California Communities File Suits Over Climate Change

Coastal Communities Suing Fossil Fuel Companies

Three California communities are suing 37 of the world’s largest oil, gas and coal companies for knowingly contributing to climate change.

San Mateo and Marin counties, as well as the city of Imperial Beach, have filed suit against companies like Exxon, Shell, and Chevron, which they claim produced roughly 20 percent of all greenhouse emissions between 1965 and 2015.

The communities are now seeking relief from the costs of climate change, which include rising sea levels and carbon dioxide pollution.

climate change policy

“As a low-income coastal community, we have no capacity to pay for the adaptation measures needed to protect ourselves from these impacts,” Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said. “It is unfair to force citizens, business owners and taxpayers to fend for ourselves when the source of the problem is so clear.”

Marin County, meanwhile, argues that the effects of flooding caused by climate change will cost the community upwards of $15.5 billion (£11.9 billion) in the next 15 years alone.

The communities further claim that the companies knew about the effects of climate change for at least 50 years, but failed to act. The companies, they allege, took steps to secure their own assets, but did nothing to warn the larger community.

Previous investigations have claimed that Exxon Mobil sat on findings from one of their senior scientists about the effects of climate change, starting as early as 1977. Exxon claims they never sought to hide these findings.

A spokeswoman for Shell told The Guardian that the company believes climate change is a “complex societal challenge that should be addressed through sound government policy and cultural change … not by the courts”. A spokesman for Statoil pointed out that previous, similar cases had been dismissed for being outside the scope of the judiciary.

Similar complaints have seen some success against the tobacco industry, after local governments sued cigarette manufacturers for health-related expenses. The most prominent of these claims was settled outside of court, for a substantial sum.

According to Columbia Law Professor Michael Burger, however, causation may be more difficult to prove in the case of climate change.

air pollution and climate change

“Proving that these particular emissions that came from these fossil fuel companies led to this particular level of sea level rise and contribute X amount to harms that have happened or will happen – that’s a long chain of causation,” Mr Burger told Insideclimate News.

“There are a number of significant legal hurdles,” he added.

Climate News

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Trump Sparks More Support For Climate Change Policies

U.S. President Trumped By Public Opinion, Political Support

As U.S. President Trump breaks the U.S. commitment to the Paris Agreement On Climate Change, grassroots support is rising up.

Nearly 70 percent of Americans, including a majority of people in all 50 states, support the Paris Agreement on climate change. The global climate deal, struck in late 2015, was a historic moment. Trump’s declaration to join Nicaragua and Syria outside the largely symbolic deal is also historic.

The United States Climate Alliance will carry the flag for America in Trump’s absence. The Alliance is a bipartisan group of states in the United States that are committed to upholding the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change within their borders, by achieving the U.S. goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions 26–28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025 and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.

climate change and extreme weather

With input from all participants, the U.S. Climate Alliance will act as a forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices, and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy.

“Those of us who understand science and feel the urgency of protecting our children’s air and water are as united as ever in confronting one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Our collective efforts to act on climate will ensure we maintain the United State’s commitment to curb carbon pollution while advancing a clean energy economy that will bring good-paying jobs to America’s workers.”

The alliance was formed on June 1, 2017, in response to the announcement earlier that day by U.S. President Donald Trump that he had decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. formed the Alliance to convene U.S. states committed to achieving the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.

The formation of the alliance was thereupon announced by three state governors: Jay Inslee of Washington, Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Jerry Brown of California. The association is not a legally binding treaty, but a group of state governments with similar policies regarding climate change.

Jerry Brown California water conservation

A press statement released by Inslee states that “New York, California and Washington, representing over one-fifth of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, are committed to achieving the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26–28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.” These three states are governed by the Democratic Party, although both New York’s and California’s governorship will be on the ballot in the United States gubernatorial elections, 2018. By the evening of June 1 the state governors of seven other U.S. states had agreed to maintain their states’ support for the Paris Agreement.

On June 2, Governor Dan Malloy announced that Connecticut would join the United States Climate Alliance. On the same day, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker became the first Republican governor to bring his state into the alliance. Governor Phil Scott of Vermont, another Republican, said his state would join. Governor Gina Raimondo said Rhode Island would also join. Governor Kate Brown said that Oregon would join. Governor David Y. Ige of Hawaii announced that Hawaii would also join, making them the 9th state in the Alliance.

