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Oslo, Norway – Europe’s Eco-capital

Eco-capital of Europe


Oslo: Net Zero Future

Oslo, Norway

Oslo has fleets of green mass public transit – trams, electric buses, and ferries – that are powered by electricity from a municipal grid fed mostly by renewable power with a majority of that electricity from hydropower – but also from biomass, geothermal, solar, and wind energy (along with a share of fossil fuels). Some of Norway’s fleets of buses and ferries run directly on renewables. Oslo not only sources electricity for public mass transit from renewable energy when possible but uses RE sources to provide electricity for every other sector of the city’s economy as well.

For heating buildings within the city, Oslo primarily relies on district heating from municipal waste incinerators (waste to energy, or W2E), as well as biomass-fed cogeneration plants. Biomass-fueled boilers also heat many of the city’s homes and buildings, in addition to supplying Oslo with a renewable source of electricity.

Oslo has a goal of a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) of 95% by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels). Additionally, Norway is striving to become a carbon neutral nation (net zero emissions). 2030 is the target year that the Norwegian parliament has set to reach carbon neutrality for the country. The capital city of Oslo is leading Norway down the green path to a net zero GHG emissions future.

Oslo has the most electric vehicles per capita of any major city in the world; and the majority of new car sales in Oslo are hybrids, plug-in electric vehicles (EVs), or 100% EVs. Over half of new car sales are EVs; and when hybrids are added in, internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles account for only ~15% of new vehicle sales in Oslo.


Tackling pollution from cars head-on

The Norwegian government already offers aggressive incentives for drivers to buy electric cars. These incentives include eliminating sales tax nationally for the purchase of some EVs, developing free parking spaces for EVs in major cities like Oslo, as well as building free parking garages for EVs with charging stations in Oslo. Meanwhile, ICE vehicles are still taxed, providing a disincentive for ICE vehicles, while tax-free EVs are incentivized. Norway plans to only allow zero-emission new cars to be registered in the country (starting 2025, at the soonest).



Oslo, Norway is Europe’s eco-capital for 2019- 

“Nearly half of all new cars sold here [Oslo] are fully electric. [Today, the share of new car sales that are EVs is well over half]. There are trams, electric buses and ferries, all running on renewable hydroelectric power. During the icy winters, a waste incinerator plant heats many of the city’s homes.

The city aims to cut emissions by 36 percent from 1990 levels by the end of next year, and 95 percent by 2030. To achieve this, the city council has introduced its own climate budget — possibly the first of its kind in the world.”   FROM-  dw.com/en/oslo-starts-2019-as-europes-eco-capital

“The award [Europe’s eco-capital award] honors high environmental standards, sustainable urban development and green job creation.

Indicators for being a green city include local transport, biodiversity, air quality, waste management, and noise [reduction]. Oslo, with its 660,000 inhabitants, is green not only due to its low carbon footprint of 1.9 tons per capita per year, Katja Rosenbohm tells DW. As head of communication at the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen, Rosenbohm was part of the jury that awarded Oslo its new title. “They have very ambitious targets, for example of having a car-free city by 2050.” Rosenbohm also praises Oslo’s “front-running activities in electro-mobility.”   FROM-  dw.com/en/oslo-is-europes-green-capital-2019-finally



The 2019 European Green Capital is Oslo

Since 2010, an annual European Green City Capital has been awarded to European cities with a population over 100,000 (the population of Oslo is about 660,000 and was the 2019 European green capital), in recognition of high environmental standards, sustainable urban development, and green job creation. Additional considerations for this award include public mass transit, conservation, biodiversity, air quality, waste management, and implementing measures to achieve a low citywide carbon footprint.

Oslo has also created its own Sustainable Cities Program. Oslo has ambitious emission reduction goals. Here’s a snippet from DW on why Oslo is Europe’s 2019 eco-capital – 

Oslo starts 2019 as Europe’s eco-capital

The Norwegian capital plans to cut emissions by 95 percent by 2030, despite being one of Europe’s fastest growing cities. As European Green Capital 2019, it hopes to set an example for others.    

Oslo’s waterfront was once a mass of shipping containers and a vast intersection jammed with cars pumping out fumes. Today, traffic is diverted through an underwater tunnel, and much of it is made up of electric or hybrid cars. The new development has impressive environmental as well as cultural credentials, with all new buildings meeting energy efficiency standards for low energy use, explains Anita Lindahl Trosdahl, project manager for Oslo’s Green Capital year.
“We’re using our market power to introduce fossil fuel-free construction,” Trosdahl told DW. “So not only will the build in its lifetime be as sustainable as possible, but also during the construction period itself.”           FROM- dw.com/en/oslo-is-europes-green-capital-2019-finally

Read more from dw: Could oil nation Norway help save the climate?


 

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The Global Fight Against Climate Change; NDCs and Net Zero Targets Worldwide

GLOBAL CLIMATE ACTION |


Nationally Determined Contributions

As part of the ongoing global battle against climate change, almost 200 countries have set greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) reductions targets, or nationally determined contributions (NDCs). They’re fairly self-explanatory; by a specified year, a nation aims to reduce its carbon emissions by a certain amount (compared to a previous, specific year). 

Every 5 years, member nations of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) are required to submit revised NDCs, which are encouraged to progressively be greater GHG reduction targets, reflecting higher levels of ambition. Some national commitments are made more frequently, and more quickly than others. The latest round of NDCs came before COP26 in Glasgow Oct 31-Nov 12, many made well before in the case of more ambitious nations. Most members of the UNFCCC managed to make their improved NDCs public before COP 26. 

For example, the EU group of nations have committed to a collective target of 55% carbon emissions reduction by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels) – known as ‘Fit for 55‘. Countries worldwide have upped their original carbon reduction pledges made in the run-up to the Paris Climate Accord to new pledges reflecting greater climate ambition (described below). Many countries have taken the even more ambitious step of also setting a net zero emissions (carbon neutrality) national target (usually of 2050, but some nations have set different net zero target dates, described below).

Greater climate ambition worldwide reflects the growing international urgency to address the global climate crisis, and to reduce countries’ and communities’ carbon footprints. Recently, the global climate fight has received international notoriety fueled by young people worldwide engaging in a variety of climate strikes and climate actions. Read more about youth movements for global action on climate here>>> unicef.org/environment-and-climate-change/youth-action

As climate science has evolved over the last few years, GHG reduction targets have become more ambitious. For example, the EU now promises to cut carbon emissions to 55% of 1990 levels by 2030 ( up from 40%) on its way to net zero by 2050. President Biden has pledged that the US will have carbon neutral energy on its electric grids by 2035, on its path to net zero by 2050 (up from 28% under Obama at the Paris Climate Accord). The “net zero” facet of national climate ambitions is a fairly new concept, kicked off by the relatively tiny nation of Bhutan in 2015.


Paris Climate Accord and Net Zero Targets

At the Paris Climate Accord, almost 200 world nations pledged GHG emission reduction targets. Based on the latest scientific guidance from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), many nations’ NDCs have evolved over the last few years. NDCs have become more ambitious, and now many nations have net zero targets as well. Nations such as the EU group of countries, the UK, other European nations, & Japan, have set targets to reach net zero carbon emissions (carbon neutrality) by 2050. A few European nations have even more ambitious net zero targets. Germany and Sweden, for example, have both set their net zero targets for 2045. Finland aims for net zero by 2035>

The Paris Climate Accord is not legally binding, so actual binding NDCs must originate from national, state, and regional governments. (When not put forward by a national government, but rather by state or regional governments; these commitments are simply referred to as GHG reduction pledges). In the case of the EU, NDC targets and the 2050 net zero target are codified into law by legislation that is passed by the European Commission – the European Climate Law (effective July 2021).

The United States federal government has the executive commitment of President Biden to bold climate pledges (as of 2021) – net zero by 2050, carbon neutral energy on US grids by 2035, and at least a 50% reduction in GHGs by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels). The United States Congress hasn’t yet passed legislation committing to NDCs or a net zero target (like the EU has as well as several European nations independently). American states (such as California and several others) have passed GHG reduction targets and net zero targets for their individual states; through State Congresses as binding legislation. 

Many European nations (& California) had legally binding net zero targets, as well as ambitious GHG reduction pledges, in place well before China or the US. (Historically, China & the US are the 2 biggest emitters of GHGs in the world). China has set their net zero target for 2060 (in September 2020); while the United States has committed to net zero by 2050 (with President Biden taking office, in January 2021). It is expected that NDC and net zero commitments that the Chinese national government makes, will be codified into legally binding law in China. The US Congress would need to pass legislation, much as the European Commission has, in order for its NDC and net zero targets to become legally binding.

Net zero pledges made by governments around the world represent ambitious goals to keep global warming below 2°C (that’s 2°C rise above pre-industrial temperature averages), and ideally to 1.5°C this century; making good on the latest IPCC climate targets. Here is a map with countries’ various degrees of progress to net zero:

Map of Net-zero progress from BloombergNEF

[Compare developed nations of the EU and Japan (best – top quartile, in green), and US as well as a few other nations in blue (2nd quartile), to 3rd & 4th quartile nations on the above map. Many governments (a few G-20 nations, and nations not in the G-20) have yet to even make net zero pledges for their nations. Most of these are developing nations that believe that using fossil fuel energy is necessary to help alleviate poor socioeconomic conditions.

Historically, fossil fuels have brought developed nations a higher standard of living, however, renewables will effectively raise the standard of living for developing nations with cleaner, cheaper, abundant energy. Climate change will disproportionately affect developing nations, which have done the least to cause the problem. The solution is for all world nations, developed and developing, to simultaneously make the clean energy transition, and enjoy the benefits of clean energy development.]



NDCs and Net Zero targets

CAT Consortium’s ‘Climate Action Tracker’ – ‘Governments still showing little sign of acting on climate crisis’

Almost 200 countries have pledged NDCs to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC), but are any of them doing enough? Analysis by the CAT Consortium’s ‘Climate Action Tracker‘ suggests that of the world’s great powers, only European nations (and California, as well as several other states) are truly leading the way in achieving GHG reduction targets. Nations in Northern Europe especially stand out as climate action leaders with regard to successfully reaching ambitious GHG reduction targets.

