Each year, WRI releases our “Top Outcomes” – success stories that reflect a positive change in the world resulting from WRI’s analysis, innovative solutions, and global partnerships.
Core to our mission, outcomes help us monitor and evaluate our commitment to ourselves, to our donors, and to the environment and people we aim to serve. They are at the heart of our “Managing for Results” system, and push us to design robust strategies and hold ourselves accountable.
This slideshow features the stories that stand out as our most significant, largest scale, and highest impact accomplishments of 2010. Outcomes for previous years are available here.
WRI’s economic valuations help Belize break new ground to protect coral reefs
WRI pioneered methods for quantifying the economic contribution of coral reefs and marine protected areas, for example, calculating that reefs underpin 12-15% of Belize’s GDP. The government has since tightened a number of fishing regulations to protect its reefs. Based on WRI’s economic valuations, the Belizean Supreme Court also ordered US$6 million in damages from the container ship Westerhaven, which ran aground on a reef off Belize’s coast. This was the first time Belize had ever sued for such damages. Read More…
WRI helps forge effective model for long-term power purchase agreements
Large electricity consumers such as Apple, DuPont, or Google have limited options for directly purchasing green power. Because they cannot easily contract with renewable power generators, they must use electric utilities as intermediaries.
Based on a model proposed by WRI, Google, a member of WRI’s Green Power Market Development Group, set a new precedent by committing to a long-term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with an Iowa wind farm. WRI provided analysis and connections to technical experts that helped Google better understand the benefits of entering into the PPA with wind developers. The model created by the groundbreaking Google deal will open the door for private electricity consumers to sign long-term PPAs - creating a whole new stream of credit-backing and access to financing for renewable power generators. Read More…
EMBARQ helps establish South Asia’s first long-term public-private partnership for public transport and Bus Rapid Transit
Indian cities face massive urban growth in the coming years, with a projected 700 million new residents by 2050. Accommodating the growth safely and sustainably is a daunting task.
With the help of EMBARQ, a major milestone has been reached — the establishment of high-quality transit systems and India’s first successful public-private partnerships (PPPs) for mass transit — in Indore and Ahmedabad. The PPP model is essential in planning for rapid growth because it enables swift implementation of large-scale transit expansion, with manageable enhancements to institutional capacity. The examples set by Indore and Ahmedabad will be critical to the development of successful improvements in other Indian cities. Read more…
WRI’s Access Initiative Network improves environmental courts
Communities dependent on natural resources have long faced injustice in both the Philippines and India. Now, thanks to the work of WRI and its national partners in The Access Initiative, victims of pollution and environmental degradation have a better chance of redress before special environmental courts and tribunals. TAI India and TAI Philippines, using tools and analysis developed with WRI, have improved new measures that should make a new Green Tribunal in India and over 150 new Environmental Courts in the Philippines easier, cheaper, and quicker for citizens with environmental concerns to access. The Access Initiative is the world’s largest network of civil society organizations working to ensure that people can influence decisions about their natural resources. Read More…
New Ventures’ efforts put environmental businesses on investors’ radars
The Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS), used by investors to evaluate small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and investment funds in emerging markets, has adopted environmental criteria, thus raising the visibility of environmentally-focused businesses.
GIIRS is a standardized rating system that generates an easily digestible single value for scoring an emerging market SME or impact investment fund. WRI’s New Ventures team persuaded the GIIRS managers to embed key environmental metrics into the ratings system enabling investors to evaluate the “green” impacts of these small but environmentally cutting-edge companies. By August 2010 eleven market leading fund managers agreed to use the GIIRS rating system in their investment decision-making. Collectively, they have raised around US$1 billion to invest in high impact GIIRS-rated enterprises. Read More…
EMBARQ partnerships inspire new focus on land use and mobility
The current pattern of urban development in Mexico too often promotes an unequal distribution of land: too many roads, not enough public spaces, and small homes in low-density areas.
