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Intuit inks science-based emissions target


Intuit has had its Science Based Targets validated | Credit: Mike Mozart

Financial software giant becomes latest major firm to have its emissions goals approved by the independent Science-Based Targets Initiative

Financial software giant Intuit has become the latest major corporate to have its emissions reduction targets approved by the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), securing independent confirmation its goals are in line with those of the Paris Agreement.

The company confirmed on Monday it was on track to surpass its core sustainability goals covering renewable electricity and carbon emissions across its business later this year, progress it claimed was “three times faster than originally projected”.

In 2016 the company pledged to reduce its Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2025 against a 2012 baseline year, as well as cutting the carbon footprint from its facilities by 80 per cent over the same timeframe. It has also pledged to increase its annual sourcing of renewable electricity from 32 per cent in 2015 to 100 per cent by 2030.

The three targets have now been validated by the SBT initiative, the company announced, and are all on course to be achieved by the end of this year.

It follows the launch of Intuit’s Purely Green programme in 2018, a partnership with supplier Just Energy and business power specialist RPD Energy that enables the firm to share its corporate wind power procurement in Texas with small business and residential customers at a discounted price.

The company is also working to reduce and offset emissions from its employees’ business travel, and has since 2015 been working with Project Drawdown to support carbon offset projects to mitigate outstanding direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions from its business.

Eileen Fagan, head of corporate responsibility at Intuit, said the firm’s mission was to “power prosperity around the world”.

“Delivering on that mission means leaving the world a better place than we found it,” she said. “We take pride in being stewards of the environment and champions of sustainability. Our bold goals reflect Intuit’s ongoing commitment to living out our mission.”

Source: – Business Green

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Verizon unveils ‘carbon neutral’ vision

Verizon has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2035

The current occupant of the White House may be somewhat less convinced of the urgent need to shift to a low carbon economy, but the US corporate sector continues to ramp up action in response to escalating climate risks.

On Monday US telecoms giant Verizon Communications announced plans to become a ‘carbon neutral’ across its scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2035 through a combination of cutting its own emissions, switching to renewable energy, and purchasing carbon offsets.

The company also said it now aims to cut its carbon intensity in half by 2025, having already achieved a 28 per cent reduction since its 2016 baseline, as well as sourcing 50 per cent of its electricity from renewables by the same date, in part by adding another 24MW of on-site green energy systems.

Verizon now boasts 22 onsite renewable energy installations with a total of more than 22MW of capacity, as well as 278 buildings certified by Energy Star for energy efficiency, it said.

In addition, Verizon said it had worked with consultancy Carbon Trust to calculate that its products and services had helped customers cut energy and reduce emissions equivalent to 8.2 million metric tonnes of CO2, or about the same as removing 1.6 million cars from the road for one year.

The move follows Verizon’s announcement earlier this year that it had become the first US telecoms firm to launch a Green Bond, which it estimated would deliver $1bn in net proceeds for renewables, energy efficiency, green buildings, water management, biodiversity, and conservation projects to help advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

James Gowen, chief sustainability officer and vice president of supply chain operations at Verizon, claimed sustainability and social responsibility were “part of Verizon’s DNA”.

“As an emerging leader in sustainability, Verizon understands its responsibility to continuously evolve and innovate to meet new challenges and expectations,” he added.

The news came on the same day as business and financial software giant Intuit revealed it has made rapid progress towards its climate goals, which have now been validated by the Science-Based Targets initiative.

Source: – Business Green

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CBI: Extinction Rebellion are asking ‘absolutely the right questions’ – and businesses are committed to answering them

EXCLUSIVE: UK’s leading employers’ body welcomes launch of XR Business group, as Greta Thunberg delivers stinging address to MPs

Street protestors and corporate giants are the most unlikely of allies, but could Extinction Rebellion (XR) find itself being welcomed by big businesses even as some of its members continue to call for  capitalism to be overthrown?

Today the CBI, the UK’s largest employers’ body representing over 190,000 businesses, offered a qualified welcome for the catalysing impact the XR protests have had on the debate on UK climate action and welcomed the launch of the new XR Business initiative.

“As protests in recent days and weeks have shown, climate change is an issue of truly unprecedented proportions facing every nation on earth,” James Diggle, CBI head of energy and climate change, told BusinessGreen in an emailed statement. “Put simply, the world needs to get a grip on it. It requires real solutions from the government and business – as well as changes to the way each of us lives our lives – right now.”

He added that the UK had a critical role to play in driving deep decarbonisation at a global scale.

“As the country that first harnessed the power of hydrocarbons to drive the industrial revolution, the UK has a unique responsibility – and opportunity – to lead again,” he said. “The first step to doing this is to be even bolder in our climate ambitions.”

Like most business groups, including the new coalition of green business leaders that wrote to The Times this weekend in support of XR, the CBI has some reservations about the short terms costs for businesses caused by disruption from the XR protests. But there is also an understanding of the long term benefits that would result if public engagement with climate risks helped to drive bolder decarbonisation policies and avert escalating climate impacts for economies around the world.