EU and US

The European Union (initially at Paris) pledged at least a 40% cut in GHGs below 1990 levels by 2030, and since then, in April 2021, has committed to 55% carbon reduction by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels). This is not merely an aim either; it’s legally binding. The EU Climate Law set the net zero by 2050 target into law in June 2021.

First of all, let’s take a look at the promises made by various major developed nations and states. In March 2015, President Obama initially pledged ahead of the Paris Climate Accord that the United States aims to cut its emissions by 26-28% by 2025 (in comparison to 2005 levels). President Biden has since set an even more ambitious NDC of at least 50% GHG reduction by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels). Biden has also pledged 100% carbon free energy on electric grids in the United States by 2035; and net zero GHG emissions for the US by 2050.

The US Congress would need to act on NDCs, net zero targets, and other ambitious climate actions, in order to pass legislation, and make these commitments binding. The EU, as well as states in the US (like California), have passed laws for their ambitious climate targets. Although the US as a whole is behind Europe, California is still a global leader as far as GHG reduction targets (as states are responsible for their own GHG reduction goals). California plans to reach the target of 100% clean and renewable energy statewide by 2045


Other World Nations

The UK government has set a very ambitious NDC68% GHG reduction by 2035 (compared to 1990 levels). Likewise, Sweden has a very ambitious NDCat least 63% GHG reduction by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels) in “EU Effort Sharing Regulation” sectors, and even higher levels of ambition in other sectors. The Swedes also started to set their net zero by 2045 target into national law all the way back in 2017. Other world nations, from Switzerland to Costa Rica also have ambitious NDCs.

In April 2021, Canada ramped up their NDC to at least 40% GHG reduction by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels). Shortly after, the Canadian government passed legislation committing to a national net zero by 2050 target. Canada also has been implementing progressive carbon pricing nationwide, with the aim of getting to net zero.

Australia differs from Canada and the EU in that the country has not legislated ramped-up targets. The Australian government has officially announced that the initial NDC set in the Paris Climate Accord is “…a floor…” (at least 26% GHG reduction by 2030 compared to 2005 levels), and that the country is on course to “…overachieve on this target…”; as well as a national goal to achieve net zero “…as soon as possible”. Australia has committed to net zero by 2050 just ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, however, the commitment hasn’t been legislated, so it isn’t legally binding. 

Ahead of the Paris Climate Accord, China initially announced it would be lowering carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 60% to 65% from the 2005 level. China is currently the world’s largest emitter of GHGs, and its attempts to meet its carbon intensity targets are rated ‘inadequate’ by the Climate Action Tracker. Despite this, China now aims to hit the target of net zero by 2060; and is trying to stay on course to reach its original NDC target.

India initially pledged to reduce the emissions intensity of its national GDP by 33-35% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. India also intends to produce a significant amount of additional forest and tree cover (for carbon sequestration, in order to achieve carbon neutrality). India also intends to invest a substantial amount in renewable energy and energy efficiency; but on this and indeed their overall emissions targets, India can be vague on how it plans to achieve them. India has yet to make a net zero commitment, despite the over 100 other nations that made net zero commitments before COP26 in Glasgow. 

Until recently, Japan had been slow to reduce its national GHG emissions, despite an ambitious pledge of 80% emissions reduction by 2050. However, in November 2020, Japan made an even more ambitious pledge of net zero by 2050 (or…”as close as possible to 2050″). Like China, Japan has been dependent on coal (especially after increasing coal energy on the national grid following the Fukushima nuclear disaster). However, Japan now says it is committed to shutting down its coal-fired power plants; and developing more renewable energy in its place. The Japanese government says that “Japan will strive to achieve a decarbonized society by as close as possible to 2050“. Japan has an interim NDC of 26% GHG reduction by 2030 (compared to 2013 levels).


Here is a summary of the most recent nationally determined contributions from nations discussed in this article, heading into COP26 in Glasgow: 

EU’s NDCreduce GHGs by 55% below 1990 levels by 2030 

UK’s NDCreduce economy-wide GHGs by at least 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels 

USA’s NDC: at least a 50% reduction in GHGs by 2030 compared to 2005 levels

China’s NDC: to achieve the peaking of carbon dioxide emissions around 2030 and to lower carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 60% to 65% from the 2005 level

India’s NDCreduce the emissions intensity of its national GDP by 33-35% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels

Germany’s NDCpreliminary targets of cutting emissions by at least 65% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, and 88% by 2040 

Sweden’s NDC: at least 63% GHG reduction by 2030 compared to 1990 levels

Japan’s NDCreduce GHGs by 46% by 2030 from its fiscal year 2013 levels 

Australia’s NDCan economy-wide target to reduce GHGs by 26 to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030 

Canada’s NDCreduce emissions by 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030 


COP and CAT (Conference of the Parties and Climate Action Tracker)

Countries set interim targets (mostly targetting 2030), and now largely many major world nations are en route to net zero. Upon setting an initial interim target in the Paris Climate Accord, countries are supposed to ramp up their interim 2030 NDC targets on a 5-year basis (or ideally, more frequently), and with the latest IPCC guidance; strongly encouraged to set net zero targets. Every 5 years, all UNFCCC member nations are required to submit new NDCs. Due to COVID-19, the year 2020 was just a low-profile virtual meeting; and the formal UNFCCC COP (in which all new NDCs from all UNFCCC member nations is due) will be COP26 in Glasgow.

The CAT Consortium runs the Climate Action Tracker, which grades each nation on how useful its promises actually are. Each nation’s NDC shapes to ‘current policy’ scenario in the CAT chart below. The ideal ‘optimistic’ scenarios are based on the most ambitious net zero emissions by 2050 targets being fully realized. How are current climate policies worldwide (NDCs) going to actually reduce global greenhouse gas emissions as world nations try to achieve net zero GHGs (carbon neutrality) in order to stop global warming? This chart, from Climate Action Tracker (CAT), models current climate policy outcomes, as well as optimistic net zero targets, to 2100>>>

Current climate policies vs. optimistic net zero targets – CAT


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Clean Hydrogen Power

Clean and GREEN H2 |


Hydrogen and the Clean Energy Transition

Hydrogen is one of the most promising emerging energy technologies to fill the rising global demand for clean low carbon and emission-free energy sources. The recent global societal shift towards environmental sustainability, and the global imperative for climate action, have significantly altered energy consumption patterns.

Clean and renewable energy companies are booming. Solar companies experienced their highest production and distribution rates in 2020, enhancing the national use of renewable power. In addition to solar, other renewable energies and emerging next-generation clean energy technologies (such as hydrogen and carbon capture) are also having breakthrough years. President Biden has influenced alternative energy sourcing by establishing ambitious sustainability standards in the U.S. – such as net zero by 2050, and a carbon-neutral electricity grid by 2035. The Biden administration also seeks to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 50-52% by 2030 (from 2005 levels).

Biden generated the Build Back Better (BBB) plan, seeking to invest in American society and the American clean energy sector. The proposed program allocates trillions of funding dollars for United States’ infrastructure (as well as other programs that benefit society), including funding for the clean energy industry, promoting technological advancements and system alterations.

The Build Back Better plan includes funding for hydrogen and carbon capture technological RD&D (as well as a variety of other next-generation clean energy technologies). Various parts of the BBB climate-related plan also include funding for clean energy infrastructure, EV charging infrastructure, financial incentives such as tax credits for renewable energy, and modernizing the US electrical grid (in addition to more clean energy programs). When the US diversifies production and use of clean energy (including clean hydrogen and carbon capture), national greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are effectively reduced.

Fortunately, Congress did end up passing a part of the original BBB plan – the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The IIJA does have some investment for technological measures described in this article and was signed into law by President Biden in November 2021. Unfortunately, it does not look like the rest of the original BBB will pass Congress during Biden’s first term. Still, both the development of hydrogen technologies and carbon capture technologies, have bipartisan support. The technological developments discussed in this article are set to continue advancing this decade (a bit more slowly than if the full BBB passed.)


Domestic Energy Production Challenges

Nearly 80% of America’s energy production and consumption (with the transportation sector included) is derived from fossil fuels. These finite natural resources (coal, oil, and gas) create atmospheric pollution during combustion (GHGs and other pollution). GHGs alter the planet’s natural temperature control process, degrading the global ecosystem. On the other hand, hydrogen represents clean energy; as hydrogen, itself, doesn’t release carbon or contribute to atmospheric pollution. 

The Earth absorbs sunlight, generating heat and warming the surface. The planet is capable of reabsorbing a finite amount of additional solar radiation or emitting it back to space. When GHGs invade the environment from the combustion of fossil fuels, they alter the atmosphere’s natural composition and change the process. GHGs have a higher sunlight-to-heat conversion rate and trap energy rather than sending it to space.

Over time, the entrapment and overproduction of heat raise Earth’s temperature. As the planet warms, the evaporation rate rises, oceans heat up, and global weather patterns are changed; resulting in extreme flooding in some global regions (from increasingly extreme storms), and elongated drought periods (causing wildfires, damage to agriculture, etc…) in others. Global warming also degrades aquatic ecosystems, causes rising sea levels, and adversely affects biodiversity worldwide (among other global adverse effects of climate change).

Hydrogen is a clean energy solution for energy storage and transportation to replace climate-change-causing fossil fuels. Right now, hydrogen can be used as a fuel source for cars and buses – and in the future, for long-haul shipping, heavy-duty trucks, and, hopefully, long-haul aviation.

Hydrogen can be used for energy storage. Hydrogen also represents a potential zero or low carbon emissions fuel source for HVAC in buildings; a zero carbon emissions solution for building heating. Hydrogen potentially performs all of these functions without contributing to global warming, air pollution, or climate change (zero carbon in the case of green hydrogen – whereas blue hydrogen represents a low carbon solution – see below for a description of the hydrogen production color spectrum).


What is Carbon Capture?

As the demand for zero and low carbon emissions energy sources rises, environmental engineers and scientists develop new clean production technologies. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) decreases GHGs in the process of producing hydrogen in natural gas power plants (as well as in energy generation from other fossil fuels, and other industrial processes). CCS + H2 production generates reliable low carbon power – hydrogen. After capturing the carbon emissions from methane reforming (in the blue hydrogen production process, described below), partial oxidation restructures the elements as they flow through a catalyst bed, creating clean hydrogen. The actual use of hydrogen for energy generates zero pollution and no carbon emissions.

