one million to an estimated 65,000-72,500 in the 1980s and early ’90s as a result of commercial poaching for their underfur, called shahtoosh, used to make shawls. Rigorous protection has been enforced since then, and the population is now likely to be between 100,000 and 150,000.

The IUCN warns of the growing extinction threat to Hawaiian plants posed by invasive species.

Invasive species such as pigs, goats, rats, slugs, and non-native plants are destroying the native plants of Hawaii. The latest results show that of the 415 endemic Hawaiian plant species assessed so far for the IUCN Red List – out of about 1,093 plant species endemic to Hawaii – 87 percent are threatened with extinction.

Perhaps the biggest jolt to the Congress occurred late last week when the Great Elephant Census was released showing that numbers of African savanna elephants have dropped 30 percent – 144,000 elephants – between 2007 and 2014.

The census is the result of a two-year-long study, the centerpiece of which was an aerial survey, the first in 40 years, that covered nearly 345,000 square miles over 18 countries. Pilots and census crews followed strict protocols to ensure they gathered consistent data.

The census was a collaboration between billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, his organization, Vulcan, and Elephants Without Borders, African Parks, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Nature Conservancy, the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group and Save the Elephants, as well as a long list of conservation officials in the countries surveyed.

Even with this new hoard of data and examples of effective conservation practices across Africa, saving the elephants remains a challenge of continental dimensions,” said Allen. “Poverty and corruption still remain very serious problems in countries that are home to the worst killing grounds, and these factors continue to drive a thriving international ivory market – along with similarly voracious demand for horns from endangered rhinos.

As you’ve been reading this, poachers likely killed another African elephant for its tusks – an atrocity that takes place, on average, every 15 minutes,” said Allen.

A few hopeful signs emerged from the Great Elephant Census. Relative success stories include Botswana, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, and the complex of parks spanning the border of Burkina Faso, Niger and Benin.

Allen says that in countries where poaching is still rampant, such as Tanzania and Mozambique, “...the survey’s alarming results have spurred officials to strengthen protections for their surviving elephants, and to crack down on the criminal networks that are driving the slaughter. Only time will tell, though, if they can arrest both the poachers and ivory smugglers and reverse the sharp decline of their elephant populations.”


 Header image : Humpback whales in the Pacific Ocean, July 21, 2014 (Photo by Sylke Rohrlach) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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At Age 100, U.S. National Park System Grows By Donation

KatahdinFlagBy Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, August 25, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – To honor the anniversary of the National Park Service, 100 years old today, President Barack Obama has designated the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, the first national monument to preserve the landscape and honor the history and culture of Maine’s North Woods.

The new National Monument takes in the East Branch of the Penobscot River and its tributaries, one of the most pristine watersheds in the entire Northeast.

The President’s use of the Antiquities Act to make this designation permanently protects 87,500 acres of land donated to the National Park Service earlier this week by the Elliottsville Plantation, Inc. (EPI), philanthropist Roxanne Quimby’s foundation.

EPI is the nonprofit foundation established by Quimby and run by her son Lucas St. Clair. Their gift of land is accompanied by an endowment of $20 million to supplement federal funds for initial park operational needs and infrastructure development at the new monument, and a pledge of another $20 million in future philanthropic support.

Quimby is an American artist and businesswoman who co-founded the Burt’s Bees personal care products company with beekeeper Burt Shavitz.

Quimby purchased the lands with her Burt’s Bees wealth and developed the idea of giving the lands to the American people as part of the National Park System.

The total acreage of the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is nearly twice that of Maine’s formerly largest park, Acadia National Park.

Acadia attracted nearly three million visitors last year and brought in an estimated $247.9 million for communities in the area. Originally designated by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, Acadia was the ninth most visited park in America in 2015.

Quimby’s son Lucas St. Clair, raised in Maine and dedicated to preserving the landscape and access for recreational activities, and a small EPI staff, have been operating the lands as a recreation area for several years.

The new national monument, which will be managed by the National Park Service, is now the 413th park unit in the National Park System.

Naturally, U.S. environmental groups are delighted with the new National Monument.

This new designation is a phenomenal way to celebrate the National Park Service centennial,” said Collin O’Mara, president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation.

By setting aside nearly 87,500 acres of public lands, the President is ensuring that Maine’s magnificent forests, mountains, and waterways will continue to be rich in biodiversity and safeguard these ecosystems,” said O’Mara. “Wildlife in the region like moose, lynx, and loons are also big winners as they will now receive critical new protections that will ensure their long term survival.

Future generations of Americans will be very thankful to President Obama, the National Park Service, and philanthropist Roxanne Quimby’s foundation, Elliotsville Plantation, Inc., who generously donated the land.