But the pattern is finally changing, thanks to new examples set by a partnership between the Center for Sustainable Transport in Mexico (CTS-México) and Mexico’s biggest mortgage lender, the National Workers’ Housing Fund Institute (INFONAVIT), which finances about 500,000 new homes in Mexico each year. For the first time, the housing fund is applying sustainable transport principles in its land development, as a result of CTS-México’s capacity-building workshops and other guidance. Read more…
WRI’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol provides framework for measuring & managing U.S. government emissions
Every year, the Federal Government consumes more energy than any other single organization or company in the U.S. In 2009, President Obama signed an Executive Order requiring the federal government to reduce, measure, and report both direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions. To do this, they will follow the accounting and reporting rules of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol for the U.S. Public Sector, as well as WRI’s newly developed standard for tracking supply chain (or scope 3) emissions. The Protocol, a partnership between WRI and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, is the most widely used accounting tool for managing greenhouse gas emissions. Read More…
WRI engineers plan to develop oil palm plantations on “degraded land”
Deforestation in Indonesia is caused in part by the expansion of oil palm plantations. But what if Indonesia used “degraded” land – areas that were already cleared of forests and now have low levels of biodiversity and low carbon stocks – instead of forested land?
WRI’s Project POTICO and local partner Sekala articulated this new approach, developed a methodology for identifying acceptable degraded lands, mapped them, initiated an on-the-ground pilot, and built support for the strategy among local groups, businesses, and decision-makers.
In May 2010, the President of Indonesia declared a new national strategy to develop oil palm plantations on degraded land, instead of on forests or peatlands. Furthermore, Norway and the U.K. committed significant funding to support this strategy. Read More…
WRI helps federal agency act on climate change and human rights
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is a U.S. government agency that helps businesses invest in emerging markets abroad. As such, the investments it facilitates have far-reaching environmental and social impacts.
In 2010, the U.S. Congress passed legislation requiring OPIC to develop binding internal environmental and human rights guidelines. OPIC also must decrease greenhouse gas emissions associated with the projects it finances. The legislation marks the first time that a U.S. government agency has set a target and timetable on its emissions reductions.
For 3 years, WRI and a coalition of NGOs engaged with Congress and served as a resource in drafting the legislation. OPIC’s environmental and human rights guidelines strongly reflect WRI’s recommendations, and set the gold standard for financial institutions worldwide. Read More…
WRI prompts better disclosure of climate change risks by companies
New SEC guidelines require publicly-listed companies to disclose any “financially material” impacts related to climate change to investors. The ruling will trigger improvements in GHG emissions reporting and incentivize investment in sustainable businesses as it will help the market determine which companies are well-positioned for the future and which are not.
WRI helped build the accounting infrastructure for companies to provide this kind of corporate emissions disclosure, and worked closely with partners to encourage the SEC to set new disclosure standards. Read More…
WRI encourages the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council to take a stand on environmental governance
UNEP’s Governing Council (GC) reached a major milestone in implementing Principle 10) of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Development and Environment when delegates agreed to adopt its guidelines for national legislation on access to information, public participation, and access to justice in environmental matters. This decision ensures that UNEP has a mandate to continue advancing their implementation at the national level.
WRI’s Access Team and partners played a significant role in convincing GC members to formally “adopt” the guidelines, rather than simply “note” them. Perhaps most critically, WRI successfully helped influence the U.S. delegation to the GC, which ultimately reversed its earlier position and pushed strongly for adoption of the guidelines and successfully persuaded holdout countries to move toward a consensus for adoption. Read More…
EMBARQ’s CTS-México advises government on public transportation
The Public Transportation Federal Support Program (PROTRAM) is Mexico’s first program that provides federal funding for urban public transit. It’s a critical component of the mainstreaming and replication of sustainable transit systems across Mexico.