Though carbon capture cannot directly generate hydrogen for sustainable energy uses, methane reforming in natural gas power plants can. Methane reforming in natural gas power plants combines Fahrenheit steam, combined with a catalyst. The process produces hydrogen and a relatively small amount of carbon dioxide (smaller than the natural gas energy-generating process). Carbon capture can be used to capture CO2 from the natural gas combustion, as well as the methane reforming cycle – a low carbon process to create clean hydrogen.

Environmental scientists and engineers develop carbon capture technology to reduce atmospheric pollution from manufacturing facilities and power plants. The technology can absorb 90% of carbon emissions, significantly decreasing GHGs.

Pre-combustion carbon capture turns fuel sources into a gas rather than burning them. Post-combustion capturing separates carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion emissions. The collection of CO2 travels to an alternate processing facility where individuals repurpose or store it, decreasing adverse ecological effects.


Hydrogen Production – the 3 Colors

Engineers have developed various methods of hydrogen production and differentiated them on a color spectrum. When companies create H2 from methane reformation without collecting carbon outputs, they generate grey hydrogen. This process releases 9.3 kilograms of GHGs for every kilogram of hydrogen. In order to create a sustainable, low carbon solution for future hydrogen production, the world must transition away from grey hydrogen to environmentally-friendly hydrogen production methods (grey hydrogen currently represents a vast majority of global hydrogen production).

Companies can capture carbon emissions in the methane reformation process, storing them to preserve the atmosphere, producing blue hydrogen. The CCS process can collect up to 90% of the CO2 emissions and place them underground for climate change prevention. The process is significantly more sustainable than grey hydrogen production.

The zero carbon emissions hydrogen production process uses renewable energy, electrolyzers, and water, generating green hydrogen. Advanced technological devices (electrolyzers) separate hydrogen (H2) from H2O using electrolysis. Solar panels and wind turbines power the systems, creating zero emissions throughout the practice.

Green hydrogen is the most sustainable version of the energy source. Industries can power their production using a 100% clean energy source (green H2), eliminating atmospheric pollution from the process.

The process of producing green H2 is much cleaner than the conventional, ecologically degrading hydrogen development practice of methane reforming. Traditionally, energy professionals generate H2 from fossil fuel sources, generating 830 million tons of GHGs annually. Producing green hydrogen from zero-emission sustainable sources can enhance its efficiency while reducing atmospheric degradation. Producing blue hydrogen still uses methane reforming, but by also using CCS technology, a cleaner method of producing hydrogen is being used.


Hydrogen Fuel Cell Energy

hydrogen fuel cell

The process of producing hydrogen can supply fuel for hydrogen-powered fuel cells, creating an alternate clean energy source for energy storage and transportation. The cells work like batteries, running off of the hydrogen inside of them. They contain one positive and one negative electrode, generating the cathode and anode.

The two electrodes contain an electrolyte. Hydrogen fuels the anode, and air powers the cathode, separating molecules into protons and electrons. The free electrons travel through a designated circuit, creating electricity. Excess protons move to the cathode, combining with oxygen and generating water as the output. Pure water is a sustainable alternative to other GHGs, and water is the only emission in hydrogen power generation.

hydrogen fuel cell bus – Berlin, Germany

Hydrogen fuel cells are used in energy storage, and hydrogen buses, as clean energy battery solutions. Read more about Europe’s extensive effort to expand the hydrogen bus presence on the continent here. The only emissions from hydrogen buses run by fuel cells are water.

Homeowners can also potentially utilize hydrogen fuel cells, shrinking their carbon footprints. Hopefully, hydrogen will be used in large home appliances in the future, such as electric HVAC units, electric furnaces, electric boilers, and other applications. Adopting electric home appliances can aid the transition away from fossil fuel-derived power sources. 

You can compare your carbon footprint and utility savings by first receiving an energy consultation. A professional energy consultant can unveil your property’s compatibility with hydrogen fuel cell power sources. They can also recommend energy efficiency practices, reducing your carbon footprint over time.


Benefits of CCS, Electricity, and Hydrogen Fuel Sourcing

President Biden set a national carbon-neutrality goal upon entering office. Meeting the objective requires a restructuring of the energy sector. Both hydrogen and carbon capture represent solutions to accelerate the low-carbon, clean energy transition. Biden plans on developing a carbon-neutral electric grid, sourcing 100% of U.S. electricity from clean energy sources.

Although still fairly expensive, clean hydrogen represents a highly efficient low-carbon power alternative. “Hydrogen can be re-electrified in fuel cells with efficiencies up to 50%, or alternatively burned in combined cycle gas power plants (efficiencies as high as 60%).”  [Quote from  –  energystorage.org/technologies/hydrogen-energy-storage]. We can effectively develop a carbon-neutral nation by diversifying our electricity sources.

Green and blue hydrogen development can provide sustainable support for the electric grid, be used in the transportation sector or energy storage (in hydrogen fuel cells), and even as a low carbon solution for HVAC units and other major appliances in buildings. CCS with hydrogen development (producing blue hydrogen) represents a low carbon source of clean hydrogen, while green hydrogen production represents a zero carbon source.

We can generate clean energy while eliminating further atmospheric degradation when we target significant pollution producers and replace dirty energy with clean energy sources like electricity and hydrogen. Both electric and hydrogen buses represent clean energy solutions. Utilizing electric vehicles (EVs) can increase society’s access to emission-less power. If you want to drive with zero emissions, you also have the option of choosing a hydrogen fuel cell car (although, currently, an EV represents the less expensive zero emissions option). With both electricity and hydrogen, ultimately the process of generating the energy must come from a low carbon or zero-emissions source in order to truly be a clean energy solution.

The process of using electricity and/ or hydrogen in buildings and transportation also reduces the enhanced greenhouse effect by decreasing atmospheric emissions. When we capture the elements before they reach the environment, we prevent the overproduction and entrapment of heat (as in blue hydrogen). Green hydrogen, or electricity powered by renewables, shrinks the carbon footprint of energy production closer to zero.


Enhancing Urban Sustainability

Many cities have recently increased their sustainability standards, regulating carbon emissions and pollution production processes. They are electrifying transportation, and buildings, requiring cleaner energy (as in renewable portfolio standards and clean energy standards). CCS used in combination with hydrogen power (blue hydrogen) production can support urban transformations towards clean, low-carbon energy. Green hydrogen power production can support the urban energy transition completely away from fossil fuel reliance towards zero-emission energy.


Article by Jane Marsh

Author bio:

Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

Environment.co



 

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Nuclear – necessary energy

Clean Energy


Both nuclear and renewable energy are needed in the global energy mix to help fight climate change

In order to cut down on the share of fossil fuels in the world energy mix, nuclear is necessary. A total of WELL OVER 40% of the world’s energy mix for renewable and nuclear energies combined is needed to reach significant greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Over 40% is not a final goal, but represents a realistic initial goal on the path towards the target of over 70% clean, zero-emission global energy generation.

To achieve a significant GHG emissions reduction target for the planet, the world needs nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is going to have to augment truly environmentally-friendly, renewable energy in the effort to dramatically reduce fossil fuel use.


How much of the world’s energy is nuclear?

Nuclear reactors provided 10% of the world’s total energy sources, on average annually, during the last decade. 13 countries get at least 1/4 of their energy from nuclear, including France (which gets around 3/4 from nuclear), Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, and Finland.

Nuclear energy is also put to great use in the US, France, China, Russia, and South Korea, among other countries. Now is probably as good of a time as any in this article to mention a couple of major drawbacks (to put it mildly) of nuclear energy.

Namely the danger- catastrophic disasters due to large-scale accidents like the one at Fukushima, Japan, enrichment of uranium in order to create nuclear weapons, and the difficult, expensive process of securely managing the disposal of nuclear waste.

The former major problems mentioned (and less waste generated by the nuclear process – Gen IV theoretically can just run on spent uranium) are resolved in the 4th generation nuclear reactor designs, discussed below.

Current reactors, mostly Gen I & II nuclear plants, along with several operational Gen III plants, rely on uranium and water (to cool the plants). Therefore, these nuclear plants still deplete water supplies, create nuclear waste, use a fuel source that can be enriched to convert the material into a bomb, and represent a source of potential danger.

The largest nuclear disaster in history was the Chernobyl disaster (although the risk of nuclear disaster is dramatically minimized in a Gen III plant, and eliminated in Gen IV nuclear. Some Gen IV designs dramatically cut the need for water to cool plants, as well).

Here’s a brief snippet from the World Nuclear Association summarizing nuclear energy’s current role in the global energy mix:

  • The first commercial nuclear power stations started operation in the 1950s.
  • Nuclear energy now provides about 10% of the world’s electricity from about 440 power reactors.
  • Nuclear is the world’s second largest source of low-carbon power (29% of the total in 2018). 
  • Over 50 countries utilise nuclear energy in about 220 research reactors. In addition to research, these reactors are used for the production of medical and industrial isotopes, as well as for training.  FROM  –  https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/current-and-future-generation/nuclear-power-in-the-world-today.aspx

Advanced nuclear reactors

Safer, cheaper, still energy abundant and emissions-free designs that use relatively benign energy sources (thorium or depleted uranium), and much less water for cooling the reactor than previous designs and current operational nuclear plants, are being envisioned in 4th generation nuclear, and are currently available in a few 3rd generation nuclear power plant designs.

Using a small fraction of the water as previous designs, Gen IV nuclear plant designs, are safe, cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and still offer tremendous potential for energy production. Molten salt reactors using depleted uranium, nuclear waste from other plants, or thorium as a complete replacement of uranium, are being planned in Gen IV nuclear plant designs. 4th generation designs (and many 3rd generation plants, both planned and operational) are autonomous, smart plants, with heightened safety measures.

Thorium is being looked at as a fuel source for new nuclear reactors, as it is abundant, much less radioactive than uranium, and creates by-products from burning the fuel source that can be used again in the reactor. There is a higher level of thorium than uranium on the planet.

Thorium, as well as depleted uranium, are being designed with relatively lower up-front capital costs. Little manpower is needed to run and maintain future, advanced 4th generation nuclear plants, due to the autonomous computer technology set to be deployed in the plants.


Summation of the benefits of advanced nuclear reactors

Nuclear reactors designed to run on thorium, and depleted uranium, have a very low chance of being used to develop nuclear weapons, produce less radioactive waste, are abundant fuel sources; and are safer, more cost-efficient in addition to being energy-efficient, and cleaner vis-a-vis energy generation compared to current widely deployed nuclear reactors.

