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


How Governments Should Fund Retrofits

thanks to Ksenia for the white paper

The attached white paper might interest you. We believe that government money that has been allocated to retrofits could be leveraged substantially by focusing on insuring the benefits that accrue from retrofitting rather than the capital needed for retrofits.

Toyota's solar car, still under wraps

Toyota Tries to Keep Wraps Under Solar Car
prius-solarToyota reportedly is developing a car that would be charged solely by solar, reportsthe Associated Press.
The futuristic car is years away from market, however, the report notes.
From a story originally published in the Nikkei newspaper and not verified by Toyota, the automaker's solar car would get some of its power from solar cells on the vehicle, and the rest from solar panels on the rooftop of the home where the car is parked.
Eventually, Toyota's goal is make a car completely powered by solar cells on the vehicle. The Toyota Prius prototype pictured above, equipped with solar panels, is not likely to be the solar car in Toyota's future.
At a factory in Japan, Toyota has been using rooftop solar panels to produce electricity equivalent to the amount needed to power 500 homes. The system cuts 740 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually from Toyota's carbon footprint.
Toyota's partner in developing and producing hybrid batteries, Panasonic Corp., is set to complete its takeover of Japanese rival Sanyo Electric Co., a leader in solar energy, early next year. That development should hasten Toyota's push into solar cars.
Last year, the ship carrier for Toyota's auto exports began experimenting with solar panels atop the ship.
Earlier this year, Toyota gained the coveted pace car position for several NASCAR races, using its hybrid Camry.

Newsclips: IT cures poverty, Sainsbury's ditches cereal boxes,dwp_uuid=5bcbd960-3309-11de-9316-00144feabdc0.html?nclick_check=1

Opinion: IT makes poverty a 'curable affliction'
By Olav Kjorven
Published: May 28 2009 21:39 | Last updated: May 28 2009 21:39

The quest to put information and communications technologies (ICTs) to work in fighting poverty began at the same time as the internet revolution 20 years ago. Two decades of hits and misses later, the idea of "being connected" has evolved enormously for nearly everyone on the planet.
As a result of the diffusion and relative affordability of technologies, Africa now accounts for the world's largest-growing mobile phone market, outpacing the US and Canada combined, with 287m subscribers. Close to 24 per cent of the world's population has access to the internet, though with very uneven coverage.
Given this situation, thinking around narrowing the so-called digital divide needs to evolve.
It is the wrong approach for rich countries to ship used computers, gadgets and ideas to poor countries, to fill a physical and virtual gap.
Instead we should focus on working with developing country partners on the social, economic and political gaps already identified – the main stumbling blocks to achieving the UN's Millennium Development Goals – and use ICTs to help build solutions. ICTs, therefore, are a means and not an end.
Take the problem of getting clean water to everyone on the planet. In a world of unprecedented wealth, almost 2m children die each year for want of clean water and adequate sanitation.
Figuring out how to deliver public services such as water, health and education comes up time and again in the MDG targets, so how can ICTs help?
South Africa found a practical way. The constitution recognises water as a human right and, as a result, each person is entitled to 25 litres of water each day for free.
Given that in many areas, villagers would walk for up to several hours to fetch water from rivers or other sources, how would this entitlement work in practice?
The state's service provider issued villagers with digital smart cards that give them access to shared village taps. The users load money on to their cards using card readers in the village shop. This technology helps the government to ensure that each person gets their 25 litres for free.
Another pressing challenge is enabling people without access to formal papers to prove their existence or rights under the law, or to benefit from the protection it offers.
In India, the state is working to tackle one facet of this problem by investing in a public-private e-governance programme that gives poor urban and rural dwellers easy, bribe-free access to government-issued documents such as birth certificates and land titles through privately owned internet kiosks. In the state of Andhra Pradesh alone, more than 10m people have used the programme.
Mobile phones are expanding the frontiers in getting basic public services to the people most in need. In Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, a health worker can now text basic health information and services to a rural community of 250,000 people 60kms away.
Using recycled phones and working in tandem with the local public hospital, this project means that help is now getting through to tuberculosis and other patients who would otherwise never get treatment.
ICTs also make private services such as banking affordable, accessible and available to more poor people in the developing world.
Mobile banking – or "m-banking" – allows millions of people living far from any bank branch to use mobile phone credits to access financial services.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Celtel began offering m-banking services shortly after the peace treaty was signed in 2003. The service allowed customers to wire funds across the country and was so effective in the war-torn nation that the government now uses it to pay its soldiers.
In Uganda and Kenya, users are setting up systems to make m-banking reach further: someone with access to a phone can send phone credit to a phone kiosk operator who converts it into cash and gives it to the intended person who lacks access to a phone or bank account.
In Kenya alone, 3m people are benefiting from m-banking, an accomplishment that would not have been possible without new technologies.
Do these innovative examples help to reduce poverty? In effect, yes. By reducing the obstacles poor people face and increasing their choices and opportunities, ICTs help shore up the simple idea that extreme poverty and gross disparities of opportunity are not inescapable features of the human condition but a curable affliction.
Eradicating poverty is far more than a mouse click away, but by being smart and imaginative in how we link development challenges with new technologies, we could shorten the journey ahead.
Olav Kjorven is United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Bureau for Development Policy at the United Nations Development Programme

Sainsbury's Ditches Cereal Box
cerealboxesSainsbury's is the first supermarket chain to eliminate cardboard cereal boxes from its grocery shelves, and has started selling milk in polythene bags, which contain 75 percent less packaging than rigid plastic milk bottles, reports the UK TimesOnline. The UK-based grocer expects these steps to help cut packaging on its entire range of products by a one-third.
With Britain said to be producing more than 10 million tons of waste packaging each year, some UK retailers including Sainsbury's are working to reduce this packaging waste. Sainsbury's says it is committed to reducing packaging by a third by 2015, while Tesco is aiming for a 15 percent reduction in packaging by 2010.
Sainsbury plans to sell its own-brand cereals in recyclable plastic packets, starting with its basics range of Rice Pops. Kellogg's, the biggest cereal manufacturer in the world, is considering the same move, reports the UK newspaper. In January, Kellogg began testing a shorter, deeper cereal box size and shape made with 8 percent less packaging material.
Nestle, which makes Shredded Wheat and Cheerios, told the newspaper it had no plans to change the packaging of its cereals.
The supermarket polled more than 1,000 customers about their 10 worst packaged products and discovered that they were frustrated with excessive levels of packaging, reports the UK TimesOnline. But the real test will be whether the packaging will be strong enough to protect the cereal from being ground to dust.
A recent survey by Ipsos Marketing finds that consumers want food companies to focus the most on making packaging more environmentally friendly. Twenty-two percent of European consumers and twenty-one percent of North American consumers chose green packaging over taste.

Green Community newsclips for week ending June 26th: Green Sigma coalition, swiss glaciers, green PCs, tech leadership, and more

Why the Tech Industry Needs Real Climate Leadership
All Posts
By Tom Dowdall, June 22, 2009
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In this response to editor Preston Gralla's post from earlier this month, the coordinator of Greenpeace's Cool IT Challenge explains how the campaign is trying to push companies on the policy front to influence the global climate debate for the better.

Last week's executive editor Preston Gralla called the
Greenpeace Cool IT Challenge "well-intentioned" but "simplistic and misguided."

The article then demonstrated a complete misunderstanding of the campaign by stating:

Look at the scorecard itself. A full 35 points out of the 100 total are devoted to speeches and political advocacy done by the companies. But speeches and advocacy aren't the key to what these companies need to be doing.
Actually, it is.

The best way to make the IT sector's emissions reduction solutions massively profitable is to make carbon emissions hugely expensive. That will not happen through current market mechanisms, it will only happen through the political and legislative processes that are underway to cap CO2 emissions. Those processes are driven (we would say to an unacceptable extent) by industry lobbying.