Diggle stressed that many businesses are committed to playing a central role in delivering the economic transformation many supporters of XR want to see.

“From school strikes to Extinction Rebellion, the protests have raised absolutely the right questions – ones which business is committed to answering,” he said. “From offshore wind to electric vehicle batteries, businesses are leading the move away from fossil fuels by delivering the technology needed to cut carbon emissions.”

As an organisation with a relatively decentralised leadership structure, XR has sent some mixed signals on its approach to the business community. Some supporters have argued that capitalism should be “overthrown” in order to avert climate catastrophe, while the protests last week targeted the offices of oil giant Shell. But at the same time the group has signalled a desire to engage with business leaders – an approach that has been formalised with the launch of XR Business, a new arm of the campaign described as “an evolving platform for people in business who understand that business as usual is not going to work anymore”.

Responding to the launch of the new group, Diggle said the CBI “warmly welcome initiatives which constructively bring together business, experts, and those pushing the need for change”.

The latest developments came as School Strikes founder Greta Thunberg this afternoon visited the Houses of Parliament where she is scheduled to address MPs and meet with the leaders of all the main Westminster Parties, with the notable exception of Prime Minister Theresa May.

The organisers of the meeting – which brought together Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, the Lib Dems Sir Vince Cable, the Greens Caroline Lucas and Ian Blackford and Liz Saville Roberts of the SNP and Plaid Cymru – staged an empty chair and name card for May

The Prime Minister chaired a Cabinet Meeting on Tuesday morning and spokespeople for Number 10 said they were not aware whether an invite had been received, although the meeting organisers insisted an invite had been made.

Thunberg also met Commons Speaker, John Bercow, as well as former Labour leader Ed Miliband, and Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, who organised the recent Commons debate on climate action.

Thunberg was joined by members of the UK Student Climate Network who wrote on Twitter that they “have reached an agreement with Westminster leaders on some important first steps they can take together to tackle the climate crisis”. Promising that more details would be made public soon, they added that “we need to keep pressure up to ensure actions, not just words”.

Later in the afternoon, Thunberg delivered a characteristically blunt and hard-hitting address to MPs, accusing the political class of lying to younger generations and giving them “false hope”.

“We probably don’t even have a future any more,” she said. “Because that future was sold so that a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money. It was stolen from us every time you said that the sky was the limit, and that you only live once. You lied to us. You gave us false hope. You told us that the future was something to look forward to. And the saddest thing is that most children are not even aware of the fate that awaits us.”

She also criticised the UK’s carbon accounting techniques, arguing that the much-touted data showing UK emissions have fallen sharply in recent decades fails to include emissions from aviation, shipping, and imported products.

And she called for a renewed push to deliver net zero emissions as a matter of urgency.

“Perhaps the most dangerous misconception about the climate crisis is that we have to “lower” our emissions. Because that is far from enough.” she said. “Our emissions have to stop if we are to stay below 1.5-2C of warming. The ‘lowering of emissions’ is of course necessary but it is only the beginning of a fast process that must lead to a stop within a couple of decades, or less. And by ‘stop’ I mean net zero – and then quickly on to negative figures. That rules out most of today’s politics.

“The fact that we are speaking of “lowering” instead of “stopping” emissions is perhaps the greatest force behind the continuing business as usual.”

Thunberg concluded with a stinging rebuke to politicians who praise the school strikes and then fail to deliver bold actions to slash emissions. “We children are not sacrificing our education and our childhood for you to tell us what you consider is politically possible in the society that you have created,” she said. “We have not taken to the streets for you to take selfies with us, and tell us that you really admire what we do.

“We children are doing this to wake the adults up. We children are doing this for you to put your differences aside and start acting as you would in a crisis. We children are doing this because we want our hopes and dreams back.”

Meanwhile, XR is understood to be preparing a new wave of actions as the protests continue into their second week, although it remains to be seen if the group will seek to emulate the disruptive tactics of last week or pivot to focus on promoting its core demand of building a net zero emission economy by 2025 and discussing how the target could be achieved.

Many expert commentators have dismissed the 2025 target date as unrealistically ambitious, but calls are growing from businesses, MPs, and campaigners alike for the government to adopt a longer term net zero target once the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) reports on the proposal next month.

Source: – Business Green

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Electric flight: Eviation Aircraft’s plans for nine-seater passenger plane edge toward runway


(L-R) Eviation CEO, Omer Bar-Yohay, with magniX CEO, Roei Ganzarski | Credit: Eviation Aircraft

US firm teams up with electric engine specialist magniX as it sets sights on delivering first commercial electric passenger planes by 2022

Eviation Aircraft’s aim to develop the world’s first zero emission commuter plane has taken a step forward, with the manufacturer having selected specialist engine firm magniX to provide the propulsion system for its planned nine-seater all-electric plane.