Thorium, in particular, is being looked at by developing nations like China and India because of the relatively low cost, increased safety, an abundance of the material, and tremendous energy potential of this energy source. The U.S. has huge amounts of thorium, in places like Kentucky and Idaho (as well as depleted uranium); and there are large quantities in countries like India, Australia, and Brazil.

The U.S., Europe, and even some of the aforementioned developing countries, also have large stockpiles of depleted uranium. More depleted uranium is being produced every day, which would work in many of the 4th generation designs. A few 3rd generation nuclear plants are already operating, and some more are projected to be developed and ready for operation by 2025. 4th Gen nuclear promises to produce abundant, low-cost energy safely, and with little environmental impact.

In order to meet increased demand for low-emission, safer, lower up-front capital investment, high-efficiency energy sources, there has also been an increased global interest in light water small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs). Benefits of nuclear SMRs include-

Small modular reactors offer a lower initial capital investment, greater scalability, and siting flexibility for locations unable to accommodate more traditional larger reactors.  They also have the potential for enhanced safety and security compared to earlier designs. Deployment of advanced SMRs can help drive economic growth. From- USDOE Office of Nuclear Energy

One other “good” thing about nuclear energy production is that there are fairly low marginal costs. There are little to no negative externalities with regard to the actual energy production (i.e. little to no GHG emissions); however current nuclear power plants do generate toxic waste. Ongoing costs are fuel and maintenance of nuclear plants; the uranium to fuel the plants, and water to cool the plants, and toxic waste disposal facilities.

Large toxic waste disposal locations are necessary to bury the radioactive waste so people aren’t exposed to potentially cancer-causing radiation. Nuclear power plants do also carry high up-front capital costs.

The US Energy Information Administration estimated that for new nuclear plants in 2019 capital costs will make up 75% of the levelized cost of energy.

Even when looking at the downsides of current technologies for nuclear energy production, 4th generation nuclear promises to be safe, cost-efficient (cost of new nuclear fuel is low), and environmentally friendly, with a very high energy production capacity given a relatively small quantity of nuclear fuel need for energy production (whenever 4th-gen nuclear gets built).

New reactors can (theoretically) run on spent uranium and even thorium. 4th generation nuclear has entirely safe, cost-efficient designs. Actually, the levelized cost of energy production from new, advanced nuclear reactors that are already available, deployed, and generating nuclear energy, is looking viable.



For a comprehensive guide on public policy that increases nuclear energy globally, in order to help fight anthropogenic climate change, please see: Public policy proposal to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions


Please also see:

Renewable energy overview

 


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COP21 – good news for the planet

Paris Climate Accord, and New Net Zero Targets |


NDCs and Net Zero Pledges

At COP21, commonly referred to as the Paris Climate Accord, nations sent representatives to pledge greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) reduction targets (also known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs). At the annual Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), national dignitaries & diplomats from every UNFCCC member nation convene to assess and calibrate their NDCs.

The first concrete NDCs by UNFCCC member nations were made at the COP21 in Paris 2015, and have since evolved with the latest scientific guidance from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); ideally to the most ambitious GHG reduction pledge a nation can possibly make – a carbon neutrality pledge (net zero GHGs).

In order to FULLY participate in the Paris Climate Accord, EVERY member nation to the UNFCCC must submit Intended Nationally Determined Contributions of GHG reduction pledges for their country;. These pledges must be approved by the UNFCCC, and then pledges turn into official Nationally Determined Contributions.

NDCs are encouraged by the UN to get increasingly ambitious each time they are submitted; and especially every 5 years, when every UNFCCC member is required to submit revised NDCs. Based on the latest scientific guidance from the IPCC, now many nations have net zero (carbon neutrality) targets in addition to their NDC.

As climate science has evolved over the last few years, GHG reduction targets have become more ambitious; and this is reflected in ambitious targets such as the European Union’s pledge to cut carbon emissions to 55% of 1990 levels by 2030; on its way to net zero by 2050. President Biden has pledged that the United States will have 100% carbon free energy on its electric grids by 2035; on its path to net zero.

Many developed nations, including the EU group of countries, the US, the UK, other European nations & Japan, have set ambitious targets to reach net zero GHG emissions by 2050; China has set their net zero target date at 2060.

The Paris Climate Accord is not legally binding, so actual binding NDCs must originate from national, state, and regional, governments (when not put forward by a national government, but rather by state or regional governments; these commitments are simply referred to as GHG reduction pledges, or carbon reduction pledges).

In the case of the EU,  NDC targets and net zero targets are codified into law by legislation that is passed by the European Commission. Several European governments have also independently passed ambitious climate legislation including NDCs and net zero targets.

The United States federal government has the executive commitment of President Biden to ambitious climate pledges (as of 2021), but Congress hasn’t yet passed legislation committing to NDCs or a net zero target like the EU (as well as several European nations independently).

However, individual states (such as California and several others) have passed GHG reduction targets and net zero targets state-wide; through State Congresses as binding legislation. It is expected that all NDC and net zero commitments that the Chinese national government makes, will be codified into legally binding law in China. In fact, over 100 countries worldwide have joined an alliance aiming for net zero emissions by 2050

China has set its net zero target for 2060; and soon thereafter, the US committed to net zero by 2050 (historically, China & the US are the 2 biggest emitters of GHGs); and both of these net zero commitments followed the earlier European carbon neutrality pledges. China set their net zero target in September 2020; while the US net zero pledge was made by President Biden upon taking office, in January 2021.

These net zero pledges represent ambitious goals to keep global warming well below 2°C (that’s 2°C rise above pre-industrial global temperature averages), and ideally to 1.5°C this century; making good on the latest IPCC climate targets. Here is a map from BloombergNEF with countries’ various degrees of progress to net zero:

Map of Global Net-Zero Progress from BloombergNEF


COP21 – The Paris Climate Accord

On December 12, 2015, high-level representatives from 197 nations, including many presidents and prime ministers, agreed to try to hold global warming “well below” 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures. Clean and renewable energy targets, energy efficiency technologies for nations and industries, concerted efforts in green building, and sustainable mass transit; are among many means the UNFCC advises nations to invest in to help create a more sustainable planet. On November 4, 2016, the agreement took full effect (once nations representing a majority of the planet’s GHG emissions signed the agreement).

Unfortunately, the truth is that, even if the original Paris Climate Accord is carried out by every nation, and to the letter, global temperatures will still be on course to rise by around 2.7-3.1°C by the end of the century. Thus, the need for more ambitious GHG reduction pledges; ideally national commitments to net zero emissions, are necessary. Every world nation (with a few exceptions), UNFCC members, originally signed the agreement, and 190 have ratified and pledged NDCs.



The Breakthrough Energy Coalition

Breakthrough – The Paris Climate Accord did produce lasting positive momentum for global action on climate change. Arguably, the best news of the entire COP21 came on Day 1 of COP21, with the announcement of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (breakthroughenergy.com). The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, known as Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), is a group of more than 20 billionaires started by Bill Gates (including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg {CEO of Facebook}, and others), who have organized to invest substantial sums in innovative clean energy.

The Coalition wouldn’t be able to fund and meet all of its goals without the most important international commitment by governments to invest in clean energy to date; Mission Innovation. Mission Innovation (mission-innovation.net) is a group of 20 countries including the U.S., Brazil, China, Japan, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea; who have pledged to double government investment in clean energy innovation and to be transparent about its clean energy research and development efforts. In a statement from BEV, the importance of both groups is highlighted –

“THE WORLD NEEDS WIDELY AVAILABLE ENERGY that is reliable, affordable and does not produce carbon. The only way to accomplish that goal is by developing new tools to power the world. That innovation will result from a dramatically scaled up public research pipeline linked to truly patient, flexible investments committed to developing the technologies that will create a new energy mix. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is working together with a growing group of visionary countries who are significantly increasing their public research pipeline through the Mission Innovation initiative to make that future a reality.”   – quote from The Breakthrough Energy Coalition


The High Ambition Coalition

The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) is a group of over 40 developing countries formed by UNFCCC members determined to create an equitable distribution of responsibility for ambitious climate action, and a fair distribution of UN clean energy resources; fairer distribution among poorer nations and richer, developed, industrialized nations. The HAC initially included smaller, poorer nations such as the Marshall Islands, the nation that originally formed the HAC.

“The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) formed the High Ambition Coalition in run-up negotiations at the UNFCCC to the Paris Agreement in 2015, helping to secure key elements of the deal, including the 1.5°C temperature goal, the net zero global emissions pathway by the second half of the century, and a five-year cycle for updating mitigation contributions.

Since then, the HAC has worked to realize the promises of the Paris Agreement it came together to deliver. The work has accelerated and expanded in scope, driving forward ambitious global climate action. And the science has only become clearer since Paris, underscoring the imperative of keeping global temperature increase to 1.5°C if we are to avert the most severe impacts of climate change.”   quote from – highambitioncoalition.org/work

Main contributions by the HAC include the ambitious target of 1.5°C, and the 5-year cycle for UNFCC members to submit revised pledges. COP26 in Glasgow is the first such mandatory revision of nationally determined contributions to GHG reduction, as 2015 was a low-profile virtual meeting due to COVID-19.

The European Union is the highest-profile, and richest, group of nations to join the HAC. The HAC consists mostly of developing nations; such as Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Ethiopia; and smaller, developing island-nations such as Jamaica and Fiji. With Canada joining the HAC in September 2020, the HAC is comprised of over 40 nations; but the focus of the coalition remains equity for developing nations in the Paris Climate Accord’s future dealings.

Historically, since larger, richer nations have profited from industrialization at the expense of the global climate; the responsibility for climate change is greater for developed nations, and these nations should bear more of the financial burden stemming from the global transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.



Current Climate Policies Projection

How are current climate policies worldwide, current GHG reduction targets (nationally determined contributions), going to actually reduce global GHGs as world nations try to achieve net zero GHGs (carbon neutrality) in order to stop global warming? This chart, from Climate Action Tracker (CAT), models current climate policy outcomes, as well as optimistic net zero targets, to 2100>>>

Current climate policies vs. optimistic net zero targets – CAT

Below are some major resources for more information on the COP21:

COP21 Paris – breakdown of the event

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Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative GREEN Land-Use


The United Nations (UN) has advised that a global shift towards plant-based food will counteract the worst effects of climate change. Is going vegan really going to help in global climate action, and help the world meet net zero emissions targets?

