3 Steps Virginia Can Take to Meet—and Then Exceed—its Clean Power Plan Targets

first_imgHow Virginia Can Maximize the Economic Benefits of the Clean Power PlanNot only are these reductions possible, they’re cost-effective. Consider the following:According to Virginia’s 2014 Energy Plan, a robust energy efficient policy could raise the state’s GDP by $286 million.Increasing renewable energy investment could yield $6.9 billion in net benefits for Virginia and its neighbors by 2026. That’s $113 per year per person.If Virginia surpasses its Clean Power Plan emissions-reduction target, it can sell its unused emissions allowances to other states. These sales would generate roughly $100 million on average between 2022 and 2030 (assuming a $10 per ton allowance price).Virginia Can Build On Progress Made to DateVirginia has taken some steps to scale up renewable energy and efficiency, but a huge opportunity lies ahead. If it takes advantage of available infrastructure and underutilized clean energy resources, Virginia will be in a good position to surpass EPA’s standards for its existing power plants while maintaining grid reliability. Adopting EPA’s new source complement standard would further incentivize zero-carbon generation sources, and ensure that emissions from the state’s power sector do not rise with demand. These types of actions could create a new revenue stream for the state, lead to increased investment, and would make Virginia a clean-energy leader.• LEARN MORE: Sam Adams and Kristin Meek will testify this evening at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) listening session on the U.S. Clean Power Plan. The Virginia DEQ held six of these listening sessions across the state in order to gather input from the public to help inform the state’s review and implementation of EPA’s final rules for existing power plants. WRI’s fact sheet series, How States Can Meet Their Clean Power Plan Targets, examines the policies and pathways various states can use to meet or even exceed their standards under the CPP while minimizing compliance costs, ensuring reliability and harnessing economic opportunities. This post explores these opportunities in Virginia. As part of the new Clean Power Plan, the U.S. EPA requires Virginia to reduce its power sector emissions by 23 percent below 2012 levels by 2030. New analysis shows the state could go even further while harnessing economic opportunities.Simply achieving its existing voluntary energy efficiency and renewable energy targets would reduce Virginia’s power sector CO2 emissions 27 percent below 2012 levels in 2030, surpassing its target under the Clean Power Plan. And by also increasing generation in its existing natural gas fleet, Virginia could reduce state power plant emissions 43 percent by 2030.How Virginia’s Power Plants Can Meet the Clean Power Plan RequirementsVirginia’s power plants have already reduced their carbon dioxide emissions by 22 percent between 2005 and 2012, due in large part to using more natural gas and less coal, as well as lower overall electricity generation. While electricity demand is projected to rise in the coming years, capitalizing on existing clean energy opportunities can allow the state to surpass its Clean Power Plan mandate.The state has already locked in one-third of the total reductions needed through planned actions like scheduled coal plant retirements and investments in renewables and efficiency. Taking three additional steps would meet and then exceed the 23 percent target:1. Improving energy efficiencyVirginia currently has a voluntary goal to reduce its electricity consumption by 10 percent below 2006 levels of consumption by 2022. While electric generation in the state is projected to increase, partly due to increased demand, studies show a large potential for energy efficiency to curb demand growth in Virginia while lowering household energy bills. Doing so would put Virginia in a good position to meet its voluntary commitment.2. Increasing use of renewable energyVirginia’s utilities may participate in the state’s voluntary renewable portfolio standard program which has a goal that by 2025, 15 percent of electricity sold (relative to 2007 sales) is from renewable sources. Virginia is projected to generate roughly 8 percent of its electricity using renewable sources in 2025 (relative to 2007 sales), but the state has considerable untapped wind and solar potential. Capitalizing on this potential to achieve the voluntary goal—combined with meeting the efficiency target—would reduce power sector emissions by 27 percent.3. Increasing the use of existing natural gas plantsVirginia’s most efficient natural gas plants, combined cycle (NGCC) units, generated less electricity than they were capable of producing in 2012. By running existing NGCC plants (and those already under construction as of January 2014) at 75 percent, Virginia could reduce power sector emissions by another 16 percent.last_img read more

How Critics Try (and Fail) to Attack Carbon Pricing

first_img Reducing the risks of climate change requires additional U.S. government action; and Carbon pricing is rapidly gaining popularity, with more than 60 national and subnational programs as well as endorsements from key political figures and more than 1,000 corporations. Like anything that goes mainstream, a backlash was inevitable. But the argument for carbon pricing is so compelling—shifting the costs of climate change from society to polluters and raising revenue in the process—critics have been forced to invent their own arguments to criticize.Simply put, critics build up a “carbon pricing strawman” and then tear it down. Here’s how it works, in three easy steps: (1) put forth an argument supposedly (but rarely) made by carbon-pricing supporters; (2) explain why the argument is false; and (3) pretend this is a death blow to carbon pricing itself.Let’s consider a few examples from both ends of the political spectrum:Strawman Critiques from the Right…Conservatives criticize carbon-pricing supporters for pretending to know the right price of carbon, for believing U.S. implementation of this carbon price would by itself significantly reduce global temperatures, and for claiming these benefits can be achieved while simultaneously creating jobs and bolstering the economy. Let’s discuss the problems with these three claims in turn.In theory, the “right” price of carbon would balance the costs of reducing emissions and the benefits of avoiding damages from climate change. But quantifying benefits means deciding how to value human lives, ecosystems, and the well-being of future generations versus the present. Such questions do not have “right” answers in a precise sense, but that doesn’t mean we must throw up our hands in despair. What’s important for policy makers to understand is the current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions causes unacceptable climate risks. Climate policy must be sufficiently stringent to significantly change that trend.By itself, no single U.S. policy can significantly reduce climate change, and carbon-pricing supporters understand global action is needed to reduce global temperatures. But global action is inconceivable without a strong U.S. contribution. Any estimate of the effects of U.S. policy on global temperatures should account for how the policy encourages action (or inaction) from other countries.Economists have long debated whether carbon pricing can improve the economy by taxing things we want less of (like pollution) instead of things we want more of (like income)—they call it a “double dividend.” While the possibility of a double dividend makes for compelling (if nerdy) academic debates, it’s irrelevant for practical purposes. The economy benefits from carbon pricing the way individuals benefit from paying insurance premiums—reducing climate risks makes for a stronger and more stable economy in the long-run, precisely why economists overwhelmingly support a carbon price….And from the LeftStrawman arguments are also made by liberal-leaning critics, who accuse carbon-pricing supporters of believing a carbon price alone can solve the climate change problem. Supporters are naïve, they say, about the political constraints preventing carbon prices from being set sufficiently high and in fact are wasting time and effort that could be used to pursue more realistic policies. None is a convincing critique of carbon pricing.The vast majority of carbon-pricing supporters understand a carbon price is a necessary but insufficient tool to address climate change. In situations where people are unresponsive to price signals, additional policies are sorely needed—to promote clean energy innovation or energy efficiency, for example.Computer models predicting little to no technological change show carbon prices would need to be extremely high to meet emissions targets. Fortunately, clean energy technologies are progressing rapidly in the real world, and carbon pricing will accelerate these innovations. New technologies and complementary polices both reduce the carbon price needed to achieve a given emissions target.Finally, no evidence has been put forward to suggest support for carbon pricing stands in the way of other policies. Many supporters believe the risks of climate change are so severe they will vigorously support alternative climate policies while also promoting a carbon price. Others support a carbon price because the resulting revenues provide an opportunity to accomplish non-climate goals, like reforming the tax code or assisting struggling communities, while simultaneously taking out an insurance policy on climate risks.How to Fact Check the CriticsResearch by WRI and many others shows carbon pricing is a cost-effective approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As it continues to gain popularity, expect critics to get even louder. When you see critiques, be sure to ask whether they discredit these two basic points: A national carbon price can achieve emissions reductions at a low cost compared to alternative policies, making it an important step toward addressing climate change.center_img If not, rest assured that the arguments for carbon pricing are as strong as ever. Critics should confront carbon pricing head on, and quit tearing down strawmen.last_img read more

Learning from Disaster: Chennai Flood Offers a Personal Lesson for Climate Adaptation

first_imgToday, as negotiators haggle over the details of a climate agreement in Paris, my home town is literally underwater. Chennai has seen 17 days straight of rain, precisely the kind of extreme weather event that experts say will only become more common in a warming world.As Indian Adaptation Strategy Head for WRI’s Climate Resilience Practice, I’m in Paris this week for events surrounding negotiations for an international climate agreement. My family is in southern India – not in our home in Chennai but in a guest house at the Indian Institute of Technology, where they have taken shelter after torrential rains flooded the Adyar River and pushed a local lake to breach its banks. This is monsoon season in Chennai, but the rain we’ve seen this year has been unprecedented. It began on November 10, the day of the holiday of Diwali, which marks the triumph of light over darkness, and has barely ceased since then. Some call it the rain of the century.Having been in the adaptation business for about 10 years now, I find these events reinforce the challenges we face in adapting to a changing climate. No doubt about it, there’s so much to learn from this experience. These sudden, erratic rainfalls are something we’ve seen happening over the years, and the fact that this is an El Nino year has also contributed to extreme events. Certainly, though, climate has an impact as well.An Eye-Opener for PlannersBut we should also realize the problems posed by infrastructure in this case. There are no good resilience plans in place to help the area withstand climate-related natural disasters. With the kind of infrastructure we have and increasing construction along waterways and encroachments along river banks, we can expect extreme impacts from floods. It’s kind of a big eye-opener for planners and policy-makers. It’s very important to understand this in that context and try to do something about it by being futuristic so we can plan well for these kinds of situations in years to come.While we can’t draw a direct connection between events in southern India and climate change, severe flooding is in line with projections of the worst effects of a changing climate and a warmer world. And extreme events now offer valuable lessons for the future. For example, the 2004 Asian tsunami, which had no discernable connection to climate change, was a curtain-raiser for what is in store in terms of rising sea levels. There was little adaptive capacity, and what there was wasn’t adequate to the task at hand. We haven’t learned enough from that experience.There are implications for costs as well, which is why climate finance is linked to this debate. And you need to know where vulnerable people are and which communities are most vulnerable and what kind of risks they are exposed to in order to help with planning. This is an iterative learning process, not just a one-time thing. You need to completely map out these kinds of vulnerabilities, and where and how and what kind of people have been impacted, including the implications of gender roles. And a good monitoring and evaluation framework is a critical feedback loop that helps us learn from our mistakes and move ahead.No Time to WasteAs I do my work at COP21, I of course worry about my family back in Chennai, where they have been without power for almost a week. This isn’t the first time natural disasters have touched my life. In 1998, when my wife was studying at the Clarkson University at Potsdam, New York near the U.S.-Canada border, we spent a week in a community center after an ice storm rolled through the area. So disaster is nothing new – it follows me wherever I go! And it brings home to me the value of adaptation and resilience.I do see a certain irony in my family’s current situation in IIT Chennai, which is one of the temples of technology in India. Even a technology center must be prepared and adapt to deal with a lot of rain.This is why we need world leaders to take action and prepare for mounting impacts of climate change. For some this is abstract; for me and my family, there is literally no time to waste.last_img read more

