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Why Apollo 11’s giant leap gives us hope for climate change today

We put a man on the moon – we can solve climate change, argues Simon Kelly of Obliquity Group

Fifty years ago today, Neil Armstrong descended the steps of the lunar module to create the first human imprint on the moon’s surface. To put this achievement into perspective, we had only flown across…

Source: – Business Green
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Government under fire over response to ‘out of date’ toxic furniture standards

parliament

The government says it will provide further detail on proposed changes to regulations at a later date

MPs slam ‘inaction’ from BEIS after it publishes proposed response to consultation it held nearly three years ago

The government has been accused of “inaction and obstruction” for failing to adequately address long-held concerns about toxic chemicals in furniture, after it yesterday set out proposed regulatory changes nearly three years after first publicly consulting on the issue.

In autumn 2016 a consultation was held about changes to the UK Furniture and Furnishings Fire Safety Regulations 1988 which set fire resistance requirements for cover materials and fillings used to make domestic upholstered furniture.

The government said at the time that the Regulations were “out of date, and in some cases represent and unreasonable burden for furniture manufacturers”.

The move had come in response to concerns that potentially toxic chemicals classed as persistent organic pollutants – often used as flame retardants in furniture – are entering people’s homes.

Campaigners and MPs have consistently called for UK flammability standards to be strengthened in line with the rest of the world in order to protect human health.

But despite having received 126 responses to its 2016 consultation, the government only yesterday released its formal response, which includes plans to further review potential changes.

The latest move follows pressure from MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) who released a report on the issue earlier this week slamming the government’s approach to the issue. 

Mary Creagh, chair of the EAC, said it was “astonishing” the government had taken three years to respond to the consultation, and warned that the government’s plan to further review its proposals “means yet more delay in reducing the levels of flame retardants in beds, sofas and babies’ mattresses”.

“Our report on toxic chemicals was clear that the government knew there was a problem with flame retardants in furniture as far back as 2010 which is why it held two consultations to change the regulations in 2014 and 2016,” she said. “Our report spelled out BEIS’ inaction and obstruction and today’s announcement of a third consultation in nine years shows a department in paralysis. Consumers will find the government’s failure to act on these products shocking and inexcusable.”

The response published by BEIS yesterday states that the government now plans to review and further consult on its proposals to update regulations, with a view to developing a “new approach to address the different sources and chemical risks posed by fire to upholstered furniture and furnishings”.

Consistent with the approach taken for other consumer products, the regulatory changes will include new fire safety standards which all new furniture placed on the market must meet, it said.

“We will provide further detail on how the proposals relating to scope, traceability, labelling and enforcement, will be implemented when we are in a position to revise the current Regulations,” the response states.

Source: – Business Green
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Global briefing: New York executes America’s largest offshore wind agreement

New York executes America’s largest offshore wind agreement 

New York State will soon be getting enough offshore wind capacity to power one million homes, after State Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday awarded two major offshore wind contracts. 

The winning bidders to develop the sites off Long Island were Norwegian energy firm Equinor and Sunrise Wind, a joint venture between Orsted and Eversource. 

Together the two schemes will add 1,700MW of green energy capacity to New York State’s grid. The contracts are also expected to kickstart the growth of the offshore wind industry in the US, which has so far lagged behind European markets. 

The news cames as Cuomo also signed into law New York’s legal target for net zero emissions by 2050. “Cries for a new green movement are hollow political rhetoric if not combined with aggressive goals and a realistic plan on how to achieve them,” he said in a statement. “With this agreement, New York will lead the way in developing the largest source of offshore wind power in the nation, and today I will sign the most aggressive climate law in the United States of America. Today we are true to the New York legacy – to lead the way forward, to govern with vision and intelligence, to set a new standard, and to match our words with action.” 

 

Two million without water in Zimbabwe 

Catastrophic drought conditions continue to grip Zimbabwe, with two million residents in Harare and Bulawayo only able to access water once a week. 