Well, actually…the UN says that land-use practices that favor plant growth vs. a focus on animal grazing, as well as sustainable and regenerative agriculture practices, are among top climate change mitigation solutions. Regenerative agriculture creates environmentally-friendly carbon sinks; turning farms into thriving ecosystems that sequester atmospheric carbon, while also producing crops for food.  



Sustainable and regenerative agriculture

The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) came out with a report in August 2019, about how the global community must switch now to sustainable land use in food production. All countries and farm industries globally must adopt sustainable agriculture practices, as the world begins transitioning to more sustainable food consumption habits.

Effective global climate action depends on sustainable land-use practices as the foundation for successful action.


For more information about sustainable agriculture practices, permaculture, and reforestation, please see>>>

Sustainable agriculture

Reforestation

[A quick note about the terms in this article; all regenerative agriculture is sustainable agriculture, but not all sustainable agriculture techniques and practices are considered the same as specific practices of regenerative agriculture]


What exactly is regenerative agriculture?

A major component of regenerative agriculture is a focus on proper soil nutrition. Crop rotation of a variety of perennial crops, and no-till farming, for example, are designed to increase soil health. Conventional animal grazing is a much less sustainable land-use practice and has almost no considerations for proper soil health, versus farmland used for regenerative agriculture.

Sustainable agriculture doesn’t necessarily mean that absolutely no animals are raised on farms for food (as an immediate global dietary shift seems to be highly unlikely).

Rather, sustainable land-use simply means that farms focus on “well-managed grazing practices [that] stimulate improved plant growth, and increased soil [health]“. However, the primary focus of regenerative agriculture remains diverse food crops, and land use dedicated to plant growth, biodiversity, and healthy ecosystems.


Regenerative agriculture focuses on farming done with the implementation of specific sustainable farming methods. Here are some key points in defining regenerative agriculture>>>

Strict regenerative agricultural practices include:

no-tillage

diverse cover crops

in-farm fertility (no external nutrients)

no pesticides or synthetic fertilizers

multiple crop rotations

polyculture

organic soil fertility


Cover crops, no-till or low-till farming, crop rotation, organic soil fertility, and polyculture (vs. monoculture) – are a few sustainable agriculture practices that increase soil health. Cover crops refer to a variety of crops grown on farmland during off-seasons in order to maintain soil health.

Polyculture is also a practice of introducing and maintaining multiple species of crops and plants on farmland. Polyculture involves the consistent year-round farming practice of creating diverse crop and farmland plant species.

Biodiversity of a farm’s crops and other ecosystems on the farm improve soil health, deter pests, and help to maintain healthy ecosystems.


Carbon farming and cover crops to improve soil health

Sustainable farms enhance environmental quality and agricultural economy through the enhancement of natural resources. For example, carbon farming is a sustainable agriculture practice that maintains healthy soils and is common practice in most organic farming.

Practices to maintain soil health are found in regenerative agriculture, as well as in permaculture. A sustainable farm must focus a substantial amount of time year-round on healthy soil nutrition to help maintain long-term soil quality.

the cover crop buckwheat shown juxtaposed to the same land without cover crops

One solution to help create more sustainable farms is for governments to simply subsidize farmers to implement sustainable farming practices.

Governments should consider legislating agricultural subsidies through increasing financial incentives, tax breaks, or direct payments, for farmers that practice sustainable ag. techniques; with the easiest practice to implement being cover cropping.

These financial incentives would be for farmers to adopt sustainable agriculture practices such as carbon farming and implementation of cover crops during off-seasons. Some governments worldwide already have legislation to support farmers that use sustainable agriculture practices, but more is needed.

After all, farmers that adopt sustainable agriculture practices are helping reduce global GHGs and fight climate change. Sustainable farms are carbon sinks; sequestering carbon and transforming conventional farmland into thriving, climate-saving, ecosystems.

Typically after farmland crops are harvested, and especially during wintertime, farmland just lays fallow. A few months later, when it’s time to sow seeds for a new harvest – weeds, pests, and unhealthy soil fill the land. Tillage, and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers only make the problem worse. The simple remedy for this problem is cover cropping. Cover crops keep weeds and pests at bay, and maintain soil health during the off-season.

Solutions, in order to encourage farmers to implement the widespread use of cover cropping, include: providing government subsidies to farmers that practice cover cropping, proving guaranteed investment of markets for the crops, or at least making sure farmers get detailed information about cover crops.

Cover crops not only maintain farmland health but provide a source of potential income, providing useful crops to the community. Examples of cover crops include buckwheat, alfalfa, annual cereals (rye, wheat, barley, oats), clovers, winter peas, cowpeas, turnips, radish, forage grasses such as ryegrass, and warm-season grasses such as sorghum-sudan grass.

Here’s a brief snippet from an article by The Union of Concerned Scientists on sustainable agriculture:

Environmental sustainability in agriculture means good stewardship of the natural systems and resources that farms rely on. Among other things, this involves:

  • building and maintaining healthy soil with low till or no till farming
  • crop rotation
  • use of cover crops during off-seasons
  • polyculture vs. monoculture
  • managing water wisely
  • minimizing air, water, and climate pollution
  • promoting biodiversity

There’s a whole field of research devoted to achieving these goals: agroecology, the science of managing farms as ecosystems. By working with nature rather than against it, farms managed using agroecological principles can avoid damaging impacts without sacrificing productivity or profitability.”     FROM  –    ucsusa.org/what-sustainable-agriculture


Land-use solutions; how to reduce GHGs from agriculture

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN believes that raising animals for food is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.” This problem is largely due to deforestation to clear land; a significant amount of which is either directly or indirectly for the global meat industry. Another major contributor to the problem is land-use designated for grazing. Land used for grazing is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) than all of the world’s transport systems combined.

The world should stop the unsustainable practice of deforestation, but an immediate global climate solution is simply improving practices on existing farms. A realistic solution is for the global agriculture community to be encouraged to maintain focused efforts on regenerative farming practices.

The global transition to sustainable agriculture would be expedited if the global farming community was simply catering to a majority organic plant-based diet in the consumer food market. However, this ideal sustainable circumstance is far from realistic.

One solution that will remain politically unpopular for obvious reasons (as the vast majority of the world’s population have meat and dairy-intensive diets) – is a carbon tax on meat. It takes on average 11 times more fossil fuels to produce a calorie of animal protein than to produce a calorie of grain protein. That’s a considerable amount of GHGs released per calorie.

So much so that Chatham House, otherwise known as The Royal Institute of International Affairs, has called for a carbon tax on meat to help combat climate change. In fact, globally, raising cows for food ranks only behind the United States and China as a GHG contributing segment of the global economy. Raising cattle for food is the #1 source of GHGs from agriculture globally.

Going vegan, vegetarian, or at least eating less meat, helps reduce global GHGs by helping in the global transition to sustainable, plant-based agriculture. It helps fill the demand for a plant-based consumer diet as the global fight against climate change gains steam. It also helps to reduce your carbon footprint.


Meat & GHGs

An Oxford study published in the journal Climate Change found that the diets of meat-eaters who ate more than 3.5 ounces of meat a day – roughly the size of a pack of cards – contribute to GHGs significantly. These heavy meat eaters generate 15.8 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent each day; compared to vegetarians – 8.4 pounds, and vegans – 6.4 pounds. This is because the process of raising livestock for food on farms itself is carbon-intensive. Also, the majority of global deforestation is just to create land for cattle to graze.

The average meat-eater has a much higher carbon footprint than people who adopt a plant-based diet – 50-54% higher than vegetarians, and between 99-102% higher than vegans. Of course, there are other ways for individuals in society to contribute to lower emissions, but veganism may be a top solution. Research shows that, as Dr. Fredrik Hedenus of Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden said, “reducing meat and dairy consumption is key to bringing agricultural pollution down to safe levels.” 

Raising cattle for meat and dairy ranks close to the top of the list as a segment of the global economy contributing to GHGs (mostly in the form of methane emitted from grazing cattle). There are a variety of innovative ways to reduce methane emissions from grazing cattle.

However, transitioning to a plant-based diet now is considered one of the best ways to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, and to reduce one’s personal contribution to the problem of GHGs. A study from the University of Chicago posits that eating less meat (or none at all) is more effective at reducing one’s personal responsibility for GHGs than changing from a conventional car to a hybrid.  

According to PETA – “…the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has shown that animal agriculture is globally the single largest source of methane emissions and that, pound for pound, methane is more than 28 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in our atmosphere. The use of manure storage and of manure being used as fertilizer for crops and feed, which then generates substantial amounts of nitrous oxide, contributes greatly to the greenhouse gases affecting the global warming crisis.”

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The three most critical GHGs responsible for climate change are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide – and together they cause the majority of climate change issues.

Methane is a gas that can be produced from stockpiling of animal and human sewage, manure used as fertilizer, as well animal’s personal “gas emissions [for ex. cow burps and farts]”.  Methane is a potent GHG released from livestock in dangerous quantities exacerbating climate change, and is closely followed in significance by nitrous oxide in unsustainable agriculture practices.

Nitrous oxide is roughly 300 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and methane is roughly 40 times more potent than CO2. CO2 is the most well-known GHG because it’s the longest-lasting, and most significant GHG in terms of quantity of CO2 released in the common industries tracked for GHG emissions (energy generation, manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, buildings).

Agriculture is the largest man-made source of nitrous oxide, with meat, dairy, and other animal-based food industries – contributing to 65% of worldwide nitrous oxide emissions. Nitrous oxide emissions are primarily direct emissions from fertilized agricultural stock, and manure, as well as indirect emissions from leaching of fertilizers and pesticides; which is when rainwater causes part of the nitrogen in fertilizers and pesticides to leach into groundwater and eventually into rivers. 

In basic terms, societies should begin to try and transition from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet today; and the global farming community absolutely must switch now to sustainable agriculture practices, in order for the global fight against climate change to be truly effective.

Food consumption habits greatly affect land-use/ agricultural practices. Project Drawdown ranks having the global community transition to a plant-based diet as one of the most effective climate mitigation strategies, albeit one that has gained very little global momentum (as eating meat and dairy remains very popular worldwide).

