The Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign recently scored a big victory in Indiana. The Indiana chapter of Beyond Coal was a central player in putting together the coalition of grassroots groups that managed to prod Indiana Power & Light to stop burning coal at its Harding Street power plant — the only coal-fired power plant remaining within the limits of a major Midwestern city. The campaign isn’t stopping there.
On Sept. 26, the Sierra Club announced it was joining with Ratepayer and Community Intervenors to file a lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court that challenges a Public Service Commission ruling that would levy a $140 million subsidy on state residents’ electricity bills to upgrade and expand the Dunkirk coal-fired power plant in Chautauqua County. The plaintiffs are being represented by Earthjustice.
Deeming it a “bailout” at ratepayers’ expense, the upgrade and expansion plan “would result in a plant three times larger than necessary to maintain reliable operation of the region’s power grid,” Sierra states in a news release. Moreover, at a time when the EPA is readying President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the plant – though it would be able to burn both coal and natural gas – would add greenhouse gases and air pollution in the region, contributing to climate change, the environmental NGO highlights.
Perhaps no two companies have made a bigger splash — or more clearly demonstrated the potential of clean technology to revitalize manufacturing, create jobs and spur “green” growth of the U.S. economy — than Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors and SolarCity.
Hot on the heels of Tesla announcing it will build its lithium-ion battery ‘Gigafactory’ in Nevada, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a groundbreaking ceremony for an equally massive SolarCity facility in Buffalo. The manufacturing plant will devote 1.2 million square feet to produce solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, the governor announced Sept. 23.
“Gov. Cuomo shares our view that the United States can return to its place atop the world in advanced technology manufacturing,” SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive was quoted in a press release. “Thanks to the governor’s leadership, we will be able to quintuple the output capacity and economic impact of Silevo’s original commitment. I couldn’t be more excited to partner with the state to make Western New York a global capital for clean energy development.”
At the United Nations Climate Summit 2014, held at U.N. headquarters in New York City on Sept. 23, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for bold commitments to catalyze climate change mitigation and adaptation actions. In response, leaders spanning government, business, finance and civil society announced new initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change.
New climate change action initiatives were announced in the areas of finance, farming and forests. New coalitions between cities, businesses and citizens were formed that aim to reduce GHG emissions and strengthen resilience to climate change, according to a Climate Summit 2014 news release.
“Change is in the air. Today’s Climate Summit has shown an entirely new, cooperative global approach to climate change,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “The actions announced today by governments, businesses, finance and civil society show that many partners are eager to confront the challenges of climate change together.”
A consortium of leading climate change nonprofits and multinational businesses have joined to launch an initiative that aims to see 100 of the world’s largest companies power their businesses solely from renewable energy resources by 2020. Led by the Climate Group, the campaign — dubbed RE100 — counts Ikea, Swiss Re, BT, Commerzbank, Formula E, H&M, Mars, Nestlé, Philips, Reed Elsevier and J. Safra among its founding business members. The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) also are working with the Climate Group to see the RE100 through to fruition.
Launched Sept. 22 during Climate Week NYC, the RE100 campaign aims to lead by example. It will serve as a showcase that highlights the economic, social and environmental benefits businesses can realize by going 100 percent renewable — and just how leading businesses are moving towards the goal of 100 percent renewable power. It will also assist companies looking to make the switch from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources, including “providing guidance as to selecting and implementing the best approach to utilizing renewable power, and information on the financial implications, risks and rewards of different options.”
“We are delighted with the ambition of leading companies to go 100 percent renewable,” Ben Ferrari, director of partnerships for the Climate Group, was quoted in a news release. “We plan to continue to grow this group and expand our outreach in China and India over the coming year. It is an exciting time for renewable power.”
Carbon dioxide emissions from urban transportation could be reduced by 40 percent by 2050 – eliminating an estimated 1,700 megatons of CO2 emissions per year – by expanding public transportation, cycling and walking in cities, according a report from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and the University of California, Davis. There’s much more to be gained, however.
At a time when public services are being cut, expanding public transportation, cycling and walking in cities could save over $100 trillion in cumulative public and private spending. In addition, an estimated 1.4 million early deaths per year could be avoided by 2050 “if governments require the strongest vehicle pollution controls and ultra-low sulfur fuels,” according to a related analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).
A coalition of nearly 350 global institutional investors are calling on world leaders to institute “stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing.” They elaborate by calling for carbon pricing “that helps redirect investment commensurate with the scale of climate change challenge, as well as develop plans to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.”
The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) includes some of the world’s largest and most prominent institutional investors, including Australian CFSGAM, BlackRock, Calpers, Cathay Financial Holdings, Deutsche, PensionDanmark and South African GEPF. Collectively, the 347 institutional investors manage over $24 trillion in assets.