On June 5, Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia would join the US Climate alliance. However, the Virginia Governorship is on the ballot in November of 2017. Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Governor John C Carney Jr of Delaware, and Governor Ricky Roselló of Puerto Rico also joined the alliance.

The member states, which make up 31.4 percent of the U.S. population and 36.3 perent of U.S. GDP as of 2016, emitted 18.1 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2014.

In addition, governors, mayors, businesses, investors, and colleges and universities from across the U.S. or with significant operations in the U.S said they would continue to uphold the tenets of the non-binding international agreement, according to a new consortium, We Are Still In.

Mayors, city councils, tribal groups and more progressive business leaders are responsibly stepping up to fill the leadership void. More than 1,000 state and city government officials and business and university leaders on Monday vowed to follow through on the goals outlined by the Paris climate change agreement, calling out President Donald Trump and his move last week to yank the U.S. from the landmark deal.

A coalition that includes nine U.S. states, more than 200 mayors and more than 20 Fortune 500 companies said in a so-called “letter to the international community” that it would work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

eiffel tower wind energy generator

Officially named We Are Still In the pledge has been signed by 1,370 businesses and investors (along with 9 states, 275 colleges and universities, and 178 cities and counties), and the list is still growing. Of the 1,370 businesses involved in We Are Still In, thirty-five of those are apparel brands like Under Armour, Nike, Adidas, Gap, Levi’s.

Indian tribes and indigenous organizations have pledged to honor the commitments of the Paris Climate Accord in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal, as have dozens of cities and states. Hawaii became the first state to pass laws supporting the agreement as Gov. David Ige signed two bills designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s (Tlingit & Haida) Executive Council issued a call to action to support the Paris Climate Change Accord. They were joined by three tribes, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), among others.

“As Indigenous Peoples, we have a responsibility to protect traditional homelands which are inherently connected to our cultural languages and identities,” declared a statement issued by the Tlingit & Haida along with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Quinault Indian Nation and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.

“Alaska tribal governments are living with the early but significant effects of climate change,” said council President Richard Peterson in the statement. “Our traditional knowledge learned over millennia within our aboriginal lands leaves us with no doubt that immediate action to reduce the impacts of climate change is our duty as sovereign indigenous governments. As such, we will seek to participate in the Paris Agreement.”

In response to the U.S. pullout, the indigenous leaders said they would “aggressively address climate change” in their respective homelands and communities. NCAI and NARF also said they “remain firmly committed to representing and advancing Indigenous Peoples’ interests in the ongoing process of implementing the Agreement.”

“We will work to ensure that all parties respect, promote, and consider Indigenous Peoples’ rights in all climate change actions, as is required by the Paris Agreement,” said NARF Executive Director John Echohawk in a statement.

Indigenous communities worldwide are at the forefront in feeling the effects of climate change. The Native Alaska village of Kivalina is nearly underwater, and in 2016 the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw in Louisiana became the first official climate refugees when they were given $48 million by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to move inland.

The Quinault Indian Nation has seen the encroachment of the ocean on the Lower Village of Tahola, the tribe said in a statement, and glaciers on the Olympic Peninsula are melting.

A federal judge has denied the Trump administration’s appeal in a climate change lawsuit, paving the way for the unprecedented suit to go to trial.

global warming solution

Meanwhile, the case — Juliana v. United States — pits a group of youth climate plaintiffs against the federal government and the fossil fuel industry. The plaintiffs allege that the federal government, through its actions and coordination with the fossil fuel industry, have violated their constitutional right to a livable climate. It is the first climate lawsuit to rely on a version of the public trust doctrine — known as atmospheric trust — to make its case, and adds to a growing number of attempts to force climate action through the judicial branch.

The lawsuit was initially filed in August of 2015, against the Obama administration. The Obama administration, as well as three fossil fuel industry groups as intervenors, all filed motions to have the lawsuit dismissed, which was denied in November by U.S. Federal Judge Ann Aiken. In February, after President Donald Trump was sworn in, the youth plaintiffs filed notice with the court that they would be replacing Obama with Trump.

They will seek to prove that the United States government has taken action to harm their right to a livable climate. They will also argue that the government has failed to protect commonly held elements, like the atmosphere, in good condition for future generations — a legal doctrine known as the public trust. The plaintiffs will then ask for science-based climate action by the federal government.

