Annual global climate flows last year decreased from 2012, according to a new report from the Climate Policy Initiative. The report, titled The Global Landscape of Climate Finance 2014, found that annual global climate finance flows in 2013 totaled $331 billion, $28 billion less than 2012. However, public actors and intermediaries contributed $137 billion, almost unchanged from 2012.
It is not necessarily a bad thing that global climate finance flows decreased. The report cites the falling price of some renewable energy technologies, namely solar photovoltaics (PV), as the the main reason. Or as the report put it, “These cost savings mean that in some cases more renewable energy is actually being deployed for less investment.”
It cost $40 billion less in 2013 to achieve the same level of solar deployment than it did in 2012. About 80 percent of the decrease in private investment came from the falling prices of renewable technologies, particularly solar PV. If investment costs of solar PV had stayed the same in 2013 as they were in 2012, then the global climate finance flows total would have increased by $12 billion, according to the report.
General Mills Chairman and CEO Ken Powell declared the company’s commitment to water conservation at the the Nature Conservancy (TNC) Global Water Summit in Chicago last week. Powell talked about the company’s efforts of “uber-collaboration” with stakeholders to improve watersheds around the world. General Mills aims to preserve freshwater supplies in particular.
“As a food company, food security is important to us, and we’re tied tightly to nature,” said Powell in a statement. “We know that without healthy water for land, ecosystems and wildlife, agriculture simply does not work. Businesses languish. Economies falter. People suffer.”
Vineyards factor prominently in my life, having grown up surrounded by them. When I read that Fetzer Vineyards, located in California’s Mendocino County, diverted 97.7 percent of its waste, I felt like shouting. An image of farm workers burning waste came to mind. It is a common practice for vineyard waste to be burned, a practice which is obviously bad for local air quality.
There is more good news concerning Fetzer Vineyards. The wine maker announced this week that it received platinum level Zero Waste certification from the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC). Platinum certification is the highest level USZWBC offers. The goal of zero waste is to divert all end-use material from landfill, incineration and the environment and achieve a minimum of 90 percent diversion.
Part of that plan is its pledge to deforestation-free palm oil, a commitment the company first announced in July. It repeated that pledge at the United Nations Climate Summit in September in New York City. Specifically, Cargill pledged not to develop palm oil on peatland, not to exploit the rights of indigenous people and local communities, and to include smallholders.
At the U.N. Climate Summit, Cargill signed the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge. Signers of the pledge committed to sustainable practices concerning palm oil. Cargill recently announced that it is on track to trace 80 percent of its palm oil in key markets back to the mills it came from, and that figure will reach 100 percent by December of next year, according to company estimates.
The Leuser Ecosystem in Indonesia is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems. The 6.5 million acres of tropical lowland rainforests stores vast amounts of carbon in its peatlands and forests. It is under threat despite being protected by Indonesian law.
One of those threats is the palm oil industry, as a recent Rainforest Action Network (RAN) report details. Conflict palm oil in particular is a threat. Conflict palm oil refers to palm oil produced through destruction of rainforests and peatlands and the violation of human rights, which includes the use of forced labor and child labor. Conflict palm oil can’t be traced back to its origin, and is increasing inside the Leuser Ecosystem.
Three companies are cited in the report as the biggest buyers of palm oil in the Aceh region of Indonesia where the Leuser Ecosystem is located. They are Musim Mas Group, Wilmar International and Golden Agri-Resources. As the report states, they “have a crucial role to play in securing the protection of the Leuser Ecosystem.”
Last week, the Eleventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) added 31 new species to the list of protected animals. Held in Quito, Ecuador, more than 900 delegates from around the world attended the conference, which is operated by the United Nations Environmental Program. Delegates represented governments, non-governmental organizations and the media.
The species added to the list include 21 shark, ray and sawfish species. Migratory birds were also added to the list. Part of the Guidelines to Prevent the Risk of Poisoning of Migratory Birds, adopted by the conference delegates, included phasing out the use of lead gunshot. The guidelines acknowledge that overexploitation is a key threat: Large numbers of migratory birds have been killed by illegal trapping and killing for consumption and trade in recent years, and countries agreed at the conference to take action against illegal hunting.
Norway ranked number one in the University of Notre Dame’s Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN) for its ability to adapt to climate change. ND-GAIN ranks over 175 countries on their ability to adapt to climate change. Norway has been at the top of ND-GAIN’s rankings for almost 20 years. Scandinavian countries are all ranked higher than Australia, Canada and the U.S., big countries loaded with natural resources. Sweden ranked number three, Finland number 4, and Denmark number five while Australia ranked number 6, United States number eight, and Canada number 11.
The rankings were released on November 5 at the 2014 Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index Annual Meeting hosted by the Wilson Center. The ND-GAIN ranks countries every year “based on their vulnerability to climate change and their readiness to adapt to the droughts, superstorms and natural disasters that climate change can cause,” according to a press release. It is also used to keep track of a country’s progress over the last 18 years.
Nothing is more American than the Thanksgiving holiday. As a cherished time when families gather for good food and connection, many stores have traditionally remained closed to encourage employees to spend the day with their own families. However, in the past couple of years more and more store chains have opened earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving. Macy’s announced that it would open for Black Friday sales at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Last year the department store chain opened at 8 p.m. Kohl’s and Sears are also opening at 6 p.m. this year, and JCPenney is opening at 5 p.m.