IIGCC’s call for meaningful carbon pricing and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies comes as world leaders meet for the U.N. Climate Summit this week to hammer out details of a global climate treaty and successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
Making sure their presence is felt and their voices heard, over 300,000 people [ed. note: the crowd count has been raised to 400k] took part in the People’s Climate March in Manhattan on Sunday. Organized by a group of environmental, social justice and public interest organizations, the march kicked off Climate Week NYC. A week-long series of events and demonstrations, Climate Week NYC organizers are likewise calling on government leaders to institute strong climate change action plans that are seen as a means of realizing other key U.N. goals, including alleviating poverty and growing socioeconomic inequality.
Following through on President Barack Obama’s plans to combat climate change and boost energy productivity, the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sept. 18 announced it is providing $68 million in funding for 540 renewable energy and energy efficiency projects around the nation.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the funding while visiting North Carolina to highlight USDA’s investments in rural renewable energy projects. He emphasized the economic, as well as social and environmental, benefits government support and stimulus is having in the young but fast-growing renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors.
“These loan guarantees and grants will have far-reaching impacts nationwide, particularly in the rural communities where these projects are located,” Vilsack said. “Investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency will continue the unprecedented increase in home-grown energy sources and American energy independence we’ve seen in recent years. This is creating jobs, providing new economic opportunities and leading the way to a more secure energy future.”
Besides denying that fossil fuel use is rapidly pushing civilization to a climate change tipping point, climate-change deniers contend that the costs associated with making climate change mitigation and adaptation a global priority would stifle economic growth and social development.
In advance of the U.N. Climate Summit and Climate Week NYC, which kicks off on Monday, some have even asserted that the campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a conspiracy aimed at gathering wealth and political power. Some might reply that this is a glaring example of “the pot calling the kettle black.”
Research studies from reputable, independent organizations, such as the landmark Stern Review, have concluded that the costs of inaction greatly outweigh the costs of addressing climate change head-on. A new study commissioned by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate goes further, asserting that growth can not only be achieved, but enhanced, by following pathways that will result in societies that are socially and ecologically, as well as economically, sustainable.
Adam Smith wrote famously of the “invisible hand” that guides markets toward ends that — wittingly or not — are intended to be broadly beneficial for society as a whole. Much less widely recognized, and even less widely noted, are Smith’s writings regarding the essential role governments play in restraining greed and our basest instincts by establishing the ethics and rules that regulate market practices and a set a level playing field for all who aspire to enter. A recent report from the G8 Social Impact Investment Task Force takes the anatomical metaphor one step further.
“The world is on the brink of a revolution in how we solve society’s toughest problems. The force capable of driving this revolution is ‘social impact investing,’ which harnesses entrepreneurship, innovation and capital to power social improvement.” So opens the introduction to Impact investment: The invisible heart of markets, a policy paper produced by the G8’s Social Impact Investment Task Force, which the U.K. established in June 2013 as part of its tenure in the G8 presidency.
Impact investing, as defined by the G8 Social Impact Investment Task Force, encompasses those who invest to achieve environmental and broad social, as well as financial, benefit – and it’s growing fast, the task force found. Broadly applicable in developing and developed countries, impact investing is already producing tangible benefits across a wide variety of areas, including reducing criminal recidivism, regenerating communities, broadening financial inclusion, and helping create affordable and supported housing, they highlight.
Demonstrators, along with world leaders, are beginning to congregate around the United Nations headquarters in New York City this week in advance of the U.N. Climate Summit 2014. Inviting leaders from around the world to participate in the one-day climate conference, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on them to “galvanize and catalyze climate action” and “bring bold announcements and actions to the Summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement.”
Along with the U.N., multilateral development banks (MDBs), such as the World Bank Group, have comprised the core of the institutional framework for international governance, development and finance since the end of World War II. Criticized for financing coal-fired power plants and supporting polluting, emissions-intensive development in developing countries worldwide, the World Bank just over a year ago said it would only finance coal-fired power plant projects in rare, exceptional circumstances.
On Sept. 11, the world’s six MDBs “reaffirmed their shared commitment to lead by example by continuing to reinforce and further develop climate financing.” The African Development Bank (AfDB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), European Investment Bank (EIB), Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and World Bank Group said they would continue to focus their resources on addressing climate change.
That includes leveraging MDB financing by attracting greater amounts of private-sector investment, as well as “continuing to innovate and promote more robust and transparent climate finance tracking and reporting,” according to a joint press release.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) forecasts that passenger, light truck and truck tire demand will rise nearly 2 percent in 2014 to reach 302 million units. Though no one knows just how many there actually are, there are many times more tires accumulating in dumps in every nation around the world – a festering, growing threat to human and environmental health and safety.