Not Just for Paris, but for the Future: How the Paris Agreement Will Keep Accelerating Climate Action

first_imgWhat Will Happen After 2020?After the 2018 assessment, the next moment for all countries to come back and assess implementation and collective progress will be in 2023, referred to in the Paris Agreement as the “Global Stocktake.” This Global Stocktake will then occur every five years and serve as the pivotal collective moment to assess implementation and progress towards achieving long-term Paris Agreement goals.The Global Stocktake has broad scope and purpose—assessing mitigation action as well as adaptation, means of implementation (including finance, technology transfer and development, and capacity building), and other support. Assessments will be based on equity and informed by the best available science, including the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.All Parties will be required to prepare and communicate new NDCs for mitigation, informed by the Global Stocktake outcomes. These new contributions will represent a progression, and reflect each Party’s highest possible ambition, taking into consideration equity and different national circumstances.In 2028, the next Global Stocktake will occur, triggering another round of review for NDCs and progression in ambition. This review and revision process will continue every five years as a mechanism for strengthening ambition.What About Adaptation and Climate Finance?In addition to determining what the Global Stocktake will assess every five years, the Paris Agreement ensures a process for increasing adaptation action and the provision of climate finance.Parties are encouraged to communicate their adaptation priorities, needs and efforts in a periodically updated cycle similar the one used for mitigation. Countries will have flexibility on timing and methods for communicating this information, but will continue to do so as a component of their nationally determined contributions every five years.Developed countries are required, and other countries are encouraged, to communicate climate financing they have either provided or received every two years, and to indicate the levels of support they expect to provide or receive in the future.The world has now embarked on a historic transformation. The regular and ongoing process to review and increase ambition across all elements of the Paris Agreement is what will ensure this is a historic, dynamic and durable outcome capable of driving the needed level of climate action. The Paris Agreement is an historic turning point in the global climate change battle. There is broad consensus it contains the necessary ingredients to put the world on a path towards a zero-carbon, resilient, prosperous and fair future.However, to fully understand why the Paris Agreement is such an achievement, we must unpack one of its core ingredients, what has become known as the ambition mechanism or cycles of action. This mechanism lays out a process to continue strengthening action in a regular and timely way every five years, starting before 2020.This mechanism is what makes the Paris Agreement a dynamic and long-lasting accord that will be responsive to the science of climate change, shifts in technology and economic opportunities, and to growing public support for action.What Is an Ambition Mechanism?For the first time in the history of global climate policy, the Paris Agreement establishes an ongoing, regular process to increase action by all countries. To understand this ambition mechanism, it is necessary to break it down into its core components:Global Stocktake of implementation and collective progress every five years;Submission of updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs) from each country every five years informed by the Global Stocktake; andExpectation of progression and highest possible ambition for each successive contribution.This process of review and revision every five years provides the means through which the Paris Agreement’s goal—to keep temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F)—can be achieved.When Does it Start?Timing is everything. We know—and countries have now agreed in the Paris outcome—that global emissions must peak as soon as possible and then decline even faster, and we must achieve net-zero emissions within the second half of this century.In 2018, Parties will reconvene to take stock of their collective efforts (referred to as a “facilitative dialogue”). This facilitative dialogue will review progress made towards the long-term Paris Agreement goal to peak emissions and achieve net-zero emissions.Based on the outcome of this facilitative dialogue, Parties will either submit new mitigation contributions (e.g. those whose current contributions contain a time frame up to 2025) or update their existing contributions (e.g. those whose current contributions contain a time frame up to 2030).In addition, Parties have to submit plans for long-term decarbonization by 2020.Click to enlarge.last_img read more

Climate Change: The Critical Topic Presidential Debates Are Leaving Out

first_imgThis article was originally posted on TheHill.com.Leonardo DiCaprio spoke about climate change for a longer amount of time at the Academy Awards than the presidential candidates have in the debates. In the 18 debates held so far, moderators have asked about everything from Super Bowl picks to flower arrangements, while posing only a handful of questions on climate. They ignored it entirely in the December debates, even though the world had just united around the landmark climate agreement in Paris. This must change.This week, both Republicans and Democrats will participate in debates in Florida ahead of its primary. Florida is ground zero for climate change in the United States, with sea-level rise accelerating and other changes threatening the state’s beaches, infrastructure and fresh water supply. The Risky Business report found that around $69 billion of seaside properties in Florida will be at risk of flooding within 15 years due to impacts from climate change. We are seeing similar risks across the country.People are paying attention. A bipartisan group of 21 Florida mayors, whose constituents are already coping with impacts of climate change, sent a letter to the debate moderators calling on them to ask questions on sea level rise and climate change. The news outlets– Washington Post, Univision and CNN– should follow-through.Importantly, questions must go further than just whether climate change is happening—this is no longer in question. Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree that human-caused climate change is taking place, as do the National Academy of Sciences, NASA, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Top U.S. security leaders, including the Department of Defense, have labelled climate change a threat multiplier. A majority of both Republican and Democratic voters understand the overwhelming evidence underlying climate change. It’s time for more substantive questions about what policies and actions candidates will take to combat climate change, protect local communities, and, most critically, take advantage of the opportunities to shift to clean energy.Are they prepared to build on the current U.S. climate action plan? What will they do to fulfill the climate commitments to the international community? Will they move forward with the Clean Power Plan? What other actions will they take?Election after election has shown that the economy is the issue that matters most to voters. And we can’t talk about the economy without talking about climate change – the evidence is clear that the two are critically intertwined.Delayed action on climate change would devastate the U.S. economy. A new estimate from Nature found that inaction on climate change could reduce the United States’ GDP by 36 percent by the year 2100. American farmers would be particularly hard hit. By the end of the century, states in the Southeast, lower Great Plains and Midwest risk a 50 percent to 70 percent loss in average crop yields for corn, soy, cotton and wheat.There is good news though. The New Climate Economy project (WRI is the managing partner) has found that the right kind of climate policies can promote economic growth while helping U.S. households save money. Smart policies include improving energy efficiency, investing in sustainable infrastructure and encouraging innovation in clean technology.The economic opportunities are vast. Last year, the U.S. solar industry created jobs 12 times faster than the overall economy, more than the oil and gas industries combined. Wind energy was the top source of new energy generation in 2015, surpassing 8.6 gigawatts of generation. There are already 73,000 wind power jobs in the United States, which could climb to 380,000 by 2030. It’s true that the transition from fossil to clean energy will not be easy for everyone. Some workers in energy-intensive sectors will have to change jobs and may need social and economic support for an interim period. But, the net effect on jobs from clean energy policies will be positive.That’s why across the country we also see more cities and business taking action. For instance, 125 U.S. cities have committed to reduce emissions under the Compact of Mayors, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Portland (where I was the mayor from 2009 to 2012). More than 60 companies, including Nike, Microsoft, and Google, have committed to switch to 100 percent renewable power.So far, we haven’t heard much talk about these issues on the campaign trail and certainly not in the debates. America’s citizens, cities, and companies care about the economy and climate change. It’s time for the debate moderators to ask the right questions and for our future leaders to make their vision clear.last_img read more

Linking Products to Places: The Initiatives Working to End Deforestation

first_imgClick here to view the interactive map.Satellite and computer technology are transforming human understanding of the world. This transparency revolution will help companies reduce their exposure to deforestation and related environmental and social risks. It will also help consumers hold these companies accountable.Unfortunately, there is still much we cannot see and do not know about forest landscapes and global commodity supply chains. Technology advancements will continue to expand our knowledge, but we also need companies and governments to share the information they already have. Global Forest Watch recently aggregated and anonymised data from several companies to publish the first public-facing global database of palm oil mill locations. When overlaid with GFW’s near real time monitoring systems and other relevant maps, this database will allow companies to identify and develop mitigation plans for mills with the highest deforestation risk.Businesses seeking to address the legal, operational and reputational risks caused by deforestation in their supply chains should take action now. Joining the TFA2020 and Global Forest Watch partnerships is a good first step. And anyone interested in these issues can monitor progress online and subscribe for alerts using the free platform. This article was originally posted on The Guardian.Why do we let history repeat itself? Less than six months ago, fires raged in Indonesia, blanketing the region in toxic smoke and releasing more greenhouse gas emissions than Germany produces in a year. Eventually the fires subsided, the air cleared, and the world stopped talking about this crisis. But it will happen again. These fires, caused by unsustainable forest management and agricultural practices, are a devastating and costly cycle that we have been repeating for decades.Fortunately, a group of business, government and civil society leaders sat down last week to find solutions. The Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA 2020) is a global partnership seeking to end deforestation caused by the production of commodities such as palm oil, soy, beef, and pulp and paper. It’s a daunting challenge, but the companies in the room seemed more committed and motivated than ever.Clearing forests to make way for agriculture accounts for an estimated 80 percent of global deforestation. Meanwhile, public scrutiny of deforestation is on the rise. Companies, especially those with consumer-facing brands, have become increasingly concerned about reputational, operational and legal risks posed by deforestation. These companies are now seeking to root deforestation out of their supply chains.Get to the SourceUnfortunately, linking a bar of soap to a palm oil plantation in Indonesia is like trying to find the original owner of a dollar bill in your wallet. How many times has that dollar changed hands before it found its way to you? This is the problem of “traceability.”Some TFA 2020 member companies like Unilever, Cargill and Mondelēz are making great strides towards traceability with certain commodities like palm oil, by engaging closely with their suppliers. Connecting the dots between thousands of global suppliers is a challenging process, and remains a major industry-wide hurdle. We urgently need innovative solutions to overcome the traceability problem. A new initiative by the Global Canopy Programme and Stockholm Environment Institute will draw on huge sets of largely untapped production, trade, and customs data to shed new light on how commodities flow through the global trade system. This new online platform, scheduled for launch later this year, will not replace companies’ own traceability efforts but could provide a useful proxy in near-term.Keep an Eye in the Sky (and on the Ground)Once we can link a product to a place, we can understand how that product might be associated with deforestation or even human rights abuses. High-tech monitoring systems like Global Forest Watch are now using satellites to detect tree cover loss in near real time. When combined with additional maps and information sourced (or crowdsourced) from the ground, these systems allow us to pinpoint the when, where and why of deforestation with precision.For example, last year Global Forest Watch detected a massive new clearing (more than 2,000 hectares or 5,000 acres) of pristine rainforest in the Peruvian Amazon. Field investigations by a local NGO confirmed the deforestation was to make way for a massive plantation, owned by a UK-based company called United Cacao. This increased visibility into the supply chain allows chocolate manufacturers to make better informed decisions about who they want to work with and buy cocoa from. And it enables companies to get involved where forest areas are at risk within their supply chains – for instance, by training smallholder cocoa farmers on sustainable agricultural practices, increasing the yield of their farms and reducing the risk of expansion into forests.last_img read more