The fossil fuel industry recognizes its business interest in these political proceedings, and is pushing hard to ensure caps on CO2 emissions remain weak and ineffectual. 

The IT industry is largely absent from that fight, despite having everything to gain from strong and binding mechanisms. We at Greenpeace simply want to see a fair fight, and at the moment the heavyweight contest is absurdly imbalanced.

Reports such as 
SMART 2020 show the use of IT solutions could cut 15 percent of global carbon emissions by 2020. Those kinds of solutions become extremely attractive in a restrictive carbon regime. Their profitability rises in lock step with a rising cost of emitting CO2.

That 15 percent reduction goal is the biggest benefit IT can bring to helping prevent catastrophic global warming. To achieve this goal, IT companies need to show how their solutions contribute to measurable, verifiable and -- most importantly -- net emissions reductions. 

Indeed, we don't delve into detail on each solution offered by companies because there are so many covering diverse areas: travel reduction, logistics, electricity grids and buildings to name just a few. In the end the only number that matters is how these solutions reduce emissions. It's also one of the few ways to compare different solutions by different companies and why we are pushing for case study examples and industry-wide standards.

Choosing Sides

The scale of the climate challenge requires a new style of leadership from the business world and from businesses that stand to gain in a low-carbon economy -- IT companies could be some of the biggest winners. However, the head of the U.N. climate process, Yvo de Boer, summed up the current situation from U.N. climate negotiations in Bonn:

"The problem I have is that when we all get back home -- it's the potential losers that have the ear of the politicians and not the potential winners."

The days have long since passed when signing a general declaration or joining a corporate club that states global warming is important and global carbon emissions should be regulated in some form was sufficient to be a climate leader. This is a battle for the future of the planet. Battles necessitate the choosing of sides. Companies staying silent in the debate are allowing the high-carbon lobby to delay and weaken any potential global deal.

We do not present the Cool IT Challenge as a comprehensive survey of all aspects of the whole sector's Green IT initiatives. Gartner has already published such an industry survey in 2008, but even Gartner cannot get responses from all the top companies. We spend a lot of time doing our "homework," meeting and discussing with relevant companies, often in depth and reviewing their public material. To check company claims we often consult with other external experts.

Prioritizing What Matters Most

We called it a challenge because that's exactly what it is -- focusing on the key priorities of real emissions reduction solutions, clear and progressive advocacy and companies acting to reduce their own emissions and boosting renewable energy use. This requires leadership from the IT sector and difficult choices about confronting the stance of some of their biggest corporate customers.

There has been plenty of publicity about the environmental impact of IT, such as in our 
Guide to Greener Electronics. Now we feel it's time additional focus is given to the vital solutions side of the industry. Real climate leadership is needed now and we are trying to identify true climate champions from a sector that stands to benefit from a strong global deal on global warming.

That would be really "cool" -- not only for the planet but also for IT businesses everywhere.

Tom Dowdall is the coordinator of 
Greenpeace's Greener Electronics campaign.

Swiss Glaciers Melting Faster Than Ever Before: Study
Date: 23-Jun-09
 Katie Reid

Swiss Glaciers Melting Faster Than Ever Before: Study Photo: Denis Balibouse
Water flows from a melting glacier in the Swiss Alps in Arolla, near Sion.
Photo: Denis Balibouse

ZURICH - Switzerland's glaciers shrank by 12 percent over the past decade, melting at their fastest rate due to rising temperatures and lighter snowfalls, a study by the Swiss university ETH showed Monday.
"The last decade was the worst decade that we have had in the last 150 years. We lost a lot of water," said Daniel Farinotti, research assistant at the ETH.
"The trend is definitely that glaciers are melting faster now. Since the end of the 1980s, they have lost more and more mass more quickly," he said.
It was still too early to tell how 2009 will develop for glaciers, which are a key source of water for hydro-electric plants as well as an important tourist attraction, Farinotti said. Up to 6,000 tourists visit the Jungfraujoch glacier every day.
"This year depends on the summer. We had a lot of snow in the winter of 2008/09. But the spring was very warm so I doubt that this year will be a positive year for the glaciers," Farinotti said.
Swiss glaciers have lost 9 cubic km of ice since 1999, the warmest period of the past 150 years, with the most dramatic decline coming in 2003 when they shrunk by 3.5 percent in 2003.
Researchers are predicting that the temperatures in the Swiss Alps will rise by 1.8 degrees Celsius in winter and by 2.7 degrees Celsius in the summer by 2050.

Who is the Greenest PC Maker in the World?
applepcsAnalysts say going green has become a business plan for some of the biggest personal computer (PC) makers as a way to differentiate themselves from their competition, reports Reuters.
The "green" talk is going over the top as computer makers spar with one another over who has the most "green" platform.
The three major U.S. computer vendors — Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Inc., and Apple Inc. — say that customers gain real benefits such as lower power consumption in green-certified display screens, says Reuters.
John Spooner, an analyst with Technology Business Research told Reuters that it's a "green arms race" with everyone trying to one up each other. The good news, he said in the article, is that the PC makers' green efforts will benefit their companies, customers and the environment.
These efforts include Dell's recycling program, Apple's drive to develop toxic-free and energy-efficient notebooks, and HP's efforts to develop products aimed at reducing energy use and GHG emissions, and sustainability in products, packaging, and performance.
Dell also claims to be the first major computer manufacturer to ban the export of electronic waste to developing countries as part of its global policy on responsible electronics disposal.
Dell, Apple, and HP are considered some of the top U.S. green tech leaders byGreenFactor, a global technology and environmental research initiative.
But which PC maker makes the greenest products? Based on their claims, Reuters reports that Dell says it wants to become the "greenest technology company on Earth"; Apple claims it has the "greenest family of notebooks"; and HP focuses on its long tradition of environmentalism as well as the market size to effect change.
Some of these claims are causing contention in the industry.
As an example, Dell recently called Apple's green MacBook ads misleading for calling the Macbook line "the world's greenest family of notebooks," reports theNew York Times' Green Inc. blog.
Dell had several issues with the claims, which included the usage of greenest family of notebooks and Apple's reliance on the Green Electronics Council's Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) "gold" ratings, which it says, along with several competitors, has some "environmental blind spots," reports The Green Inc. blog.
After a review of the claims, the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus concluded that consumers "could reasonably take away the message that a 'family' of notebooks is a line of products and not all the products produced by a manufacturer."
NAD recommended that Apple modify its "world's greenest family of notebooks" claim, "to make clearer that the basis of comparison is between all MacBooks to all notebooks made by a given competitor" and to "avoid the reference to 'world's greenest' given the potential for overstatement."
An Apple spokesman, Steve Dowling, wrote in an e-mail message to The Green Inc. blog that his company was pleased with the ruling, and that every Apple notebook met the new Energy Star 5.0 specification out of the box and is made using mercury-free LED backlighted displays and PVC-free components.
Nonprofit environmental groups have backed Apple's efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its PCs, reports Reuters. Greenpeace International in 2007 applauded Apple's commitment to phase out by 2008 the use of toxic chemicals that could affect human health.
But Greenpeace's latest update to its Guide to Greener Electronics found that HP, Lenovo and Dell won't meet their promise to eliminate vinyl plastic (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from their products by the end of 2009.
Sarah Westervelt, a spokeswoman for the Basel Action Network, an environmental nonprofit, told Reuters that Apple was perhaps the earliest PC maker to commit itself to reducing the environmental impact of its products. But no matter how green they are, laptops from all manufacturers will continue to have toxins, she said in the article.