For reference, around 3% of the population in the United States is vegetarian or vegan, and the agriculture sector is responsible for 9% of GHGs from the United States. The U.K. is a lot better than the U.S. as far as the vegetarian portion of the population, with estimates that as much as a quarter of the population of the United Kingdom will be vegetarian by 2025

Dietary consumer choices directly influence land use and agriculture. One solution to the global climate crisis is to focus on changing cultural dietary choices and, in turn, help foster the transition to sustainable global land-use/ agriculture practices to effectively fight climate change.

Project Drawdown estimates that transitioning the global agriculture systems to sustainable practices can reduce global CO2 emissions by over 20 gigatons, stating that “bringing that carbon back home through regenerative agriculture is one of the greatest opportunities to address human and climate health, along with the financial well-being of farmers.”

Additionally, Project Drawdown ranks implementing sustainable agriculture practices, such as regenerative annual cropping, and transitioning the global community to sustainable land use turning farmland into land sinks, as top solutions in their list of most effective ways to fight climate change. Project Drawdown also ranks managed grazing as a top climate solution; offering the following key points-

Managed grazing imitates herbivores, addressing two key variables: how long livestock grazes a specific area and how long the land rests before animals return. There are three managed-grazing techniques that improve soil health, carbon sequestration, water retention, and forage productivity:

  1. Improved continuous grazing adjusts standard grazing practices and decreases the number of animals per acre.
  2. Rotational grazing moves livestock to fresh paddocks or pastures, allowing those already grazed to recover.
  3. Adaptive multi-paddock grazing shifts animals through smaller paddocks in quick succession, after which the land is given time to recover.

FROM – https://drawdown.org/solutions/managed-grazing

And here’s a snippet from World Resources Institute on governments subsidizing sustainable agriculture for farmers willing to adopt practices that actively sequester carbon on farmland (through carbon farming, cover crops, and/ or another sustainable farming practice discussed above) –

“To both feed the world and solve climate change, the world needs to produce 50% more food in 2050 compared to 2010 while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds. While government funding has an important role to play, a new World Bank report found that agricultural subsidies are currently doing little to achieve these goals, but have great potential for reform.

What is needed to mitigate the 25% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions contributed by global agriculture, including emissions from land use change? The good news is that many opportunities exist to boost agricultural productivity to provide more food on existing agricultural land while reducing emissions.

Opportunity one is to increase natural resource efficiency by producing more food per hectare, per animal and per kilogram of fertilizer and other chemicals used. Opportunity two is to put in place measures to link these productivity gains to protection of forests and other native habitats. Opportunity three is to pursue innovations, because reaching climate goals for agriculture — just like for energy use — requires new technologies and approaches.

Overall, governments around the world should redirect more agricultural funding to focus on mitigation and the synergies between reducing emissions and producing more food. A first step toward a sustainable food future is to make better use of the large financial support governments are already providing.”   FROM – wri.org/redirecting-agricultural-subsidies-sustainable-food-future



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Permanent ban on new coal mines and other sustainability priorities

Climate Priority Pathways & Policies |


Strategies for mitigating climate change

What are the best strategies for mitigating global warming? How is the United States going to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions? Carbon pricing? The Green New Deal? Here’s a brief list of sustainability priorities that the United States should implement in order to avoid contributing to the most catastrophic consequences of anthropogenic climate change:


Priority Climate Actions for the US government

The United States federal government under Biden; all relevant Climate, Energy, and Environment executive administrative agencies must implement the following priorities. Also, ideally Congress and/ or state legislatures & governors must focus on priorities outlined in GCT’s Climate Public Policies article.   


Regulations

  • The EPA under Biden needs to work on ensuring environmental regulations are put back in place; including air, water, and land pollution and GHGs regulatory rollbacks, now that the Trump administration is gone. “Most of these [environmental protection] rollbacks can be reversed by the Biden administration, but it will take some concerted effort. [Berkeley Law] has compiled nearly 200 rollbacks, listed here“.   FROM  –  law.berkeley.edu/research/clee/reversing-environmental-rollbacks
  • A permanent moratorium on new coal plants legislated and mandated by the U.S. federal government, or at least by a majority of U.S. states. Pursue a just transition for coal country (e.g. retraining coal miners, other coal industry employees, in clean energy jobs. Just transition assistance with clean energy job placement; financial assistance to coal communities as local coal industry-dependent economies transition to clean energy economies). Existing coal mines are phased out completely by 2040 at the latest during the energy transition to clean energy in the U.S.
  • Permanent ban on all drilling for oil & gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Moratorium on all mining in ANWR & in all public lands and waters of the United States. Ban on oil & gas drilling on federal lands & waters in the U.S. (Biden has effectively done most of the current moratoriums on drilling/ mining on federal lands/ waters with executive actions – now these bans must be made permanent with legislation through Congress).
  • Ban all Canadian tar sands oil imports and close tar sands oil pipelines – so that means ban all trains and pipelines that transport tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S., and stop the development of the Keystone XL pipeline – which Biden now has issued an executive order to do. The development of the Dakota Access pipeline should have effectively been stopped by the order of a federal judge in 2020. However, the case is still being bandied about the courts, pending ‘environmental review’, among other legal issues. Biden and Congress could shut the Dakota Access pipeline down, along with ensuring similar dirty tar sand oil pipelines are shut-down; especially the Line 3 pipeline.

Paris; UN Sustainability Goals; Climate & Land-use Targets

  • Rejoin the international community on climate. The United States must make good on commitments made at the 2015 Paris Climate Accord before trying to put into U.S. law (through Congress) parts of new policies like sections of the Green New Deal (GND). This is true for even less dramatic policies than the GND, like the various federal carbon pricing proposals circulating Congress. Now that the Biden administration has rejoined Paris, the U.S. must try and achieve the more ambitious Carbon Neutrality Coalition (CNC) goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, and join the CNC. Even if any part of The Green New Deal does get passed by Congress and signed into law by Biden, the U.S. must still try to achieve goals set at the Paris Climate Accord. The U.S. must maintain its commitments to vital measures; such as ambitious GHG reduction goals.
  • The U.S. will try to pull its own weight on climate, energy, the environment, and other sustainability goals.
  • The sustainability and clean energy measures listed above in this article should be implemented by the U.S. government; even if the efforts fall short of the ambitious climate, energy, environment, and social justice targets outlined in The Green New Deal. It is recommended that the US federal government, or just individual states, consider passing carbon pricing legislation; similar to California’s emissions trading system (ETS); or an ETS similar to the one conducted by 10 Northeastern states (11 with Virginia joining in 2021) – the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).   
  • The United States must ensure (through the EPA); or ideally pass legislation through Congress – setting GHG reduction, decarbonization targets for the U.S. in order to meet all ambitious goals to meet the climate targets set by the United States at the Paris Climate Accord. Biden has pledged to decarbonize the energy generation sector (for electricity generation) by 2035, and to achieve net zero emissions (carbon neutrality targets) by 2050 – these represent significantly ambitious climate targets.
  • All regulations for fossil fuel developments that were mandated under President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which mirror GHG reduction targets initially set at the 2015 Paris Climate Accord must be enforced at a minimum. Based on the new, more ambitious direction of the international community on climate change mitigation; even more ambitious targets than were originally set up by Obama’s CPP should be new targets for the Biden administration. Greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants will need to meet the most ambitious standards set by the Paris Climate Accord; and continue to evolve with new guidance from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – and which now are GHG reduction targets aligned with carbon neutrality by 2050.
  • Expand, protect, restore, and maintain U.S. protected public wilderness, parks, nature reserves, natural monuments, and all U.S. public lands.
  • Tax incentives/ direct government subsidies for sustainable agriculture (encourage farms to adopt practices such as cover crops, agroforestry, other common sustainable agriculture practices.


There were a few significant events which showed strong signs of global progress, with the United States as an occasional global leader on climate action; in terms of addressing anthropogenic climate change in 2014-2015, leading to the Paris Climate Accord:

  1. the Pope’s Encyclical on Climate Change
  2. Obama’s CPP
  3. Paris Climate Accord

These events represented true progress. We must get back to this momentum.

The new climate envoy and related staff, John Kerry and his staff, for the new executive climate department of the U.S. government; and the new Biden Administration picks for EPA, Energy, Interior, and other climate related cabinet positions – should get the U.S. back on track as far as ambitious climate policies based on the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change guidance. The COP26 in Glasgow should provide a beacon of hope for the global clean energy transition.

On day one of his presidency, Biden rejoined the Paris climate accord, and canceled further U.S. development of the Keystone pipeline, as well as discontinuing any further U.S. investment in the Keystone pipeline (stopping any use of the pipeline for Canadian tar sands oil). Now Biden and Congress just need to tackle the above priorities (including stopping at least 2 more major Canadian tar sands oil pipelines). Relevant parts of the Biden administration (EPA, the new Climate executive department, Energy, Interior) need to start issuing incremental policies (such as those listed above) to address sustainable climate solutions to meet new IPCC guidance. Public policies that are recommended for the United States to pursue as far as climate, energy, and the environment, please see: GCT’s CLIMATE PUBLIC POLICIES article.


The United States federal government (through Congress), or individual states (through state legislatures), should at least consider passing legislation from the various carbon pricing proposals circulating Congress. Please see: GCT’s EU and US climate progress, carbon pricing, and carbon tax articles; for more insight on the range of carbon pricing legislation measures proposed and in effect globally.


Big Oil (and gas) and Big Coal, in the United States as in much of the rest of the world, finance the campaigns of many politicians and have successfully been able to slow down progress on some major climate goals. How much of the Clean Power Plan had the Trump administration, Congressional Republicans, and the EPA under Trump been able to stop?  The EPA under the Trump administration had been able to stop or reverse the ambitious goals of the CPP and Paris Climate Accord in some, Republican-controlled, states.

However, many states and cities in the United States have stayed on track to meet the initial requirements of the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Climate Accord; as individual states (like California, many states in the Northeast, several other states) have remained committed to the ambitious climate goals of the CPP and Paris Climate Accord; and remain committed to achieving the latest climate targets set by the IPCC. Please see: greencitytimes.blogspot.com/elements-of-clean-power-plan-still-move and: greencitytimes.blogspot.com/was-clean-power-plan-just-wiped-out.