“The more evidence we gather for our case, the more I realize how decisively we can win at trial,” Alex Loznak, a 20-year old youth plaintiff from Oregon, said in a statement. “It’s no wonder the Trump administration wants to avoid the trial by seeking an unwarranted, premature appeal. Today’s ruling brings us one step closer to trial and to winning our lawsuit.”

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Crossbow Communications is an international marketing and public affairs firm. It specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting sustainable, resilient and livable cities. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com to join our network.

Bloomberg Urges Leaders To Ignore Trump’s Climate Commentary

Climate Solutions Found Outside Of Washington, DC

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing foreign leaders not to follow President Trump’s lead on climate change.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Bloomberg said other countries should continue pursuing the goals laid out in the international Paris climate accord, regardless of whether Trump pulls the U.S. out of the pact, something the White House is still considering.

“Washington won’t determine the fate of our ability to meet our Paris commitment,” Bloomberg, who in 2014 was appointed a United Nations special envoy on climate change, told the AP.

“And what a tragedy it would be if the failure to understand led to an unraveling of the agreement. We hope this book will help to correct that wrong impression — and help save the Paris deal.”

Michael Bloomberg climate change

 

Bloomberg and former Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope are releasing a book about climate change, which he said is not a political statement but rather a way to urge citizens and policymakers to focus more on the environment.

He said there was no political motive tied to his new book, “Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet,” co-authored by former Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope.

“I’m not running for office,” Bloomberg told the Associated Press. The 75-year-old billionaire, who has championed liberal causes despite his political independence, repeatedly mulled presidential runs during his tenure as New York’s mayor.

Instead of helping to re-ignite his political career, he said the new book offered a specific policy objective: To help save an international agreement, negotiated in Paris, to reduce global carbon emissions.

The Trump administration is debating whether to abandon the pact as the president promised during his campaign. Under the agreement, the U.S. pledged that by 2025 it would reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels, which would be a reduction of about 1.6 billion tons.

Bloomberg said he believed the U.S. would hit that goal regardless of what Trump does because of leadership at the state level and market forces already at play in the private sector.

greenhouse gas and climate change

“Washington won’t determine the fate of our ability to meet our Paris commitment,” he said in an email Saturday to the AP. “And what a tragedy it would be if the failure to understand that led to an unraveling of the agreement. We hope this book will help to correct that wrong impression – and help save the Paris deal.”

Bloomberg already plays a significant role in shaping some of the nation’s fiercest policy debates, having invested millions of dollars in one advocacy group that pushes for stronger gun control and another that promotes liberal immigration policies. In the new book, which follows what a spokeswoman described as $80 million in donations to the Sierra Club in recent years, the New York businessman solidifies his status as a prominent climate change advocate as well.

His policy repertoire aligns him with core values of the Democratic Party, although the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned independent has no formal political affiliation.

In the interview, Bloomberg shrugged off conservatives who condemn him as a paternalistic New York elitist. He noted that policies he helped initiate in New York City – including a smoking ban and high taxes on sugary drinks – have eventually caught on elsewhere.

climate change and extreme weather

 

“My goal has been to save and improve lives,” he said. “Some ways of doing that can be controversial at first, but end up being highly popular and successful.”

Bloomberg’s book reportedly takes aim at the coal sector, of which he writes, “I don’t have much sympathy for industries whose products leave behind a trail of diseased and dead bodies … for everyone’s sake, we should aim to put them out of business.”

Bloomberg told the AP he will donate $3 million to groups that help out-of-work coal miners find jobs and distressed coal country communities revive their local economies.

He avoided condemning the Trump administration directly, however, largely casting the new president’s steps on climate change as irrelevant. The White House declined to comment when asked about Bloomberg’s statements.

“As it turns out, Trump’s election makes the book’s message – that the most important solutions lie outside of Washington – even more important and urgent,” Bloomberg said.

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Singapore Choking On Air Pollution From Indonesia

Singapore Pays Price For Bungle In Indonesia’s Jungles

Illegal burning of Indonesian rainforest to make room for palm and paper plantations has left neighboring countries choking on smoke. Many hope the latest crisis will lead to stricter policies.

More than a month after uncontrollable wildfires were kindled in Indonesian rainforests to make room for palm and paper plantations, a blanket of smog is choking the region, including the country’s neighbors of Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.

The dense cloud of smoke has closed schools, canceled major events, grounded flights, and driven thousands of people to doctors.