IBM's Green Sigma Coalition Lines Up Industry Leaders
gablogoIBM has announced the formation of the Green Sigma Coalition at its Green and Beyond Summit for Industry leaders in San Francisco, to provide smart solutions for energy, water, waste and greenhouse gas management. Partnering with key leaders in metering, monitoring, automation, data communications and software, charter members of the industry alliance are Johnson ControlsHoneywell Building SolutionsABB,EatonESSCiscoSiemens Building Technologies Division and Schneider Electric.
The coalition members will work with IBM to integrate their products and services with IBM's Green Sigma solution, which applies Lean Six Sigma principles and practices to energy, water, waste and GHG emissions throughout a company's operations. The solution combines real-time metering and monitoring with advanced analytics and dashboards that allow clients to make better decisions about energy and water usage, waste and GHG emissions to improve efficiency, lower costs and reduce environmental impact.
IBM, together with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH), also announced plans at the green summit to build a first-of-a-kind water-cooled supercomputer that will directly repurpose excess heat for the university buildings. The system, called Aquasar, is expected to cut energy consumption by 40 percent and carbon emissions by up to 85 percent compared to a similar system using today's cooling technologies.
IBM also announced at the conference that the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is using IBM software to help reduce pollution in the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
The SFPUC, which treats an average of 80-90 million gallons of wastewater per day during dry weather and up to 370 million gallons of combined wastewater and storm runoff per day during the rainy season, is using the IBM software to develop smarter management of the city's 1,000 miles of sewer system and three treatment facilities.
In the last year, the IBM Maximo Asset Management software has improved SFPUC's ratio of preventive to corrective maintenance by approximately 11 percent. The commission's Wastewater Enterprise also is using ArcGIS geographic information software from IBM Business Partner ESRI to locate and measure assets spatially.

Green Group Asks U.S. To Bar Canada Oil Sands
Date: 25-Jun-09
 Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON - An environmental group on Wednesday asked U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to deny permits for pipelines that would bring oil from Canada's oil sands to the United States.
ForestEthics said production from Canadian oil sands, also known as tar sands, generates up to five times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil. It said this conflicts with President Obama's pledge to tackle global warming.
"Oil from the tar sands is one of the world's dirtiest," the group's executive director, Todd Paglia, said in a letter to Clinton. "For the U.S., continued dependence on tar sands oil would impair plans to reduce our carbon footprint in the short and long term."
Canada is the biggest foreign oil supplier to the United States and Canada's oil sands are the largest crude deposits outside the Middle East.
The group urged Clinton to deny permits for pipelines that would move the oil to U.S. refineries, particularly the Alberta Clipper pipeline. The State Department has a say in pipelines that would cross the U.S. border.
Enbridge Energy Partners LP's 1,000-mile (1,610-kilometre) pipeline would be able to carry 450,000 barrels of tar sands crude oil a day from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. The oil would then be sent to U.S. refineries to be processed into petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel fuel.
The U.S. portion would be 326 miles long and cost $1.2 billion. If approved, it would be operational in mid 2010.
Enbridge spokeswoman Denise Hamsher said the State Department's decision is based on a pipeline, not on oil production that occurs in Canada where it does not have jurisdiction.
"What would the Midwest do without that supply?" asked Hamsher, who pointed out that 1 million barrels a day in Canadian sands oil is already exported to the United States.
State Department spokesman Andrew Laine said the Alberta Clipper pipeline project was under review "and it is premature to comment while the review process is ongoing."
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said this month that technology will help solve the environmental problems connected with Canada's oil sands production. But ForestEthics said technology will not be able to overcome human health hazards associated with oil sands production.
"In Alberta, where most of the Canadian tar sands operations are currently located, there are elevated rates of cancer in downstream communities," the group said.
Travis Davies, spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said studies have not cited a link between oil sands and cancer in nearby communities.
Davies acknowledged that oil sands production causes higher greenhouse gas emissions, but not at the rate five times higher claimed by ForestEthics.
He said the full life-cycle emissions from oil sands -- production, transport, refining and end use -- is only 5 to 15 percent more than oil imported from Saudi Arabia and about equal to oil from Venezuela, Mexico, Nigeria and even California.
Still, ForestEthics protested outside the State Department on Wednesday by giving passersby the chance to smell glass vials of the tar sands that are labeled "dirty oil by any other name would be as risky."
The group joined with the Sierra Club to raise their concerns about Canadian tar sands to U.S. lawmakers by taking out a full-page ad in a prominent Capitol Hill newspaper.
The political-based cartoon shows a young girl worried about a huge pipeline, labeled "World's Dirtiest Oil" at the U.S.-Canadian border, and asking Secretary Clinton: "Is this my clean energy future?" The ad can be seen at the group's website
"Secretary Clinton now has an opportunity to show that America is a global leader in the clean energy economy. It's simply not in our national interest to allow this project to move forward," said Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope.
(Editing by Marguerita Choy)

U.S., Canada Must Do More In Climate Fight: France
Date: 25-Jun-09
 Pete Harrison and Julien Toyer

BRUSSELS - The United States and Canada must do more than currently proposed to tackle greenhouse gases, France says in a position paper ahead of global climate talks in Copenhagen this December.
The government document seen by Reuters, titled: "Possible outline of a fair and ambitious agreement in Copenhagen," is the strongest message yet to the United States and Canada from within the European Union.
Paris also made the first concrete suggestions on how ministers in Copenhagen might tackle soaring emissions from aviation, but stopped short of suggesting emission curbs for shipping.
Airlines should cut emissions to 5 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, said the document, seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
It warned that Canada and the United States were not on course to cut emissions by the level needed, making it difficult for rich nations to meet the 25-40 percent collective reduction in greenhouse gases recommended by a U.N. climate panel.
The panel says such cuts are needed to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change, such as melting ice sheets, thawing permafrost and rising sealevels.
"It is therefore necessary for Canada and the U.S. to take on commitments which are at least on a par with the EU's, compared with 1990 levels," it added.
The EU has already committed to cut its own emissions to one fifth below 1990 levels by 2020, and will increase those cuts to 30 percent if other nations take similar action.
Canada reacted with surprise, saying French officials had not mentioned their view during recent meetings with Canadian environment minister Jim Prentice, most recently in Mexico this week.
"At no time, has this issue been raised by the French with Minister Prentice," said his spokesman Bill Rodgers.
"Our targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the medium and long term have remained consistent in all of the meetings Minister Prentice has attended throughout Europe and North America," he added.
The paper said countries should base their emissions on the United Nations climate panel's most cautious scenarios.
The position is likely to feed into EU negotiations to form a coordinated European stance ahead of the Copenhagen talks.
Technology for curbing climate warming gases must also be boosted globally and shared with poor nations.
"Parties shall work toward the goal of at least a doubling of global energy-related research and development and demonstration by 2012 and increasing it up to four times its current level by 2020," said the document.
Emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa should outpace the action of other developing nations, which should cut to 15 to 30 percent below business-as-usual levels, it added.
(Editing by Dale Hudson and Keiron Henderson)

(Carbon management) Carbon management newsclips / week ending June 26th: Cap and trade & rising energy costs, carbon targets, climate change regulations, and burping cows

CBO: Cap-And-Trade to Cost $175 Per Household
capandtradecostsThe Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the U.S. cap-and-trade program will cost $22 billion annually, or about $175 per household, by 2020.
This figure includes the cost of restructuring the production and use of energy and of payments made to foreign entities under the program, reports CBO. However, it does not include the economic benefits and other benefits of the reduction in GHG emissions and the associated slowing of climate change, according to the CBO analysis.
The CBO report examines the average cost per household that would result from the implementation of the GHG cap-and-trade program under H.R. 2454, as well as how that cost would be spread among households with different levels of income.
Reducing emissions of GHGs would moderate the damage associated with climate change and the risk of significant damage, but it would also impose costs on the economy, reports CBO. In the case of carbon dioxide CO2 — which accounts for 85 percent of U.S. GHG emissions — higher costs would stem from the fact that most economic activity is based on fossil fuels that contain carbon and produce GHG emissions when burned, according to the analysis.
Under cap-and-trade, the federal government would put a limit on greenhouse gases from most sectors of the U.S. economy with the cap divided into billions of permits, reports Bloomberg News. Each permit is equivalent to one metric ton of carbon dioxide. CBO estimates that the price of an allowance would be $28 in 2020.
By annually reducing the supply of these permits, the cap-and-trade legislation written by House Democrats Henry Waxman of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts would lower the limit on greenhouse gases to 17 percent less than 2005 levels by 2020, according to Bloomberg News.
The CBO analysis estimates that the legislation will cost the richest U.S. households $245 a year, and the poorest will see gains of $40 a year.