As Indonesia’s Dry Season Looms, a New Tool Can Predict Daily Forest Fire Risk

first_imgKaryn Tabor works at Conservation International on the development of their Firecast tool. Greg Soter is a GIS programmer who adapted the Firecast model for Indonesia.This summer, visitors to U.S. national parks and forests will be greeted by Smokey the Bear, the Forest Service’s beloved mascot, delivering a warning about the day’s fire danger. Those warnings are important–signs point to another record fire year for the country. But this summer, many of the world’s most damaging fires may actually occur halfway around the world in the forests and peatlands of Indonesia.Last year, Indonesia’s forest and land fires emitted more than the entire U.S. economy on a daily basis for half the summer. Toxic smoke and haze afflicted hundreds of thousands, disrupting the economy, triggering respiratory problems and even causing deaths. Could this crisis be averted if Indonesia had its own version of Smokey the Bear’s daily fire danger warnings?Smokey the Bear fire danger sign in Paradise Valley, Nevada. Photo by Famartin/Wikimedia Commons Land managers can take proactive actions to prevent fires during periods of high fire risk:Take preventative measures. For example, APRIL, a company with extensive pulpwood concessions across Riau Province in Indonesia, is already implementing fire prevention measures for when conditions grow excessively dry. The company is blocking drainage canals to raise the water table in plantations to reduce chances of fires igniting.Subscribe on GFW Fires to be alerted by email or SMS as soon as fires are detected, and quickly send firefighters to contain the fires. Soon, you will also soon be able to subscribe to alerts for high fire risk.Work with local communities around plantation areas. Smallholders and communities may not have the same capacity or tools as a large company, and may need to borrow land-clearing equipment or gain knowledge from businesses on how to prevent fires.Government agencies can also be proactive:Inform the public when fire risk is high. In the United States, fire danger warnings help forest users know whether it is safe to build a campfire or operate certain equipment. Similar warnings or prohibitions on fires on dry days could help raise awareness. Public campaigns could also educate farmers on using non-fire methods to prepare their land for agriculture.Require plantation companies to develop fire management plans and implement fire prevention actions. This could including requiring companies to maintain adequate fire response capacity, such as hiring firefighting staff and experts.Coordinate fire response actions when fires occur to prevent spreading. National agencies should work closely with local governments, and may also accept assistance from other national governments in the form of funding, equipment or investigations into companies or individuals implicated in fires.Global Forest Watch and Conservation International plan to continue working together to build on this effort, including potentially expanding to other geographic regions. We welcome your input on how this information could be useful to your work.To learn more about the fire risk map, read the Conservation International publication, A satellite model of forest flammability, and visit the Firecast website. Download daily fire risk or days since last rainfall maps through GFW’s Open Data Portal. What to Expect in 2016Indonesia is currently entering its dry season (June to October), when fires typically spike and air quality deteriorates. However, El Niño, a cyclical climate event which warms sea temperatures and led to dry conditions in 2015, has now largely ended. Instead, there is a 75 percent chance of La Niña, the cooler inverse of El Niño, which would create wetter-than-average conditions for Indonesia and perhaps a shorter dry season.So far in 2016, most of Indonesia has been relatively rainy and with few fires, although conditions are growing drier. The new fire risk data shows that average fire risk is at moderate to low in provinces that saw significant fire outbreaks last year, but beginning to enter high-risk conditions in portions of Riau Province and Central and West Kalimantan.Preventing Future Fire OutbreaksSigns of lower fire risk should not be cause for complacency. It is cheaper to prevent fires than react to them, and this fire season could present an opportunity to tackle the roots of the problem. The new Fire Risk Map on Global Forest Watch Fires aims to provide a Smokey for Southeast Asia. Every day, a computer model generates a new interactive map showing where dry conditions increase fire risk in Indonesia and Malaysia. The tool can help decision-makers take action to prevent fires before they ignite.A year’s worth of fire risk data, 2015-2016. How the Map WorksExperts with Conservation International’s Firecast initiative, the Global Solutions Group and WRI developed the fire risk map based on the U.S. Forest Service’s Fire Danger Rating System. It calculates the risk of a fire catching and spreading in a given area using satellite-based data on temperature, humidity and rainfall. These metrics help estimate how wet or dry forest litter (dead tree and plant materials) is—the drier the litter, the higher the risk. As the chart below shows, when you have sustained periods of high flammability such as last season’s El Niño conditions, fires can quickly surge. Last year, Central Kalimantan, which experienced the greatest number of fires, sustained a moderate to high average fire risk score for a period of 143 days from June 21th until Nov 11th, resulting in 29,785 fire alerts.Of course weather isn’t the only factor determining whether fires will take hold. Most of Indonesia’s forest fires are human-caused, usually to clear forests for agricultural and forestry activity. But levels of dryness affect whether these fires will spread and surge out of control. With daily warnings on when and where land is most flammable, government agents, companies and communities can channel resources to areas most likely to burn.last_img read more

Awash in Green and Gold: The Emerging Restoration Economy in Kenya

first_imgThe pivot worked. Honey Care’s revamped business model attracted the attention of Root Capital, Lundin Foundation, Grameen Foundation, and Alphamundi, impact investors that have invested in multiple funding rounds since 2012. Honey Care Africa’s sales in fiscal 2016 were five times the average annual sales of the previous decade. This dramatic growth has translated to accelerated impact; the company now purchases honey, peanuts, cashews and sesame seeds from almost 5,000 farmers, which adds up to $200 per year to each farmer’s income – a significant amount in Kenya, where per capita GDP was just under $1,250 in 2013. The hives Honey Care has distributed are also a boon for the environment, rejuvenating landscapes through pollination and boosting crop yields by 15 to 30 percent.The success of Honey Care and GreenPot offer a common lesson: successful business models in restoration are essential to deliver environmental, social and financial returns. As the restoration economy in Kenya continues to grow, NRE is committed to understanding how these models can be replicated and scaled up. Although the challenges are great, the opportunities are even greater. With companies like GreenPot and Honey Care, the vision of Kenya’s restoration economy is awash with green and gold. Kuki Njeru’s eyes sparkle as she discusses her bamboo business. “There’s immense potential in restoring the gullies with bamboo,” she says. “Not only does it grow well on degraded land, it helps stabilize soils and prevent erosion as well.”A co-founder of GreenPot Enterprises, Kenya’s first integrated bamboo company, Njeru is the face of a rapidly emerging new restoration economy in Kenya. Founded in 2014, GreenPot has shown there is profit in rehabilitating degraded land with bamboo, a fast-growing plant with versatile applications in the energy, construction and textile industries. In the past 18 months, the company has become profitable, managing about 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of bamboo and bringing in more than $2 million in sales.Kuki Njeru, GreenPot. Photo by Kuki Njeru How did they do it? In their core business model, the company starts by signing 30-year leases on suitable land. Then, the GreenPot team plants, manages and subleases bamboo plots of five to 10 acres to retail investors (individuals that make investments for their personal accounts, in contrast to institutional investors like banks or pension funds). Because bamboo grows rapidly, biannual harvests are possible after the plant matures in four years, bringing cash to GreenPot, the retail investors and the landowners. To create cash flow while the bamboo plantations are still in development, GreenPot has also developed other profitable revenue streams, including management services for large, existing plantations and nurseries that produce hundreds of thousands of seedlings for sale. Plans include constructing factories nearby to turn bamboo into flooring material and activated carbon to deliver even higher value.GreenPot is not alone. Across the country, Kenyan entrepreneurs are seeking to demonstrate that with the right business model, restoration companies can have environmental and social impact while delivering financial returns. From community conservancies that engage in ecotourism and sustainable livestock to financial software companies that help incentivize smallholder restoration, these enterprises are challenging the popular notion that capitalism is at odds with the environment. Their approach is also distinct from companies that have acknowledged the benefits of healthy forests and committed to minimizing environmental impact, but whose business operations do not integrate restoration. Here, restoring landscapes isn’t just good for business; restoring landscapes is the business.East Africa’s Economic Powerhouse Indeed, there are signs of tailwinds for restoration businesses in Kenya. The country is an economic powerhouse in East Africa, growing its GDP by 5.6 percent in 2015 while other Sub-Saharan African countries struggled with economic shocks. Much of this growth stems from a dynamic private sector that benefits from relatively market-friendly policies, an encouraging sign for budding restoration businesses. These enterprises also stand to gain from government support; this September, Kenya announced its commitment to restore 5.1 million hectares (3.7 million acres) by 2030 – an area bigger than Denmark. The commitment, part of the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), signals to restoration businesses that the Kenyan government is receptive to their work, and is likely to enact policies that help the restoration industry thrive.Encouraging as the market environment may be, obstacles remain. In interviews with entrepreneurs across Kenya, WRI’s New Restoration Economy (NRE) identified several barriers to scale, including the lack of access to growth capital. While multiple philanthropies and impact investors are willing to provide seed capital – grants or investments of $100,000 or so – fewer organizations are willing to invest larger amounts in the $3-10 million range that are necessary for businesses to take off.Madison Ayer, chairman of Honey Care Africa, is all too familiar with the issue. Founded in 2000, Honey Care is a for-profit apiary enterprise that seeks to bring financial, environmental, and social sustainability to rural communities in Kenya. The company’s vision won recognition from many international organizations, including awards from the World Bank Development Marketplace and UN Equator Initiative. By 2010, however, it was struggling financially. “Honey Care had a great history and story,” Ayer said, “but there was a need to evolve the enterprise beyond a small subsidized project and develop a strategy for scaling and economic sustainability.”The company needed a more economically sound business model. Under the leadership of a strong board and CEO Ryan Marincowitz, the company has shifted from beekeeping for community development and environmental sustainability to developing nutritious honey-based snack products for the mass market in East Africa.Workers at one of HoneyCare Africa’s beehives. Photo by HoneyCare Africalast_img read more