The electric aircraft developer announced yesterday that Washington state-based magniX would be providing its 375 horsepower magni250 propulsion system for the project, which aims to bring zero-emission passenger flight for journeys up to 1,000 miles into commercial service by 2022

The motors developed by magniX require no fuel, produce no greenhouse gases, and have completed more than 1,500 hours of testing, the company said.

With the global aviation sector responsible for almost five per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, magnix CEO Roei Ganzarski said the shift to electric propulsion would cut airline operating costs, slash emissions, and make air travel more affordable.

“Electrifying middle-mile aviation with fixed wing aircraft flying between the plethora of existing airports is a logical first step toward better connecting communities,” he said. “Together with like-minded leading partners like Eviation, we will see all-electric planes powered by our propulsions systems go into commercial service by 2022, enabling flexible, clean air-travel and package-delivery options at a fraction of today’s prices.”

It follows magniX recent deal with Harbour Air to provide the engines for a fleet of electric seaplanes along the coastline of British Columbia, Canada.

The firm’s propulsion system can be used for both newly-designed all-electric aircraft as well as for the conversion of existing aircraft, according to Eviation, which said it plans to run test flights this year with a view to securing certification by the end of 2021.

Eviation CEO Omer Bar-Yohay said the company would begin manufacturing battery-powered aircraft fleets later this year for regional US carrier customers, claiming the planes would cut operating costs by up to 70 per cent.

“In 2017, Americans spent $1tr traveling distances between 50 and 650 miles,” he said. “Our goal is to undercut the cost of commuting by making middle mile trips cheaper, faster and cleaner. Together with magniX we’re providing an economically and environmentally sustainable mobility solution that will forever change the face of aviation, and consumer travel.”

Investment in electric aviation R&D is increasing sharply as aerospace giants and smaller start-ups both rush to develop new zero emission technologies. Airlines are keen to deploy biofuels or new electric engines in order to curb emissions and guard against the increased costs that will result from the imminent introduction of the CORSIA global emissions charging scheme.

However, campaigners have argued that the development of zero emission commercial jets remains an immense technical challenge that will likely take decades to overcome and as such more stringent emissions reduction policies are urgently required to tackle the aviation industry’s expanding carbon footprint.

Source: – Business Green

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UK enjoys record-breaking coal-free Easter

Yet more coal-free power records tumble in the UK

As climate protests dominated the news agenda, the UK grid managed an unbroken 90 hours without generating electricity from coal

The UK has yet again smashed its coal-free power generation record, having managed more than 90 hours straight without generating any electricity from coal power plants over the Easter Weekend, National Grid confirmed yesterday.

The coal-free period, which came to an end on Monday afternoon, ran for 90 hours and 45 minutes – more than three-and-a-half days – marking the longest unbroken period without coal power stations generating since the Industrial Revolution.

Over the period, low carbon sources delivered over half the UK’s power with just 42 per cent of the UK’s electricity mix coming from gas and seven per cent from imports. A further 23 per cent came from nuclear, with 12 per cent from wind, 11 per cent from solar, four per cent from biomass, and one per cent from large hydropower.

The performance smashes the previous record set a year ago, when the UK went more than 76 hours without generating any electricity from coal.

Coal has continued to drop off the grid in recent years as the UK’s capacity for cheap, clean electricity from renewables such as wind and solar grows.

Earlier this month, National Grid revealed that during the first quarter of 2019, the UK grid clocked up a total of 650 hours of coal-free generation, surpassing the number of coal-free hours delivered during the whole of 2017.

The record is part of a global trend that has seen a host of countries sign up to the international Powering Past Coal Alliance and project pipelines for new coal plants contract as competition from gas and renewables has intensified.

The weakening investment outlook for coal has also been noted by leading financial firms, with a growing number of companies limiting their exposure to coal assets or divesting from coal firms altogether.

Last week, two of Europe’s leading insurers – Talanx and Hannover Re – became the latest major firms to further tighten their underwriting policies for coal-fired power plants, bringing the total number of global insurers which have taken action to limit their coal exposure to 13, according to campaign group Unfriend Coal.

The two firms, which are both part of the Talanx Group, said they would terminate the reinsurance of newly-planned coal-fired power plants or mines, as well as restricting investments in fossil fuels.

Talanx Group said it would retain its existing policy of not making any new investments in companies that generate more than 25 per cent of their revenues from fossil fuel sources, as well as expanding its investments in renewables and clean technologies. And, on the underwriting side of its business, the firm said it would no longer write any risks associated with planned new coal-fired power plants and coal mines, with a view to eradicating its business from coal altogether by 2038.

Lucie Pinson, European coordinator for Unfriend Coal, welcomed the two insurers’ announcements, but called for further details on precisely how they intended to limit their exposure to coal plants and mines to zero by 2038 as pledged.

“Climate science makes it very clear that there is no room for new coal and no exceptions should be granted, especially when coal fired capacity is more expensive than existing renewable capacity,” she said. “Hannover Re and Talanx must immediately commit to not allow any exception for new coal.”