Energy Costs Rising, Regulations Imminent - Are You Ready?
George Ahn

george-ahn2While organizations remain uncertain about the specific effects and requirements of future greenhouse gas (GHG) legislation and regulation, one outcome is certain: any law that puts a price on carbon will increase energy costs.
To reduce vulnerability to energy cost increases, organizations must prepare now, and a comprehensive evaluation of energy use in facilities and real estate offers one of the best preparatory measures. Before carbon regulations hit, organizations need to accurately evaluate their real estate portfolios in order to understand their risk profiles and determine the best opportunities for energy efficiency improvements.
In one of my earlier articles, I introduced the notion that existing buildings, not just new buildings, are critical to a low-carbon economy, and that technology strategies drive building efficiency.
In light of pending GHG regulations, we must now consider how technology for enterprise sustainability - particularly software that increases energy efficiency of existing buildings - provides a critical safeguard against the rise in electricity costs resulting from climate change legislation and regulation.
A look at current GHG legislation under consideration underscores the increased urgency Washington's new leadership places on climate change. The Obama administration has made climate change a top priority. Obama wants to establish a cap-and-trade program and reduce GHG emissions to 14 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 proposed in March by Representatives Waxman and Markey includes a cap and trade program and a GHG emission reduction goal of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, increasing to an 83 percent reduction by 2050. This bill was recently approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and now awaits approval by additional committees before moving for a House vote, expected this summer.
Meanwhile, the EPA has proposed mandatory GHG reporting for organizations with large carbon footprints, affecting an estimated 13,000 facilities in the U.S. Further, the EPA recently released an endangerment finding that GHG emissions endanger public health and welfare. With this finding, the EPA may decide to regulate GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act (CAA).
Organizations of all sizes must understand that, regardless of which proposals become laws, any regulation will, directly or indirectly, put a price on carbon emissions and increase energy prices to consumers. The only question is the extent to which the speed and scope of a GHG reduction scheme will increase prices. To anticipate and address the impending price increases now, start with buildings. Today, buildings represent 38 percent of carbon emissions and consume 72 percent of electricity, according to the U.S. Green Building Council. They offer the single-greatest opportunity to improve both energy efficiency and operating costs.
Organizations can perform a comprehensive, portfolio-wide evaluation of energy use for their real estate to identify underperforming facilities and determine areas for both immediate and long-term improvements.
In order to cost-effectively improve energy efficiency, organizations need to categorize abatement opportunities to identify those that are most valuable. For example, operational changes like adjusted temperature settings require little investment, build awareness to change employee behavior, and save energy. More comprehensive engineered changes, such as high-efficiency HVAC systems, require a larger capital investment but may also deliver a higher return. The key to selecting energy improvement opportunities is the ability to focus resources and capital budgets on those projects that deliver the greatest financial and environmental returns.
Organizations with large real estate portfolios benefit from enterprise-wide software that performs accurate energy measurement across all buildings and allows management to select the most effective energy-efficiency projects.
Regardless of the tools used and the measures taken, a focus on the energy efficiency of facilities ensures adequate and necessary preparation for rising fuel costs. Ask yourself whether or not your buildings are on a low-carbon plan, and if not, address the environmental performance of your facilities today to avoid financial challenges down the road.
George Ahn is President and Chief Executive Officer of TRIRIGA. He has more than 18 years of software industry leadership.

Electricity, Heat, Transportation Cause 60% of Emissions

Electricity and heat generation results in 32.4 percent of all greenhouse gases emitted in the United States, according to a new climate report from the government.

Electricity and heat generation results in 32.4 percent of all greenhouse gases emitted in the United States, according to a new climate report from the government.
Transportation accounts for another 27.2 percent of GHG emissions.
Less than 20 percent comes from industry, industrial waste and industrial processes, according to the report, "Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States."

Climate Change Regulations Impact European Businesses
ecenergylogo1U.K.-based GHK Consulting, hired by the European Commission, has reviewed 15 companies, including Enel, Cadbury, Marks and Spencer, Carrefour, Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic, to examine how climate change and related policies have influenced them, according to the New York Times.
The companies have taken widespread measures to substitute high-energy-intensity goods and services with services that burn less energy, which are immediately impacting their suppliers.
The study also shows that climate change policies are driving a need for new skills and a general need for upskilling, which companies are attempting to meet by introducing new training programs. All companies reviewed, with the exception of energy companies, offer environmental training programs, with some offering specific training for packaging designers, airplane pilots, truck drivers or kiln operators.
James Medhurst, director at GHK Consulting told the NY Times that among these 15 companies it's regulation that is pushing them to think about climate change and manage their business accordingly.
The Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), and the EU directive on renewable energies are the strongest regulatory drivers, but other factors like reputation, corporate social responsibility and competitiveness also impact a company's response to the climate change, and vary according to sectors.

Carbon targets 'dangerously optimistic'

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Felicity Carus, Tuesday 23 June 2009 20.12 BST
Article history
A leading UK climate scientist yesterday warned MPs that the government's climate change policies are "dangerously optimistic".
Professor Kevin Anderson, the director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said the government's planned carbon cuts – if followed internationally – would have a "50-50 chance" of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 2C. This is the threshold that the EU defines as leading to dangerous climate change.
Anderson also said that the two government departments most directly involved with climate change policy were like "small dogs yapping at the heels" of more powerful departments, such as that run by the business secretary, Lord Mandelson.
He said that the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), run by Ed Miliband, should be given more power.
Anderson was speaking to MPs on the environmental audit committee as part of an inquiry into the UK's carbon budgets. These are legally binding caps on emissions set over five years by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the independent body set up to advise the government on how big the cuts should be. In April the CCC's proposed cut of 34% by 2020 relative to 1990 levels was adopted by the chancellor in his budget, making Britain the first country in the world to pursue legally binding emissions reductions.
The CCC hopes that the government will adopt a higher intended budget (a 42% reduction in emissions by 2020) within the next two years, once a global deal on climate change has been agreed. But Anderson said that the UK should show leadership before the Copenhagen summit and raise the target to 40% now.
The top scientist's criticism will come as an unwelcome distraction to Decc ahead of the release of its "road to Copenhagen" strategy document on Friday. This will lay out what the government hopes to achieve at the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December.
But Anderson said that without more ambitious action he feared that a significant deal at Copenhagen would not be achieved.
"No one I talk to thinks there is going to be anything significant to come out of Copenhagen," he said.
"We are going to come out and recover the deckchairs in preparation for moving them as the Titanic sinks. We're not even at the stage of rearranging them," he added.
He criticised CCC's carbon budget because it failed to adequately factor in emissions from food, deforestation, aviation and shipping and the manufacture of goods for the west.
Anderson said a commitment to a 40% cut by 2020 would help to press other countries into a stronger deal on a successor to the Kyoto protocol.
Anderson praised politicians for taking on the science of climate change, but accused them of letting policy be driven by political expediency rather than science.
A spokesperson for Decc said: "The UK will be pushing for the most ­ambitious deal possible at Copenhagen.
"We've already said that we'll look again at tightening our carbon budgets once an international agreement has been achieved."