Republican-Proposed “Carbon Dividend” Is a Great Sign of Progress

first_imgMore Details Eventually NeededThe CLC proposal will need to gain support from policymakers currently in office for it to become proposed legislation. If it does, important details will need to be filled in. Examples include: Support for coal communities. While the near-term effects of a carbon tax on the vast majority of American households and businesses would be small, communities of coal industry workers (and others whose livelihoods are tied to a high-carbon economy) are already struggling. In order to avoid making the situation worse, certain policy measures must be in place to help rebuild these economies. Whether by allocating tax revenues to economic development in these communities (just a small sliver of the tax revenue could provide enormous help) or though separate legislation, support for workers in the fossil fuel industry should be a key consideration in designing our country’s decarbonization strategy. Benefits for poor and middle classes. As WRI research has shown, a carbon tax’s effects on household finances are most heavily dependent on how the revenue is used. According to the CLC proposal, all tax proceeds would be returned to the American people on an equal basis via quarterly dividend checks. CLC chose this approach because of its transparency and because the longevity of the policy would be “secured by the popularity of dividends.” In addition, this tax-and-dividend approach would be highly beneficial to poor and middle-class households, who would receive far more in dividends than they would spend on the tax. (Of course, these households—and all households—would also benefit from cleaner air and reduced risks of climate change.) High-income households, on the other hand, would be better off if the revenue were used in other ways, such as to lower other taxes. Offers potential for bipartisan support. Transforming to a low-carbon economy is an objective that Democrats widely support, but it will require new and comprehensive legislation that attracts Republican support as well. Prominent Republicans are supportive of the CLC proposal because it embraces both free markets and limited government with its plan to eliminate regulations that are no longer necessary with the existence of the carbon tax (“Less Government, Less Pollution,” as CLC puts it). Significantly reduces emissions. The group proposes a tax that would start at $40 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and increase over time. A paper released by CLC provides a useful summary of recent modeling efforts on the effects of a carbon tax on emissions. It concludes that the CLC proposal (including the effects of rolling back some regulations) would reduce greenhouse gas emissions roughly 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, the upper end of the United States’ commitment under the Paris Agreement on climate change. It also implicitly recognizes concerns of the environmental community by calling for a rate that is high enough to provide greater emissions reductions than regulations already in place. WRI research shows that models tend to underestimate the emissions reductions from a carbon tax, so it seems likely that the United States would achieve its 2025 emissions target under this proposal. Cost-effectively reduces emissions. As economists will tell you, putting a price on emissions is the most cost-effective way to reduce them because it encourages producers and consumers to seek out the lowest-cost opportunities to reduce their emissions. Economic models show that for decarbonizing the U.S. economy, economic outcomes are far better with a carbon tax as the centerpiece of policy efforts as compared to a strictly regulatory approach.center_img Addresses concerns about U.S. competitiveness and international action. A core pillar of the CLC proposal is a “border carbon adjustment.” Exports to countries without comparable policies would receive rebates for carbon taxes paid, while imports from such countries would face fees contingent on the carbon content of their products. The border carbon adjustment would protect the competitiveness of energy-intensive companies and those that are subject to foreign competition. It would also encourage all U.S. trading partners to adopt similarly stringent policies, which is necessary to achieve meaningful global progress on climate change. Details of the regulatory reform. The CLC plan involves replacing much of EPA’s regulatory authority over carbon dioxide emissions. Environmental groups are likely to push for mechanisms to ensure that the emissions reductions needed to meet climate goals are sufficiently certain; the Environmental Defense Fund recently described options for combining such “Environmental Integrity Mechanisms” with a carbon tax. In addition, the policy should avoid eliminating regulations that are not duplicative with a carbon tax. For example, WRI research has explained why supporting the research, development and deployment of the next generation of low-carbon technologies will lead to more cost-effective decarbonization in the long-run. There is strong support for carbon taxes among the American public and in the business community, including more than two-thirds of all Americans and more than half of Republicans. Nearly 40 countries and more than 20 sub-national jurisdictions are now pricing carbon.Despite this support, political gridlock and the powerful corporate opposition have obstructed policy action at the U.S. federal level. Overcoming these entrenched interests will require courageous politicians. This proposal deserves serious attention from the Trump administration and policymakers on both sides of the aisle.EDITOR’S NOTE, 2/16/17: An earlier version of this blog post referred to the CLC proposal as a carbon tax. The CLC actually refers to its proposal as a carbon dividend. We have updated the post accordingly. A group of prominent conservative Republicans—including former Secretary of State James Baker III, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Walmart Chairman Rob Walton—met with key members of the Trump administration on Wednesday about their proposal to tax carbon dioxide emissions and return the proceeds to the American people. Such an economy-wide “carbon dividend,” as the group calls it, could enable the United States to achieve its international emissions targets with better economic outcomes than under a purely regulatory approach. Attributes of the Republican Carbon Dividend ProposalWhile the details on the plan from the newly formed Carbon Leadership Coalition (CLC) are considerably less specific than a legislative proposal, this is a well-thought-out and ambitious plan that makes a good-faith effort at addressing many of the difficult choices on the path to enacting a carbon tax. Consider the following attributes:last_img read more

Does Science Have a Future in “Alternative Facts” America?

first_imgA Call to Action for ScientistsBut just as scientists are finding themselves on the frontlines of the Trump administration’s assault on facts, so too can they be on the frontlines of defending truth.Levin noted that 70 percent of Americans can’t name a living scientist. It’s time that scientists make themselves more visible.That means interacting with Congress, and even running for election, panelists said. Next month’s March for Science and similar initiatives can also help. “There are calls for scientists to get into their communities more, walk into churches, walk into schools, walk into local representatives’ offices and offer themselves as a real resource,” Levin said.It also means bringing to light evidence that shuts down special interests’ and other climate deniers’ false claims. “We need to show how a fossil fuel-intensive pathway doesn’t necessarily deliver the benefits folks hope, or how challenging it is to bring back coal jobs because of market forces,” Levin said.There’s also a role for citizens and public officials to more actively seek out the truth. David Rothkopf, CEO and editor of Foreign Policy Group, pointed out the rise of media “echo chambers” that reinforce existing biases instead of challenging them with new data. Rather than getting information from a diversity of reputable sources — as was common in decades past — people are increasingly relying on social media networks of like-minded people, creating a narrow world view.“We need the citizenry to actually educate themselves,” Rothkopf said. “To discern what the self-evident truths are and which are not self-evident.” Controversy is inherent to science. When scientists linked chlorofluorocarbons to ozone depletion, the chemical industry attacked. When water fluoridation projects cropped up across the country in the 1950s and 60s, conspiracy theorists called them a communist plot. Even Galileo got lambasted by friends and foes for claiming the Earth went ‘round the sun.“In case and case again, when science comes up against a world view, people try to shove it aside,” said Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy.But we’ve now entered a new world order when it comes to the acceptance — or rather, the denial — of scientific fact.“What we have now that’s different is it’s jumped over into government a lot more than we’ve ever seen,” Halpern said at a Washington event entitled “The Future of Truth.” “You have people running fringe websites who are now running EPA. You’ve seen these ideas being put forward by people who are now pretty powerful and have a pretty big mouthpiece.”Halpern joined other scientists, policymakers, lawyers and journalists at the Newseum on March 29. As almost all panelists lamented, never before has the relationship between scientific fact and government been quite so antagonistic. While government officials have always fought over appropriate policy responses, the science underpinning them rarely came under debate before now.“I don’t know if in my lifetime I’ve ever seen a president of United States assert things without any evidence for the assertion, and then have the power of the government to back up those assertions,” said Bob Inglis, former Republican representative from South Carolina and executive director of republicEn.“We have a president who is explicit that a fact can be replaced by something more convenient,” said Kelly Levin, senior associate at WRI. “There are dangers to that.”A Threat to Science, a Threat to SocietyWe’re already getting a taste for those dangers. Since President Donald Trump took office, his administration has called to cut the EPA by 31 percent. Just this week the administration issued a sweeping executive order that took a sledgehammer to U.S. climate action, including rescinding guidance on how federal agencies should factor climate change into project permitting decisions.These moves threaten citizens’ and decision-makers’ understanding of scientific issues, including one of the greatest challenges the country currently faces: climate change.“The U.S. government has been playing a leading role in basic climate research,” said Tomás Carbonell, director of regulatory policy and senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund. “If these kinds of cuts get enacted, that could really do lasting damage to public trust in government as a source of data, as well as the ability of agencies to carry on credible work.”And that’s a threat with political and socioeconomic ramifications. Decision-makers won’t have access to information they need to effectively govern — everything from stream pollution data to maps of areas at risk of flooding. Citizens and local communities won’t be able to get information on potential environmental hazards, making it harder to hold government officials accountable for malfeasance.Front left to right: Michael Halpern, Union of Concerned Scientists; Eli Lehrer, R Street Institute; David Rothkopf, Foreign Policy; Bon Inglis, republicEn; Kelly Levin, World Resources Institute; Tomás Carbonell, Environmental Defense Fund. Photo by Sarah Parsons/WRIlast_img read more

The Roadmap to Decarbonization Won’t Go Far without Land

first_imgSource: SEEG and GFW Climate. Deforestation is defined as tree cover loss within primary forests in Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, outside of plantations in Malaysia, and in areas with >25 percent tree cover everywhere else. Emission estimates reflect the loss of above- and below-ground biomass.If we are serious about zeroing out carbon emissions by 2050, we can’t leave the land sector behind. Here are four concrete actions we need to take.2017-2020: Stop agricultural expansion onto tropical peatlandsPeat is soil that has accumulated large amounts of carbon over centuries. It’s also a popular target for oil palm expansion in Indonesia. When peatlands are drained to prepare new land for planting, carbon in the soil is released. Globally, peatland drainage accounts for 32 percent of cropland emissions despite producing just 1.1 percent of total crop calories. Drainage also makes peatlands more susceptible to fire, which can lead to uncontrollable outbreaks. One way to achieve large and immediate emission reductions in the land sector is to support implementation of Indonesia’s new and strengthened law to conserve and restore its peatlands.2020-2030: Change what we eatAs incomes rise around the globe, people are rapidly converging toward Western-style diets high in calories, protein and animal-based foods such as meats and dairy. This has large implications for land-use change, since meat and dairy production requires more land than plant-based proteins like beans and lentils. Beef, in particular, requires more land and generates more emissions per unit of protein than any other commonly consumed food. Reducing beef consumption among wealthier populations is essential to achieving climate goals, yet the Food and Agriculture Organization projects that global demand for beef will increase 95 percent between 2006 and 2050.Simply reducing our beef consumption can go a long way. Cutting our meat and dairy consumption in half can nearly halve our dietary carbon footprint, and if whole populations shifted their diets away from beef, it could free up 300 million hectares (740 million acres) of land—an area nearly the size of India—and reduce agricultural pressure on forests. Diet shifts along with reducing food loss and waste as well as sustainable intensification of crop and livestock production, can together bring agricultural emissions in line with a 2 degree C pathway. 2030-2040: Create a carbon neutral wood products industryAfter 2030, the decarbonization roadmap calls for the construction industry to use emissions-free concrete and steel or to replace those materials with zero or negative emissions substances like wood. Wood can have a lower carbon footprint than concrete or steel and can support taller buildings, reducing pressure on land in the form of urban sprawl. However, climate benefits are lost if wood is not sourced from land that will re-absorb as much or more carbon by 2050 as was emitted during its harvesting and production. Some sustainably managed forests are already carbon neutral or carbon negative, but this isn’t the case everywhere. Globally, overharvesting of wood is causing emissions in the short-term as well as a decline in the longer-term carbon removals that must be sustained and enhanced to remain below 2 degrees C. To help achieve net zero emissions by mid-century, sustainability schemes for products made from forest biomass must require carbon neutrality for certification.2040-2050: Reap the benefits of forest and landscape restorationThe world will continue to need more land to produce food, fuel and other agricultural products. Land available for the sole purpose of carbon sequestration is likely to be limited and comes with significant social, ecological and economic implications that can be positive or negative. Taking advantage of opportunities that provide net economic and social benefits in addition to climate mitigation can alleviate some of the tension between growth and sustainability. But any land restoration strategy—such as replenishing carbon in agricultural soils or increasing carbon stored in trees—takes time and must begin now.Closing the Attention GapOver the past decade we’ve seen positive signs that the world is on track for rapid transformation of the energy sector, but these signs aren’t yet evident for the land sector. Few climate change policymakers have paid adequate attention to the specifics of the land use challenge ahead of us, and political signals have thus far failed to catalyze the land reforms necessary at the scale needed to achieve climate action. These examples alone will not bring us to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but if we want to follow the decarbonization roadmap, land must be considered more explicitly within an integrated, cross-sectoral mitigation framework. This article was originally posted on Global Forest Watch.A decarbonization roadmap recently published in Science outlines decadal targets that put into perspective the monumental progress we need to make to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and keep warming below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F). The authors detail specific measures and incentives for the energy and transport sectors, but the agriculture and forestry sector, the third major component of the roadmap, is offered comparatively few concrete actions—reflective of its overlooked status within the global climate dialogue.The importance of transforming the land sector to help meet the 2 degree C goal cannot be overstated. Today, emissions from agriculture and land use change account for nearly a quarter of all human-caused emissions. At the same time, forests soak up one-third of the fossil fuel emissions we emit every year and could pull even more. That means the land sector can be both decarbonized (reduce emissions) and recarbonized (pull carbon out of the atmosphere and back into forests and landscapes) for a twofold gain.But progress in sustainable land use has remained stagnant. For example, despite substantial investments over the past decade to reduce tropical deforestation, the largest single source of land-based carbon emissions, these efforts have failed outside of Brazil. Overall emissions trends from deforestation during the 21st century have remained frustratingly flat.last_img read more

