By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
This June, the House Select Committee on Climate Crisis released a report titled “Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America.” Providing a road map for Congress to follow, the action plan has three main goals:
- Reaching 100 percent clean, net zero emissions economy-wide in the U.S. by 2050;
- Establishing ambitious interim targets to assess progress and reduce pollution in environmental justice communities; and
- Achieving net-negative emissions during the second half of the century.
The action plan consists of a comprehensive set of policy recommendations for Congressional action aggressively to reduce carbon pollution as quickly as possible while making communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change and building a clean energy economy. Successfully implemented, the Select Committee’s action plan would at minimum:
- Reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions before 2050;
- Reduce net U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 37 percent below 2010 levels in 2030 and 88 percent below 2010 levels in 2050;
- Avoid 62,000 premature deaths annually by 2050; and
- Provide almost $8 trillion in cumulative climate and health benefits through 2050.
The Climate Crisis Action Plan calls on Congress not only to grow the U.S. economy and put Americans to work in clean energy jobs, but also to protect family health, protect U.S. land and waters for the next generation, and ensure that communities and farmers can withstand climate change impacts. The full report is available here.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On July 25, 2019, U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced the Zero Waste Act, which intends to create a federal grant program to invest in solutions that address waste. The bill, if passed, will go towards recycling infrastructure or the creation of partnerships with local businesses focused on waste reduction. Representative Omar believes the bill will not only create jobs, but also reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, grow domestic manufacturing, clean waterways, save energy, ensure safety from health hazards, and grow the U.S. economy. Omar’s bill has been endorsed by several organizations, including the City of Minneapolis, Eureka Recycling, Climate Generation, and Surfrider Foundation, among others. Presenting this bill through the lens that waste is an environmental justice issue, Representative Omar stated that “[a]ddressing the waste crisis is critical to preventing further damage to our climate—it is integral to racial justice and a clean, equitable future.” At a time where climate change debates have been of high interest to the U.S. population, in particular as the presidential candidate debates continue, it will be interesting to see whether this bill is passed. The full text of the bill can be accessed here.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On April 17, 2019, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, Francois Villeroy de Galhau, Governor of the Banque de France, and Frank Edelson, Chair of the Network for Greening the Financial Services (NGFS), published an open letter on the financial implications of global warming. Co-signed by the NGFS coalition, consisting of 34 central banks, the letter warns of global warming’s potential damage to infrastructure and private property, negative human health effects, decrease in productivity, and wealth destruction. The letter states that no countries are immune to the effects of climate change and that “if some companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist.” Although the Paris agreement has and continues to promote a low-carbon economy, further measures would be central to achieving zero net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Key to reaching this goal would be a massive reallocation of capital, the financial experts highlight.
Given the challenges associated with achieving zero-carbon emissions, in the letter, Carney, Villeroy de Galhau, and NGFS members propose four recommendations to policymakers and financial firms:
- The integration of climate-related financial risks into daily work, financial stability monitoring, and board risk management. Policymakers and financial firms should conduct scenario analyses and take a long-term strategic approach, which considers risks associated with global warming. These risks should be embedded it into their business-as-usual governance and risk-management frameworks.
- Leadership by example, particularly by central banks, to integrate sustainability into their own portfolio management.
- Internal and external collaboration among public authorities to bridge data gaps important to assessments of climate-related risks.
- In-house capacity building and knowledge sharing with various stakeholders on the financial risks related to climate change.
According to the letter, the successful implementation of these four recommendations would lead to two broader calls for action on disclosure and classification of these risks. Market and regulators’ support in assessing risks and opportunities from climate change accompanied by consistent international disclosure are critical. In addition, NGFS members also encourage the development of a classification system to identify economic activities that would contribute to the transition to a low-carbon economy. In sum, robust leadership and collaboration play a crucial role in identifying global solutions for the financial sector.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On December 6, 2018, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) wrote a letter to President Donald Trump requesting that, in 2019, any infrastructure package to be considered include a focus on the clean energy economy to address climate change. Emphasizing that climate change is, in fact, real and caused by humans, Senator Schumer refers to the Administration’s recent National Climate Assessment report and the drastic need to reduce emissions. In the letter, Senator Schumer outlines a number of policies that must be included in an infrastructure package in the next Congress. Among these policies are the need to:
- Invest in research, development, and deployment of clean energy, energy efficiency, carbon reduction, and energy storage technologies;
- Provide permanent tax incentives and investments for domestic production of clean energy and renewable power; and
- Invest in upgrades in clean energy for public schools, buildings, and other infrastructure.
Senator Schumer concludes his letter to President Trump highlighting that “[t]he challenge is immense, but so is the opportunity to revitalize and modernize our infrastructure, create new jobs and economic opportunities, and position the United States as a leader in clean energy innovation.”