The drought has been exacerbated by the lack of funding to buy essential water purifying chemicals, which cost more than $3m a month for the country. 

Water use restrictions have been in place for weeks, and as they drag on there are rising fears of cholera outbreaks and other santitation issues. 

 

China’s GHG emissions up 50 per cent between 2005 and 2014

Official Chinese government data released this week to the UN reveals China’s greenhouse gas emissions hit 12.3 billion tonnes in 2014, up more than 50 per cent in just a decade. 

It is only the third such release of emissions data the Chinese government has made to the UN, with previous inventories submitted for 2005 and 2010. 

Analysis of other government data, however, suggests that since 2014 emissions were static for a couple of years before starting to grow again between 2017 and 2018, mainly due to a spike in activity from coal power plants and heavy industry. 

Under the Paris Agreement China has promised to peak its emissions by 2030, but has indicated it will tighten its ambition in time for the treaty’s entry into force next year. 

 

WWF: Orangutan numbers fall 30 per cent in palm oil regions

Orangutan numbers have fallen as much as 30 per cent in parts of Malaysian forests scattered between palm oil plantations, WWF said this week. 

Although overall orangutan numbers in Malaysia’s eastern state Sabah are stable, in parts of the region where palm oil is grown numbers fell up to 30 per cent between 2002 and 2017, the charity said. “The monoculture nature of oil palm plantations means that they tend not to support species that are dependent on forest environment like the orangutan,” it explained. 

Malaysia is one of the world’s largest producers of palm oil, which is used in countless consumer products, from food to shampoo and candles. 

It is one of the most productive oil crops, so some experts argue boycotting it would simply mean more land would be commandeered for new plantations of other crops. But others insist tough action must be taken on the palm oil industry to prevent more rainforest habitat being destroyed to keep pace with rising demand. 

 

National Grid buys US renewables developer 

National Grid has completed its purchase of US wind and solar developer Geronimo Energy for $100m, it announced this week. 

The deal, completed by its non-regulated competitive arm National Grid Ventures (NGV), sees the firm take control of Geronimo’s 2,200MW portfolio of wind and solar energy projects in America. 

NGV said it has also entered into a joint venture with Washington State Investment Board, which has acquired 379MW of Geronimo’s portfolio. 

“Today’s announcement underscores National Grid’s commitment to the decarbonisation of our energy system,” said Badar Khan, president of National Grid Ventures. “We believe in the long-term growth potential of renewable generation, driven by consumer demand and technological advances.”

 

From 2020 all new houses in Berkeley, CA, must be all-electric

The city council of Berkeley in California this week passed a new law requiring all new-build buildings to be all-electric from January 2020. 

It means that from next year no new gas connections will be made in the city, which boasts a population of around 120,000 people.  

The move garnered broad support from residents and building designers, and according to some reports, was even backed by Pacific Gas & Electric, which said the company does not want to install new gas infrastructure only for it to become a ‘stranded asset’ in the future. 

The city is also thought to be working on a plan to end fossil fuel supply to Berkeley’s existing housing stock. 

 

Saipem eyes floating offshore wind farm in Saudi Arabia

Italian energy contractor Saipem has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Abu Dhabi-based Plambeck Emirates to develop a floating offshore windfarm in Saudi waters. 

The plan is to develop a 500MW floating wind farm as part of Saudi Arabia’s 5GW ‘wind market’ concept, Plambeck Emirates said. No timeline for the scheme was released.

Source: – Business Green
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Michael Gove: Government action on climate change has not been good enough

The next Prime Minister’s ‘single greatest responsibility’ will be addressing the climate and environment emergency, Environment Secretary warns

Action from government to tackle the climate emergency has to date not been good enough, Michael Gove has conceded, as the Environment Secretary claimed he felt greater affinity on the issue with Greta Thunberg than “many of the people I sit alongside in the House of Commons”.