Though this is regular occurrence, thanks to paper and palm oil companies that illegally burn down Indonesian rainforest to make room for farmland, this year’s fire is particularly devastating, having reached crisis levels, according to the World Resources Institute. Largely this is due to El Niño-induced drought helping the unrelenting fire spread through Sumatran peatland.

Environmental and public-health advocates from Singapore, Malaysia, and around the world have been sternly calling on the Indonesian government to strengthen its policies on forest fires, pressuring it in September to ratify a 13-year-old regional agreement on cross-border haze.

Deforestation and climate change

“Indonesia has already carried out operations for the prevention, mitigation of forest fires and haze, and recovery activities, at the national level,” the country’s parliament said in a statement. “But, to handle cross-border pollution, Indonesia and other Asian nations recognize that prevention and mitigation need to be done together,” it said.

The “together” part might be key, as Greenpeace points out that companies that own plantations on Indonesian islands are not necessarily Indonesian.

“Of course all the fires are coming from Indonesia, but Singapore is enjoying the ‘deforestation economy’ of Indonesia as a financial center,” Bustar Maitar, head of Indonesia Forest Campaign at Greenpeace International told the Times. “And there are many Malaysian palm oil companies operating in Indonesia, and Singaporean companies are there as well,” he pointed out.

Perhaps the latest bout of fires is a tipping point for the southeast-Asian countries. On Wednesday, reports the Times, Singapore’s largest grocery chain, NTUC FairPrice, stopped selling paper products sourced from one of the world’s largest paper and pulp companies: Indonesia’s Asia Pulp and Paper Group.

Singapore last month passed a bill allowing it to fine companies up to $1.6 million for causing or contributing to haze, the Guardian reported, regardless of whether they have an office in the country.

For its part, Indonesia arrested seven people last month whose companies are suspected of starting the fires. They could face 15 years in jail and heavy fines for breaking Indonesian laws that ban starting forest fires.

Air Pollution News via http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2015/1008/Why-is-Singapore-covered-in-smoke-and-what-can-be-done-about-it-video

Major US Banks Urge Global Leaders To Tackle Climate Change

Global Warming Threatens Business As Usual

Six major U.S. banks are urging world leaders to adopt a strong agreement to slash carbon emissions and tackle climate change. The coalition warned in a letter Monday that warming global temperatures and related effects, including sea level rise and severe drought, threaten to upend the global economy and jeopardize future prosperity.

trees a climate change solution

Their message targeted the heads of state and diplomats gathered in New York Monday for the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Climate change is one of the top subjects on the agenda, along with Syria’s civil war, the refugee crisis and the Iran nuclear accord. The U.N. is spearheading negotiations to forge a 195-country climate accord in Paris this December.

Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo called on negotiators to adopt policies that “recognize the cost of carbon” and help “provide greater market certainty, accelerate investment, drive innovation in low carbon energy, and create jobs,” according to the letter published by Ceres, a sustainability advocacy organization.

The banks noted that investments in global energy, water, transportation and urban infrastructure systems are projected to total $90 trillion over the next 15 years — a sum that could include funding for low-carbon alternatives given the right policy signals, according to a 2014 report by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, an initiative chaired by former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

“Businesses across the spectrum are evaluating the risks and opportunities associated with a changing climate,” Mary Wenzel, head of environmental affairs at Wells Fargo, said in a statement. “Strong, long-term policy frameworks can provide the business certainty needed to accelerate innovation and investment.”

climate change negotiations in Lima, Peru

The banks’ statement did not explicitly call for a price on carbon dioxide emissions, which proponents say would make it more expensive to burn coal, oil and natural gas and encourage greater investment solar and wind power, electric vehicles, biofuels and other clean energy alternatives. But some financial leaders, including the World Bank, a U.N. financial institution, have repeatedly urged policymakers to put an outright tax on carbon emissions or adopt a cap-and-trade system. China last week announced it would launch the world’s largest cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions from its steel, cement, paper and electric power sectors.

A carbon price is “the most powerful move that a government can make in the fight against climate change and the reengineering of the economy,” Rachel Kyte, a special envoy for climate change at the World Bank, said a year ago at the 2014 Climate Week NYC, an annual forum to promote the business case for a low-carbon economy.