Source: – Business Green

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Dow Chemical changes chiefs; former Seventh Generation CEO helms American Sustainable Business Council

Welcome to Names in the News, the spring 2019 edition. Since we covered the early-year job jumpers, movers and shakers, an entire host of sustainability career changes has taken place. Many people are making fresh new starts and big transitions this spring, and we’re covering some of the most notable.

If you know of any big career jumps among your colleagues, friends and mentors — even yourself — that you would like to see featured in our next edition of Names in the News, send a note to [email protected].

Making moves

Jeffrey Hollender

The American Sustainable Business Council has a new CEO, Jeffrey Hollender, the co-founder and former CEO of Seventh Generation. Hollender previously served as co-board chair. He helped found the organization almost a decade ago, and replaces the former CEO, Hammad Atassi. Hammad is currently serving as president of Nutricare, North America.

Rob Bernard

Rob Bernard, former chief environmental strategist at Microsoft, heads up strategic partnerships at National Geographic Society. He’s focused on sustainable alliances with organizations, foundations and corporations as NatGeo looks to expand its offerings across more sectors.

Bruno Sarda

The former head of sustainability at NRG and director of social responsibility at Dell, Bruno Sarda, has moved onwards and upwards with a new role as president of the CDP North America. He’ll lead the N.A. strategy and operations for the nonprofit, which works with investors, companies and cities on global disclosure processes and systems.

Cristine Morgan

Soil Health Institute named Cristine Morgan as chief scientific officer, where she’ll be responsible for developing and establishing the scientific direction, strategy and implementation plan for the Institute’s research programs. A big name in soil, she previously was a professor of soil science at Texas A&M University, and her work on soil health and its security has been published in a plethora of journals.

David Tulauskas

Nestlé Waters North America has named David Tulauskas as vice president and chief sustainability officer. Tulauskas was previously director of sustainability at General Motors and left after the automaker’s broad shake-up last fall. He succeeds Nelson Switzer, who left Nestlé Waters last year to join Loop Industries, a technology innovator in sustainable plastic.

Roger McClendon

Roger McClendon has been announced as the new executive director for the Green Sports Alliance. He comes from his previous CSO role at Yum! Brands (the company that sits over KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and others brands). His chief priorities include implementing targets based on the Sustainable Development Goals and driving fan engagement.

Dennis Woodside

As Impossible Foods grows, it has added a new position: president. The first to hold this title is Dennis Woodside, a tech industry veteran hailing from Adobe and Motorola Mobility, who will oversee the traditional presidential duties of manufacturing, supply chain, sales, marketing, human resources and other functions.

Janani Lee

Just Salad named its first sustainability chief, in a promotion from her previous roles in supply chain and purchasing: Janani Lee. As the company looks to meet commitments that reduce plastic use in packaging and products, and expand composting, the time is ripe for Just Salad to formalize its sustainability leadership.

Peter Templeton

The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute has new (official) leadership: Peter Templeton was named as the Institute’s president and CEO after serving as interim president and CEO since September.

Who’s news

Neil Hawkins has been named as the president of the Erb Family Foundation, moving into the role in an official capacity after leaving his position as CSO at Dow Chemical.

Meanwhile, Mary Draves, the previous global director of remediation, environmental technology and environmental operations, is the new vice president and chief sustainability officer of Dow Chemical.

For the past decade, Elizabeth Fretheim had guided Walmart’s supply chain sustainability programs — a crucial role for the world’s largest retailer as it worked on the ambitious Project Gigaton, its project to get its suppliers to cut more than 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions out of their operations by 2030. She left at the beginning of this year and recently landed at Nikola Motors, a startup that’s developing hydrogen-powered electric semi-trucks (which we recently covered).

Karen Weigert has joined Slipstream, a nonprofit focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy programs for the clean economy, as vice president of business strategy and regional operations. Formerly chief sustainability officer for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, she had developed the 2015 Sustainable Chicago Action Agenda and moves to the private sector to continue to drive impact.

Avi Garbow has come on board at Patagonia as its newest — and first — environmental advocate to lead and shape its policy advocacy. Before this, Garbow was the Environmental Protection Agency’s longest-serving general counsel under President Barack Obama.

California State Senate President pro tempore emeritus Kevin de León has been announced as a strategic advisor for Elemental Excelerator. The author of the state’s watershed clean energy legislation, he’ll provide advice and insight to the cleantech startups in Elemental’s acceleration programs, specifically for its latest cohort of companies that work on equitably serving disadvantaged communities.

Another EPA veteran, Dominique Lueckenhoff, is joining Hugo Neu as senior vice president of corporate affairs and sustainability. The company — which along with its subsidiaries invests in, builds and manage recycling, e-recycling, real estate and other related industries — is looking to deepen its sustainability offerings.