Some U.S. states have even more ambitious strategies to reduce GHGs and fight climate change than put forth in the CPP, or at Paris in 2015; closer to the carbon neutrality targets set by the latest IPCC guidance.

Examples of states with ambitious climate mitigation plans include: states like California, Hawaii, Washington, New Mexico, as well as several states in the Northeast U.S., a few other states (all are states which have passed bills through their states’ legislatures that mandate 100% renewable energy within the next 3 decades for their entire state; or at least 100% clean energy ). New York City is even planning a congestion levy for cars in the city center of NYC); and is investing substantial support for electric vehicles – like the development of extensive EV charging stations, as well as other EV infrastructure.


Carbon pricing, fiscal incentives for clean energy technologies, and incentives for clean energy job growth are among public policies that would benefit the environmental health of the planet by increasing investment in clean and renewable energy; helping in the fight against climate change by reducing GHGs from energy production.

Policies supporting clean energy job growth would also help the economy. Here is an article by Green City Times – a guide to needed public policies for environmental (as well as economic) sustainability, including our complete take on the Green New Deal – greencitytimes.com/stabilize-greenhouse-gas-emissions-2



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Shortfall in International GHG Reduction Pledges

Shortfall in International NDCs |


Is the World Going to Meet its Climate Targets?

There is a substantial shortfall between GHG emission reduction pledges that almost 200 countries have made, and global climate reality. Worldwide, almost 200 countries have set climate targets – independently, and internationally all member-nations of the UNFCCC* have recommended targets.

The international pledges are known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs)  – and can be compared to UN recommendations. The international NDCs made at the Paris Climate Accord represent a problematic shortfall compared to the reality of what greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) the planet has in store for its future. [*UNFCCC is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change]

At the same time, there is also a genuine, continuing effort by the world’s countries to try to limit global temperature rise to below 2° Celsius average global temperature increase (above pre-industrial era global temperature averages) by the end of this century. 2° C is the number that represents saving the planet from the worst effects of climate change.

The UNFCCC advises all world governments that a reduction in global GHGs (NDCs) by 7.6% annually for the next decade is required to meet the ambitious 1.5°C Paris target (see below).



What Measures are Needed to Reach Climate Targets?

In order to prevent the most damaging effects of climate change, the international community has pledged (both in the COP21 at Paris, and in subsequent years) to increase the use of such sustainability technologies like renewable energy and energy efficiency measures; while simultaneously decreasing fossil fuel use, in order to mitigate GHGs…emissions which lead to global temperature rise.

The idea is to keep global temperature rise to well under 2°C (compared to historical values, usually mid-19th century) by the end of this century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) advises that world nations must increase ambition/ investment in clean & renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation, and green building, in order to keep global warming well below 2°C this century. **The ambitious recommended IPCC limit to global warming is for the world to stay to no more than 1.5°C temperature rise above pre-industrial average global temperatures this century. Global average temperatures are already over 1° increase; using scientifically accepted metrics of measuring global temperature rise to assess the last 150-170 years; thus 1.5° is rapidly approaching.


Global Warming Reality vs. Paris Pledges

The reality is that the average global temperature rise will likely be significantly greater than what was promised at Paris – barring concerted, ambitious climate action by the international community. A 4.1-4.8°C degrees rise in average global temperatures would result if the world simply maintains the status quo. The world is thankfully not simply going to maintain the status quo in reality. This is evidenced by progressive net zero targets by the US and China (among many other nations), and best exemplified by ambitious climate action by the EU and especially Northern European countries.

The Paris pledges, as well as actions by nations, industries, and private investors, after COP21, demonstrate a genuine global effort. This global effort to reach climate goals involves the research, development, and effective use of sustainable low- or zero-emissions technologies and measures. Of course, this is great, but global temperature rise is still projected to be over the global temperature goals committed to in Paris.

In other words, a 2+°C change over the acceptable 2°C limit by the end of this century will result even if all pledges by all countries are actually met. Even in this somewhat positive scenario (and in the realistic best-case scenarios), as of now, there is still a shortfall – this NYTimes interactive piece clearly illustrates this problem — for the original 2015 NYTimes interactive click>>> http://tinyurl.com/gct333

If all nearly 200 nations keep all of their promises from COP21, global temperature rise will be limited to just 0.035°C (0.063°F) annually (best case). Even if every government on the planet that participated in COP21 keeps every Paris promise, reduces GHG emissions as promised, and shifts no emissions to other countries; and also keeps these emission reductions going throughout the rest of the century – the average projected global temperature rise will be kept to just 3°C (5.4°F) by the year 2100.

United States Future Climate Ambition

Obama’s Clean Power Plan, his moratorium on drilling for oil in the Atlantic, the U.S.’s 3-year moratorium on building coal mines on federal land represented progress on climate goals that was, and still is, the best hope for America to do its part. Now that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the new United States President and Vice President; and Democrats are in charge of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the United States will rejoin the international community focused on climate action. Progressive action on climate will be legislated and, in some cases, mandated, both nationally and state-by-state.

First and foremost, this means rejoining the Paris Climate Accord; and working to achieve the latest global decarbonization goals of the International Panel on Climate Change. Relevant U.S Environmental, Energy, and Climate executive administration agencies are now focused on action for sustainability agendas.

The United States government is also poised to invest substantially in clean energy infrastructure, clean energy job development, environmental protections, and in many other significant sustainable climate, energy, environmental, and economic/job growth US sectors. For a complete list of the latest GCT recommended US climate priorities, including ambitious priorities such as carbon neutrality for the U.S. by 2050 – please see – Permanent ban on new coal mines and other sustainability priorities for the United States.

The Rest of The World

China looking to shut down older coal power plants is a very positive sign. Promising signs include the global increased development and use of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Energy transition progress is also seen in substantial increases in electric vehicles in Northern European nations, Asia, and much of the both the developed and developing world. Europe has been leading the way on ambitious climate action for many years.

European nations are independently setting ambitious net zero goals of 2050 (or even sooner in a couple cases). The European Union passed legislation that also targets net zero GHG emissions by 2050,. Even before President Biden announced a net zero by 2050 target for the United States, China set a net zero target of 2060.

However, optimism, in the face of the undeniable math of GHG reduction targets, reality, and the true effort it will take to reach ambitious climate goals, such as carbon neutrality by 2050; clearly tells us more needs to be done.



Green City Times is a resource on sustainability, urban planning, renewable energy, sustainable mass transportation, energy efficiency and green building. Find facts on renewable energy including: hydroelectric (from dams, mills, waves, currents and tides), solar, wind, geothermal, biomass (and biofuel). Also get info. about everything from recycling to clean coal…Green City Times also features articles on the latest sustainability technology. 

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The UNFCCC

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – Conference of the Parties

World leaders, dignitaries, and diplomats, from almost 200 nations, assemble every year for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. UNFCCC members assess international progress in mitigating global anthropogenic climate change.

Members also negotiate protocols and treaties between countries, further addressing the plethora of climate-related issues. The annual UNFCCC meetings are called Conference of the Parties (COP). Since 1994, the COP has convened annually at a different international city for the meetings (the most famous COP being COP21 in Paris in 2015, commonly known as the Paris Climate Accord).

The COPs include the following international discussions:

All of these discussions (among other global sustainability issues), discussed by UNFCC members at the COPs, are intended to produce viable solutions to meet the goal of dramatically reducing global GHGs. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) advises that to avoid potentially catastrophic effects of climate change, world governments need to reduce GHGs substantially in order to keep global warming to “well below 2°C”; and ideally to no more than 1.5°C, this century.


COP21 – the Paris Climate Accord

Almost every nation in the world has now signed the initial Paris Climate Accord (all 197 member nations to the UNFCC have signed the Accord; 190 of the 197 nations have ratified the Accord and have also pledged NDCs).

Even a few nation-states that aren’t in the UN, like the State of Palestine and the Cook Islands, signed as member nations to the Paris Climate Accord. The United States was the only nation to announce a pull-out from the Paris Accord, though this never really took effect; and President Biden brought the US back into the Paris Climate Accord.

NDCs have progressed to the point where many nations have taken the step of pledging net zero GHG emissions (carbon neutrality). China has set their net zero target for 2060; and soon after, the US committed to net zero by 2050; and both of these net zero commitments followed earlier European carbon neutrality pledges. The EU has a net zero target of 2050, and a few European nations independently have the same, or even more ambitious, targets.

These net zero pledges represent ambitious goals to keep global warming well below 2°C (that’s 2°C rise above pre-industrial global temperature averages), and ideally to 1.5°C, this century; making good on the latest IPCC climate targets. In future COPs, such as the COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, expect international net zero pledges to expand, and become a regular part of UNFCCC language; along with the term – ambitious climate targets.


For more details on NDCs, please see:

The Fight Against Climate Change – National Carbon Reduction Goals


Putting a Price on Carbon – Establishing Carbon Markets

Perhaps the most contentious topic to be discussed at the COPs is carbon pricing; systems in which governments can incentivize carbon-intensive industries, entire countries, and regions, to lower their GHG emissions by pricing carbon dioxide emissions.

Experts on climate mitigation policies believe that international carbon pricing systems may ensure the quickest path to net zero emissions (carbon neutrality). Individual nations, states, and provinces, continue to ultimately decide on carbon pricing legislation; as well as the inner-workings of any carbon pricing system, including whether any potential national or regional carbon pricing system is to function as a carbon tax, or  cap-and-trade/ emissions trading system (ETS).

This process of high-level intergovernmental discussions of potentially mandating national prices on carbon could be encouraged by the UNFCCC in the future. If the UNFCCC took the step of directing nations to adopt carbon pricing, global warming would almost certainly be abated sooner than without prices on carbon emissions worldwide.

The European Union already does have carbon pricing – the EU ETS. Launched in 2005, the EU ETS has gradually evolved from a very low price on carbon, to a slightly higher one; and it’s expected that the European Commission will continue to increase the EU ETS carbon price with the continued evolution of climate ambition. Other European nations have independently developed an ETS and/ or a carbon tax; and many other countries, states, provinces, and regions worldwide, have also developed carbon pricing.

For more on carbon pricing around the world, please see: Putting a Price on Carbon. There has been significant progress made through recent COPs on the topic of carbon pricing, as described in this quote- “Leaders across the Americas have pledged to step up the use of carbon pricing as a key instrument of economic and environmental policy to reduce carbon emissions.” FROM- unfccc.int/news/leaders-across-the-americas-step-up-carbon-pricing.