Barack Obama pleads with Congress to pass historic climate change bill
Package that would slash US emissions likely to win approval despite opposition from Republicans and Democrat rebels

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 26 June 2009
Article history
Democrats in Congress are poised to vote through a sweeping energy and climate change bill tomorrow that could deliver on one of Barack Obama's signature election promises and galvanise international efforts to agree action on global warming.
The vote, which for the first time could see the US commit itself to cutting back the carbon emissions that cause climate change, prompted a frenzied last-minute PR offensive, with Obama making his third appeal in 48 hours for Congress to act on energy reform.
Passage of the bill, which would reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020 and offer incentives for energy efficiency and the development of clean energy technology, would hand Obama a personal victory at a time when he has run into strong opposition over the trillion-dollar price tag on his other main election promise, healthcare reform.

Suzanne Goldenberg: 'This is much less than Europe has signed up for' 
Link to this audio
In a speech from the White House rose garden, Obama said the bill would create millions of green jobs and lay the foundations of a stable economy.
"I can't stress enough the importance of this vote," he said. "We cannot be afraid of the future, and we cannot be a prisoner of the past."
He also said the reforms were overdue, and crucial to demonstrating US leadership on the world stage. "We have been talking about this issue for decades and now it's time to act."
In Washington and beyond, the vote is seen as a historic moment, both for Obama's political agenda and international efforts to reach a climate change treaty at Copenhagen in December.
"This legislation is a game changer of historic proportions," said Ed Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who is one of the authors of the bill. "The whole world is waiting to see if Barack Obama can arrive in Copenhagen as a leader of attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
The bill could allow America to claim a leadership role in international negotiations, diplomats said. "If this goes through, it's a very big achievement – no question," said one diplomat.
The bill sets less aggressive targets on reducing emissions than the EU has pledged, and is more generous to polluting industries than Obama had wanted. But he said: "This is a huge ocean liner, the US economy, and the question is, can we start changing [its] direction? Ten years out, it's not going to look as if the changes are massive. Twenty years out, suddenly you start really getting huge impacts. Thirty years out, you had a transformative difference in the economy. And that's how we've got to look at it."
The interventions from Obama capped an intensive lobbying effort for the bill by the White House and administration officials, Al Gore, and a broad coalition of environmental and business groups. The run-up had seen America's oil, gas and coal industry increase its lobbying budget by 50% in the first three months of the year to try to kill the bill. The spoiler campaign has run to hundreds of millions of dollars and involves industry front groups, lobbying firms, television, print and radio advertising, and donations to pivotal members of Congress.
The last-minute push came as the Democratic house speaker, Nancy Pelosi, went over the vote-counts. The Democrats have enough representatives to win but dissidents from farm and rustbelt states needed to be won over.
Democrats grew increasingly confident of the bill's passage earlier this week when its most formidable opponent in Congress, the Democratic chair of the house agricultural committee, said he would now push for its passage after winning concessions. "We think we have something here now that can work with agriculture," said Collin Peterson, who led the Democratic opposition to the bill. "I think we will be able to get the votes to pass this."
The stakes could not be higher. A defeat would destroy the last chances of enacting crucial energy legislation before the UN treaty negotiations at Copenhagen. It could also rebound on other items on Obama's to-do list. The bill must also be passed by the Senate before Obama signs it into law, and while the Democrats face a tougher fight there, tomorrow's likely victory would give them a burst of momentum.
The bill has faced almost uniform opposition from Republicans in the house, who say it amounts to a hidden energy tax. They have also argued that the bill would dramatically raise electricity prices – a claim debunked with the release of a cost analysis by the non-partisan ­Congressional Budget Office showing it would cost the average family a total of $175 (£107) by 2020, and would save poor families about $40.
The bill, now swollen to about 1,200 pages, would bind the US to reduce the carbon emissions from burning oil and coal by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020 and more than 80% by 2050.
It envisages measures to promote clean energy – from a development bank for new technology to new, greener building codes and targets for expanding the use of solar and wind power.
But there were concerns among environmentalists yesterday that the concessions had dangerously weakened the bill, and that the Senate could water down the green measures further.
After the reduction of the original emissions-cut target to 17% and the granting of far more free pollution permits for the cap-and-trade scheme than originally envisioned, the most significant concessions include how farmers are rewarded for practices that reduce carbon emissions, and a four-year delay in new regulations that would have cut the profits of corn-based ethanol and encouraged the development of non-food biofuels instead.
However, Henry Waxman, who has been leading the bill through Congress, argued that the most important element of the bill had come through the hard bargaining process intact.
"We have not given away the essentials of the bill because the essentials are the reduction of carbon emissions."
Most environmental organisations said the bill – though not as rigorous as they would have liked – was as stringent as could be expected from Congress and were hopeful of making improvements in the future. However, Greenpeace late yesterday said it could not support the bill, and called on Congress to defeat it.
" To support such a bill is to abandon the real leadership that is called
for at this pivotal moment in history," the organisation said

Miliband: 2020 is year of no return for emissions
Minister's stark warning in run-up to crucial climate change summit
By Mike McCarthy, Environment Editor

Friday, 26 June 2009

The world's emissions of the greenhouse gases causing global warming should peak in 2020 and then start to decline, the British Government is proposing in the run-up to the global climate conference taking place at Copenhagen in December.
Emissions from developed nations such as Britain and the US should reach their highest point even earlier, by 2015, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, suggested to other countries in a meeting in Mexico this week, in the first move to make the crucial issue of a "carbon peak" an official target of the Copenhagen agreement.
Emissions of gases such as carbon dioxide have been rising at a far faster rate than was predicted even a decade ago, and research published by the UK Met Office last year showed that the point at which they begin to decline as a whole is absolutely vital in bringing rising temperatures under control.
A few years' delay in the peak can mean the world is committed to a significantly higher rise than would otherwise be the case, and computer simulations by the Met Office Hadley Centre indicate that for every ten years the peak is postponed, another half degree of temperature increase becomes unavoidable.
Hitherto, the issue of the "global peak" has largely remained a theoretical one, but this week Mr Miliband and British officials put it on the table at a meeting in Mexico of the Major Economies Forum on Climate and Energy (MEF), a new, pre-Copenhagen high-level discussion group which has been convened by the US President Barack Obama.
The MEF meetings will culminate in a world leaders' summit on climate change which will take place alongside the G8 meeting in Italy in July, and which will be a critical moment in the push towards a Copenhagen climate deal.
Yesterday Mr Miliband said the issue of a global peak in emissions had so far been "significantly under-emphasised". If it could be agreed, it would "irreversibly break the trend towards rising emissions," he said, adding: "It would show that something had changed. We are arguing very strongly for a 2020 global peak."
Dr Vicky Pope, the Hadley Centre's head of climate change advice, said yesterday: "Even if emissions peak in the next ten years and then decline rapidly, temperatures are still likely to rise to around two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century. Every 10-year delay in starting reductions will result in a further 0.5 degree increase in the most likely temperature rise, so the need for action is urgent."
The Hadley Centre's simulations last year indicated a most likely two degree rise with a 2015 peak (and world carbon emissions subsequently declining at three per cent a year to 2050), a 2.5 degree rise with a 2025 peak and a similar decline, and a three degree rise with a 2030 peak. In each case the temperature rise is a best guess - a 50-50 chance - and there are possibilities that it could be lower, or indeed, significantly higher.
All countries, including the UK, must be more ambitious in commitments to cut greenhouse gases, Mr Miliband said, ahead of the launch today of the Government's own manifesto on what needs to be achieved in Copenhagen.
Greater public pressure would play a part in ensuring the politics of negotiating a new deal catches up with the science of what needs to be done, he said. From today the Government is distributing pamphlets setting out the importance of Copenhagen, which will be sent to public bodies such as schools and hospitals, and launching a

Canadian Scientists Breeding Cows That Burp Less
Date: 24-Jun-09
 Nina Lex

Canadian Scientists Breeding Cows That Burp Less Photo: Shaun Best
A Canadian cow is pictured in a field near Teulon, Manitoba in this July 28, 2006 file photo.
Photo: Shaun Best