Speaking before an audience of green campaigners, policy makers, and business figures last night at an event hosted by think tank Green Alliance, Gove called on the next Prime Minister to take strong, urgent action to address the climate emergency.

He compared the ideals of young people in the 1960s and the wider civil rights movement to School Strikes for Climate activists and Extinction Rebellion protestors, who he credited with helping to turn climate change into a mainstream political issue over the past year.

Environmental justice, Gove said, was “inspiring young people to raise their voices, and to reproach my generation, for not having done enough”.

“It’s uncomfortable sometimes to hear a 16-year-old like Greta Thunberg speak more sense on the need to act in order to deal with the climate emergency than many of the people who I sit alongside in the House of Commons,” Gove added.

He went on to stress that while “there are aspects” of what Extinction Rebellion say which he did not agree with, he understood the concern over climate action that drives the protestors.

“It’s tough, because at the heart of what they’re doing is saying: ‘You haven’t done enough. You’ve been in power. You’ve had influence. You told us that you were going to discharge your responsibilities in the public interest. But it’s just not good enough yet,'” Gove said. “And I have to confess that it hasn’t been.”

Heaping pressure on the next government, of which it is not yet known whether Gove will be a member, the Environment Secretary said that over the past two years there had been a significant rise in public expectation “that politicians will at last live up to their responsibilities on the environment”.

“The evidence is there in accumulating examples, with force that nobody can deny, and in a way that requires us to take action,” he said. “If we don’t act now, the situation in every respect only get worse.”

With the UK having just enshrined a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050 in law, the next government is under significant pressure to quickly set out a policy platform for how it intends to meet the goal, including in difficult areas such as home heating, carbon capture and storage, and personal choices over diets and flying.

Last night’s comments follow a major set-piece speech from the Environment Secretary earlier this week, in which he set out a wide-ranging series of policy plans for the next year including proposals to strengthen post-Brexit environmental governance and introduce new waste measures and air quality rules.

Speaking last night, Gove said he was “under few illusions about how big a change we need to make”, acknowledging calls to eat less meat, fly less and plant more trees. And he compared the required transformation of the economy and society with that achieved during and immediately after World War Two.

“So there are challenges aplenty,” he said. “I don’t know, in a week’s time, who will be your Secretary of State, but the one thing that I do know is that whoever your Prime Minister is, I will be joining you in making sure they recognise that their single greatest responsibility – of course we must secure a good Brexit deal, and of course yes we must ensure that social justice is achieved more effectively – but the single greatest challenge that we face in the next 18 months is making sure that the climate and environment emergency… is addressed with the force, passion, and determination that it deserves.”

Gove’s comments came as further evidence emerged detailing the collapse in the installation rate for domestic energy efficiency upgrades overseen by the government over the past five years.

A report released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) yesterday reveals the number of energy efficiency upgrades to households – including measures such loft insulation or boiler improvements – has fallen by a dramatic 85 per cent since 2014.

Around 10,000 home retrofit upgrades were recorded each month on average in the UK during the first six months of this year, compared to the monthly average of 65,000 during the same period in 2014, the data shows. During the first half of both 2015 and 2016, meanwhile, the average monthly number of installations was around 30,000.

The current rate of installations is therefore far behind the 1.2 million homes needing upgrades each year to reach government targets.

The government has stressed that its ambition is for all homes to reach an energy efficiency EPC rating of Band C by 2035, and it recently announced a £5m fund to explore innovative way of financing energy efficiency upgrades, such as through green mortgages.

But Ed Matthew, associate director at climate think tank E3G, stressed that major public investment in cutting energy waste was “more than affordable”.

“The government has a choice. They either prioritise infrastructure spending on high carbon projects or they filter this spending through the lens of net-zero,” he said. “And that means prioritising infrastructure spending on helping us all to de-carbonise our homes.”