NWF’s Maine affiliate, the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), also deserve big praise for their hard work towards making today’s announcement possible.

Lisa Pohlmann, NRCM executive director, is grateful for the newly protected lands and waters.

The new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is a fabulous gift to the people of Maine and to the nation,” she said. “This area of northern Maine contains a stunningly beautiful collection of mountains, forests, waters and wildlife. The Natural Resources Council of Maine is proud to have been part of this effort.”

National parks bring dollars into the hands of local communities, helping to create prosperity, and the new monument is expected to bring many new jobs to the Katahdin region, now suffering the collapse of the paper industry.

Nevertheless, monument critic Maine Governor Paul LePage, a Republican, said in a statement, “That’s one way to get out of paying taxes to the state of Maine. It’s also an ego play for Roxanne Quimby and [U.S. Senator for Maine] Angus King.

It’s sad that rich, out-of-state liberals can team up with President Obama to force a national monument on rural Mainers who do not want it,” LePage told the “Bangor Daily News.”

National Park Service staff will hold a series of public listening sessions throughout the Katahdin region starting the week of September 12 to begin work on the management plan that will be developed during the first three years.

Details of the listening sessions, including dates and locations, will be shared with local newspapers and posted to the monument’s website.

The approximately $100 million total gift to the American people from the EPI, was facilitated by the National Park Foundation as part of its Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks.

“This extraordinary gift sets the stage for a strong and vibrant second century for America’s national parks,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation. “Through their vision and generosity, Ms. Quimby and her family are carrying on the philanthropic tradition from which the national parks were born 100 years ago, and which helped create Grand Teton, Acadia and Virgin Islands National Parks.

With today’s designation, President Obama has used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 25 national monuments. He has permanently protected more than 265 million acres of America’s public lands and waters – more than any other president in history.

President Obama is deliberately protecting U.S. public lands from the consequences of rising planetary temperatures.

In his weekly address to the nation last Friday, he said, “…the threat of climate change means that protecting our public lands and waters is more important than ever. Rising temperatures could mean no more glaciers in Glacier National Park. No more Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park. Rising seas could destroy vital ecosystems in the Everglades, even threaten Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

So in the coming years and decades, we have to have the foresight, and the faith in our future, to do what it takes to protect our parks and protect our planet for generations to come,” said the President. “Because these parks belong to all of us. And they’re worth celebrating – not just this year, but every year.

Obama quoted his presidential predecessor President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Democrat, who said, “There is nothing so American as our national parks … the fundamental idea behind the parks … is that the country belongs to the people.”

So that, “...you and your family can experience these sacred places, too,” Obama encouraged everyone to take part in a new campaign he supports called Find Your Park.

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis called the idea of national parks “revolutionary.”

National parks reflect the innovative spirit of America, because after all, they embody one of our nation’s most revolutionary ideas – that some of the most beautiful landscapes, iconic historic sites and culturally significant places should belong to every American,” said Jarvis.

This weekend, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will visit the national monument lands in Penobscot County, to celebrate the designation with state and local officials and members of the public. National Park Service staff will be on site to assist with the first steps to open the park.

As the National Park Service begins a second century of conservation this week, the President’s designation of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument serves as an inspiration to reflect on America’s iconic landscapes and historical and cultural treasures,” said Jewell.

Through this incredibly generous private gift for conservation,” Jewell rejoiced, “these lands will remain accessible to current and future generations of Americans, ensuring the rich history of Mainers’ hunting, fishing and recreation heritage will forever be preserved.


Featured Image: Looking out toward Deasey Mountain in the newly designated Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, Maine (Photo by Bill Duffy courtesy U.S. National Park Service) public domain

Main Image: Atop Mount Katahdin (Photo by Abigail Asilin) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Hope for the Hungry

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By Sunny Lewis

ROME, Italy, July 26, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Hundreds of millions of people throughout the world go to bed hungry while at the same time, a third of the world’s food is wasted, say the number-crunchers at the United Nations food agencies.

But there is fresh hope for the hungry. Leaders of two UN agencies fighting hunger worldwide are applauding new legislation in the United States that aims to strengthen global food assistance programs in the years ahead.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) praised U.S. President Barack Obama for his July 20th signing of the Global Food Security Act (GFSA). The United States is the largest donor to both UN agencies.

The measure was passed by the U.S. Congress on July 6 by members of both the Democratic and Republican parties, during a time of otherwise great division in the U.S. Congress and politics.