Climate Negotiations in Bonn: The Countdown to 2018 Starts

first_imgFollowing the lightning-fast entry into force of the Paris Agreement last year, climate negotiators gather in Bonn next week to continue the process of turning the vision of Paris into a reality. We’re well on the way: 190 countries have submitted climate action commitments, known as NDCs; over 140 countries have formally joined the Agreement; and climate is an inescapable issue diplomatically, featuring in forums like the G7 and G20. The determination of such a wide range of countries to tackle climate change and move towards a zero-carbon, climate-resilient future provides the foundation to implement the Agreement. To set implementation in motion, negotiators have the next 18 months to develop and adopt the “rules of the game“ and hold the first stocktaking exercise on countries’ NDCs to ensure they are ambitious enough to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) or to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) above  pre-industrial levels. The Bonn meeting starts the countdown to 2018, when these procedures must be in place.Three key issues to watch at Bonn are:Progress on the design of the Paris rulebook to enable adoption of the Agreement by 2018 Consultations on the design of the stocktaking exercise, the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue Peer review and learning platforms that facilitates progress on countries’ implementationProgress on the Paris RulebookWhat negotiators call the Paris rulebook will be the user manual for decision-makers around the world, to ensure implementation is effective, fair and equitable.This is a challenging task for negotiators, who must deal with technical complexity given the interconnections among various elements of the Agreement. They will have to navigate delicate politics on some issues – for example, how to create a framework for more robust transparency that applies to all countries, while also acknowledging countries’ different capabilities and national circumstances.And because many developing countries lack the necessary support, tools, technical expertise and organizational and institutional capacity to effectively contribute to the design of the rulebook, support for capacity-building is crucial. Multilateral climate funds play a key role in building capacity and helping to drive the economic and societal transformation necessary to address climate change. In Bonn, negotiators will discuss how to make funds more effective and coherent, including the role that the Adaptation Fund can play in the overall finance architecture.The goal of this month’s session is to move toward a negotiating text for the rulebook by the next high-level international climate meeting in November, also in Bonn.Working Toward the 2018 Facilitative DialogueWe already know that current NDCs are not ambitious enough to ward off the most serious effects of a changing climate. But there are many opportunities countries can take that tackle climate change while offering development and economic benefits. Enhancing climate action and revising NDCs by 2020 are therefore crucial to improve our chances of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.In Paris in 2015, countries agreed to create a facilitative dialogue in 2018 to provide global context on the urgent need for action, compare progress toward the Paris goals, and highlight opportunities for climate action with widespread benefits. Next year is the first stocktaking moment under the Paris Agreement and an important precursor to future reviews that will take place every five years starting in 2023. The 2018 dialogue is intended to inform the steps that countries will take in submitting NDCs by 2020 and will establish one of the core components for enhancing ambition over time.Next year’s process should not be about ‘naming and shaming’ but rather about showcasing the many opportunities for action around the world that can provide significant development and economic benefits. The facilitative dialogue can highlight actions by the private sector, subnational governments and civil society that help to link the climate change agenda with broader economic and sustainable development objectives.  This can make 2018 a springboard for action as moves toward a critical turning point in 2020.This month, it is vital for Morocco and Fiji – the co-presidencies of the Conference of Parties to the UN climate process — to use their mandate to consult with countries on how the facilitative dialogue should work, but also continue to engage with wider stakeholders on these issues.Progress on Countries’ ImplementationAt this Bonn session, certain countries – including the United States, India, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Morocco, Russia, Thailand, France and Chile — will complete the verification cycle for their climate action plans.  This is a significant moment for the developing countries involved, since most of them are doing this for the first time.The three-day process is an important way to share progress and lessons learned and to help clarifying underlying approaches and assumptions for national reporting. It also provides an opportunity to recognize countries’ efforts and to identify the gaps and barriers that countries face in fulfilling their international requirements. This exercise will also provide valuable insight for the design of the enhanced transparency framework under the Paris Agreement.The negotiations in Bonn may not all be smooth sailing. The task ahead is technically and politically complex, and the new U.S. administration’s stance on climate policies may also introduce some challenges into the climate talks. At the time this was written, President Donald Trump had yet to decide whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement. Staying in the Agreement is in U.S. economic interest, especially because of global clean energy markets, and in U.S. strategic and diplomatic interest. The G7 summit – the first of Trump’s administration — comes just days after the Bonn climate meeting, so the new president won’t have to wait long to see any impact from a U.S. decision on the Paris Agreement. The climate issue has become increasingly central to both the G7 and G20.The transformation set out in the Paris Agreement is already underway. Many countries, including China and India, are rapidly scaling up renewable energy while coal investments flatten. The task of implementing the Paris Agreement is great, but the commitment and determination of countries around the world is greater.last_img read more

Growing Trees and Growing Profit: Is Your Business a “Restoration Enterprise?”

first_imgCriteria to Consider in Restoration EnterprisesWRI and TNC are asking enterprises for information about how they’re restoring land, directly or indirectly. These enterprises may be showcased in a forthcoming report. We’re looking for restoration enterprises that are:Environmentally beneficial: Does the enterprise result in degraded lands being restored? Some benefits of restoration include carbon sequestration, improved air and water quality, and greater biodiversity. Scalable: Does the project have the potential to become much bigger than it is today? Since investors are often looking to allocate sizable funds to the same investment, we focus on companies that have massive room to grow their operations from current levels. Profitable: Does the enterprise make money today (or is on track to do so in the future)? Long-term commercial viability is key for private investment, so we focus on companies that aim to generate returns that can be used to fund their ongoing restoration activities. Replicable: Can this concept inspire change and be replicated in other countries or regions? This is important to ensure that attention is directed to ideas that can be replicated rather than one-time projects. What Does a Restoration Enterprise Look Like?When envisioning a restoration enterprise, sustainable forestry companies, such as Better Globe Forestry, are typically the first that come to mind. The Kenyan company works with smallholder farmers to plant Melia volkensii trees, a native species known for its resilience to drought. Providing farmers with a range of resources to plant the trees on their lands—from seedlings and water supplies to training and microfinance—Better Globe intends to purchase the trees from farmers once they are mature, harvesting them and exporting them as high-quality timber. By establishing the trees on semi-arid lands – with more than a million planted to date – the company helps retain water and improve soil quality, transforming dusty farmlands into oases of grass and vegetation.center_img This piece is co-written by Eriks Brolis, the conservation business lead on The Nature Conservancy’s Global Lands Team.As one of our most powerful natural climate solutions, forest and landscape restoration is among the cheapest and most effective ways to store carbon and curb climate change. What’s more, expanding restoration can create enticing investment opportunities in a “restoration economy.”One hundred and fourteen governments have made commitments to restoration as part of their overall plans to tackle a changing climate, pledging to restore 162 million hectares (400 million acres), an area six times the size of the United Kingdom. But transforming land use at a large scale means that we cannot rely on public or philanthropic resources alone. To reach the $26 billion needed each year to meet countries’ pledges under the Paris Agreement, the private and commercial sectors need to be involved.One barrier to attracting the needed funds has been lack of awareness of the investment opportunities. Investors ask, what are the business models? How can restoration generate a return on investment? What is the growth potential?As we noted in a previous blog post, restoration can generate both income and capital gains. More and more enterprises are seeing the commercial potential in restoration-related sectors, including those whose main value proposition is linked to forest and landscape restoration. This may be a direct link—enterprises that plant trees, for example—or an indirect one, such as companies that offer technology or consulting services for restoration. A restoration enterprise can also include companies whose revenues are not directly linked to restoration, but whose customers are drawn to them because they channel their profits toward restoration.Worker handles seedlings in state-owned tree nursery near Guarapuava, Brazil. Photo by Scott Warren/The Nature Conservancy Socially beneficial: Does the enterprise have a positive impact on people through employment and other means? There are always competing uses for land, and sustainable change requires that people benefit in some way. Restoration enterprises, however, come in many shapes and forms. Another example is Greenprint Partners (formerly known as Fresh Coast Capital), which exemplifies the potential of restoration companies to deliver financial, environmental and social returns. As a project developer, Greenprint partners with cities throughout the U.S. Midwest to restore and revitalize underserved urban communities through the transformative power of nature. By paying Greenprint to install large-scale green infrastructure such as native plants and trees, cities can naturally manage stormwater runoff while improving soil and air quality. These projects can save cities millions in built infrastructure costs while creating restoration jobs and improving property values, delivering triple-win scenarios for the company, the city and the environment.Ecosia takes a more indirect approach to restoration. An online search engine that displays ads next to its search results, Ecosia earns revenue every time a user clicks on one of the ads. At least 80 percent of its profits are invested into tree-planting programs in Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Peru, Indonesia and Tanzania. While Ecosia’s business model does not directly benefit from trees, its customer value proposition is intimately linked to restoring degraded land. Its platform enables users to see how many trees have been planted based on individual online activity. With 9 million trees planted to date, Ecosia proves that business models that indirectly promote restoration can be effective at creating large-scale impact.Share Your Story with UsTo document and support the growing restoration economy, WRI and The Nature Conservancy aim to showcase promising business models. We’re looking for examples of effective restoration enterprises, which we’ll share in a forthcoming report geared toward investors, businesses, civil society and governments. We welcome submissions from companies at all stages of growth, from anywhere in the world. Join the movement; reach out to us at NRE@wri.org today.EDITOR’S NOTE, 7/18/18: The text has been edited to reflect Fresh Coast Capital’s rebranding to Greenprint Partners, effective July 9, 2018.last_img read more