21 such projects are now moving through PROTRAM’s financing pipeline thanks to advice and recommendations from EMBARQ’s Center for Sustainable Transport in Mexico (CTS-México). The federal government appointed CTS-México to evaluate the technical and financial feasibility of public transportation projects seeking funding from PROTRAM. CTS-México has also improved the quality of eight project designs around the country. By providing project evaluation guidelines and assistance, CTS-México improves individual project proposals and strengthens PROTRAM’s institutional capacity to provide funds in the future. Read More
WRI develops tools to help government monitor and protect its forests
Cameroon is part of the larger Congo Basin region, which contains one-quarter of the world’s tropical forests. For years, a lack of information and capacity made it difficult for the government to track logging activities.
In 2002, WRI launched a partnership with Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and NGOs. The goal: to provide information and tools for forests monitoring that would ultimately help crack down on illegal logging. WRI developed interactive maps and data to monitor logging activities and trained government officials, NGO and private sector representatives on how to use them.
The tools enabled Cameroonian officials to detect logging violations and empowered NGOs to conduct their own monitoring. Eight years after this work began, illegal logging has decreased by approximately 50 percent in the country. Read More…
EMBARQ’s CTS-Brasil helps prioritize bus rapid transit
As the host of the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, Brazil’s sustainable transport agenda has gained international attention.
In 2009, Brazil’s federal government committed $6.6 billion to improve urban mobility, placing priority on bus rapid transit. EMBARQ’s CTS-Brasil contributed to a bus rapid transit manual for the Brazilian National Association of Bus Transit Operators—a document that is being distributed to all urban and metropolitan bus operators in the country. CTS-Brasil will also help the Ministry of Cities establish criteria for federal financing of an additional $10 billion in sustainable transit solutions.
In an event co-hosted by CTS-Brasil, President Lula declared sustainable mobility a priority for Brazilian cities. It was the first time that a Brazilian president attended an international sustainable urban mobility event. Read More…
U.S. EPA adopts WRI recommendations to account for greenhouse gas emissions of biofuels
Biofuels are a key component of the U.S. EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). But calculating the greenhouse gas emissions of producing biofuels is critical – otherwise, they could lead to more GHG emissions than the traditional fuels they are meant to replace.
The EPA adopted two key WRI recommendations in the RFS program, one on how to handle accounting for carbon emissions over time, and the other on including indirect land-use changes from domestic biofuel production (for example, considering what impact growing biofuels domestically would have on deforestation in the Amazon). Establishing an accounting methodology that considers the global impact of domestic policy sets an important precedent that will have significant implications well beyond the biofuels sector. Read More…
WRI analysis and advice provide basis for the final accounting text in the Copenhagen Accord
At the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen in December 2009, two issues became central to the negotiations: ensuring accountability and transparency in developed countries’ greenhouse gas emissions accounting, and improving transparency around developing country actions to reduce emissions.
WRI analysis and textual solutions contributed heavily to specific text around developed country, or Annex I, targets in the Copenhagen Accord and the need to “ensure that accounting of such targets and finance is rigorous, robust and transparent.” WRI provided both the analysis and the space to create understanding and trust amongst countries, which is essential in the continuing climate negotiations. Read More…
Belize takes action to protect the value of its coral reefs
Influenced by WRI’s Coastal Capital: Belize — an economic valuation of the nation’s coral reefs - the government of Belize took momentous steps over the past 18 months to protect this unique ecosystem. For example, after the container ship Westerhaven ran aground on a reef in January 2009, the government decided to sue for damages—something that had not occurred with past groundings. The suit was premised on the forgone economic contribution of the damaged reef’s ecosystem services, a first-of-its-kind approach in Belize history. In a landmark decision, the Belizean Supreme Court ruled in April 2010 that the ship’s owners must pay the government ~US$6 million in damages.
In addition to the ruling, the government tightened a number of fishing regulations, including:
- Restricting the size limit of Nassau groupers and banning the harvest of parrotfish;
- Mandating that all fish fillets brought to landing sites retain a skin patch, facilitating species identification for law enforcement;
- Banning spearfishing within marine protected areas.