Climate Change Solutions via http://www.ibtimes.com/six-major-us-banks-urge-global-leaders-adopt-climate-change-agreement-2116755

Chicago Hosting Conference For Greener Airports

Sustainability Initiatives Transforming Air Transportation

The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA), in partnership with the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), is pleased to announce its 8th Annual Airports Going Green Conference to be held October 26-28, 2015 at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza River North in downtown Chicago.

sustainable airport strategy

The Airports Going Green Conference is the largest aviation sustainability forum, bringing together sustainability leaders, experts, and innovators from around the world.  More than 400 attendees from 11 different countries participated in last year’s Conference.  There were 30-plus airports represented, including small, medium, and large hub airports.

Airports Going Green creates an atmosphere that advances federal, regional, and educational partnerships. The Conference provides an opportunity to share best practices and lessons learned across the aviation industry with stakeholders in the U.S. and around the world including airports, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), airlines, concessions and tenants, consultants, construction managers, governmental agencies, and others.

The 2014 Conference featured more than 20 sessions, 70 speakers, 40 sponsors, 20 exhibitors, and 10 local businesses. Highlights included a “Sustainable Fabrics Fashion Show” featuring recycled airline seat fabric, the industry’s first and only “zero waste” conference, more than $38,000 donated to the Airports Going Green Sustainability Education Fund, a sustainable foods happy hour, the Airports Going Green Awards, and an electric vehicle test drive on future O’Hare Runway 10R-28L.

The CDA is also pleased to announce that United Airlines has agreed to be the Presenting Sponsor of the Conference. United is a longstanding sponsor and supporter of the Conference. Last year, United donated airline seat fabric used by the Fashion Studies Department at Columbia College Chicago to create fashion designs for the 2014 “Sustainable Fabrics Fashion Show.” United staff also participated on a panel describing their weather resiliency planning and future aviation sustainability considerations.

United Airlines’ Eco-Skies program affirms its commitment to operating sustainability. As a founding member of the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative (MASBI), United is continually working to support aviation biofuels and to improve aircraft fuel efficiency. For its efforts in this area, the airline received the World Bio Markets Award for Excellence in Advanced Biofuels on March 2, 2015.  It was also awarded the Global Business Travel Association Foundation’s Sustainability Outstanding Achievement Award in 2014; was named Air Transport World magazine’s Eco-Aviation Airline of the Year Gold Winner in 2013; and was awarded an Airports Going Green Award in 2011.

Visit www.airportsgoinggreen.org for more information.

U.N. Leaders Join Pope Francis To Build Momentum For Climate Action

Vatican Supports Climate Science, Policies

For a 2,000-year-old institution hardly known for its mutability, there was a sense of urgency at the Vatican on Tuesday when scientists, diplomats and religious and political leaders discussed climate change and its impact on the world’s poor.

“We are the first generation that can end poverty, and the last generation that can avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” Secretary GeneralBan Ki-moon of the United Nations said at an international symposium on climate change organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The event presaged a keenly anticipated papal letter on the environment that Pope Francis is expected to issue in June.

Pope Francis and climate change

Mr. Ban met with the pope ahead of the one-day conference here and told reporters afterward that the pope’s message in his scheduled papal teaching, known as an encyclical, would come at “a critical time,” one that “demanded a collective action.”

“Climate change is approaching much faster than one may think,” he said.

In September, the pope is scheduled to address Congress, as well as a United Nations summit meeting on sustainable development, where he is expected to reiterate his environmental message. The pope has said that climate change is “mostly” a result of human activity.

“I count on his moral voice, his moral leadership,” said Mr. Ban, who is leading efforts to come to an agreement on limiting human contributions to global warming, which will be discussed at a climate summit meeting in Paris in December.

Representatives of different religions spoke at the symposium, and a statement approved Tuesday by the participants underscored their environmental concerns: “These traditions all affirm the inherent dignity of every individual linked to the common good of all humanity. They affirm the beauty, wonder, and inherent goodness of the natural world, and appreciate that it is a precious gift entrusted to our common care, making it our moral duty to respect rather than ravage the garden that is our home,” the statement read.

“Let the world know that there is no divide whatsoever between religion and science on the issue of climate change,” Mr. Ban told the assembly.

Pope Francis is not the first pope to address environmental issues, but his encyclical is expected to be the most comprehensive Vatican document so far on the links between sustainable development, concern for the poor and care of the planet.

