By Lynn L. Bergeson
On October 20, 2020, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Mike Levin (D-CA) introduced in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives the Zero-Emission Vehicles At of 2020 (the Act). The Act would amend Part A of Title II of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to create a federal national zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) standard and address climate change by ending U.S. sales of new gasoline-powered vehicles in 2035. Senator Merkley and Representative Levin’s standard aims to boost the market for battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Sponsored by four other Senators and an additional 15 Representatives, the ZEV standard has also been criticized by conservatives and biofuels industry stakeholders. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) stated that Iowans should not “allow coastal state lawmakers to dictate to Middle America how to live [their] lives or take away the freedom to choose what kind of car to buy.”
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 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.
By Kathleen M. Roberts
On June 2, 2017, Neste, a member of the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®), released a statement in response to the decision by President Trump to withdraw the U.S from the Paris Agreement. According to Neste, the U.S. withdrawal is “unfortunate” and “a saddening turn for the international battle against climate change.” The decision, however, will not signal the downfall of the Agreement, which has been ratified by 147 of the 197 countries that signed it. The statement highlights the fact that no changes have been made to the Renewable Fuel Standard, which has set increasing obligations for renewable fuels for 2017 and 2018, nor to the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Neste aims to continue to make renewable products available to U.S. states, cities, and businesses to support their ambitious targets for reducing emissions.
On March 24, 2017, Neste, a member of BRAG®, announced its approval of draft proposals by the Swedish government regarding mandated reductions in traffic fuel emissions and the continued tax exemption for high-blended biofuels. By 2030, the government aims to reduce carbon emissions from transportation by 70 percent. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, the ambitious targets and long-term perspective will help support innovation and investments in biofuels. Neste, which has a strong focus on developing cost-efficient technologies to convert forest residues into biofuels, stated that the substantial amount of forest-based raw materials in the country will likely play a key role in achieving the proposed goals.
On November 3, 2016, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released the seventh UNEP Environment Emissions Gap Report, presenting a scientific assessment of global progress towards emissions reductions created by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The report found that if all Paris Agreement pledges to reduce emissions global temperature are achieved, global temperatures will still rise to more than 2°C over preindustrial levels. UNEP chief Erik Solheim stated that we need to move faster to mitigate our impact on climate change, with the report calling for strong clean energy and emissions reducing policies before the 2020 tipping point when the warming trajectory will become more difficult to reverse. The report identifies carbon capture and storage coupled with the use of bio-energy as a key factor to limit warming, but mentions the need to produce sufficient quantities of biomass without harming biodiversity.