These outcomes, especially the ecosystem service-based fine, are landmarks for Belize and the Caribbean region, and perhaps for other reef-rich areas too. They should help relieve threats to the Mesoamerican Reef, which underpins a significant portion of Belize’s GDP. For example coral reef- and mangrove-associated tourism contribute to 12 to 15 percent of Belize’s GDP. Reefs and mangroves also protect coastal properties from erosion and wave-induced damage, providing an estimated US$231 to US$347 million in avoided damages per year – or 20% of Belize’s annual GDP.
WRI played an important role in making these outcomes happen. In November 2008, WRI released Coastal Capital: Belize. NGO partners put our findings in front of national legislators. Belize’s Prime Minister attended the launch gala and later cited videos featuring our economic valuation results as key to his decision to approve the new fishing restrictions. Furthermore, days after the Westerhaven incident, the Belize Fisheries and Environment Departments and NGO partners contacted and worked with WRI to calculate compensatory ecosystem-related damages of the grounding which were used in court. The Supreme Court’s ruling even included verbatim language from Coastal Capital: Belize.
Google buys 114 MW of wind energy through groundbreaking long-term purchase model
Large electricity consumers such as Apple or DuPont have limited options for directly purchasing green power. End-user consumers can’t easily contract with renewable power generators; they have to work through electric utilities who act as intermediaries. This gives utilities excessive market power as the only potential buyers in the green power market.
Based on a model proposed by WRI, Google set a new precedent in the green power market by committing to a long-term Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with an Iowa wind farm. This is the largest, longest-term wind deal ever closed in the country between a renewable generator and an electricity end-user, and was only possible because of its creative deal structure.
WRI has been actively engaging Green Power Market Development (GPMDG) companies, including Google, for several years to overcome barriers in the power markets and regulations that make it difficult for non-utilities to sign PPAs. Long-term PPAs are essential for renewable power generators, because they are needed to secure financing—yet the traditional model used by utilities is not suitable for electricity consumers.
WRI provided analysis and connections to technical experts that helped Google better understand the benefits of entering into long-term purchase agreements with wind developers. These long-term agreements help the wind developer secure more attractive financing than traditional short term purchase agreements do, while providing important price stability to the end user (the price of wind does not fluctuate). These contracts can be complex to structure and raise many technical and financial questions. WRI’s research helped Google find a workable approach to these contracts that can now be replicated in the market place. This model could increase the amount of wind power the commercial and industrial sector purchase.
The model created by the groundbreaking Google deal will open the door for private electricity consumers to sign long-term PPAs, creating a whole new stream of credit-backing and access to financing for renewable power generators.
Building institutional capacity in Indore
Indore is one of the fastest growing cities in India, faced with the daunting task of providing a modern and efficient public transit system to its 1.8 million residents. Rising to the challenge, Atal Indore City Transport Services Ltd. (AICTSL) established an effective and well-organized transit agency to operate and manage the city’s public transport system. AICTSL is India’s first long-term public-private partnership (PPP), which has enabled the city to expand its transit system to 225 buses and double capacity to 220,000 daily trips. The city also began developing a BRT system, which is expected to be operational by June 2011.
CST-India was instrumental in AICTSL’s success by providing technical support for Indore’s successful request to the Ministry of Urban Development to fund 170 new buses, and preparing and negotiating contracts with private partners. CST-India also helped plan bus routes, develop vehicle specifications, establish AICTSL’s organizational structure, and design and implement a performance monitoring system. In addition, EMBARQ advised on important changes to the BRT system design, including high-platform island stations to ensure level-boarding, making the system more efficient, convenient and accessible for all passengers.
“The People’s Way” in Ahmedabad
Ahmedabad launched South Asia’s first complete BRT in October 2009. Janmarg, which means “the people’s way” in Gujarati, focuses the city’s massive growth into sustainable, high-capacity bus corridors. By 2014, Janmarg will serve 90 kilometers and carry 175,000 daily passengers.