Lehigh Technologies is on a mission to “green” the lifecycle of synthetic and rubber tires. Using a proprietary “green chemistry” process, Lehigh replaces petroleum-based materials by recycling discarded tires and turning them into micronized rubber powders (MRPs) that can be used to manufacture a wide range of rubber and plastic products – all manner of vehicle/transportation tires included. The benefits are numerous and manifold, from reducing manufacturers’ operating costs to helping conserve tropical forests and ecosystems, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and helping alleviate air, soil and water pollution associated with waste tire dumps.
On Sept. 3, Lehigh announced that it had raised another $8 million in support of its efforts to expand geographically and realize the milestones established in its technology road map. Joining with earlier venture capital investors including Index Ventures, Florida Gulfshore Capital, Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield & Byers, and Leaf Clean Energy, is Japan’s JSR Corp., a $4 billion specialty chemicals company.
Climate change skeptics and deniers habitually assert that cutting carbon emissions and putting a price on carbon would jeopardize economic growth and job creation. Hence, by their reasoning, we’re better off living with the rising costs and profound threats resulting from rising greenhouse gas emissions and a warming climate.
Research carried out by Imperial College London in partnership with the International Carbon Reduction and Offsetting Alliance (ICROA) indicates otherwise. In Unlocking the Hidden Value of Carbon Offsetting, the researchers conclude that investing in carbon offset credit programs yields significant social, environmental and economic returns beyond greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
According to the research results, investing in voluntary carbon emissions offset credit programs creates economic development opportunities, enhances environmental conservation, and improves people’s lives by realizing a host of social benefits that range from household savings and health benefits to healthier water resources. Overall, they determined that the additional value – beyond emissions reductions – of each metric ton of carbon emissions avoided by purchasing offset credits totals $664. Ipso facto, they add, carbon offset credits are systemically undervalued.
Ongoing increases in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions mean the world’s largest economies will have to work that much harder and pick up the pace of energy-sector GHG emissions reductions in order to avoid the risks and impacts of runaway climate change, according to an analysis of economic growth rates and GHG emissions for G20 economies produced by PwC.
Home to the world’s largest economies, G20 countries will have to reduce carbon emissions in the energy sector 6.2 percent for every dollar of GDP — every year from now to 2100 — in order to keep global warming within the 2 degrees Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) limit agreed to by nearly 200 nations as part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Copenhagen Accord. That’s more than five times the current pace, PwC analysts highlight in the sixth annual Low Carbon Economy Index, 2 degrees of separation – ambition & reality report.
“After a decade of carbon inertia, we are way behind, and now need to decarbonise at more than five times our current rate to avoid 2 degrees Celsius … Making up for the inadequacy to date will be technologically harder, financially costlier, and climactically riskier in the future.” Leo Johnson, a partner in PwC’s sustainability and climate change unit, stated.
From badly underestimated methane emissions and groundwater contamination to triggering earthquakes, the multiple human and environmental health threats posed by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of shale deposits to release natural gas and petroleum have been well documented.
Negligence and shoddy practices by oil and gas companies exploring for natural gas and petroleum in tightly-packed shale deposits also threatens ecosystems, human health and safety, and critical natural resources on the surface – including precious freshwater resources.
On Sept. 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice announced a settlement with Trans Energy that requires the oil and gas company to restore streams and wetlands at 15 sites in West Virginia — across which it had allegedly discharged dredge or fill material without authorization. In addition to paying a $3 million penalty that is to be divided equally between the EPA and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), it’s estimated that Trans Energy will spend over $13 million to complete stipulated environmental mitigation and restoration work.
Developing a cheaper, more efficient means of fabricating solar photovoltaic (PV) cells could revitalize U.S. solar PV manufacturing, a technology invented here in the U.S. That’s in addition to helping realize the Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative goals of driving the cost of installed solar power capacity under $1 per watt — a level competitive with fossil fuel-fired electricity generation.
U.S. solar silicon manufacturing startup Crystal Solar — with the help of the U.S. DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) — has developed a new method for fabricating high-quality, high-efficiency monocrystalline solar silicon wafers at 100 times the throughput and half the cost of traditional methods.
Crystal Solar’s innovative approach to fabricating silicon solar wafers garnered it an “R&D 100” award as one of the top technology innovations of 2013. If Crystal Solar can scale-up production, the new method “could be a game-changer, creating American jobs and stemming the flow of solar cell manufacturing overseas,” CEO T.S. Ravi of the Santa Clara, California-based company stated in an NREL news release.