This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.


[Green Community] Barbara Boxer Promises Cap-and-Trade Bill: Senator Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat, promised today to draft cap-and-trade legislation for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in as a little as a few weeks — and definitely “before the end of the year.”

February 3, 2009, 3:03 PM
Barbara Boxer Promises Cap-and-Trade Bill
Barbara Boxer
Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California said Tuesday that a cap-and-trade bill was a top priority. (Photo: The Associated Press)

Senator Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat, promised today to draft cap-and-trade legislation for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in as a little as a few weeks — and definitely "before the end of the year."
Speaking at a press conference, Ms. Boxer, the chairwoman of the Senate environment and public works committee, said, "I want to get a bill out of committee that every member has a stake in."
Ms. Boxer laid out the following six broad principles, but did not provide specific details concerning future legislation:
• A commitment to reducing emissions to levels guided by science to avoid global warming.
• Setting enforceable short- and long-term emissions targets.
• Establishing a carbon market.
• Investing in clean technology.
• Supporting efforts by local and state governments to deal with climate change.
• Supporting developing nations.
Larry Schweiger, president and chief executive of the National Wildlife Federationsaid in a video post ahead of Ms. Boxer's comments that, "We need to move quickly on a climate bill to help the American economy and to better prepare us for the future."
He added that "in this time of economic dislocation, it's very important that we make major investments in new strategy for energy, which will create millions of new jobs and give people opportunities to protect the environment."
Although Congress voted down a bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions last year, Ms. Boxer said she expects to draw both Democratic and Republican support.
"We know that we have to act," Boxer said, "and we intend to act."

The ripple effect of cutting water

The ripple effect of cutting water

Clare Davidson, BBC News 
Port Sunlight, Merseyside

"For far too long, businesses like ours have been effectively shipping water around the globe," says Gavin Neath, a spokesperson for Unilever.

He leans across a table in the firm's London office, as if confiding something secretive.

Like other multinational firms, Unilever is assessing its environmental impact, including how it uses water.

In doing so the firm is reassessing the way it does business, but this also creates a number of benefits.

The firm singles out two detergents - Small and Mighty, and Surf Excel - as examples of this shift. Small and Mighty, for example, requires half as much water per bottle and half as much packaging.

Shift in size

As we arrive at the firm's Port Sunlight factory, near Liverpool, Keith Rutherford - who has been closely involved in developing small & mighty in the UK - has set up a display of detergents to illustrate the change.

Brands sold in different countries over the years are neatly arranged.

What would have been considered the norm now appear absurdly big in scale.

"In the past, especially in the US, big was always best," explains Mr Rutherford.

"And the more bubbles and foam the better."

Making goods smaller challenges such assumptions.

As we enter liquid factory number one, we are hit by an intense waft of perfumed detergent.

As a robotic arm lifts bottles into a cardboard box, Mr Rutherford lists the benefits across the supply chain of making the detergent more concentrated.

Smaller bottles mean less packaging, meaning fewer carbon emissions. 

"It also means more can be transported on fewer lorries which reduces fuel, which in turn lowers emissions.

"And making a more concentrated liquid means more goes further, so customers don't have to lug as much detergent from the supermarket as often."

'Whole puzzle'

As part of its overall environmental assessment, the firm has also looked at the consumer's role.

This is effectively about looking at water used across the supply chain. While embedded carbon has been much talked about, embedded water, the water that is used in the life cycle of the product, has not. It is also called virtual water.

Water consumption at all stages is calculated; irrigation of the raw materials, the manufacturing process, water per consumer use, waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

"By looking at water we have an opportunity to look at the whole puzzle," says Mr Rutherford, gleefully.

A brief look at the firm's range of goods, from brands such as Knorr stock to Dove soap, underlines how important the end user's role is.

"It might be through boiling a kettle for tea, or making stock cubes or putting on the laundry", he lists.

Even pasta in tomato sauce needs water, albeit indirectly, since pasta needs to be boiled in water.

In fact, Unilever estimates that the water added by end users represents around 45% of the total water used for its products.

For detergent that figure is even greater - around 95% of the water is used by the consumer, mostly for rinsing.


"But you can't just abdicate that aspect, you need to raise awareness," says Mr Neath.

In countries such as India, washing clothes can represent around a quarter of the domestic water used and most water is used in the rinsing phase.

Surf Excel Quick Wash, used in India, produces less lather, so the clothes need less rinsing, saving around two buckets of water per wash.

Some parts of the world where Unilever operates are water stressed, and many areas have no piped water.

Reducing the amount of water needed not only cuts the water required, it also means less physical work, with women and girls standing to benefit the most since they do most of the water carrying, said Mr Neath.

So reducing the water in goods not only stands to benefit the environment. It also has social implications.

Much has changed since the days of William Hesketh Lever, who co-founded the eponymous soap firm with his brother long before it was incorporated into Unilever.

But he might smile to think that aspects of his mission statement had been carried out.

"To make cleanliness commonplace; to lessen work for women; to foster health and contribute to personal attractiveness."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/02/02 18:49:18 GMT


Regional Cap and Trade - Merger of schemes?

