The Navigating the American Carbon World Conference, a three-day event (April 16-18th, 2013) in San Francisco, was jam-packed with workshops, meetings, offset credit offer info sessions, keynotes, plenaries, breakouts, and an exhibition hall featuring consulting services. I attended several pre-conference workshops to learn more about this complex and ever-evolving space.
I started at a workshop titled California Cap-and-Trade 101, billed as “an excellent primer for people starting to learn about the program and a comprehensive refresher course for people wanting to brush up on their cap-and-trade program knowledge.”
In 2001, California began the Climate Change Action Register (CARR), a voluntary reporting of greenhouse gas emissions based on the theory that you can’t cut what you can’t measure. In 2006, AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act replaced CARR with the Climate Action Reserve (CAR). AB 32, more importantly, set the lofty goal of returning to California’s 1990 GHG levels by 2020, leveraging a combination of complementary measures including cap-and-trade, improved energy efficiency standards, low carbon fuel standards (LCFS), the 33% renewables portfolio standard, and high global warming potential standards.
Sustainable Silicon Valley (SSV) recently held their second Annual Water Summit titled SSV WEST (Water Energy Smart Technology) at Stanford University. The event was jam packed with interesting panels and various Bay Area and California water luminaries from academia, business, and the public sector. Best of all, the EcoCloud project was unveiled.
Buzz Thompson, Co-Director of the Wood Institute for the Environment at Stanford, challenging all in attendance, ”to envision the fundamental changes, the revolution required to sustainably meet the needs of future generations as well as to sustain the life support systems of the planet”. Take a minute, close your eyes. Envision. Can you see it?
ImagineH20 held its inaugural Water Innovators Showcase two weeks ago, a swanky, well-attended event that introduced and celebrated the winners of its Water Prize Competition for Water Efficiency. Imagine H20 is a nonprofit based in San Francisco whose mission is to, “inspire and empower people to solve water problems.” Its vision is to “turn water problems into opportunities by running prize competitions for water entrepreneurs, and an incubator program to help entrepreneurs develop businesses that address critical water needs.”
The Water Prize offered a generous $70,000 in total prizes, and helped generate more than 50 proposals from competing teams around the world, which were reviewed and judged during hundreds of hours of analysis by an elite panel of water experts. The original 50+ proposals were whittled down to a select group of 10, and then honed to a final three.
“And the winner of Imagine H20’s inaugural water Prize Competition for Water Efficiency goes to… Fruition Sciences!”
At this year’s Corporate Water FootPrinting Conference, held in San Francisco December 2-3, the ongoing conversation about the human right to water received front and center billing. This spotlight was in stark contrast to last year’s event, where the subject was largely absent from the agenda and discussion. At that conference, the “water as a public right” NGO community was not on the guest list or in attendance. They were outraged by the notion and appearance that corporations were meeting privately behind closed doors, devising strategies for divvying up the world’s water resources.
In response, the NGO’s organized teach-ins, street protests and leveraged media coverage, the results of which cast a less than positive light on last year’s conference with respect to inclusiveness and transparency. This year, the conference organizers and sponsors, all the wiser from last year’s lack of stakeholder engagement faux pas, invited two H2O NGO’s, represented by Food and Water Watch and the As You Sow Foundation, to the proverbial watering hole.
One of the most innovative initiatives I learned about at last week’s Corporate Water Footprinting Conference (Dec. 2-3, 2009) was the Water Restoration Certificates (WRC’s) mechanism created by the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. At this point, it is the nation’s first voluntary water restoration marketplace. So how does it work? The clearest description comes straight from the foundation’s website.
“WRCs come from rivers and streams where there’s been very little water. That’s because water laws in the western U.S. allow property owners to take a certain amount of water from these water sources, but in many cases, the rights to withdraw water exceed the total amount of water in the river or stream, particularly in late summer. These laws also mandate that property owners use their allotted water or risk forfeiting their water rights forever. So of course, landowners will withdraw all of their water, whether they need it or not. And withdrawing all that water leaves many streams completely dry or with so little water that they can’t support fish, wildlife, and recreation. BEF WRCs are designed to give landowners a choice in how they use their water. WRCs are a voluntary, market-based program that provides economic incentives for water rights holders to leave water in critically dewatered ecosystems. Quite simply, landowners are paid to keep water in stream.”
At the 2nd Corporate Footprinting Conference, which took place this week in San Francisco, big brands in the beverage industry were front and center, presenting sophisticated “bleeding edge” strategies for addressing their water footprints. Water, for obvious reasons, is critical to these players, and they sent executive directors to report on their progress, challenges, and learning. Each did their dog and pony slide-ware show, speaking to the global water crisis, and how it is has become crystal clear that without water, bottom line, they have no business.
At the same time, these companies are well aware of their customer’s evolving concerns. In a late 2009 survey spanning 15 countries, water pollution and fresh water shortages were the respondents first and second most serious environmental concerns. Climate change and global warming ranked a surprisingly distant sixth. The study also revealed that the public holds water companies second only to the government in terms of their responsible for ensuring clean water. No water/no business, combined with clear customer stakeholder attitudes as to water/beverage companies responsibilities, pushes and pulls these companies to take the lead in addressing their water impacts across their supply chain and product lifecycle.
The second Corporate Water Footprinting Conference splashes down in San Francisco this December 2-3 and I’ll be there to report on how companies such as Patagonia, Pepsi, BC Hydro, Raisio, and Intel are addressing water risks and opportunities in their operations and to their brands. The other two primary H2O stakeholder groups; government agencies and NGO’s, will also be active participants. I am eager to see how transparency, innovative technologies, and creative partnerships are contributing to triple bottom line solutions including environmental stewardship, economic value, social responsibility, and cultural vitality.
As you may have noticed, water is becoming an increasingly important concern within both the private and the public sector. Type “water crisis” in your favorite search engine (Google turned up 35,700,000 entries) and you’ll see why. Briefly, here’s the water picture:
Globally, less than 1% of the world’s fresh water (or about 0.007% of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use. Human population is forecast to increase from 6.5 billion to 9.1 billion by 2050. This population growth – coupled with industrialization and urbanization – will result in an increasing demand for water in all sectors. Depending on the country, roughly 70% of total water consumption is agricultural, 20% industrial, 10% domestic, and 4% evaporation from storage. According to a 2008 UNICEF/WHO report, 884 million people lack access to safe water supplies (approximately one in eight people) and 3.575 million people die each year from water-related disease. Global climate change symptoms like reduced snow pack, increased glacial melt, and extreme weather patterns are forecast to throw additional fuel on the proverbial fire that is the water crisis.