The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) announced that its foundation, the SASB Foundation, has new leadership: Madelyn Antoncic. A former vice president and treasurer at the World Bank, Antoncic will serve as the new CEO to guide the nonprofit that’s developed and codified sustainability accounting standards globally.

In addition, the SASB Foundation announced the appointment of Marc A. Siegel, formerly the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) director and currently a partner in Ernst & Young’s Financial Accounting and Advisory Service practice, to SASB, to continue to advance environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics.

Jump around

Energy Web Foundation —  the energy blockchain industry consortium — recruited ING COO Walter Kok to take on the position of chief operating officer as it grows its C-suite.

Elisabeth Best is manager of advisory services, sustainability management and information and communications technology at BSR, switching from her previous role as sustainability communications manager and editor-in-chief of the BSR Insights blog.

A longtime Bay Area city official, Alicia John-Baptiste, has been tapped to head SPUR Oakland (that’s short for San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association). As president and CEO, after three years as deputy director, she’ll bring a wealth of experience to define the organization’s overall vision and strategies.

Aviva Investors, the global asset management unit of Aviva PLC, appointed Paul LaCoursiere to the newly created position of global head of ESG research within its Global Responsible Investment section.

As sports industries expand their sustainability offerings, Allen Hershkowitz has been named the New York Yankees’ environmental science adviser. Hershkowitz previously served as an NRDC Senior Scientist and ex-president of the Green Sports Alliance, and becomes the first in this newly created role.

Varun Rai has been named the next director of the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin. Rai’s previous scholarly experience involves researching the social, institutional, economic and technological components of energy systems.

Leaving his previous job as senior communications officer for the sustainability department at Harvard University, Colin Durrant has a new position as director of media relations and advocacy communications at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. 

Asim Haque, former chairman and chief executive officer of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), has a new job at PJM Interconnection as its executive director of strategic policy and external affairs. He moves from a bipartisan energy regulator to energy policy and partnership adviser in the private sector.

Nellie Cohen joined Brown and Wilmanns Environmental, LLC (BWE), a Santa Barbara, California-based sustainability consulting firm, as a senior consulting associate, coming from Patagonia, where she developed the company’s circular economy program, “Worn Wear.”

A former sustainability specialist at NRG Energy, Rachel Ett, joined the corporate origination team of First Solar — a solar panel manufacturer — to lead and manage its global corporate renewables business and facilitate corporate partners’ power purchase agreements (PPAs). 

Gap Inc. has promoted Keith White as executive vice president of loss prevention and global sustainability to oversee loss prevention, corporate security and global sustainability for the company. He’s been with Gap Inc. for almost two decades and helped build its resilience programs.


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An idea for accelerating the path to carbon-free transportation

As the United States recognized the 49th annual Earth Day this week, the nation’s attention has been focused on our planet’s rising temperatures and the tools and resources at our disposal to combat that reality. In that context, there continues to be plenty of emphasis on the growing population of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) on the road, as well as the growing number of vehicle manufacturers that have announced electric product plans over the past year.

All of this dialogue is well-deserved, as few would argue the long-term value of BEVs and their role in the future of transportation. But many are missing the reality that the widescale national adoption needed for these vehicles to make a global climate impact is still likely decades away. The likely adoption cycle is far longer than the timeframes of most carbon footprint mandates being proposed by both public municipalities and private companies around the country — mandates that have fleet managers in those organizations scrambling to make significant changes to their operations.

Does that mean those well-intentioned organizations are misguided in their efforts? Not at all. It just means that the road to zero-carbon fleets is not necessarily driven only by zero-emission vehicles.

BEVs for fleets: Opportunities and challenges

In 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other independent climate experts confirmed that transportation is the leading contributor (PDF) to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and that GHG emissions in the transportation sector increased more in absolute terms than any other sector between 1990 and 2016. 

These studies (and many others) cite the adoption of BEVs as a significant step towards addressing transportation’s carbon problem. However, when it comes to the commercial fleet industry, widescale adoption of BEVs faces challenges due to a variety of limitations that curb their ability to effectively reduce a fleet’s overall emissions in the short term.

To further illustrate that point, a joint UPS-GreenBiz study in October (“Curve Ahead: The Future of Commercial Fleet Electrification” (PDF)) specifically examined those challenges from the perspective of fleet leaders. By studying the buying behaviors of large commercial and municipal fleets across the United States, the authors take a close look at both the motivations and concerns of today’s fleet managers on their adoption of BEVs. 

According to the UPS-GreenBiz study, the driving factors behind fleet electrification goals include meeting sustainability goals (83 percent) and lowering total cost of ownership (64 percent). That’s not surprising — particularly when considering that rising fuel costs (estimated at 15 percent between 2017 and 2018) have been cited by fleet managers as the No. 1 source of higher operational costs — and gas prices have continued their steady rise well into this spring.