The IMF and Climate Change: Three Things Christine Lagarde Can Do to Cement Her Legacy on Climate

first_imgThe International Monetary Fund (IMF) and climate change do not often appear in the same headline together. Indeed, environmental issues have been, at most, peripheral to the Fund’s core functions. But now economists inside and outside the IMF are beginning to understand that climate change has significant implications for national and regional economies, and so it’s worth reconsidering the Fund’s role in addressing the climate challenge.To her credit, Managing Director Christine Lagarde has boldly injected the IMF’s voice into the global debate on policy responses to climate change and has identified a number of roles the Fund can play.The Fund has conducted valuable work on how carbon emissions can be reduced through market prices that reflect the negative externalities of those emissions. In particular, the Fund has become a leading voice for quantifying and streamlining or eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, as well as for introducing carbon-pricing mechanisms.What is still missing, however, is a bigger role for the IMF in enabling countries to prepare and manage the potential impacts of climate change. There are three things the Fund could do, building on its current efforts, that would make a big difference:1. Deepen Research on Macroeconomic and Financial Impacts of Climate ChangeIn a climate change debate that has become heavily politicized, the Fund’s technical and nonpartisan voice is uniquely valuable. Few questions are as important as understanding the possible effects of a changing climate on the world’s economies, especially the most vulnerable ones.The Fund has recently started to make important contributions in this area. In a paper published last year, the IMF started to look into the implications of climate change on so-called “small states”. And last week, the Fund devoted for the first time a whole chapter of its flagship World Economic Outlook to the impacts of weather shocks on economic activity.Building on these foundations, the Fund should focus its research capabilities on a key question, namely whether climate change is having have a “level effect” or a “growth effect” on per capita income. If the former, then climate change will only destroy a given amount of income over time (think of damaged bridges and buildings) but not affect the capacity of the economy itself to grow. If the latter, then climate change is also harming the drivers of growth themselves, such as the productivity and availability of workers, the productivity of agriculture, and the flow of investment. The economy’s growth rate will slow as a result, and losses will compound year after year, leaving an economy significantly worse off than if only level effects applied.Getting better answers to this question is essential for policymakers making decisions about how much to spend today to avoid damage tomorrow.2. Formally Incorporate Climate Change Into Policy DialogueOne of the Fund’s core functions is macroeconomic surveillance. This function brings Fund staff into regular policy dialogues (called Article IV consultations) with financial authorities in virtually every country in the world.Financial authorities have a key role to play in preparing for climate change, as they are charged with budget planning and managing fiscal and financial risks. The Fund should bring climate risk into the dialogue as a formal part of its consultations, not just with small states, but with a much larger set of vulnerable countries as well, including systemically-significant ones.The Seychelles. Flickr/Federico Robertazzi This year, in collaboration with the World Bank, the Fund launched the first Climate Change Policy Assessment (CCPA) during the Article IV consultations for the Seychelles. The assessment focused on policy options to reduce vulnerability to climate change; the Seychelle authorities found it to be very useful. More CCPAs are planned – a small handful per year – but this is simply not fast enough given the urgency and gravity of the challenge.The Fund should formalize CCPAs as a routine part of Article IV consultations for a broad swath of vulnerable, low-income countries. This will require investing in staff capacity and training, including in the Fund’s Monetary and Capital Markets Department, which can help countries identify how climate risks and opportunities could affect their financial systems. Maximizing synergies with the World Bank on the CCPAs will also be necessary.3. Treat Expenditures on Climate Resilience as InvestmentsCountries facing a balance-of-payments crisis often draw on IMF resources and enter into a program relationship with the IMF. One of the trickiest elements when negotiating such a program is how to treat different categories of spending and where to cut to restore fiscal balance. How should the Fund treat expenditures designed to provide financial protection against extreme weather events? These include, for example, deposits into a national reserve fund, premium payments on sovereign insurance against natural disasters, or the costs of issuing catastrophe (“cat”) bonds.Protecting some of these expenditures from program-mandated cuts is fully appropriate, as they are designed to provide a measure of fiscal protection to the government in the aftermath of an extreme weather event. For instance, the Fund might treat cat bond issuance costs and insurance premiums as investments with potential upside, rather than as expenditures, thereby exempting them from cuts.Managing Director Lagarde has positioned the IMF as an important and credible voice in the debate about climate change. Now it’s time for the Fund to expand and institutionalize this new role, helping poor and vulnerable countries understand and confront the macroeconomic and financial risks of climate change.last_img read more

Global Tree Cover Loss Rose 51 Percent in 2016

first_imgFire Losses in Europe, Africa and North AmericaTree cover loss in Indonesia and Brazil accounted for more than a quarter of global tree cover loss. However, several other countries experienced massive fire-related forest loss in 2016. The official government deforestation monitoring system, PRODES, recently reported a decrease in deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon for the period August 2016 – July 2017, an encouraging trend after the major increase reported last year. The Brazilian figures measure clear-cut deforestation of primary forest and likely do not capture much of the fire-related forest degradation detected by the University of Maryland tree cover loss data (read more about the difference between PRODES and the tree cover loss data here). Both trends are important, and the scale of disturbance captured by the 2016 tree cover loss data highlights the need for holistic monitoring of forest change and corresponding implications for climate change, biodiversity and the overall integrity of forest ecosystems.Forest fires are likely to remain an important issue in Brazil – September 2017 had the most fires of any month since record-keeping began in 1998, with officials citing illegal fire usage compounded with lack of government oversight as the main cause.Strong Indonesian Fire Season Shows Up in 2016 DataIndonesia also saw an increase in tree cover loss in 2016, likely related to the strong fire season of late 2015. Tree cover loss is not the same as deforestation. “Tree cover” can refer to trees in plantations as well as natural forests, and “tree cover loss” is the removal of tree canopy due to human or natural causes, including fire. Read more here.Forests at a Flash PointFire rarely occurs naturally in tropical rainforests; fires happen when human use of fire interacts with extreme temperatures and drought. This year’s trend is due in part to the global effects of 2015/2016 El Niño, the second-strongest ever recorded, which brought drought conditions throughout the tropics. Human-caused deforestation and degradation also make forests more fire-prone by drying the local climate. El Niño also plays a role in boreal and temperate forests, where fires are a more natural occurrence, but climate change is increasing the intensity and costs of fires.An increase in forest fires is worrying on many levels. Even in places where fires are an important part of the ecosystem, large blazes can have major impacts on human health and cause wide-spread damage to property and infrastructure. Forest burning can release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, and, in tropical rainforests where such fires are rare, greatly impact forest structure and biodiversity. Interactions of tropical fires with land use change and climate change could lead to future forest diebacks in places like the Amazon.Better forest management can reduce the risk of fires starting in the first place: deforestation and degradation greatly increase the risk of fire in tropical forests, while in fire-prone ecosystems, overgrown forests results in more damaging fires. Early detection systems like VIIRS and rapid interagency cooperation mechanisms enable response to fires as early as possible to reduce damage and the costs of fire-fighting.To mitigate fire damage to people and forests, stopping the use of fire during dry times of year is crucial. Both Indonesia and Brazil have policies on the books to limit use of fire to clear land, but reports suggest these policies are not enforced effectively or are underfunded.Brazil’s Tree Cover Loss Doubles Due to Understory FiresBrazil’s Amazonian region lost 3.7 million hectares (9.1 million acres) of tree cover during the 2016 calendar year, nearly three times more than in 2015. Most of that increase happened in the states of Pará and Maranhão, which were heavily affected by fire in late 2015 and 2016. Fire-related loss reflected in the 2016 data is mainly due to slow-moving fires that burn the understory, the layer of vegetation beneath the forest canopy. These fires generally do not kill all the trees or result in a change of how the land is used, which means the resulting damage to forests may not be picked up by other deforestation monitoring systems. They do, however, result in significant reductions in canopy cover, biomass storage and biodiversity (read more about these issues here).Understory fire in the Brazilian Amazon. Sustained heat from these slow-moving fires can kill small trees and increase mortality rates in following years. Credit: Jos Barlow. The Indonesian fires of late 2015, well-documented by the media, were a major environmental disaster, releasing 1.62 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. The resulting haze caused over 100,000 premature deaths. (Though many of the fires occurred in late 2015, most subsequent tree cover loss wasn’t recorded until early 2016. Learn why here.)The effects of logging and expansion of large- and small-scale plantations are also visible in Indonesia’s 2016 data. Papua experienced an uptick in tree cover loss last year, which has continued in 2016, with oil palm plantations continuing to expand in primary forest. Para leer este artículo en español, haz clic aquíGlobal tree cover loss reached a record 29.7 million hectares (73.4 million acres) in 2016, according to new data from the University of Maryland released today on Global Forest Watch. The loss is 51 percent higher than the previous year, totaling an area about the size of New Zealand.Forest fires seem to be a primary cause of this year’s spike, including dramatic fire-related degradation in Brazil. Deforestation due to agriculture, logging, and mining continue to drive global tree cover loss from year-to-year.The wide scale of forest disturbance shows the urgent need to improve forest management. Portugal lost 4 percent of its total tree cover in 2016, the highest percentage of any country. Nearly half of all forest burned in the European Union in 2016 occurred in Portugal, exacerbated by the prevalence of fire-prone eucalyptus and pine plantations and poor land management and fire prevention practices. Recent deadly blazes point to another record-breaking year in 2017.In the Republic of Congo, one of the largest fires ever recorded in Central Africa destroyed 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) of forest in early 2016. This fire, too, was likely strengthened by drought from El Niño and natural and human disturbance.Canada’s Fort McMurray fire destroyed over 600,000 hectares (1.5 million acres) of forest and caused $8.8 billion in damage. Although wildfires are a natural part of boreal forest ecosystems, the likelihood and intensity of fires can be increased by El Niño effects and climate change.Recent blazes in Brazil, California, Portugal and elsewhere suggest that forest fires are not going away – indeed, they may only get worse as the planet warms. The large scale of forests affected by fire and other drivers in 2016 makes it clear that, now more than ever, we need to work together towards better forest management.The authors would like to acknowledge Matt Hansen, Peter Potapov and Svetlana Turubanova, who updated the tree cover loss data, and Doug Morton, Mark Cochrane and Carlos Nobre, who provided valuable background information for this article.last_img read more

3 Steps to a Zero-Carbon Future

first_imgFinally, the global community needs to invest in innovation. Energy-sector public R&D is less than half of what it was in the late 1970s in real terms, and still often goes to fossil fuel exploration and production. Yet, the transformative potential of what can be achieved is staggering. BNEF, for instance, forecasts such a rapid expansion for electric vehicles along with changing patterns around car sharing or pooling over the coming years that there may be an ‘iPhone moment’ of innovative disruption.At its core, our efforts to secure a safe and sustainable growth path depend on coalitions of governments, investors, businesses and civil society working together to accelerate this transition: the opportunities are there, we just need to seize them. Second, we need to mobilise and align finances so that the right kinds of investments are made. This includes utilising public finance in ways that can leverage private finance. Multilateral development banks play a key role in this, including mitigating risk, providing concessional finance and bringing private capital to the table, especially in less developed economies. Again, there are promising signs of momentum towards low-carbon investment: as of October 2017, over 400 investors with US$25 trillion in assets under management joined the Investor Platform for Climate Actions. The Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund, the world’s largest at US$1 trillion, has divested from over 50 coal-related companies, in line with ethical guidelines it adopted in 2016. Over 100 businesses, including Unilever, Barclays and HSBC, have committed to implement the recommendations of the G20 commissioned Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure, translating into disclosing climate information as part of their mainstream financial statements. Countries are also aligning their policies with these efforts: France, for example, has mandatory corporate disclosure of climate information, which includes financial risks from climate impacts and carbon reporting across the supply chain. The Chinese central bank has proposed mandatory climate disclosure as part of a series of other reforms to help green its financial system.Other welcome signs of momentum include initiatives like Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030 (P4G), a green growth engine that creates space for partnerships of businesses, national and city leaders, financiers and community advocates to join forces in the development and deployment of targeted opportunities that can accelerate the delivery of sustainable development. They are offering practical solutions, and they also carry an important message: not only is the transition to a low-carbon economy possible, but it can be good for business’ bottom line. This article originally appeared on the OECD Forum Network.The scale of the challenge ahead cannot be underestimated. Over the next 15 years, the world is likely to invest US$90 trillion in infrastructure, which is more than the entire current stock. The decisions made by each country, business or investor today will directly impact global climate and development goals. If done right, we can secure a growth path that will, by 2050, feed 9 billion people as well as providing clean electricity access to all and infrastructure services to the over 6 billion urban dwellers that keep cities running as engines of growth.The world has already started on the journey towards a zero-carbon, climate-resilient future – testifying to the landmark global agreements of 2015 and 2016 on climate action and sustainable development, strongly supported by actions by national, state and city governments as well as businesses, investors, and civil society [1]. And momentum is growing: In early September, I joined business leaders, policymakers and investors at the Business and Climate Summit in New Delhi where we discussed how low-carbon strategies can be good for business and good for development. But whether we shift to the right path in time to avoid the worst impacts of a changing climate depends on action on three fronts: clear and credible policy that can unlock capital at scale and unleash an era of low-carbon innovation.Photo by Amar Ikhlasul/Flickrcenter_img International co-operation will be critical as a lever to strengthen and more effectively distribute the flow of new ideas and technical capacity, mobilise and scale up finance and help overcome concerns about loss of competitiveness and increase the scale of markets. By working together, countries, businesses, cities and others can move faster and achieve greater gains.First, on the policy level, governments play a key role in delivering the right enabling conditions. For instance, collectively, they could signal decisively that high-carbon, highly polluting development comes at a significant cost. This could include, for example, the introduction of meaningful carbon prices and reform of fossil fuel subsidies which are estimated to have amounted to US$325 billion in 2015 alone.Today, more than 42 countries and 25 sub-national regions have, or are actively planning, a price on carbon; and an estimated 50 countries have started or accelerated fossil fuel subsidy reform. But the carbon prices and coverage of emissions are too low in almost all schemes. A new OECD report on Investing in Climate, Investing in Growth, shows how the use of carbon pricing and other efficient climate policies, together with structural reforms, can enhance both short-term and long-term growth. Ramping up efforts, such as those led by the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, will be key to progressing the May 2016 announcement of G7 leaders to eliminate inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by no later than 2025.last_img read more