There is currently a significant gap in the commitments that nations worldwide have made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and the reality of global warming still accelerating at a perilous pace. Green City Times has written about the–

Shortfall in International GHG Pledges

This following quote is by António Guterres, the current United Nations Secretary-General-

“In 2015, the world’s nations recognized the urgency and magnitude of the [global climate change] challenge when they adopted the historic Paris Agreement on climate change with a goal of limiting global average temperature rise to well below 2 °C; while aiming for a safe 1.5 °C target. The unity forged in Paris was laudable – and overdue. But, for all its significance, Paris was a beginning, not an end. The world is currently not on track to achieve the Paris targets. We need urgent climate action and greatly increased ambition – in emissions reductions and in promoting adaptation to current and future impacts of climate change.” FROM- unfccc.int/resource/annualreport



GCT tags

carbon farming carbon footprint carbon neutral carbon neutrality carbon pricing carbon tax clean energy Clean Power Plan climate change climate solutions cogeneration Conference of the Parties cover crops e-bikes electric vehicles energy energy efficiency energy star Freiburg global warming green building greenhouse gas emissions hydrogen hydrogen fuel cells Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change LEED nationally determined contributions net zero greenhouse gas emissions nuclear energy Paris Climate Accord recycling renewable energy reverse osmosis smart grid smart meter solar sources of renewable energy sustainability sustainable agriculture sustainable mass transit United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change urban planning waste-to-energy waste management zero-waste

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Decoupling and Divestment to Reach Sustainability

Decoupling, Divestment, ESG Investments


Decoupling

Decoupling in eco-environmental terms can be defined as a striving for economic growth without creating corresponding environmental impacts. Nations, industries, and corporations, will still reach full potential and economic growth; and perhaps achieve even greater success, by following sustainable practices. Economic growth for companies can be achieved while simultaneously lowering a company’s carbon footprint, and striving for a sustainable environment. 

There is no guarantee that any nation, industry, or corporation, will ever be completely “sustainable” from one year to the next, especially given the fact that all resources will continue to depreciate at least minimally. However, with the increased investment in, innovation of, and use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, other sustainability technologies (e.g. batteries for energy storage, electric vehicles), and decreased waste/ better waste management; the chance to achieve sustainability becomes more and more likely over time.

The economy depends on natural resources from land to water, metal to energy. There is a need to consider the depletion of these resources, and adjust investments; even with the need for increased gross domestic product (GDP) and profit. When the profit of the nation, industry, or corporation, is the greater consideration than the natural resources required for economic gain, there is very little likelihood of environmental sustainability.

It’s possible to have a vision of a company making a profit while maintaining environmental sustainability goals. In first-world countries, it’s possible to at least consider a minimal need for the growth of GDP. However, smaller third-world countries face a much larger need for GDP rise; increase in GDP that many developing countries still see as coupled with fossil fuel use. In looking at industrialized nations, historically, economic growth has been tied to increased use of fossil fuels for energy.

Eco-environmental decoupling, where economic growth occurs without an increase in environmental costs or demands, should be a common practice for all industries and corporations in the developed world today. Additionally, many developing nations across the world today have increased their financial status, even with the decoupling of some basic natural resources; such as oil.

Economic growth is beneficial and necessary for both industrialized and developing nations; as modernization (of cities, national infrastructure, vital services, etc…) significantly improves the quality of peoples’ lives. Unfortunately, most global economic growth historically has only been possible with the exploitation of natural resources; land (as in exploitation of forests. wilderness), water (e.g. oceans, rivers, lakes), and especially fossil fuels (gas, coal, and oil for energy, oil/ petrochemicals for manufacturing).

Today, this exploitation of natural resources is no longer necessary to achieve growth; sustainable technologies are abundant, efficient, and affordable (such as renewable energy, energy efficiency technologies, sustainable mass transit, electric vehicles, etc…). The global sustainability movement best represents the current global modernization movement; as evidenced by increased global investment in, and increased innovation of, clean energy technologies.


Divestment

The standard definition of divestment is a reduction of some kind of asset for financial, ethical, or political objectives. The global divestment movement, in eco-environmental terms, refers to companies pulling their assets and capital investments from fossil fuel companies.

Here are some major stories of the sustainability divestment movement from 2018, a year where the global divestment movement really picked up steam- cleantechnica.com/cleantechnica-divestment-year-in-review-2018 Here’s a quote from the above Cleantechnica article: “From school children to individuals, companies, and corporations, the global fossil fuel divestment movement has challenged the right of the fossil fuel industry to damage the environment. By divesting from fossil fuels, we are requiring polluters to take responsibility for their products…”

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals are being adopted by many companies worldwide. These ESG goals go hand-in-hand with divestment goals, 100% clean energy goals, and company-wide net zero goals. ESG goals for investments can be viewed as similar to divestment goals, as ESG goals represent the most important metrics in evaluating a company’s overall sustainability.

The field of sustainable, ESG investments is gaining popularity internationally (to about $1 trillion worth of ESG investments internationally by fall of 2020); and includes ESG bonds and mutual funds. Major corporations that are divesting, aiming to reach ESG goals, and/ or ambitious 100% clean and/ or renewable energy goals include: Apple, Google, Amazon, Starbucks, and even Walmart. Read more about Amazon’s clean energy goals here: Amazon’s Renewable Energy Projects

Even some oil majors, giant corporations leading the international oil & gas industry, like British Petroleum (BP), Royal Dutch Shell, and Total SA, are adopting company-wide carbon-neutrality targets. Are these oil giants taking carbon-neutrality seriously as a response to the global divestment movement? As a response to major emitting countries sitting net zero goals?

BP, Shell, and Total all have net zero targets of 2050, mirroring net zero targets of the EU, the UK, and many European nations individually (and now the US president, President Biden, has also pledged the US will reach net zero emissions by 2050). In addition to BP &Shell, Total is a stand-out net-zero pledge in the field of oil majors embracing sustainable targets.-

 “Like BP and Shell, Total promised zero out the emissions associated with its own business operations by switching to renewable energy and offsetting any remaining emissions. But Total has also gone a step further, vowing that all of its energy products used by customers in Europe will be carbon-neutral by 2050 — and that it will cut the emissions of products used worldwide by 60%.

It’s not clear yet how Total plans to radically clean up its business model, but it does have a head start: The company already has stakes in 3 gigawatts of renewable energy and plans to increase it to 25 gigawatts over the next five years.”  FROM –  grist.org/beacon/a-total-makeover


Also, major big oil/ big gas companies are divesting or just becoming “energy” companies – like Statoil >>> Equinor. As of the end of 2020, Equinor also pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050; in its ambition to re-brand itself as a “broad energy company”.

“The world is changing, and so is Statoil. The biggest transition our modern-day energy systems have ever seen is underway, and we aim to be at the forefront of this development. Our strategy remains firm. The name Equinor reflects ongoing changes and supports the always safe, high value and low carbon strategy we outlined last year,” said chair of the board, Jon Erik Reinhardsen.   FROM –   equinor.com/en/news/15mar2018


The European Investment Bank (EIB), the wold’s largest public investment bank, is also phasing-out its investments in fossil fuel companies. According to Rueters, “…the new policy [EIB to cease funding fossil fuel projects by end-2021] does not outright ban all fossil fuel projects, but makes most of them impossible under the new parameters: Under the new policy, energy projects applying for EIB funding will need to show they can produce one kilowatt hour of energy while emitting less than 250 grams of carbon dioxide, a move which bans traditional gas-burning power plants.Gas projects are still possible, but would have to be based on what the bank called ‘new technologies,’ such as carbon capture and storage, combining heat and power generation, or mixing in renewable gases with the fossil natural gas.” 

Climate activists celebrated the [2019] decision of the EIB to stop funding most oil and coal projects by 2021, part of a bid to be the world’s first “climate bank”…

In a statement following the news, Friends of the Earth Europe fossil free campaigner Colin Roche said the bank’s decision was a big one.

“Today’s decision is a significant victory for the climate movement,” said Roche. “Finally, the world’s largest public bank has bowed to public pressure and recognised that funding for all fossil fuels must end—and now all other banks, public and private must follow their lead.” FROM –  ecowatch.com/european-investment-bank-fossil-fuels

For an up-to-date list of banks ranked on various divestment goals (divestment from coal, divestment from oil & gas. For example, PNB Paribas, a French international investment bank and the world’s 8th largest public investment bank, has only divested from coal; while some other banks on this chart have banned some coal and oil projects…not gas), please see>

ran.org/bankingonclimatechange/#grades-panel 


Perhaps one of the biggest, most pleasant, surprises in the ESG/ divestment movement, came with BlackRock’s decision to begin divesting. BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager, managing investments worth over $8 trillion. This announcement came in 2020 after a wave of divestment announcements from major banks, including EIB. In looking at BlackRock’s divestment announcement, the Washington Post posited this summary of the divestment movement by big banks in 2019-2020:

“BlackRock isn’t the only big financial institution that has halted its lending to fossil-fuel projects in recent years. A number of big banks have taken steps to reduce their exposure to fossil-fuel projects.

JPMorgan ChaseWells Fargo and Citigroup have announced they would curb lending to Arctic oil and gas drilling projects, among other environmental pledges.

The latest wave of climate pledges by big banks was kicked off before the pandemic by Goldman Sachs, which decided in December it would no longer lend money to oil and gas projects in the fast-warming Arctic region.

The investment banking giant was followed a month later by BlackRock, which said it would limit its investment in the coal power business and make managing for sustainability and climate risk a key part of its investing strategy.”  FROM –  washingtonpost.com/powerpost/the-energy-202


Sustainability and economic growth can be combined when actions are taken carefully, with resources and raw materials managed efficiently. With the global sustainability movement, nations, industries, and corporations, are able to develop economically while still reducing their carbon footprint. For example, with requirements for decoupling, ESG investing including divestment strategies, and net zero targets, slowly coming into place; global industries are now competing to incorporate renewable energy into their economic growth. The renewable energy industry will continue to grow; to be one that becomes beneficial to global industries; while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and helping all industries commit to a long-term move toward sustainability.


See Also: gofossilfree.org/divestment/what-is-fossil-fuel-divestment

Additionally: sustainabledevelopment.un.org