The United States is helping to put and even stronger emphasis on how food security and economic development are intertwined, while stressing the central role of small-scale family farmers in the fight against hunger and poverty,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

This law will have a dramatic impact on the lives of people throughout world, showing once again why the United States is a leader in promoting food security and helping those who struggle to feed their families so they can start to build their own future,” says WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.

The new law supports initiatives to develop agriculture, assist small-scale food producers and improve nutrition, especially for women and children worldwide. It seeks improve the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene to poor communities and build their resilience to withstand shocks, such as conflict, droughts and floods.

President Obama signed into law the Feed the Future program, the U.S. government’s global hunger initiative, ensuring it will continue helping countries provide their people with enough food – even after the Obama presidency ends in January.

The new law authorizes for the first time USAID‘s International Disaster Assistance and Emergency Food Security Program. This means future White House administrations and future Congresses could more easily make cash assistance available to people experiencing hunger unexpectedly, due to natural disasters or war.

And it has never been more needed. One-third of all the food produced worldwide is lost or wasted as it moves from farm, ranch or orchard to table, at a global cost as high as US$940 billion a year, calculates the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

At the same time, more than 800 million people around the world are undernourished, the FAO reminded everyone in June.

Food loss and food waste generates about eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the UN agency says, adding that if it were a country, food loss and waste would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter – behind China and the United States.

In an attempt to lose less food and feed more people, a partnership of international organizations has launched a new global framework to giv businesses, governments, and other organizations ways to measure, report on and manage food loss and waste.

The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is the partnership, and they have developed the global Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard for quantifying and reporting on food removed from the food supply chain due to waste or loss.

The new Standard was launched at the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) 2016 Summit June 6 in Copenhagen.

3GF enables public-private partnerships to support the large-scale adoption of green technologies, practices and policies that they hope will accelerate solutions to intractable problems that markets and governments have been unable to solve on their own.

This set of global definitions and reporting requirements comes as a growing number of governments, companies and other organizions are making commitments to reduce food loss and waste.

Waste makes everybody poorer,” Denmark’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kristian Jensen said. “I am pleased that a new strong alliance between public and private actors will provide an efficient answer to the global challenge of food loss and waste. 3GF has promoted yet another green and innovative solution to global challenges.

The new Food Loss and Waste Standard will reduce economic losses for the consumer and food industry, alleviate pressure on natural resources and contribute to realizing the ambitious goals set out in the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Jensen. “We need to push for more solutions like this for the benefit of people, profit and the planet.

The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is the multi-stakeholder partnership convened by the nonprofit World Resources Institute and begun at the Global Green Growth Forum in 2013.

This standard is a real breakthrough,” declared Andrew Steer, president and CEO, World Resources Institute. “There’s simply no reason that so much food should be lost and wasted. Now, we have a powerful new tool that will help governments and businesses save money, protect resources and ensure more people get the food they need.

FLW Protocol partners include some of the largest and most influential of organizations: The Consumer Goods Forum, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the European Union-funded FUSIONS project, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), The Waste and Resources Action Programme and World Resources Institute.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner acknowledged, “The scale of the problem of food loss and waste can be difficult to comprehend. Having this new standard by which to measure food loss and waste will not only help us understand just how much food is not making it to our mouths, but will help set a baseline for action.

UNEP is urging all countries and companies to use the new Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard to start measuring and reporting food loss and waste, in parallel to taking action to deliver on Sustainable Development Goal SDG Target 12.3: Halve food waste by 2030.

Wasting a third of the food we produce is a clear symptom of a global food system in trouble,” said President and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development Peter Bakker. “The FLW Standard is pivotal to setting a reliable baseline for streamlined and efficient action on the ground for countries, cities, and small and big businesses along the food value chain.

Together with tangible business solutions,” said Bakker, “the FLW Standard can help to significantly reduce food loss and waste around the globe.”

The FLW Standard will also help reduce food loss and waste within the private sector.

In 2015, The Consumer Goods Forum, which represents more than 400 of the world’s largest retailers and manufacturers from 70 countries, adopted a resolution for its members to reduce food waste from their operations by 50 percent by 2025, with baselines and progress to be measured using the FLW Standard.

Some leading companies, like Nestle and Tesco, are already measuring and publicly reporting on their food loss and waste.

An executive summary of the Food Loss and Waste Protocol can be found at Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard


Main Image: In the Philippines, girls eat food offered by Feed My Starving Children, a Christian nonprofit organization. (Photo by Feed My Starving Children) Creative commons license via Flickr

China Plans World’s Largest Carbon Market to Curb Climate Change

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By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, October 7, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Within two years China will open a national market-based cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas emissions from some of its largest industrial sectors, President Xi Jinping announced late last month during his visit to the United States.