3 New Ways to Explore Links Between Climate and Sustainable Development

first_imgIn their 2020 NDCs, countries could consider making these links more specific or adding in new commitments aimed at achieving and/or capturing the mitigation impact of reduce food loss and waste along the value chain. For example, the National Food Waste Reduction Strategy recently proposed by Canada, could lead to additional opportunities to strengthen Canada’s NDC and be a catalyst for further reductions across the public and private sector.Climate Watch is a global development tool for climate and sustainable development; it offers an entry point for exploring where and how the current NDCs align with the SDG targets of the 2030 Agenda. The linkages identified in Climate Watch are based on what was clearly communicated in an NDC and therefore don’t reflect the many links with national policies or measures that are not currently captured in the NDC or the sometimes unstated ways that actions in an NDC could provide benefits for achieving the SDGs. This suggests the enormous potential for further analysis at the national level as countries move forward with their implementation plans. Only through a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the links between these two agendas will it be possible to fully unlock future ambition and enable truly transformational approaches that address the underlying barriers to a zero-carbon, climate resilient future. 2. Support Countries in Seizing Benefits of Integrated implementation of NDCs and SDGSIdentifying where national priorities for sustainable development and climate align represents a significant challenge for many countries. Undertaking such a mapping exercise is the foundation for effective and sustained implementation. The Country Pages on Climate Watch provide a starting point for this mapping exercise – revealing the links that are apparent from the text of the NDC. Highlighted dots indicate alignment with at least one climate action from the country’s NDC. This mapping provides a useful starting point for countries in identifying how relevant ministries could collaborate and pool resources to achieve aligned targets in a synergistic manner. For example, Uganda’s NDC presents opportunities for collaboration between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Water & Environment on priorities that could deliver both mitigation and adaptation while improving local communities’ health and well-being. 3. Identify Opportunities for Further Alignment in Future NDCsIn the process of translating the Paris Agreement into implementation, countries have the opportunity to review and update their NDCs by 2020. Climate Watch enables policymakers to identify opportunities to enhance their NDC through greater alignment with national sustainable development priorities or trends globally. For example, SDG target 12.3 aims to halve per capita global food waste by 2030. Around a third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, resulting in approximately $940 billion per year in economic losses, food insecurity and an estimated 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Fourteen countries have already included explicit commitments in their NDCs that could contribute to the achievement of 12.3.center_img The Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development represent a global turning point towards a low-carbon, climate resilient, prosperous and equitable future. But for these ambitious agendas to flourish, there needs to be an integrated approach to implementation at the national level. Approaching implementation in an integrated way at the national level can enable sharing of information and data instead of creating unproductive silos, determine more cost-effective pathways for domestic and international finance, and avoid locking in high-emissions policies.To help decision-makers bring about this integration, Climate Watch presents the first ever global tool to find links between the actions communicated in countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and associated targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.Initial WRI research found that climate actions in the NDCs align with 154 of the 169 targets of the SDGs. Climate Watch puts that research into the user’s hands, enabling the exploration of the thousands of links between individual NDCs and SDG targets – right down to identifying the actual text in the NDC. Knowing which climate targets and actions in the NDCs can help deliver on the achievement of the SDGs, and vice versa, is an essential entry point for implementation of both agendas. The Climate Watch database allows users to identify alignments with NDCs and to start a conversation about how to optimize those intersections.How Climate Watch Can Help Decision-Makers Align Climate and Sustainable Development Priorities1. Identify Opportunities for New Partnerships, Coalitions and InvestmentWith an overwhelming number of SDG targets (169 in total) and 165 incredibly diverse NDCs, there has been no easy way to identify points of alignment at the global, regional or individual level. Now through Climate Watch, the Global Linkage Map enables users to search across all goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda and the text of all NDCs. This is particularly useful to understand country priorities, as well as opportunities for new partnerships or investment at the nexus of core climate and sustainable development priories. For example, the eradication of hunger by 2030 (SDG2) will require food systems to become more sustainable and resilient to climate impacts. Those looking to create or strengthen coalitions and initiatives at the intersection of food production and climate can identify NDCs that contain relevant climate targets or actions by using the Global Linkage Map and filtering to SDG2 and the associated targets. From here, users can select countries and go directly to the relevant text of the NDC.last_img read more

At Davos, Mahindra Chairman Commits to Science-Based Emissions Reductions, Calls on Other Companies to Join Him

first_img“This is the greatest business opportunity in history,” said former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. “We’re at the early stages of a global sustainable revolution that is based on hyper-efficiency. It has the magnitude of the Industrial Revolution, but the speed of the Digital Revolution.”A Need for Greater Political WillStill, business leaders agreed that what’s really needed to shift the world firmly toward a low-carbon economy is government action. Policy can push investment into greener infrastructure, the same way policies of the past, such as fossil fuel subsidies, helped create the high-carbon economy of the present.We’re already seeing what this looks like at the local level. Washington state Governor Jay Inslee recently proposed what could become the first U.S. state carbon tax. “It would create an investment pool to help [clean tech] businesses develop,” he said. “That’s a common-sense measure and a moral responsibility.”This year is also a prime one to watch for policy action at the national level. As part of the Paris Agreement on climate change, every country in the world committed to review and ratchet up their national climate policies every five years, beginning in 2020. Gore said that at the UN climate summit in Poland this December, world leaders should commit to strengthen their national climate targets.“2018 is the beginning of this cycle,” Gore said. “We need to convince every country in the world to renew and increase their commitments … and convince them to save humanity’s future. We can do it because the will to change is a renewable resource itself.” Anand Mahindra, chairman of the India-based $19 billion Mahindra Rise conglomerate, told a World Economic Forum crowd that climate action is “the next century’s biggest business and financial opportunity.”“Everything that our group of companies has done to try to improve energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has given us a return,” Mahindra Rise chairman said at an event on “Stepping Up Climate Action.” “In the last five years, we’ve saved 58 million kilowatt-hours of energy, which could fire up 15,000 homes in India. That saved us money.”To that end, Mahindra committed all of Mahindra Rise’s companies to setting science-based emissions-reduction targets, which aim to limit global temperature rise to 1.5-2 degrees C (2.7-3.6 degrees F), the level scientists say is necessary for preventing the most disastrous of climate impacts.He also called on 500 other companies to commit to set science-based targets by the Global Climate Action Summit in California in September.“It’s the one way in which every company in the world can find a quantitative roadmap in how they’re going to contribute to meeting the Paris Agreement goals,” Mahindra said.So far, more than 330 companies have committed to science-based emissions-reduction targets as part of the Science Based Targets initiative.Climate Action Is Good for BusinessOther panelists shared Mahindra’s belief that what’s good for the climate is good for business.Insurance company AXA has already divested from coal and oil sands due to climate change’s threats, including increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather. “It’s already a reality and it makes our pricing more difficult, but today, it’s still insurable,” AXA CEO Thomas Buberl said. “But we can say that under a scenario of 3 or 4 degrees C [of temperature rise], you’re not insurable anymore. Your basement shop in New York, your basement shop in Mumbai will not be insurable anymore.”The company is now increasingly prioritizing green investments. “When we put up the first chunk of green investments—$3 billion—we calculated it over six years because we thought nobody would take it,” Buberl said. “It was gone in two years, so the demand is there.”last_img read more