Some critics of restrictions on greenhouse gases have said the pope’s encyclical could confuse “people into thinking that climate change issues are now an article of faith, part of the Roman Catholic doctrine,” said Marc Morano, publisher of ClimateDepot, a global warming website.

Mr. Morano was part of a delegation of self-proclaimed “climate skeptics” led by the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank, that came to Rome to challenge the symposium’s findings. Jim Lakely, the director of communications for the institute, said Monday that the delegates wanted to “prevent the pope from making the mistake” of listening only to what they believe are climate change alarmists.

Mr. Ban conceded Tuesday that “faith leaders should not be scientists,” but what is important, he added, “is their moral commitment.”

“Not only scientists, but every citizen should be part of the process,” Mr. Ban said. Religious leaders, he added, should play a “substantively important role.”

Climate Change News via http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/29/world/europe/scientists-and-religious-leaders-discuss-climate-change-at-vatican.html?_r=0

New Resources Help Leaders Plan Sustainable Cities

Resources Help Urban Planners, Policy Makers Coordinate Visions 

The World Resources Institute and Johnson Controls have launched an initiative that brings together their policy and technical expertise to help rapidly growing cities in developing countries plan a low-carbon infrastructure to promote sustainability and fight climate change.

Non-profit policy research organization World Resources Institute (WRI) and building energy systems firm Johnson Controls recently launched a new initiative that aims to improve energy efficiency in rapidly growing cities around the world.

sustainable cities and climate change
Aversion and mitigation strategies are part of civic leadership in the age of climate change.

The Building Efficiency Initiative (BEI), which combines the United States-based firm’s expertise in providing building efficiency solutions and WRI’s on-the-ground experience in building livable cities, will provide practical resources to city planners and industry partners on how to accelerate their energy efficiency programs, both organizations said.

The initiative will conduct research, facilitate discussion among experts, and engage with local practitioners in WRI’s global partner cities. “Specifically, the Initiative will engage public and private sector innovators to develop, test, and scale energy efficiency solutions like new finance models, and promote better approaches for integrating distributed energy systems at the building and community level,” Jennifer Layke, BEI’s director noted in a blog.

BEI supports the Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform of the United Nation’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, which targets to double the rate of energy efficiency improvement around the world by 2030, WRI and Johnson Controls added.

Cities will account for 70 percent of the world’s population by 2030, nearly 20 percent higher than it is today.

If not properly planned, urban development choices could lock-in cities in decades of high-carbon infrastructure or buildings that use up huge amounts of energy, the institute explained.

The World Bank has estimated that cities worldwide account for around two-thirds of global energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions.

In a recent study of three cities in Southeast Asia – Da Nang in Vietnam, Cebu in Philippines and Surabaya in Indonesia, the financial instiution said improving energy efficiency is not just good for the environment, it is also good for economic growth as it supports local economic development through productivity gains, reduced pollution, and more efficient use of resources.

“With the extraordinary global shift toward an urban environment, success in sustainable development will largely be determined in cities. This new initiative will focus on the opportunities and challenges that rapid urbanisation presents, especially in major developing countries,” said Dr Andrew Steer, president and chief executive officer of WRI.

Johnson Controls vice president Chuck Harvey said that his firm has been tracking data and analysing technologies, policies, and building energy practices through the US-based Institute for Building Efficiency which the firm established since 2010.

“Working with World Resources Institute and its network of global partners, we can jointly scale innovative energy efficiency policies and solutions,” added Harvey.

Johnson Controls and WRI found that the potential for sustainable and efficient buildings is enormous in urban areas of emerging economies. An International Energy Agency forecasted that 60 percent of buildings in China by 2020 have yet to be built.

The partners noted that there are six critical barriers to the adoption of energy efficient programs by building owners:

  • lack of information and awareness on options that may be available when it comes to building efficiency
  • lack of technical knowledge to evaluate their options
  • uncertainty about how to measure or understand the energy efficiency performance
  • inability to meet financial criteria (return on investment rates)
  • lack of capital funds to invest in energy efficiency
  • landlord/tenant split incentives (the landlord does not have a reason to invest in efficiency if the tenant is the one paying the energy bills)

BEI, which is part of WRI’s sustainable urban development initiative Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, can help urban planners develop policies and improve the design of tomorrow’s cities, including through more efficient buildings and energy systems, stressed WRI and Johnson Controls.

“We are excited to work closely with Johnson Controls and other partners to develop innovative and practical recommendations on building efficiency that support a strong, low-carbon pathway for greener cities,” said Dr Steer.