The short-term barriers of BEVs, however, are significant. Respondents cite initial purchase price (55 percent), a lack of EV charging infrastructure at facilities (44 percent) and a lack of product availability (35 percent) as the three top barriers to adopting BEVs in the short term. But another rapidly growing class of electrified vehicles is delivering proven sustainability value with far fewer barriers than their all-electric counterparts.

Hybrids: The change enabler

Hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric propulsion technologies are uniquely positioned to overcome the challenges outlined above, particularly for the millions of heavily polluting, class 2-6 commercial and municipal fleet vehicles in service today.

By providing a 25-50 percent fuel economy improvement without disrupting operations, hybrid (HEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) electric vehicles represent an enormous opportunity to provide a strong financial return while putting us on a path to meet our longer-term carbon reduction goals. 

As examples:

  • Electric utilities such as CPS Energy in San Antonio, Texas, named one of America’s Top 100 Fleets, are investing heavily in plug-in hybrid electric work trucks. CPS cites an anticipated reduction of 7.75 tons in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and 58.7 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from their electrified vehicles over their lifecycles.
  • Rogue Valley Transportation District in Oregon reported an early 23 percent increase in fuel economy from the hybrid electric paratransit fleet vehicles it deployed in mid-2018.
  • New York City Parks (PDF) noted a 33 percent fuel economy increase over the first 100,000 miles driven by its fleet of hybrid passenger vans, supporting New York’s mission of sustainable transportation leadership.

In addition to their immediate viability as a means of improving fuel economy and reducing emissions, HEV and PHEV solutions also offer a number of long-term advantages that will help accelerate BEV adoption as those technologies (and their supporting infrastructure) continue to develop:

  • HEV and PHEV solutions deliver immediate financial and sustainability returns while creating longer-term demand for electric powertrains.
  • Current demand for these technologies is helping to establish installation and service capacity within the commercial vehicle industry. 
  • PHEVs reduce the near-term infrastructure challenge at fleet facilities where vehicles need to plug in overnight. PHEVs (as opposed to their all-electric counterparts) put less stress on a building’s power infrastructure and can help defer costly power system upgrades at the facility until BEVs are added.

An April 10 Forbes piece by Daniel Sperling notes that while sales of BEVs from manufacturers other than Tesla have fallen back to 2015 levels, plug-in hybrids continue to show strong market growth.

Citing usage rates of consumers who own both types of vehicles, he suggests that while some consider plug-in hybrids to be transitional technologies, they are actually better thought of as enabling technologies, encouraging both consumers and fleets to move beyond internal combustion engines at a faster rate. After all, isn’t that the point of the technologies in the first place?

Simply put, HEVs and PHEVs can complement BEVs as part of a comprehensive fleet electrification solution that can be adopted immediately and deployed for decades. They are an accelerating technology designed to help put the transportation industry in position to immediately reduce emissions, provide a financial return and help save the planet. And during an Earth Day week that is taking on a more urgent tone than usual, they may be just what we need to start moving forward more quickly on our climate goals.


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To solve climate change and biodiversity loss, we need a Global Deal for Nature

Earth’s cornucopia of life has evolved over 550 million years. Along the way, five mass extinction events have caused serious setbacks to life on our planet. The fifth, caused by a gargantuan meteorite impact along Mexico’s Yucatan coast, changed Earth’s climate, took out the dinosaurs and altered the course of biological evolution.

Today, nature is suffering accelerating losses so great that many scientists say a sixth mass extinction is underway. Unlike past mass extinctions, this event is driven by human actions that are dismantling and disrupting natural ecosystems and changing Earth’s climate.

My research focuses on ecosystems and climate change from regional to global scales. In a new study titled “A Global Deal for Nature,” led by conservation biologist and strategist Eric Dinerstein, 17 colleagues and I lay out a road map for simultaneously averting a sixth mass extinction and reducing climate change.

We chart a course for immediately protecting at least 30 percent of Earth’s surface to put the brakes on rapid biodiversity loss, then add 20 percent comprising ecosystems that can suck disproportionately large amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere. In our view, biodiversity loss and climate change must be addressed as one interconnected problem with linked solutions.

Let’s make a deal

Our Global Deal for Nature is based on a map of about a thousand “ecoregions” on land and sea, which we delineated based on an internationally growing body of research. Each contains a unique ensemble of species and ecosystems, playing complementary roles in curbing climate change.

Natural ecosystems are like mutual funds in an otherwise volatile stock market. They contain self-regulating webs of organisms that interact. For example, tropical forests contain a kaleidoscope of tree species that are packed together, maximizing carbon storage in wood and soils.

Forests can weather natural disasters and catastrophic disease outbreaks because they are diverse portfolios of biological responses, self-managed by and among co-existing species. It’s hard to crash them if they are left alone to do their thing.

Man-made ecosystems are poor substitutes for their natural counterparts. For example, tree plantations are not forest ecosystems — they are crops of trees that store far less carbon than natural forests, and require much more upkeep. Plantations are also ghost towns compared to the complex biodiversity found in natural forests.