However, not all store chains are opening on Thanksgiving. There are about two dozen stores that will stay closed. The Facebook page Boycott Black Thursday compiled a list of stores, as did Mental Floss. Some of the stores refusing to open on Thanksgiving include Costco, Nordstrom, Patagonia, Dillard’s, TJ Maxx and Marshall’s.
People who eat I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter are now eating a healthier version of the butter substitute.
Made by Unilever, the butter substitute is now made with plant-based oils, purified water and no artificial preservatives. It is also the first spread from Unilever in the U.S. to be made with non-GMO sourced ingredients. Mike Faherty, vice president of Unilever Foods, North America, described the changes to I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter as “the start of a complete category transformation that will help us grow the buttery spreads business.”
The re-vamped I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter is part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), the company’s sustainability blueprint, which covers all of its products globally. One of the goals detailed in the USLP is to double the proportion of products in the company’s portfolio that meet the “highest nutritional standards” by 2020. It is on its way to meeting that goal, as 31 percent of its products in 2013 met these standards.
Georgia Power filed a request for certification to enter into power purchase agreements (PPAs) for 515 megawatts of solar power. Georgia Power, Southern Co.’s largest utility subsidiary, filed the request in April with the Georgia Public Service Commission.
The PPAs include deals with two solar power projects with a combined 99 MW of capacity that will be owned by Southern Power, the wholesale generation subsidiary of Southern Co. The PPAs are the largest solar power acquisition in Georgia and are part of Georgia Power’s Advanced Solar Initiative.
The average price of power in the four PPAs for solar projects with less than 20 MW of capacity was less than 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour, which is “2 cents below the cost achieved through the [utility’s] 2013 solicitation” for solar power, according to Georgia Power’s filing. The four smallest projects have a combined capacity of 76 MW and are expected to come online by the end of 2015. Georgia Power praised the prices as proof that solar can “provide competitive pricing when challenged to do so,” in its filing.
Last week, a team of 17 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) divers returned from a mission in which it removed 57 tons of debris from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
The divers traveled on the NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette for a 33-day mission to remove marine debris from Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii. The monument is a World Heritage Site and one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. Most of the debris removed was either fishing nets or plastic letter.
NOAA has led missions to clean marine debris every year since 1996, removing 904 tons in total, including the 57 tons removed on this latest mission.
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands include 5,178 square miles of the least disturbed coral reef habitat in U.S. waters. Divers found three sea turtles tangled in nets at Pearl and Hermes Atoll. The divers removed almost 6.25 tons of plastic trash on the shorelines of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. At the end of the voyage, they removed 7,436 hard plastic fragments, 3,758 bottle caps, 1,469 plastic beverage bottles and 477 lighters.
Change.org announced recently that it will amend its parental leave policy. The site that allows users to create petitions will increase the paid time an employee can take for the birth of a child from six weeks to 18 weeks. This is extended to both fathers and mothers. The new policy also includes people who adopt as being eligible for leave. Change.org has about 200 employees, and about 51 percent are women.
The company’s new policy goes further than federal law. Although the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides job protection so parents can take leave, there’s no guarantee of pay during time off. Jennifer Dulski, president and CEO of Change.org, told CNN Money that “giving people unpaid leave only solves half the problem.” The company’s goal was “to create a generous and equal leave policy that supported all parents,” she said.
Former Philip Morris cigarette plant in Concord, North Carolina will produce batteries to store energy for wind and solar farms, Fortune reports. The Swiss owned startup Alevo, which manufactures batteries, bought the 3.5 million square foot plant. The batteries are lithium-iron-phosphate and can be charged within 30 minutes, run 24/7 and last for 40,000 charges.
The North Carolina plant used to manufacture a billion cigarettes annually. However, smoking is not as popular and many Americans are either smoking less or quitting altogether. Years ago, Philip Morris stopped producing cigarettes at the plant. Now, it will produce batteries and create jobs while doing so. Alevo says it will hire 500 people in the next year, and within three years it will create 2,500 jobs. When the plant produced cigarettes, over 2,000 people were employed there.
European leaders agreed to reduce greenhouse gases by 40 percent by 2030. Two targets of 27 percent were also agreed on: one for the market share of renewable energy and another for energy efficiency improvement. The renewable energy target is binding on all EU member countries, but the energy efficiency target is optional.
“This 2030 package is very good news for our fight against climate change,” said President of the European Commission Jose Barroso in a statement. “No player in the world is as ambitious as the EU.”
Environmentalists are not very happy with the EU’s targets. “It is clear that all of the targets could have been – and should have been – more ambitious,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of climate and energy programs at the World Resources Institute. Morgan cites recent analysis that shows the EU can reduce carbon emissions by 49 percent by cutting natural gas imports in half and investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Public lands like Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California and Everglades National Park in Florida are national treasures that need to be protected. The outdoor company The North Face and the Department of the Interior recently announced a joint partnership to protect and preserve public lands. The joint partnership supports the 21st Century Conservation Science Corps (21CSC) which began in 2010 as part of the Obama administration’s America’s Great Outdoors program. The North Face also announced it is donating $250,000 to the 21CSC.
The company also launched a new commercial campaign, featuring footage of The North Face global athlete team members skiing, running, climbing and hiking. The commercial launched on YouTube on Oct. 27 and will hit national television during NBC Sunday Night Football on Nov. 9 . It will run through the end of December on other channels, including ESPN, USA Network and Comedy Central. The commercial will also be featured on digital and social channels such as Hulu and Facebook beginning Nov. 10.