TORONTO - Canadian scientists are breeding a special type of cow designed to burp less, a breakthrough that could reduce a big source of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.
Cows are responsible for nearly three-quarters of total methane emissions, according to Environment Canada. Most of the gas comes from bovine burps, which are 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
Stephen Moore, a professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, is examining the genes responsible for methane produced from a cow's four stomachs in order to breed more efficient, environmentally friendly cows.
The professor of agricultural, food and nutritional science completed primary tests using traditional techniques to breed efficient animals that produce 25 percent less methane than less efficient animals. But more work needs to be done before the long-term impact is known. Moore's study was published earlier this year in the Journal of Animal Science.
"We are working on producing diagnostic markers for efficient animals. We are looking at the next generation of technologies that will enable us to determine the genetics of an animal through a blood test or testing some hairs that you might pluck from the animal," said Moore.
To shrink cattle's ecological footprint ranchers could also decrease the time cows are left standing in the field by getting animals to market sooner. That means breeding cattle that grow faster. Also, through breeding, cattle could become more efficient in converting feed into muscle and producing less methane and waste, said Moore.
Another method already being used to reduce methane emissions is feeding livestock a diet higher in energy and rich in edible oils, which ferment less than grass or low-quality feed.
Farmers in Alberta that feed their livestock edible oils and shorten the time to market can accrue carbon credits that could amount to between one C$1 and C$10 per head.
New Hampshire-based Stonyfield Farm, an organic yogurt producer in which Groupe Danone holds a majority stake, reduced emissions from their cows on an average of 12 percent by adding alfalfa, flax or hemp to livestock feed on a small number of its farms.
"If every U.S. dairy farmer reduced emissions by 12 percent it would be equal to about half a million cars being taken off the road," said Nancy Hirshberg, vice president of Stonyfield's Natural Resources department.
(Editing by Frank McGurty)

Dr. James Lovelock's lecture for Corporate Knights

thanks to Toby for recording the session and making it available :-)

Hi Jean-Francois,

I hope this finds you in good spirits. It was nice to see you on Monday.

We have posted the first 10 minute segment of Dr James Lovelock's 5-part
Corporate Knights Toronto lecture on vanishing face of Gaia.
We will be posting new segments for the other four parts each Thursday
morning for the next four weeks.

Any of your contacts or colleagues who would like to access the video
can do so via the home page at Corporate Knights.




(Carbon Management) What should be done about tropical deforestation? At the pre-Copenhagen meeting in Bonn, a broad coalition of countries demanded that “Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation” (REDD) be put high on the negotiating agenda


JUNE 23, 2009

Forests for the Trees

The Catalyst: Driving Reactions to Issues in the News
How Best To Curb Deforestation? 
Our Panel Responds:

Amity Doolittle, anthropologist
Rhett A. Butler, environmental analyst and founder of
Tony Juniper, environmental activist
William Laurance, tropical ecologist
William Barclay, policy analyst
Experts estimate that the logging and burning of trees is responsible for at least 20 percent of global carbon emissions. One of the main questions facing global climate negotiators, then, is what should be done about tropical deforestation. The Kyoto Protocol doesn't address the issue, and many environmentalists would like to see deforestation addressed in a new global climate deal. At the pre-Copenhagen meeting in Bonn, a broad coalition of countries demanded that "Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation" (REDD) be put high on the negotiating agenda.
One much-discussed option is to allow rich countries to offset some of their carbon emissions by paying tropical nations to preserve their forests. A market for these offset credits would provide further funding for REDD initiatives. But funding REDD through markets is controversial: In late March, Greenpeacereleased a report arguing that tradable forest credits would cause global carbon prices to tumble 75 percent, undermining a key incentive for the development of clean technologies. Avoided deforestation, they fear, will essentially give rich nations a mechanism to avoid making costlier emission reductions at home.

Tropical Wealth. Potential annual earnings from avoided deforestation, by country (in $millions). All information was taken from "State of the World's Forests 2007," a publication of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Values were calculated assuming $37.5 per metric ton of CO2 equivalent.
Britain's Prince Charles, meanwhile, has recently proposed an alternative route to saving the trees. At the G-20 summit in London, he convened a side meeting to announce the results of an 18-month study commissioned by the Prince's Rainforests Project (PRP). The study suggests rainforest nations could sign contracts committing to reduce deforestation to agreed levels, and in return, they would receive annual payments from donor nations only if satellite pictures confirm that forests remain intact. Crucially, the exchange would involve no credits that donor countries could use to offset their own emissions.
The stakes have been ratcheted higher with a study, published April 13 in PNAS, that for the first time quantified the effects of drought on tree mortality: At temperatures 4°C above average, water-deprived pines died 28 percent faster than control pines. Global warming begets deforestation, which, in turn, begets further warming.
Hardly anyone disputes that keeping the world's forests intact is vital to the future of the planet. But should we follow Prince Charles' lead and subsidize the preservation of forests' ecosystem services or should we build a market for tradable credits? Is there a better way? What sorts of issues and concerns come up for climate scientists, indigenous groups, environmentalists, and governments on both sides of the exchange?

A Question of Equity
Amity Doolittle is the program director of the Yale Tropical Resources Institute. She studies land tenure and disputes in tropical societies.
Ultimately the debate should not be markets versus funds; both approaches are needed. The question is: Under which circumstance is the market more beneficial for those involved in REDD projects, and when is a fund-based approach more beneficial?
Let's look at one scenario that would call for a fund-based approach. For many communities, concerns over governance issues, particularly land rights, is at the center of the REDD debate. In most developing countries, property rights and tenure regimes are not well articulated. Often vast swaths of land are considered state property, available for timber or plantation development, despite the fact that local communities may have subsisted on the land and its forest resources for centuries. Most forest-dependent people are unable to get private titles to their land because they lack the financial resources for the survey, do not have access to the information needed, or are actively relocated by their governments to make way for the timber or plantation development. And where native customary law may appear strong in national legislation, it can be extremely weak in practice.
Malaysia is generally considered to have strong recognition of native land rights both on paper and on the ground. However, in Sabah, Malaysia, many native agriculturalists do not have legal title to the land that has been in their families for generations. Most native farmers, who cannot afford a private surveyor, must wait an average of 20 years (and up to 50 years) before the state surveyor makes it to their land to register their claim.
Given the lack of clarity regarding land tenure, when market-based REDD projects negotiate with governments like Malaysia to purchase carbon offsets, it would be surprising if the government did not continue to overlook native land claims. And what will happen to the native communities farming the land? Will they be given factory jobs? Will they be relocated to work on an oil palm plantation? Will they become squatters on land elsewhere in the region? All of these scenarios are likely and, in fact, have happened in past clashes between native peoples, the government, and companies requesting large land concessions. In this scenario I can see a marked advantage of a fund-based approach, which could work at the project level, determining what structural obstacles might exist that would result in local land conflicts or inequitable distribution of benefits and ultimately in the destabilization of the project. Establishing secure rights to land should be the first step in any sort of project and, from that point, equitable allocation of the benefits can be more easily determined. In the short term, this approach will not be as efficient as a market-based mechanism, but in the long term, in scenarios such as this one, attention to equity and land rights will prove to be the key to a successful project.