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On December 5, 2018, the Government of British Columbia, Canada, released CleanBC, a climate plan outlining the province’s path to a cleaner, more sustainable future. The plan includes implementation activities on how to make energy use more efficiently and prevent waste through cleaner technologies. Highlighting increases in funds for renovations and energy retrofits, the plan also states that by 2032, every new building constructed in the province will be “net-zero energy ready.” By 2040, the goal is to make zero-emissions vehicles more affordable as well as make all new cars zero-emission. With a large focus on waste reduction, the plan also focuses on turning waste into clean resources, and launching training programs for clean jobs. These actions will be implemented in the hopes of achieving 75 percent of the way to the 2030 target of 40 percent less emissions below the 2007 levels. In addition to these activities, several initiatives will remain in place. Among them are the Carbon Tax, the Climate Action Charter, the Carbon Neutral Government, and the Clean Energy Act.
By Lynn L. Bergeson
On November 28, 2018, the European Commission (EC) published a document called “A Clean Planet for all: A European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy.” Due to EC’s expressed concerns about climate change, part of this new long-term vision includes new rulings that facilitate the production of bio-fertilizers, encourage the production of biogas from manure treatment, and increase biomass imports. Emphasizing the crucial role of biomass in a world with a 30 percent higher population in 2050, the report states that “biomass can directly supply heat. It can be transformed into biofuels and biogas and when cleaned can be transported through the gas grid substituting natural gas … And it can substitute for carbon intensive materials, particularly in the building sector but also through new and sustainable bio-based products such as biochemicals.” The report also analyzes the economic and social impacts of these new rulings, and highlights the critical role of the European Union (EU) in leading a low-carbon transition at the global level.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On October 24, 2017, Neste, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced that it was the only energy company to reach the Leadership-class ranking in three Climate Disclosure Project (CDP) programs. Neste received an A- ranking in the CDP Climate, CDP Forests, and CDP Water programs. CDP is a not-for-profit organization that manages a global disclosure system allowing companies, cities, states, and regions to measure and manage their environmental impact. The CDP Climate program focuses on corporate measures to combat climate risks and take advantage of low-carbon products and services. According to Pekka Tuovinen, Neste's Senior Advisor for sustainability, “[t]he more efficiently we operate, and the more we can reduce the climate emissions of our own supply chains, the greater will be the climate benefits of the products and solutions we offer.”
Neste is the only energy sector company to transparently disclose its forest footprint as part of the CDP program. The Leadership-class ranking demonstrates Neste’s commitment to preventing deforestation in its supply chain and requiring similar action from its raw material suppliers. Neste continues to work on improving the traceability of various kinds of processing residues used as raw materials beyond what is mandated by regulatory requirements.
For the first time, Neste participated in the CDP Water program, which requires companies to disclose the measures they implement for responsible water use and water risk management. According to Mr. Tuovinen, Neste has been carrying out water footprint calculations for its refineries and products since the 1990s.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
On October 5, 2017, Neste, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), announced the publication of its business environment outlook titled “Taking Action on Climate Change.” The report provides an overview of key changes taking place in the energy, transport, and chemicals markets and of select drivers of such change. The report highlights the role biofuels can play in reducing emissions from the road, aviation, and marine transport sectors. Demand for renewable diesel is expected to double in North America, the Nordic countries, and Europe by 2021. Additionally, renewable aviation fuels provide an important solution for an industry committed to reducing its carbon dioxide emissions despite an increasing demand for aviation fuel.
The report also suggests that rapidly increasing resource consumption and waste generation are the driving force behind the move towards a circular economy. Neste expects the bioplastics market to grow by more than 40 percent by 2021, with 80 percent of the growth coming from durable biobased plastics. To help decouple plastics from the consumption of fossil-based feedstocks, Neste is developing new business operations from bioplastics using its renewable products as the raw materials.
By 2020, Neste aims to have renewable jet fuel, renewable chemicals, and biobased plastics account for 20 percent of its renewable business sales volume.
By Kathleen M. Roberts
On August 29, 2017, the government of the province of Ontario, Canada announced $25.8 million has been allocated to the Low Carbon Innovation Fund (LCIF) as a part of the province’s Climate Change Action Plan. The funding will be used to support emerging, innovative technologies in areas such as alternative energy generation and conservation, new biofuels or bioproducts, next-generation transportation or novel carbon capture and usage technologies.
Funding is available either from:
- The Technology Demonstration stream, which aims to support the development and commercialization of innovative low carbon technologies through testing in real-world settings; or
- The Technology Validation stream, which aims to fund proof-of-concept or prototype projects from eligible Ontario companies or academic organizations to help them get to market faster.
To be eligible for LCIF, projects must be conducted in Ontario and must show significant potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario. Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan is key to its achievement of its goal of cutting greenhouse gas pollution to 15 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, 37 percent below by 2030, and 80 percent below by 2050.
By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded researchers from Clemson University a $147,744, two-year grant to evaluate the effectiveness of producing biofuels to mitigate climate change. The project will analyze how switchgrass fields and loblolly pine forests affect local temperatures through the exchange of water, energy, radiation, and carbon with the atmosphere; and quantify below- and above-ground carbon fluxes in both loblolly pine and switchgrass plantations and assess the greenhouse gas emissions of the full biofuel production chain for each crop. The goal is to develop a comparative picture of the potential of these feedstocks to reduce carbon emissions when generating electricity by co-firing in a coal power plant, and ultimately to aid the development of effective land-use policies.