Ahmedabad’s success was made possible through the support of several partners, including EMBARQ, whose India staff exposed city officials to best practices of bus rapid transit design and operations during study tours to Mexico City, Mexico; Bogota, Colombia; and Curitiba, Brazil. EMBARQ also conducted an in-depth review of the Janmarg system in August 2009 and provided ongoing advice to the project’s technical leader, CEPT University, to help reinforce critical design concepts.
India and the Philippines improve access to environmental justice
Communities dependent on natural resources have long faced injustice in both the Philippines and India. Now, thanks to the work of WRI and its national partners in The Access Initiative, victims of pollution and environmental degradation have a better chance in getting redress before special environmental courts and tribunals.
India: The National Environmental Appellate Authority (NEAA) of India is an administrative court that hears appeals against project approvals where an Environmental impact Assessment was legally required and which had a longstanding reputation for almost always siding with developers against communities. TAI partners challenged several NEAA decisions before the New Delhi High Court and were victorious. Not only did the Court agree with the criticisms leveled against the NEAA, but TAI’s efforts made it clear that the institution needed far reaching reform.
Independently, the Ministry of Forests and Environment introduced a Green Tribunal Bill in the Indian Congress which sought to abolish the NEAA and establish a green tribunal that would hear environmental disputes throughout the country. Concerned that some clauses would limit the scope of environmental dispute resolution, TAI partners successfully developed a critique of the bill and a nationwide campaign for its reform, resulting in ministerial level meetings and the incorporation of most of TAI’s proposed revisions in the final bill, passed in May 2010.
Philippines: In April 2010, the Philippine Supreme Court adopted official “procedures for environmental cases” to be used for civil, criminal and special civil actions brought before the country’s regional, metropolitan and municipal trial courts. This guidance has enabled the Philippines newly established network of environmental courts - the most extensive in any country worldwide - to avoid long-winded and expensive cases. The newly established procedures include provisions to simplify trials, make them speedier, and lower their cost, including by awarding fee waivers for the poor. They also enable courts to monitor and ensure enforcement of judgments.
TAI Philippines, a coalition of NGOs led by the Ateneo de Manila School of Government, drafted the groundbreaking “bench book” for the Philippines’ new environmental courts, supported by WRI which provided finance and training support. In an early demonstration of the effect of these new procedures, plaintiffs in 150 separate villages are filing a collective suit to compel the government to plan water use in the face of climate change.
Leading global investing rating system adopts environmental criteria for enterprises
Sustainably-focused small and medium enterprises (SMEs) manufacture and market environmentally friendly products and serve low-income communities. Not only do they create jobs and spur economic growth, but they also provide models for the businesses of the future, those that will thrive in a low-carbon, resource constrained world. The Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS), used by investors worldwide to evaluate SME’s in developing countries, has adopted environmental criteria, thus raising the visibility of environmentally-focused businesses in emerging markets.
GIIRS is a standardized rating system that generates an easily digestible single value for scoring an emerging market SME and/or impact investment fund. Investment funds obtain a calculated GIIRS score based on the ratings of the portfolio of companies they invest in and the operations of the fund manager. GIIRS is crucial to the growth of the impact investing industry as it makes impact measurement accessible much like the Lipper or Morningstar ratings did for the mutual fund industry.
WRI’s New Ventures team persuaded the GIIRS managers to embed key environmental metrics into the ratings system in part through its position as the environmental expert on the GIIRS emerging markets standards advisory committee. By August 2010 eleven leading emerging market fund managers agreed to use the GIIRS rating system in their investment decision-making. Collectively, they have raised around US$1 billion to invest in high impact GIIRS-rated enterprises. These GIIRS “Pioneer Funds” will be pilot testing GIIRS with their portfolio companies throughout the developing world. Additionally, it has been adopted as the standard all companies and funds must reach to participate in the socially responsible angel network Investor’s Circle.
Mexico’s new urban paradigm
Specifically, INFONAVIT connected CTS-México to the mid-sized city of Aguascalientes to transform a new low-income housing development, encompassing 10,000 houses for 40,000 people. CTS-México recommended solutions for mixed land use, public transportation, green spaces, and walking and bicycling.