To Offset or Not To Offset
Rhett A. Butler is the founder of, a resource on tropical forests and deforestation named by Time magazine as one of the top fifteen environmental websites.
The crux of the issue is really the fungibility of credits—whether industrialized countries can use carbon credits to "offset" their emissions. Critics say offsets will let industrialized countries off the hook for their emissions without effectively reducing the risk of global warming. Supporters say offset concerns can be addressed through strong national limits (caps) that will force real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale but provide flexibility. Such flexibility would allow nations to shift emission cuts to sectors where they will inflict less economic damage without flooding the carbon market with cheap credits and undermining the price incentive for the development of low-carbon technologies.
Although the issue is far from settled, consensus seems to be building around a phased approach that could accommodate both markets and aid. In the early years financing would be generated by auctioning of emission allowances, fuel surcharges, or development aid offered by governments and entities like the World Bank and the UN. The money would be used for development of national REDD strategies, capacity building, and demonstration projects in REDD-eligible countries, as well as consultation with stakeholders (including indigenous people) and reform of land tenure and forestry laws. As countries reach "REDD readiness," or the capacity to monitor and verify emissions reductions against reference levels, they would transition toward market or non-market compliance mechanisms that could generate funding needed to effectively reduce deforestation, estimated variously from $10 to $30 billion per year.
However, talk about any mechanism remains academic until there is a binding global treaty on regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Failure to secure a climate agreement in Copenhagen in December will delay progress on REDD, extending the window for continued destruction of tropical forest ecosystems. The US will play a critical part in negotiations; without serious US commitment to substantial reductions in emissions, there will be no climate deal in Copenhagen. Recent backsliding on the Waxman-Markey bill (including cutting emissions targets from 20 percent to 17 percent below a 2005 baseline) is not an encouraging sign for forests or global climate, despite prominent provisions for REDD in the proposed legislation.

The Argument for the Bonds Approach
Tony Juniper is a special adviser to the Prince's Rainforests Project.
While it is widely hoped that a market in standing forest carbon will one day mobilize considerable sums, this is unlikely to deliver large-scale finance in less than 10 years. An interim measure is needed. The Prince's Rainforests Project has reviewed all of the likely funding sources and has proposed that the major developed economies could collectively mobilize the billions needed via the allocation of "rainforest bonds." These would be similar to the instruments that governments routinely issue to raise money for public investments, but in this case the money would be earmarked to stop deforestation.
Private sector investors, such as insurance companies and pension funds, would buy the bonds, and they would receive a modest rate of interest for the use of their money for the lifetime of the bonds—most likely 10 to15 years. At the end of that period, in addition to earning interest, they would get their money back from the governments who raised the bonds. In the meantime, the funds would be used to cut deforestation.
As for how the developed countries would repay the bonds, a range of options are available. One would be to introduce a Tobin tax on currency transactions, another would be to charge a small levy on insurance premiums, thereby helping that industry to contribute to the emissions reductions that are necessary for securing its future. Levies could be introduced on aviation fuel, while revenues from the auction of emissions permits under cap-and-trade schemes could also deliver billions.

An Outsider's Perspective
William Laurance is a tropical ecologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
Tropical forests are being razed at a rate of around 50 football fields a minute, leading to massive carbon emissions that are worsening global warming. We simply must something about this. The question is what.
Though I don't have a dog in this fight, the following is my opinion as an informed observer.

Greenpeace is concerned that market-based REDD schemes—using carbon-trading to conserve tropical forests—will flood the market with carbon credits, depressing their price and thus reducing incentives for developing new green technologies. However, the proponents of REDD seem well aware of this danger, and have various plans in place to minimize it. For instance, they believe they can scale up REDD projects gradually to avoid flooding the market and develop a fund structure that encourages market stability. I agree with Greenpeace on many issues, but in this case I think they risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
One has to admire the vision and commitment of Prince Charles, but I have doubts that his plan could provide a serious alternative to market-based REDD. The main problem is that it relies entirely on donations from wealthy nations. In a carbon market, wealthy nations get something tangible for their money, in this case carbon credits that they can use to help meet their international obligations to reduce their emissions. 
The Prince's Rainforests Project, however, relies on altruism. I hate to sound cynical, but in today's economic climate, it's hard to see this idea having huge traction. Nations like Norway—which has already shown enormous generosity and leadership in supporting REDD—might donate to a scheme like this, but I doubt that many other wealthy nations would, at least not on the scale needed to seriously combat rampant deforestation. 
That having been said, there is one thing I really like about the Prince's scheme: It will start working right away. REDD market schemes could take some years to implement, but the Prince's plan could jump-start forest conservation immediately. If I were Bill Gates or the CEO of a wealthy corporation, I'd give the Prince's Rainforests Project some serious thought.

Either Way, Keep These Principles in Mind
William Barclay leads Rainforest Action Network's research team, focusing on forests, coal financing, and climate policy.
There is widespread recognition that keeping the world's forests intact is vital to the future of the planet, yet few parties seem to be willing to sacrifice much to make it happen. Prince Charles and Greenpeace are both attempting to find savvy ways to push the discussion beyond the lowest common denominator approach that most countries are offering on the way to Copenhagen. Both are also making the point that saving forests needs to be an urgent priority, one that can't wait until 2012 or 2032.
Developed countries undoubtedly need to support developing countries to maintain their forest cover while providing a workable and equitable framework to achieve real reductions in deforestation. But such an unprecedented global mechanism to protect the world's remaining forests can't be a simple one-size-fits-all process. What works for Indonesia may not work for Brazil or other tropical rainforest countries. To succeed, whether the funding source is bonds or markets, we will need to keep several key principles firmly in mind:
Definitions matter. The current UN definition of forests fails to distinguish between natural rainforests and plantations. Continuing this definition for future negotiations is dangerous; it would encourage the conversion of natural forests into tree plantations, securing large carbon payments while still claiming to have avoided deforestation. As plantations store as little as 20 percent of the carbon that intact natural forests do, a poor definition could actually accelerate climate change.
Forests are not factories. Carbon emissions from fossil fuel—or "brown carbon"—are relatively simple to calculate and we can be fairly confident in the estimates. By comparison, calculating carbon from forest ecosystems—or "green carbon"—is much more difficult. Changes in weather patterns, such as those from El Nino events, can shift entire forest landscapes from large carbon sinks into massive carbon sources from one year to the next. Accurate rainforest monitoring and verification systems present many unique challenges and are not yet in place. To create a strong system, emissions from green carbon and brown carbon must both be reduced, but they cannot be treated equally.
Rights must be respected. The World Bank estimates that around 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on forests for their livelihoods. Struggles to protect forests in the past prove that these people are the best forest stewards. Unfortunately, local communities are often pushed out of the game as corporations pursue land grabs and inside deals with governments. A working forest mechanism that includes local voices, respects indigenous peoples' rights, and recognizes customary land rights is most likely to be successful in protecting forests and equitably distributing benefits. 
There is no magic exit from mandating deep fossil fuel emission reductions. Carbon offset mechanisms mainly serve to subsidize fossil fuel emitters in developed countries to continue business as usual. Offset mechanisms can quickly become an obstacle to achieving the required total emission reductions needed by 2050. Dedicated funds from auctioning of a small portion of international emission allowances, as proposed by Norway, offers a more effective and durable funding stream to slow deforestation.
Industrial country demand is a major driver of deforestation. Deforestation is increasingly driven by the demands of consumers in the developed world, rather than the subsistence needs of the local economy. This direct market demand for timber, plywood, paper products, agricultural goods like palm oil and, increasingly, government mandates for biofuels needs to be addressed for any avoided deforestation mechanism to succeed and avoid shifting deforestation from one region to another.

Are Carbon Offsets Too Good to Be True?