\1. REGULATION: States working to link regional cap-and-trade programs (01/28/2009)

Evan Lehmann, E&E reporter

States on both coasts of the United States are discussing the possibility of merging two regional climate initiatives to create a sprawling program restricting greenhouse gas emissions that will affect several economic sectors, one-third of the country and most of Canada.

The move could impose emission limits on sources like cars, businesses and residential heating fuel in 17 states, including along vast stretches of both heavily populated coastlines, and in four of Canada's seven provinces.

Such a merger would widely expand the scope of the nation's only cap-and-trade program, launched this month in 10 Eastern states, limiting carbon dioxide emissions from 233 power plants. It also underscores the urgency with which some states are acting to address climate change, even as President Barack Obama settles into the White House after promising to impose federal carbon restrictions.

Three fledgling cap-and-trade markets are forming in North America, each with different traits. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), along the East Coast, is the pioneer, but its cap only applies to the CO2 emissions from electric utilities. The Western Climate Initiative (WCI), which started along the West Coast and now has members approaching the Atlantic, would have an economywide cap and would apply to six types of greenhouse gases. The scope of the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord (MGGRA), forming in the Midwest, remains uncertain, but it is studying both WCI and RGGI.

Professional staff members from states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the East Coast program stretching from Maine to Maryland, are meeting with their counterparts at the more aggressive Western Climate Initiative to lay the groundwork for blending the two programs, according to participants.

The plans are in the preliminary stages, though participants believe the programs could coalesce by 2012, when the Western initiative is scheduled to launch. That would mean the Eastern program, whose acronym is commonly pronounced "Reggie," would likely finish its first phase of auctioning pollution permits over three years before vastly expanding its scope beyond power plants.

"Most states are very supportive of taking the next step," said Peter Iwanowicz, director of the Climate Change Office in New York state, which has taken a lead role in the effort to combine the two programs. "All the agency heads have always had that in mind."

Ian Bowles, secretary of energy and environmental affairs in Massachusetts, said in an interview: "We would like to develop a clear partnership with the Western Climate Initiative, as well as the Midwestern initiative," a proposal to cap emissions in six central states and the Canadian province of Manitoba.

Tempering Western ambitions with Eastern experience

In preparation for a merger, the Eastern initiative is ramping up its reach to match the aggressive policies outlined in the Western and Midwestern programs, both of which propose economywide limits on carbon output. The program is developing a low-carbon fuel standard, helping it mesh with a key element of the Western initiative that limits emissions from cars, trucks, heating fuel and chemical processes.

And Western officials, meanwhile, are learning the mechanics of auctioning allowances, or pollution permits, from East Coast specialists in sessions informally named "RGGI schools." The program is the first cap-and-trade initiative in the world with a policy of auctioning off nearly all of its permits, rather than giving some away.

During its first auctions in September and December, the program sold nearly 50 million allowances. Each permit allows polluters to emit 1 ton of carbon dioxide, while the revenue is used for energy efficiency initiatives.

But the discussions of a merger are occurring as environmentalists celebrate a transformation in the White House -- and the promise of a national cap-and-trade system. Some see the state activity as a creative way for the states to develop their regulatory programs. Others argue that the state activity is an effective tool for some environmental groups to prod more national corporations -- which don't want to see differing market rules -- to support a unified federal system that pre-empts the states.

"With the very real hope that there will be a federal system, are the states going to put a bunch of work into that [merger] when a better thing would be a federal system?" asked Ned Raynolds, the Northeast climate policy coordinator for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

He noted that a coast-to-coast program mandated by Congress could be in place by the time the merger occurs.

There are other challenges, too. In the East, there's a functioning futures market that could be disturbed by the expansion, which some believe could lower the price of carbon allowances. The connection could also be made more difficult by the different starting point and scope of each program, critics and supporters say.

A move that can be taken without Obama

The idea of marrying the two programs seems to soothe those currently in the bull's-eye of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. New England power plants would no longer singly shoulder the burden of paying for every ton of emitted carbon dioxide.

"Conceptually, I think I like it," said Christopher Sherman, general counsel for the New England Power Generators Association.

Despite Obama's rise in Washington, some states appear dedicated to remaining on the trajectory that has so far set the tone in the United States for action on climate change.

"Not knowing where they're going to go, or how fast either Congress or the Obama administration will move on a cap-and-trade program, the states will continue to be the incubator of these type of programs," said Iwanowicz of New York.

So the states may be pursuing the partnership between the two programs as an insurance policy against federal failure. But there's still strong hope that Washington will move fast under Obama's banner.

Bowles, of Massachusetts, acknowledged that it is "less important" now than it was before Obama's election to converge the two programs.

"We all believe that a strong federal policy is the fundamental goal of what we're doing," he said. "Because we don't believe that even half of the states can solve the greenhouse gas problem without the entire country."

If federal aspirations fall victim to a suffering economy or Senate filibusters, however, the convergence of the regional programs would draw a remarkable new map.

In the East, every coastal state north of Virginia would link with vast stretches of Canada, reaching as far west as North Dakota through the provinces of Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.

In the West, an arc of regulated states would sweep north from Arizona and New Mexico through California, Utah, Oregon, Washington and Montana. It would continue to the southern border of Alaska through the province of British Columbia.

"Without a doubt, I think an ideal scenario would be that they all eventually merge," said Jim Whitestone, a director at the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.