Another important feature of natural ecosystems is that they are connected and influence one another. Consider coral reefs, which are central to the Global Deal for Nature because they store carbon and are hotspots for biodiversity. But that’s not their only value: They also protect coasts from storm surge, supporting inland mangroves and coastal grasslands that are mega-storage vaults for carbon and homes for large numbers of species. If one ecosystem is lost, risk to the others rises dramatically. Connectivity matters.

The idea of conserving large swaths of the planet to preserve biodiversity is not new. Many distinguished experts have endorsed the idea of setting aside half the surface of the Earth to protect biodiversity. The Global Deal for Nature greatly advances this idea by specifying the amounts, places and types of protections needed to get this effort moving in the right direction.

Building on the Paris Agreement

We designed our study to serve as guidance that governments can use in a planning process, similar to the climate change negotiations that led to the 2015 Paris Agreement. The Paris accord, which 197 nations have signed, sets global targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, provides a model for financial assistance to low-income countries and supports local and grassroots efforts worldwide.

But the Paris Agreement does not safeguard the diversity of life on Earth. Without a companion plan, we will lose the wealth of species that have taken millions of years to evolve and accumulate.

In fact, my colleagues and I believe the Paris Agreement cannot be met without simultaneously saving biodiversity. Here’s why: The most logical and cost-effective way to curb greenhouse gas emissions and remove gases from the atmosphere is by storing carbon in natural ecosystems.

Forests, grasslands, peatlands, mangroves and a few other types of ecosystems pull the most carbon from the air per acre of land. Protecting and expanding their range is far more scalable and far less expensive than engineering the climate to slow the pace of warming. And there is no time to lose.

Worth the cost

What would it take to put a Global Deal for Nature into action? Land and marine protection costs money: Our plan would require a budget of some $100 billion per year. This may sound like a lot, but for comparison, Silicon Valley companies earned nearly $60 billion in 2017 just from selling apps. And the distributed cost is well within international reach. Today, however, our global society is spending less than a tenth of that amount to save Earth’s biodiversity.

Nations also will need new technology to assess and monitor progress and put biodiversity-saving actions to the test. Some ingredients needed for a global biodiversity monitoring system are now deployed, such as basic satellites that describe the general locations of forests and reefs. Others are only up and running at regional scales, such as on-the-ground tracking systems to detect animals and the people who poach them, and airborne biodiversity and carbon mapping technologies.

But key components are still missing at the global scale, including technology that can analyze target ecosystems and species from Earth orbit, on high-flying aircraft and in the field to generate real-time knowledge about the changing state of life on our planet. The good news is that this type of technology exists, and could be rapidly scaled up to create the first global nature monitoring program.

Technology is the easier part of the challenge. Organizing human cooperation toward such a broad goal is much harder. But we believe the value of Earth’s biodiversity is far higher than the cost and effort needed to save it.


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HSBC and Walmart launch green finance program to drive carbon cuts in retail supply chain

One of the world’s largest retailers has teamed up with HSBC to launch a new program offering its global suppliers improved financing rates tied to their sustainability performance.

Firms in Walmart’s supply chain that are able to demonstrate progress on cutting carbon emissions will be able to apply for preferential financing packages via the new arrangement with HSBC, Walmart said.

The retailer has promised to cut one gigaton of carbon emissions from its supply chain by 2030, as part of the company’s wider science-based emissions targets, which have been independently judged to be in line with a 2 degrees Celsius trajectory of warming.

Suppliers that participate in Walmart’s Sustainability Index Program, where the environmental impact of an entire product’s lifecycle is assessed and benchmarked, also will be able to access the scheme, Walmart said.

A spokesperson for Walmart said the retailer could not give any detail on Sustainable Supply Chain Finance (SSCF) program’s specific offer for competitive reasons, but insisted the financing package would be an “enticing proposition for suppliers” as long as they can prove their environmental credentials.

The move is part of a growing trend for corporates to use financing rates as leverage to drive progress on sustainability targets, with the likes of Royal DSM, Pearson and Thames Water agreeing loans with interest rates pegged to environmental action in recent months.

Matthew Allen, VP of finance and assistant treasurer at Walmart, said the retailer hopes its offer will “encourage companies throughout the supply chain to focus on sustainability, as we have seen first-hand how this sparks innovation and generates value.”

“Investing in sustainability can not only lead to higher productivity and cost savings for suppliers, but can also drive their business growth as they make a positive contribution to the world,” he added.

Research by consultancy giant McKinsey suggests a typical consumer goods company’s supply chain accounts for more than 80 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions. Natalie Blyth, global head to trade and receivables finance at HSBC, said trade finance therefore has a “vital role” to play in cutting carbon and meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Embedding sustainability in global supply chains is not only beneficial for the environment and society, but also for companies’ bottom lines,” she added.