In March 2010, the municipal government revised its development plans to include about 70 percent of CTS-México’s recommendations. The new design is expected to increase the neighborhood’s demand for public transportation, biking and walking. And the level of social interaction is expected to quadruple through the addition of four community centers and a 1.5-kilometer pedestrian-cyclist road. Dense development connected to mass transit can help reduce carbon emissions and lower urban infrastructure costs.
The redesigned development plan is estimated to reduce traffic speeds by 34% and also increase the demand for public transport by 30% to 60%, bike trips by 4% to 50%, walking trips by 24% to 40%, and green space by 5% to 30%.
President Obama signs Executive Order committing U.S. Federal agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
In October 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order (EO) 13514 on Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance, requiring the federal government to lead by example towards a clean energy economy and measure, report and reduce, direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions. The EO also set an important precedent by mandating that a national government reduce GHG emissions from its own operations.
“Every year, the Federal Government consumes more energy than any other single organization or company in the United States,” said President Obama. “That energy goes towards lighting and heating government buildings, fueling vehicles and powering federal projects across the country and around the world. The government has a responsibility to use that energy wisely, to reduce consumption, improve efficiency, use renewable energy, like wind and solar, and cut costs.”
The collective emissions reduction targets established by the EO (a 28% total reduction in scope 1 (direct emissions) and scope 2 (indirect emissions associated with purchased electricity) below 2008 levels by 2020 and a 13% reduction in scope 3 (other indirect emissions)) will ensure significant reductions in the U.S., while demonstrating that ambitious reductions are achievable by other large U.S. entities and corporations. By including scope 2 and 3 emissions, the EO will also drive important shifts throughout the government’s vast supply chain.
To comply with the EO, agencies will conduct GHG inventories based on the GHG accounting principles articulated in the newly developed GHG Protocol for the US Public Sector, which outlines how government agencies in the U.S. – whether federal, state or local – should develop a GHG inventory. WRI coordinated a large stakeholder process to develop this protocol that included over 50 U.S. agencies, ensuring its relevance and utility to the government. This extensive engagement during the process also built capacity within the federal agencies for effective emissions measurement and management. The federal government also drew upon the principles in the draft of the GHG Protocol Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Standard in developing rules to account for Scope 3 emissions.
Indonesia announces national strategy to save forests
In May 2010, the Indonesian president declared a new national strategy to develop oil palm plantations on degraded land instead of on forests or peatlands.
Oil palm expansion is a cause of deforestation in Indonesia. Utilizing degraded land—areas that were cleared of forests and now contain low stocks of carbon and biodiversity—is a strategy that could break the link between oil palm and deforestation.
Due in part to WRI, this strategy received significant political and financial boosts in 2009 and 2010. In December 2009, the Indonesian government and its National Development Planning Agency (BAPPENAS) first announced policy recommendations to support this strategy. In January 2010, the U.K committed £50 million and Norway followed in May by committing $1 billion to tackle Indonesian deforestation. These commitments will fund a two-year suspension of new concessions in natural forests, development of a degraded land database, and incentives to establish oil palm plantations on degraded lands.
Through Project POTICO, WRI helped catapult this strategy onto the agenda. WRI, and local partner Sekala articulated the degraded land strategy, built an economic business case, developed a methodology for identifying acceptable degraded lands, mapped degraded lands, and initiated an on-the-ground pilot. BAPPENAS incorporated the degraded lands strategy, economics, and a profile of POTICO into its official recommendations. We engaged decision-makers to build support for the strategy.
When Project POTICO was launched in 2009, utilizing degraded lands neither was on the political agenda nor had international financial support. Now it has both.
Pioneering law requires federal agency to act on climate emissions and human rights
In 2010, the U.S. Congress passed, and President Obama ratified, a pioneering law that requires emissions targets and timetables for a U.S. government agency, and the development of a human rights policy for an export credit agency.