April 29, 2009, 2:40 PM
Are Carbon Offsets Too Good to Be True?
Feeling a little guilty about that flight to London last month? No problem — you can offset that trip with credits from a reforestation project in Nicaragua, available at
The thriving carbon-offset market in the U.S. allows individuals and companies to voluntarily offset their carbon footprints relatively painlessly — just point, click, and pay. If the United States implements a cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions, as it now seems likely to do, carbon offsets will likely play an increasingly large role in carbon-emissions reductions.
The offset credits are a popular component of most cap-and-trade proposals because they have the potential to lessen the economic costs of the programs. The cost of upgrading to environmentally friendly practices is very high for certain industries and carbon-offset credits can ease the transition in these situations. However there are doubts about whether the offset credits actually represent reduced emissions.
A large market for carbon-offset credits already exists in Europe under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and offers a window into the drawbacks of carbon-offset programs. The CDM, established by the Kyoto Protocol, is a provision which allows companies in developed countries to buy carbon credits from emissions reduction projects in developing countries. For example, a company in Europe that exceeds its pollution allowance can purchase offset credits from a hydroelectric dam project in China.
Crucially, carbon-offset projects must meet an "additionality" rule, i.e. the project must create emissions savings which wouldn't have occurred without the CDM incentive. This is where carbon-offset projects have the potential to make a mockery of cap-and-trade emissions reductions programs. Investigations have revealed that many of the offset projects receiving credits through the CDM would have occurred without the provision.
China, for example, has applied for carbon-offset credits for virtually all of its new investments in hydro, wind, and natural-gas energy, claiming that none of these investments would occur without the CDM. Yet China's current five-year plan calls for major investments in these alternative energy sources.
There are also questions about the real cost control benefits of carbon-offset projects due to the bureaucratic hurdles inherent in responsibly certifying the projects. A recent Stanford study concludes:
… the actual issuance of emission credits through the CDM mechanism operates at a pace and with exposure to severe administrative bottlenecks that make it unlikely that CDM can supply the emission credits needed, and with sufficient reliability, to be a good cost control mechanism.
In other words, companies might be better off investing in the technology required to become environmentally friendly upfront.
The cap-and-trade systems the Obama administration and congressional Democrats are debating rely on carbon-offset projects to control compliance costs. The U.S. House of Representatives recently released a draft of The American Clean Energy and Security Act, which calls for emissions reductions of 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The bill allows two billion tons of the required reductions to come from carbon-offset credits. That's a lot of trees in Nicaragua.

The Tennessee Coal-Ash Spill, in Pictures: A retention pond for fly ash (a waste product from burning coal) burst in Kingston, Tenn., spilling an estimated 1 billion gallons of sludge containing years’ worth of waste from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s adjacent coal-burning power plant

January 8, 2009, 3:49 PM
The Tennessee Coal-Ash Spill, in Pictures
A blog reader named Dorothy Griffith, a photographer who lives in Banner Elk, N.C., emailed us with an interesting account of how she spent Christmas day:
I was stirring the syrup for a pecan pie when the phone rang. My friend Brenda Boozer called to tell me there had been a massive environmental disaster close to home, and could I possibly get away to take photographs?
Three days earlier, a retention pond for fly ash (a waste product from burning coal) burst in Kingston, Tenn., spilling an estimated 1 billion gallons of sludge containing years' worth of waste from the Tennessee Valley Authority's adjacent coal-burning power plant over an area of 300 acres, Griffith explains.
According to a Times article on the spill, hundreds of coal plants around the U.S. have similar ponds, and this incident "reignited a debate over whether the federal government should regulate coal ash as a hazardous material."
Here are Griffith's photos of the spill, along with excerpts from her description of the incident.


"Within minutes we were in the air with Jim Lapis, a pilot with South Wingswho volunteers his flight time and airplane to take people over environmental challenges like mountain-top removal sites and this: the biggest toxic spill our country has so far experienced."

"After flying about an hour, we arrived over the spill site. Below were several holding ponds. From the air, these large structures look like rectangular ponds surrounded by grassy berms, and they're adjacent to the Emory River."

"One of the ponds had obviously burst and drained. The berm on one end had fallen away, water was discharged, and the ground around it was chewed up. The earth had spilled and spread out over what may have been a field."

"This waste includes the byproducts that we don't want going into the air: mercury, selenium, and arsenic, among other dangerous chemicals. The T.V.A. had put this stuff in open-air ponds right next to a river and community to settle into the ground and probably into the community's ground water."

"The site had trees down, roads and driveways missing, and big boulders of earth, or what looked like gray earth. Two houses were buried nearly to the eaves in this muck. It looked like a moonscape."


"Nearby, the Emory River had been choked by a gray film. Gray framed the shore for miles, lining boat houses, docks, and edging the forest where it met the water. It was obviously a foreign addition since the color was so different from the river water and it appeared to sit on top of the water. Since it was Christmas, all appeared quiet."



(Green Community) U.S. study projects how 'unequivocal warming' will change Americans' lives

U.S. study projects how 'unequivocal warming' will change Americans' lives

ClimateWire, 17 June 2009 - Climate change is already reshaping the United States, according to a new federal report that predicts global warming could have serious consequences for how Americans live and work.

Hotter temperatures, an increase in heavy downpours, and rising sea levels are among the effects of "unequivocal" warming, concludes the report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Winters are now shorter and warmer than they were 30 years ago, with the largest temperature rise -- more than 7 degrees Fahrenheit -- observed in the Midwest and northern Great Plains.

The changes are already affecting human health, agriculture, coastal areas, transportation and water supplies. And climate change will intensify over the next century even with significant action to limit greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

"The projected rapid rate and large amount of climate change over this century will challenge the ability of society and natural systems to adapt," warns the report, released yesterday in Washington by White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren and other top Obama administration officials.

The 196-page document -- the first major climate report from the Obama administration -- was also submitted to Congress, under a 1990 law that requires the White House to produce regular status updates on climate change in the United States. The Bush administration released a first draft of the report last year, after environmental groups successfully sued the government in federal district court.

The new report is based on published research, including a series of 21 reports on climate change produced by the Bush administration.

Forests shift, crops suffer, diseases move north

Released as House Democrats plan their floor strategy for major climate legislation, the analysis says that reducing carbon dioxide emissions will lessen warming during this century and beyond.

Earlier cuts will be more effective than comparable later cuts, the document adds. Without efforts to limit emissions, the United States could warm 7 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. Cutting emissions could hold that increase to just 4 to 6.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

The report also breaks down likely effects of climate change by region and economic sector. Among its conclusions:

  • Forest growth is likely to increase in much of the East but decrease in much of the West as water becomes scarcer.
  • Heat-related deaths are likely to increase as the number of days when the mercury reaches 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher grows. Without a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the report says, heat-related deaths in Chicago will rise tenfold by the end of the century.
  • Sea level rise will continue, increasing the likelihood of temporary and permanent flooding of airports, roads, rail lines and tunnels. About 2,400 miles of roadways and 250 miles of freight rail lines could be inundated along the Gulf Coast over the next 50 to 100 years. The region is home to seven of the country's 10 largest ports.
  • Crop production will suffer as carbon dioxide emissions rise, after an initial increase in growth. Warmer winter temperatures will help insects and plant diseases spread.
  • A continuing trend of warmer night temperatures in the Northeast could shift maple syrup production from the United States to Canada.
'It affects the things people care about' -- Lubchenco

"What we've shown in this assessment is that we do need to act sooner rather than later," said Donald Wuebbles, an author of the report and an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois. "We want to avoid the worst of the kind of changes that we looked at."

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco called the new report "a game-changer."

"I think much of the foot-dragging in addressing climate change is reflective of the perception that climate change is way down the road in the future, and it only affects remote parts of the planet," she said. "This report demonstrates that climate change is happening now, in our own backyards, and it affects the things that people care about. The dialogue is changing."

But she and other Obama administration officials who briefed reporters shied away from weighing in on climate proposals now before Congress. That includes the climate bill from House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

"This is telling us with persuasiveness why we need to act sooner rather than later, and why action needs to include measures to reduce heat-trapping emissions and measures to adapt to unavoidable changes," said Holdren. "One has to hope it will influence how people think about particular legislative proposals."

Environmental groups hailed the new report, and a leader of one group said the analysis could help efforts to pass the Waxman-Markey bill.

"The timing is important," said World Wildlife Fund CEO Carter Roberts. "Right now, Congress is considering climate legislation and energy legislation. This report makes it pretty clear to constituents of every congressman and senator that we will see changes in the natural world and parts of the United States, and they will have consequences for our economy, our lifestyles and the places that we live."