But slicing one gigaton of emissions from Walmart’s supply chain in little over a decade may be easier said than done. In an update earlier this month Walmart revealed that since the goal’s launch in April 2017 Walmart’s suppliers have conserved 93 million metric tons of emissions through a combination of energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable packaging projects. But to achieve the gigaton goal, this reduction rate needs to rise to 83 million metric tonnes a year, it said.


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It is in investors’ best interest to support the low-carbon transition

Institutional investors of all stripes — from those responsible for paying pensions or endowment grants to those providing wealth management products — collectively manage trillions of dollars globally. They each have varying objectives and portfolio allocations and function within different regulatory requirements and contexts. However, they are typically true long-term investors, allocating across the global economy to deliver returns to members, beneficiaries and stakeholders over multiple years or decades.

Recently, evidence has grown to demonstrate substantial climate-related financial implications for investors. As such, financial regulators are increasingly formalizing the expectation that investors consider the materiality of climate-related risks and manage them as part of their fiduciary duties — particularly for pension funds.

Two key elements necessitate this fiduciary duty alignment: financial materiality and growing legal and regulatory consensus.

Financial materiality

Technology and policy changes will be necessary — and are, to some extent, already underway — to transform the economy away from fossil fuels and mitigate additional temperature increases. This transition necessarily will open up certain companies and industries to increased risk. The financial implications most naturally point to the energy sector, but transformative change invariably will have significant implications for all energy-dependent and high-emitting sectors of the economy.

Physical risk captures the damages that come with temperature increases that we have failed to avoid. The frequency of storms, wildfires and floods will shift, as will the availability of natural resources such as water. The willingness of and ability for society to adapt to these changes is uncertain. Physical damages are expected to negatively affect sectors such as consumer staples and telecoms. Investors with real asset exposures, such as property (held directly or indirectly), will need to increasingly review insurance cover and uninsured loss implications together with additional capital expenditure requirements.

The expected financial materiality of these risks is evidenced in Mercer’s 2015 “Investing in a Time of Climate Change” report and the recently released sequel. It is supported in reports by The Bank of England, the G-20 Financial Stability Board and The Economist Intelligence Unit (PDF), as well as an increasing number of other investment-industry participant reports on recommended actions.

The findings in the sequel report particularly support the view that it is in investors’ best interests — and therefore consistent with fiduciary duty — to actively support the low-carbon transition to avoid scenarios with the worst physical damages, which will have almost entirely negative impacts across sectors and asset classes. Even just through 2030, the portfolios modeled in the sequel (invested across multiple asset classes) could experience additional return impacts of between 0.29 percent per annum and minus-0.08 percent per annum, depending on the scenario and the exposures within equities and infrastructure in particular.

Return impacts, however, are unlikely to be neat and annualized. They are more likely to manifest as a sudden surprise. Stress testing an increased probability of a 2 degrees Celsius scenario or a 4 degrees Celsius scenario with greater market awareness results in between 3 percent and minus-3 percent return impacts in less than a year for these same well-diversified portfolios.

The growing legal and regulatory consensus

As awareness of the financial materiality of climate-related factors has increased, financial regulators in a number of jurisdictions have indicated that many investors will need to consider and manage climate-related risks in order to comply with their existing fiduciary duties.

In the United Kingdom, for example, a 2018 paper (PDF) by law firm Pinsent Masons neatly summarizes the fiduciary duty debate in recent years and how the absence of legislation and case law has led to the focus on financial materiality and fiduciary duty. The paper concludes that “in cases where climate change has the potential to impact on long-term investment performance, pension scheme trustees have a fiduciary duty to consider climate change risk when making their investment decisions.”

The legal argument has been strengthened by recent pension-fund guidance and legislation. Europe, in particular, recognizes the potential for financial materiality and requires climate change to be considered in investment decisions, consistent with the time frames of beneficiaries; for example, the 2016 EU directive (PDF) on institutions for occupational retirement provision and the United Kingdom’s Department for Work and Pensions (PDF).

Regulatory activity also has extended across the Atlantic, with the provincial government in Ontario, Canada, requiring pensions to disclose in their statements of investment policies and procedures whether environmental, social and governance factors are considered and, if so, how. In California, the insurance regulator requires insurers to disclose their fossil fuel-related holdings.

In other countries, particularly in Europe, laws are being changed to explicitly require investors to consider and disclose management of climate change-related risks; for example, the French Energy Transition Law, Article 173. The China Securities and Regulatory Commission issued guidelines (PDF) requiring listed heavy polluters to give more specific information on emissions, with all listed firms to disclose environmental impact information by the end of 2020.

Laws and litigation related to climate change also continue to develop. Litigation is primarily being targeted at companies for failure to mitigate, adapt or disclose, but there are examples of litigation against governments and, most recently, pension funds. ClientEarth, a legal advocacy organization, also has been developing legal challenges against pension funds and investors that fail to consider climate change-related risks.

As signals from regulators become stronger and/or more investors take action, those who fail to consider, manage and disclose their potential portfolio-specific risks may be susceptible to legal challenges in the future.