The new data follows a damning report on the government’s energy efficiency record just last week from the BEIS select committee of MPs, which warned the UK “stands no chance” of slashing greenhouse gas emissions in line with its recently adopted net zero by 2050 target unless drastic action is taken to improve the energy productivity of homes and buildings.

That report found the rate of energy efficiency installations in UK homes has plummeted by 95 per cent since 2012, leading BEIS committee chair Rachel Reeves to accuse minister of “continuing to sit on their hands” on the issue.

BEIS was considering a request for comment at the time of going to press.

Recent speculation suggested new proposals to improve domestic energy efficiency were likely to be included in an Energy White Paper that was reportedly slated to launch this week. But a late row between BEIS and the Treasury over whether key decisions on the plans should be left to the next Prime Minister appear to have delayed the launch of plans, which also included measures to mobilise investment in new nuclear and carbon capture projects.

Speaking to the BEIS committee earlier this week, Acting Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore would only say the whitepaper is expected to be published this summer. 

Source: – Business Green
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It is time for the Treasury to put climate change at the heart of its mission

E3G’s Ed Matthew argues the UK’s plummeting domestic energy efficiency installation rates can be reversed, but only if a serious Treasury rethink is undertaken

In a historic move, the UK became the first major economy in the world last month to set a net zero target in legislation.
Yet the scale of the challenge ahead was set out in stark relief last week…

Source: – Business Green
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TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky on the new reusability ecosystem

Circular delivery models will require not just innovation in packaging but a reimagination of supply chains, partnerships and the consumer experience. Tom Szaky discusses a groundbreaking new approach to reusing packaging at scale and how large consumer product companies, retailers and TerraCycle are partnering to enable a durable supply chain while maintaining affordability and convenience, and improving the customer experience. From Circularity 19. 

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Lynn Hoffman and Kate Davenport: The role of recycling in a regenerative and just economy

Is recycling broken? Dead? Worth it? The co-presidents of a local non-profit social enterprise recycler explain their vision for the evolution of recycling and key role it can play in stabilizing the climate, creating strong local economies, and supporting healthy communities. Recycling may need some attention, but wasting is our crisis. From Circularity 19.

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Episode 180: Moonshots and a new operating manual for spaceship Earth, a redesign for circular jeans

Week in Review

Tune in around 7:23  for commentary

  1. Shareable scooters may seem sustainable, but are they really?
  2. Why directors are in the crosshairs of corporate climate litigation
  3. How Stanley Black & Decker is using the SDGs to grow a “new-collar” workforce

Features

The Buckminster Fuller Institute’s Amanda Ravenhill on planetary boundaries (17:23)

Amanda Ravenhill previously held the role of executive director of Project Drawdown, a comprehensive plan to reverse global warming, and now serves as executive director of the Buckminster Fuller Institute. She came to the podcast to talk about the work that must be done to make sure that the “Spaceship Earth” we’re all riding is on the correct course. As climate change and overconsumption threaten the world as we know it, we must ensure that we keep our resource use within planetary boundaries.

Are circular jeans in our genes? (29:07)

In 2018, the international jeans market ballooned to $57 billion, with almost 2 billion pairs sold per year. How do we ensure that market is sustainable? The Jeans Redesign Guidelines are a new set of guidelines put out by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the pioneering organization of the circular economy. On the podcast this week is Francois Souchet, who leads the “Make Fashion Circular” Initiative there, and came to talk about the project. The new set of guidelines focuses on garment durability, material health, recyclability and traceability.

The Emerging Leaders scholarship for GreenBiz events (35:29)

The Emerging Leaders scholarship program brought to students and young professionals by GreenBiz Group is in its third year. The program is the opportunity for young people passionate about sustainability to attend GreenBiz’s conferences, all-expenses-paid, and to engage with the corporate sustainability community. Tune in for a conversation with associate editor Holly Secon, who runs the scholarship, to hear more about it; she says: “Students that wouldn’t otherwise be able to meet up with those deep in the corporate sustainability network are able to meet, including having some one-on-one time, to foster career connections and opportunities.”