Source: http://www.eco-business.com/news/wri-johnson-controls-offer-energy-efficient-pathway-cities/

PricewaterhouseCoopers Predicts Climate Catastrophe Within 20 Years

Failure To Act Compounding Global Warming

With every year that passes, we’re getting further away from averting a human-caused climate disaster. That’s the key message in this year’s “Low Carbon Economy Index,” a report released by the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers.

carbon emissions and global warming
Failure to curb our carbon emissions is making global warming worse every day.

The report highlights an “unmistakable trend”: The world’s major economies are increasingly failing to do what’s needed to limit global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. That was the target agreed to by countries attending the United Nations’ 2009 climate summit; it represents an effort to avoid some of the most disastrous consequences of runaway warming, including food security threats, coastal inundation, extreme weather events, ecosystem shifts, and widespread species extinction.

To curtail climate change, individual countries have made a variety of pledges to reduce their share of emissions, but taken together, those promises simply aren’t enough.

According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, “the gap between what we are doing and what we need to do has again grown, for the sixth year running.” The report adds that at current rates, we’re headed towards 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit of warming by the end of the century—twice the agreed upon rate. Here’s a breakdown of the paper’s major findings.

The study compares our current efforts to cut “carbon intensity”—measured by calculating the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per million dollars of economic activity—with what’s actually needed to rein in climate change. According to the report, the global economy needs to “decarbonize” by 6.2 percent every year until the end of the century to limit warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But carbon intensity fell by only 1.2 percent in 2013.

The report also found that the world is going to blow a hole in its carbon budget—the amount we can burn to keep the world from overheating beyond 3.6 degrees.

The report singles out countries that have done better than others when it comes to cutting carbon intensity. Australia, for example, tops the list of countries that have reduced the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of GDP, mainly due to lower energy demands in a growing economy. But huge countries like the United States, Germany, and India are still adding carbon intensity, year-on-year.

Overall, PricewaterhouseCoopers paints a bleak picture of a world that’s rapidly running out of time; the required effort to curb global emissions will continue to grow each year. “The timeline is also unforgiving. The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and others have estimated that global emissions will need to peak around 2020 to meet a 2°C [3.6 degrees F] budget,” the report says. “This means that emissions from the developed economies need to be consistently falling, and emissions from major developing countries will also have to start declining from 2020 onwards.” G20 nations, for example, will need to cut their annual energy-related emissions by one-third by 2030, and by just over half by 2050. The pressure will be on the world’s governments to come up with a solution to this enormous challenge at the much-anticipated climate talks in Paris next year.

Source: http://www.citylab.com/tech/2014/09/a-major-accounting-firm-just-ran-the-numbers-on-climate-change/379994/

California Launches World’s Largest Solar Power Generator

PGE Helps Make California Greener

Earlier in February, the state of California got a whole lot greener with the opening of Ivanpah, the world’s largest solar thermal energy plant. The plant generates clean energy through a system that focuses solar energy to create steam for powering turbines.

The gigantic solar array, which sits on 2,400 acres of land in Arizona, has achieved “substantial completion” and is cranking up to speed according to the Energy Department.  When at peak capacity it will crank out enough electricity for 230,000 homes.

Agua Caliente received a $967 million Energy Department loan guarantee. The DOE dished out another $1.6 billion to the new Ivanpah concentrating solar power plant (also the largest of its kind in the world). 

agua caliente PGE
PGE’s landmark solar project is located in Arizona.

The world’s largest fully-operational solar power plant has recently finished construction. With a maximum capacity of 290 megawatts, the Agua Caliente power plant will generate renewable energy for 230,000 homes back in California. That’s roughly the energy output generated by dirty coal-fired power plants. San Francisco’s Pacific Gas and Electric Co. will harness that power to help make the Golden State a little greener.

Each year, the massive solar field will prevent around 324,000 tons of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere — that’s the equivalent of taking 70,000 cars off of the road. Special thin solar panels developed by First Solar were used for the project, which was funded in part by a federal loan, and named Solar Project of the Year by Renewable Energy World. From a bird’s eye view, the arrangement of solar panels appears as a grid of extra large mirrors. We just hope the birds flying over Agua Caliente won’t face the same fate as those at Ivanpah.

Source: http://architizer.com/blog/largest-solar-plant/