Photo Essay: How Climate Change Affects the Urban Poor in India and Indonesia

first_imgThis article was originally posted on TheCityFix.One of the biggest challenges to climate action is not only understanding the risks of flooding, extreme heat and other challenges, but how your community might respond to these risks. What are its strengths? How might policymakers augment existing capacities and address weaknesses?WRI’s Urban Community Resilience Assessment helps communities answer these questions. By analyzing local capabilities like social cohesion, familiarity with climate risks, early warning systems and disaster readiness, the assessment provides a snapshot of preparedness and people’s perception of risk. The assessment enables individuals to identify context-specific adaptation actions and encourage policymakers to engage communities in resilience planning.This year, we applied the Urban Community Resilience Assessment to two Asian cities: Surat, India, and Semarang, Indonesia. As part of the process, we selected three communities in each city and conducted field visits to get a sense of the kinds of challenges they face and the ways in which community members are adapting. The full report of our findings will be released in the fall, but the sheer variety of challenges faced by different communities in each of the cities is illustrative.Even though Surat and Semarang are both coastal cities with small rivers, the vulnerability contexts of each city, and each of the three communities, are significantly different. While Surat faces two major risks – extreme heat on one hand, and flooding during heavy monsoon days on the other – Semarang is exposed to various risks based on geography. Coastal settlements are highly vulnerable to sea-level rise, storm surges and land subsidence (sinking), whereas settlements along the inland river are at risk of flooding during heavy rain, and communities living in the hills face landslides.Differential Risks in SuratTo capture differential risks in Surat, we selected different housing types based on people’s built environment, occupation and social capital. The first community assessed is an old slum called Morarji Vasahat, located in the southern part of the city, which has a large industrial zone.Photo Credit: Lubaina Rangwala/WRI India Morarji Vasahat is in a low-lying area and is frequently at risk of waterlogging, overflowing drains and extreme floods, especially during the monsoon months. However, since it is an old slum, most households have lived together for decades resulting in strong social networks and friendships that serve as a source of strength during extreme events. Moreover, the community temple runs a trust that leads disaster management efforts by evacuating people to shelters located on higher ground and organizing emergency food and services distribution.Photo Credit: Lubaina Rangwala/WRI India The second community we visited in Semarang was Kaligawe, located along the city’s canal, slightly inland from the coast. The low-lying area experiences frequent flooding when the sea flows up into the canal during heavy monsoon rains. In some places, communities have elevated the roads to improve access and mobility. However, in the poorest areas, households are often unable to raise their floor heights with respect to the new road level, leading to internal flooding.Photo Credit: Lubaina Rangwala/WRI India In preparation for the monsoon season, households come together to clean-up their drains, repair and waterproof their roofs, and ensure that the roads leading to their homes are maintained. Most households have constructed high plinths for their homes, raising their floors one to two feet off the ground. These small changes are made to prevent rain and sewage water from entering their homes. In the summer, residents use the plinths, commonly known as otlas, as outdoor seating spaces to escape stifling internal temperatures aggravated by metal roofs.Photo Credit: Lubaina Rangwala/WRI India Landslides remain a challenge, but the community has adapted quite incredibly to problems of water scarcity. People are largely dependent on one community water source: a natural spring that fills a well. The settlement is divided into seven sectors, each of which is allocated one day of the week for collecting and storing as much water as is required.Photo Credit: Lubaina Rangwala/WRI India Several households engage in animal husbandry and rear goats, chicken and pigs. These activities, alongside already underbuilt road infrastructure, open drains, and mismanaged garbage disposal systems, have led to extremely poor health and sanitation in the slum. During the monsoons, Ugat faces frequent flooding and water logging in most parts, followed by increased health risks due to unhygienic conditions. Here, santiation is the clear challenge.Living With Risk in SemarangThe first community assessed in Semarang was Tanjung Mas, a fishing community in the north of the city, along the coast.Photo Credit: Lubaina Rangwala/WRI India The third community we selected is Sukorejo, located in the southern hills. This is an old indigenous community, where most people continue to live in their ancestral homes. The soil in this part of the city is very porous and tends to continuously shift, resulting in frequent and sometimes intense landslides. Additionally, the community struggles with severe water scarcity and frequent drought-like conditions during the summer months.Photo Credit: Lubaina Rangwala/WRI India People sorting, drying, and selling fish, net menders, boat repairmen, and other evidence of the fishing industry can be spotted along the edges and crossroads of the settlement.Photo Credit: Lubaina Rangwala/WRI India In some cases, residents have propped up their homes on stilts and built bridges that connect their homes with neighbors.Photo Credit: Lubaina Rangwala/WRI India The climate risks here are more immediately obvious than Surat. The ocean literally intrudes on people’s lives each day. During high tide, many homes, streets and alleys are flooded with seawater, which later recedes following the returning tide.Photo Credit: Lubaina Rangwala/WRI India The third community in Surat is a site and services scheme in Ugat, located in the west of the city. Thirteen years ago, slum residents were relocated here and given legal rights to plots of land, where many built their own homes incrementally over time. After two years, they were given a water connection outside their homes, connected to the city’s electricity grid and, to greater and lesser degrees, hooked into the sanitation system.Photo Credit: Lubaina Rangwala/WRI India Residents trek to the well and refill their outdoor tanks, drums and buckets in batches. The water is meant to last the family for an entire week. In the event that a household runs out, they are allowed just two additional buckets per day for the rest of the six days. The system ensures that water is used in a sustainable and intelligent manner.The field experiences from Surat and Semarang have strengthened our premise that peoples’ everyday well-being, the spaces they live in, the work they do, their potential to cope with increasing and varied challenges, and their aspirations for secure and equitable living environments are important to the success of any resilience strategy. Resilience is a continuous process, and communities and individuals are already adapting every day. The important question for planners is whether resilience actions at the wider city, state or national level are enhancing local knowledge and capacities – or constraining them.The Urban Community Resilience Assessment is a year-long project led by staff from WRI’s Urban Climate Resilience team and funded by the Cities Alliance Joint Work Program on Resilient Cities; a full report will be released in September 2018. Local partners in both cities – the Urban Health and Climate Resilience Center for Excellence in Surat, and the Initiative for Urban Climate Change and Environmentin Semarang – are integral collaborators and have led field activities in each settlement. The assessments will lead to proposals of resilience projects in each community that will be co-developed with community members and stakeholders from the city. Others have built new two-storied homes on six-foot high plinths to prevent seawater from entering and minimize the risk of subsidence.Photo Credit: Lubaina Rangwala/WRI India The second community assessed in Surat was a slum rehabilitation scheme called Kosad Awas. In 2009, 19,000 households from different parts of the city were allotted homes in this area under a massive relocation and rehabilitation project. People from different slum communities were given rooms in disparate buildings without taking into account their existing social ties. This has led to severe issues of social incoherence, increasing theft and small crimes, and making it unsafe for women and children.Photo Credit: Lubaina Rangwala/WRI India These alleyways between the backsides of buildings, where the toilets are positioned, have turned into crime hotspots. Even though the residents of Kosad Awas are not exposed to flood risk on a regular basis like in Morarji Vasahat, lack of ventilation and overcrowding in their small homes makes them vulnerable to heat during summer days. Due to an overwhelming fear of theft most residents at home during the day – mostly women and children – keep their windows closed, resulting in increased indoor temperatures. Furthermore, a general lack of trust in the community makes it difficult to respond to emergencies as residents fear each other.Photo Credit: Lubaina Rangwala/WRI India Due to the constant daily flooding, the soil has softened, leading to frequent instances of land subsidence. We saw several homes that had partly sunk into the ground, some only three or four feet high; others had fully subsided, leaving only eves above ground. Based on their economic capacities and risk of exposure, residents have adapted differently. Some have raised their roofs, adding additional height to save their homes (for now).Photo Credit: Lubaina Rangwala/WRI India Many have simply learned to live with the sea. This home had sunk a foot below ground level, resulting in the front porch and interior spaces being perpetually flooded. Residents had laid out bricks along the walkway to the house and inside the home to mark commonly used paths.Photo Credit: Lubaina Rangwala/WRI Indialast_img read more

Women Get Shortchanged in Commercial Land Deals—Despite National Commitments to Gender Equality

first_imgLike Mbwana and dos Anjos, many rural women’s lives and livelihoods depend almost entirely on their land. Advancing their land rights — from equal treatment in commercial land deals to better representation in community decision-making — is critical to realizing gender equality not just in Tanzania and Mozambique, but in countries across Africa. Soma blogi hii kwa Kiswahili.Leia este post em português.Kuluthum Mbwana remembers the day that biofuel investors arrived in her village Vilabwa, just 70 kilometers west of Tanzania’s capital. In exchange for more than 8,000 hectares (19,800 acres) of land across 11 villages, including Vilabwa in Kisarawe District, she said they promised to bring much-needed jobs, schools and health clinics to her community.Mbwana felt certain her life would change for the better. Children across her village would finally be able to study in a real school. Sick neighbors would receive care from trained nurses or community health workers. New jobs would pump money into the local economy.But after finalizing a land deal with the Tanzanian government in 2009, Mbwana said that British company Sun Biofuels abandoned its commitments to her and the rest of Vilabwa. Families who sold their farms to the company did not receive fair payments for their land. Wages from the new Sun Biofuels jobs were too low to offset the income villagers lost after selling their farms to the company. Apart from a shallow well, a dirt road and few portable classroom blackboards, Sun Biofuels failed to bring social services to Mbwana’s village and nearby communities in Kisarawe District.Kuluthu Mbwana Including women’s voices in local decision-making bodies can help communities address gender disparities in land compensation and resettlement schemes by giving them the opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to proposed land deals, to help negotiate company appraisal processes to ensure that investors do not exclude their assets from valuations, and to raise their specific concerns about relocation plans. But in both countries, governments’ efforts to improve women’s representation are falling short.In Tanzania, the law mandates women’s presence in village councils, but the quota only gives a minority of seats to women, making it easy to secure the meeting quorum without women’s participation.Similarly, in Mozambique, generic language in land regulations, such as “local communities shall be consulted,” does not require investors to include women in the consultation process. Many major decisions on land, including selling collectively held property to investors, are made by male leaders or in meetings exclusive to men. Even if women attend, many stay silent due to an unspoken assumption that the men speak on behalf of the entire community.The Way ForwardFlickr/USAID Unfortunately, stories like Mbwana’s are common across Africa. As soil degradation, climate change and population growth place enormous strains on land that sustains millions of people, multinational companies are also gunning for large swaths of land. Caught between these pressures, many poor, rural communities get displaced or choose to sell their collectively held land. It’s often women who suffer the most.In neighboring Mozambique, Leonor dos Anjos also wrestles with unfilled promises. In 2016, a multi-million-dollar suspension bridge project relocated her family and forced her Malanga community to resettle in three different places. Speaking to Mozambique nonprofit Centro Terra Viva, dos Anjos said that the state-owned company overseeing the bridge’s construction, Maputo Sul Development Company, pledged to provide new cleared land parcels, build a road connecting her resettlement site to the main thoroughfare and pay families for their homes. But like Sun Biofuels, dos Anjos believes that Maputo Sul did not make good on its commitments and saddled already poor families with additional unexpected financial burdens.New research from WRI reveals that, despite constitutional commitments to gender equality, governments in Tanzania and Mozambique are not protecting poor, rural women from harmful commercial land deals. State officials’ failure to close gaps in land laws and overhaul ineffective regulations shortchanges women, who receive little to no payment for their families’ land. Governments’ attempts to amplify their voices in community land decision-making are also falling short.Shortchanged in Commercial Land DealsMalanga women in Mozambique. Although Tanzanian and Mozambique land laws require investors to compensate affected communities and households when they acquire collectively held land, regulations that are poorly conceived or ill-executed shortchange women, who often receive few, if any, payments for their land.Gender-neutral language, in particular, unintentionally discriminates against women by requiring companies to distribute compensation at the household level. Because men traditionally act as the head of the household in both countries, they alone can submit claims and collect payments on behalf of their families. For example, less than 15 percent of those who received compensation from Sun Biofuels in Vilabwa were women. In Malanga, several estranged husbands who had left the community received checks that should have gone to their wives because the government still considered them to be the heads of their households.But even when women do manage to get compensation for their land, many receive lower payments than the men in their communities. In Vilabwa, for instance, men received three to six times more money for their land than women.Such disparities occur for several reasons: Companies only pay those who legally own land, and unlike men, most women don’t have formal rights to their land. The plots of land they do own are smaller and produce lower agricultural yields than men’s parcels. And most women cultivate subsistence crops, like cassava or maize, which companies often devalue or exclude entirely from their appraisals.Adversely Impacted When Communities ResettleWomen also struggle more than men to rebuild their lives and livelihoods when companies displace or resettle villages. When communities move, women often lose access to communal natural resources — like forests, rivers and pastureland — even as they remain responsible for collecting water, firewood, fodder and medicinal plants for their families. Tenuous access to these resources can increase women’s workloads, threaten household food security and expose them to harassment.Faced with these new hardships, many women find that the social networks on which they depend fray when communities relocate. For instance, girls often collect firewood or water in groups, while mothers rely on neighbors or extended family to help with childcare. When women are separated from their networks, they no longer have the support systems they need to cope with daily challenges and manage their many household responsibilities.Sidelined in Community Decision-Making on LandWomen in rural Tanzania. Flickr/CIATlast_img read more