*All music in this episode by Lee Rosevere: “Try Anything Once,” “Wandering,” “Evening Glow,” “Start the Day” and “Credit Roll.”

What’s new at GreenBiz?

Know someone on the cutting edge? Nominations are officially open for the second VERGE Vanguard feature. If you know an individual who has demonstrated particular leadership in catalyzing the clean economy or a cleantech sector, nominate them! We’re looking for 20 individuals who are: 

  • inspiring an equitable, inclusive transition to a clean power grid;
  • laying the roadmap for a zero-emissions transportation system;
  • enabling communities and companies around the world to draw down levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide; and (of course!)
  • creating the framework for a more circular economy.

Do we have a newsletter for you! We produce five weekly newsletters: GreenBuzz by Executive Editor Joel Makower (Monday), Transport Weekly by Senior Writer and Analyst Katie Fehrenbacher (Tuesday), VERGE Weekly by Executive Director Shana Rappaport and Editorial Director Heather Clancy (Wednesday), Energy Weekly by Senior Energy Analyst Sarah Golden (Thursday) and Circular Weekly by Director and Senior Analyst Lauren Phipps (Friday). You must subscribe to each newsletter in order to receive it. Please visit this page to choose the newsletters you want to receive.

Check out our Center Stage podcast, which features the best of live interviews on sustainable business and clean technology, conducted on stage at GreenBiz and VERGE conferences.

The GreenBiz Intelligence Panel is the survey body we poll regularly throughout the year on key trends and developments in sustainability. To become part of the panel, click here. Enrolling is free and should take two minutes.

Stay connected

To make sure you don’t miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes. Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at [email protected].

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Let’s talk about Renewable Energy Certificates … for natural gas

This article is adapted from the Energy Weekly newsletter, running Thursdays. Subscribe here

Since Renewable Energy Certificates, or RECs, came onto the scene in the early 2000s, they’ve become one of the go-to instruments for companies to procure clean energy. The concept is simple: RECs are a certificate that verifies clean energy has been created. A company can buy that credit to offset any fossil-fuel energy it uses and, at least on paper, becoming an organization powered by clean energy. 

Say what you will about RECs, but they did something remarkable: They added value to clean energy, which at the time was quite expensive. Suddenly, clean energy had two value streams: the electricity and the environmental benefit. 

As a result, more clean energy went onto the grid and the cost of renewables fell. Fast-forward almost 20 years, and renewables are cheaper than fossil-fuel energy. 

What if there were a similar program for renewable natural gas?

The Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System (M-RETS) wants to do the same thing for renewable natural gas (RNG), a.k.a. biogas, that RECs did for renewable energy. 

Similar to RECs, the idea would be to ensure that biogas comes from a renewable source and allow customers to pay to offset their fossil-fuel gasconsumption. Proponents of the trading scheme say the system will help avoid fraud in the renewable natural gas market. 

But there is a major difference between the potential for RNG and renewables

Unlike renewable energy, renewable natural gas is finite. It does not scale like renewable electricity. And many sectors are vying for its low-carbon benefits.

RNG is created by capturing biomethane — from sources such as agricultural waste and landfills — and processing it into a fuel source. But there’s a finite amount of biomethane and, in a perfect world, we would be reducing the amount of waste we make in the first place. 

By some calculations, all of the RNG resources in the United States would be able to meet only about a third of the current gas demands for California alone, even when factoring in energy efficiency. In other words, it isn’t feasible to swap out natural gas with RNG one-for-one at scale. 

How can we responsibly use renewable natural gas

Everyone agrees it’s a good thing to capture the methane that otherwise would be an air pollutant. But what application is the best use for RNG’s decarbonization benefits? In my view, the best use of RNG are the applications that are hardest to electrify. Here’s a look at the three sectors working hard to capture the RNG market.