Carbon emission levels will be capped and companies will have to pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide, the most abundant climate-warming greenhouse gas.

China is the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, is the top oil importer after the United States and is struggling with a public health crisis caused by severe air pollution in its largest cities.

China’s new carbon emissions trading system will cover key industry sectors such as iron and steel, power generation, chemicals, building materials, paper-making and nonferrous metals.

The carbon market – similar to the European Union’s and also similar to two regional markets in the United States – is part of an effort to help China meet its climate targets and move toward energy supplies based on nuclear power plants and renewables.

President Xi said China will implement a “green dispatch” system to favor low-carbon sources in the electric grid.

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In a U.S.-China Joint Presidential Statement on Climate Change issued on September 25, the two nations describe a common vision for a new global climate agreement to be concluded in Paris this December. It is scheduled to take effect from 2020.

President Xi said, “We have decided to continue to work together to tackle global challenges and provide more public good for the international community. We, again, issued a joint announcement on climate change. We have agreed to expand bilateral practical cooperation, strengthen coordination in multilateral negotiation, and work together to push the Paris climate change conference to produce important progress.”

President Obama said, “When the world’s two largest economies, energy consumers and carbon emitters come together like this, then there’s no reason for other countries – whether developed or developing – to not do so as well. And so this is another major step towards the global agreement the world needs to reach in two months’ time.”

The Joint Statement builds on last November’s historic announcement by President Obama and President Xi of ambitious post-2020 climate targets.

In their Joint Statement, the two leaders expressed a concrete set of shared understandings for the Paris agreement. On mitigating the impact of climate change, they agreed on three elements of a package to strengthen the ambition of the Paris outcome.

First, they recognized that the emissions targets and policies that nations have put forward are crucial steps in a longer-range effort to transition to low-carbon economies. They agreed that those policies should ramp up over time in the direction of greater ambition.

Second, the two presidents underscored the importance of countries developing and making available mid-century strategies for the transition to low-carbon economies, mindful of the goal that world leaders agreed at the UN’s 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius as compared to pre-industrial levels.

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Third, they emphasized the need for the low-carbon transformation of the global economy this century.

These announcements complement the recent finalization of the U.S. Clean Power Plan, which will reduce emissions in the U.S. power sector by 32 percent by 2030.

Both countries are developing new heavy-duty vehicle fuel efficiency standards, to be finalized in 2016 and implemented in 2019.

Both countries are also stepping up their work to phase down super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used as refrigerants. Besides destroying the stratospheric ozone layer, HCFCs are greenhouse gases many times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

China’s government has been planning to implement a carbon trading market for years.

The cap-and-trade system will expand on seven regional pilot carbon trade programs that China began in 2011.

Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group Vice President and special envoy for climate change, has been working closely with China in providing technical support to the pilots.

“As China began to pilot through different ways of creating emissions trading systems or emissions reductions systems, we have, through what is called a partnership for market readiness, provided a mutual platform for techno-crafts from different economies in the world to share their experiences of introducing emissions trading systems so that we can all learn from each other,” she said in an interview with China’s state news agency Xinhua on September 30.

“An emissions trading system has existed in Europe for some time. Now we have an auction in California. We have pilots in China. We have a trading system in Korea. Some countries are putting carbon taxes in place,” Kyte said. “We provide a mutual technical platform to let these experiences be exchanged.”

“China is ready to learn from those pilots and move to a national system,” Kyte said, “This will immediately create the largest carbon market in the world. Other carbon markets in the world will want to link with China. This does put China in a leadership position in helping the global economy move to low-carbon growth.”

To ensure a successful carbon trading system, Kyte emphasized the importance of setting the right prices.

“The prices must be set in such a way that the prices reflect the ambition, that the emissions are reduced, that the poor people are treated fairly, that they are transparent and that they can be understood by the consumer,” she said.

China says it will set an absolute cap on its carbon dioxide emissions when its next five-year plan comes into force in 2016.


 

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

Featured image: China’s President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House, September 25, 2015 (Photo by Huang Jingwen courtesy Xinhua)
Image 01:Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama meet with the press after their talks in Washington, DC, September 25, 2015. (Photo by Huang Jingwen courtesy Xinhua)
Image 02: This parabolic solar-thermal power plant is adjacent to a large-scale wind farms in China’s north central Shanxi Province. It came online in 2011. (Photo courtesy Shanxi International Electricity Group Co Ltd.)
Image 03: The Fangchenggang nuclear power plant is under construction in China’s Guangxi Province. Operated by China General Nuclear Power Group Co Ltd., it is expected to come online in 2016. (Photo courtesy China General Nuclear Power Group Co Ltd.)