Commercial and industrial manufacturers

For a corporate customer, an RNG market has some nifty implications.

RNG has the potential to decarbonize thermal energy, a term that refers to both industrial processes and the energy used for the heating and cooling of buildings. Currently, thermal energy is overwhelmingly powered by fossil fuel sources, with no viable renewable alternatives. That makes deep-decarbonization goals difficult to reach. Some estimates peg thermal loads as responsible for 39 percent of energy-related emissions worldwide. Offsetting them is a heavy lift.

Companies are starting to catch on. L’Oreal, for example, announced that it plans to achieve carbon neutrality this year for its 21 U.S. manufacturing facilities through RNG. Cargill is similarly investing in RNG to offset some of its natural gas needs. 

The ability to buy RNG credits could help make clear that corporates are clamoring for more renewable thermal energy solutions. There already is a Renewable Thermal Collaborative, a group of companies that want more options for renewable thermal energy. RNG credits may offer a bridge to other market-ready solutions. 

Transportation fuels

According to one seller of RNG, “Renewable natural gas can be used in nearly every application that gasoline and diesel vehicles can be. … Operationally, there is no limit.”

That’s a big claim. And California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), a market-based system that incentivizes cleaner fuels, credits fuels with lower carbon intensity. RNG, which technically has a negative carbon intensity, is considered among the cleanest fuel options around. That means there’s a big market for RNG as a transportation fuel in California, as producers can cash in on the LCFS credits

It’s smart business for RNG producers, and it helps California meet its climate goals. It makes sense why energy giants such as Chevron want it. But given the finite resources, it isn’t a silver bullet. Analysis shows that no single industry can rely entirely on RNG to run its transportation fleets. 

Meanwhile, the lure of the LCFS risks zapping RNG resources from other uses. 

Utility programs 

Gas companies are looking to offer RNG to customers at a premium to offset their conventional natural gas consumption. 

One program that has gotten a lot of press is SoCalGas’s RNG tariff. The company has invested in reports (PDF) and ad campaigns to show RNG can help put the company in line with California’s 2030 carbon-reduction goal (although not its 2045 goal). 

However, much of what consumers use natural gas for already has excellent electrification alternatives, making utility RNG programs more about the survival of natural gas companies than about a path to meet climate goals. 

At the end of the day, the limited supply of biomethane means no single sector can rely on RNG as a holistic solution. So, the search for clean energy innovations continues, and interest in RNG should be viewed as a signal that customers will be hungry for affordable solutions when they arrive.

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Cascade and Tide join Loop packaging re-use scheme

Cascade’s new reusable packaging for Loop

Two of America’s best-known detergent brands will now be available to US customers in reusable packaging

US detergent brands Cascade and Tide have joined circular shopping system Loop, with customers in America now able to buy the products in reusable packaging.

The scheme, run by recycling specialists TerraCycle, enables customers to buy everyday products in durable packaging that can be cleaned, collected, refilled, and reused.

Cascade and Tide are both owned by Procter & Gamble, which is one of the major consumer goods companies backing Loop alongside Nestle, PepsiCo, Unilever, Mars Petcare, The Body Shop, Coca-Cola European Partners, and Mondelēz International.

Tide’s laundry detergent will be delivered to Loop customers in a stainless steel bottle with a twist cap, while Cascade detergent will be delivered in a stainless steel plastic cup.

Loop orders are delivered in a shipping tote bag, with deposits taken for the refillable containers. Once consumers are finished with the containers, they place them back into the tote and use the online platform to schedule a pick-up from their home. Loop then uses specialist technology to clean the packaging so it can be safely reused. 

Pilot programmes for the innovative scheme have been running since May in Paris and America. The US pilot, which has retailers Krogers and Walgreens on board, was this week extended to Maryland, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

Further reading

Source: – Business Green
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