The legislation, a first of its kind, was incorporated into the 2010 Appropriations Bill and requires the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to take action on climate change and to develop - and publish - binding internal environmental and human rights guidelines.
They are also mandated to implement a revised climate change mitigation plan to phase down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with projects and sub-projects they finance by at least 30% in 10 years and 50% in 15 years over 2008 levels. This marks the first time that a U.S. government agency has set a target and timetable on its emissions reductions. In August 2010, under the leadership of new president Elizabeth Littlefield, OPIC took this mandate one step further, and adopted progressive environmental and human rights guidelines that have set the gold standard for financial institutions worldwide.
WRI played a key role in the outcome, engaging with Congress on the issue over three years, along with a wider coalition of NGOs. WRI served as a key resource for legislators in the U.S. Congress who drafted the legislation. The legal requirement builds on WRI’s earlier work to get OPIC to adopt a voluntary greenhouse gas initiative in 2007 to reduce its emissions by 20% over 10 years as well as a February 2010 landmark settlement of a 2002 lawsuit filed against OPIC by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and several U.S. cities affected by climate change, to which they alleged OPIC’s investments had made a substantial contribution.
The settlement required OPIC to establish a goal of reducing its emissions by 20% over the next 10 years, to conduct full environmental impact assessments for projects that emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and to publicly report its emissions from these projects annually. In August 2010, OPIC released their environmental and human rights guidelines, which strongly reflect the inputs and recommendations of WRI.
SEC issues critical climate disclosure guidance for companies
In January 2010, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued new guidance clarifying that publicly-traded companies need to disclose financially material impacts related to climate change. Material impacts may range from compliance costs related to emissions regulation, to the physical impacts of changing weather patterns on operations.
The SEC ruling creates more incentives for capital to flow to sustainable businesses, while also improving awareness of the importance of climate change among the financial community. Companies are expected to improve GHG emissions accounting and reporting - an important stepping stone to managing and reducing corporate carbon footprints. WRI plans to continue engagement with the SEC, companies, and other advocates to help develop more specific rules, methodologies, and guidance relating to environmental disclosure.
For the past decade, WRI’s Markets and Enterprise Program (MEP) has been working to analyze material impacts of climate change on companies. MEP’s publication, Coming Clean, was one of the first reports identifying the need for improved corporate disclosure and providing specific recommendations for the SEC that were grounded in detailed financial analysis. Since then, WRI has worked closely with the investment community, as well as businesses, to foster support for better financial analysis and climate change-related reporting.
Meanwhile, WRI’s GHG Protocol team has worked over the last six years to build the foundation, constituency and the accounting infrastructure for companies to engage in corporate emissions disclosure and prepare for exactly this type of requirement. The GHG Protocol’s Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard in particular is an important precursor to the SEC requirements. The SEC guidance refers to three business programs – the Carbon Disclosure Project, The Climate Registry, and the Global Reporting Initiative - that illustrate increasing corporate disclosure of climate change impacts and risks. All three of the programs’ greenhouse gas emissions reporting components are based on the GHG Protocol’s Corporate Standard.
Since 2007, both the Markets and Enterprise Program and the GHG Protocol Team have also been working through an international collaborative effort – the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB), which includes the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), The Climate Registry (TCR), CERES, and the World Economic Forum (WEF) to inform and guide SEC and other national financial accounting regulatory boards to address the issue of climate change reporting in the financial statements.
United Nations Environment Programme’s Governing Council adopts guidelines for national legislation on access in environmental matters
UNEP’s Governing Council (GC) reached a major milestone in implementing Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Development and Environment when delegates agreed to adopt its guidelines for national legislation on access to information, public participation, and access to justice.
Principle 10’s guidelines are fundamental pillars of good environmental governance. They cover critical areas, including freedom of information laws, state of the environment reporting, emergency planning and response, project planning, and environmental harms. Adoption of the guidelines will have several significant impacts:
- The decision clarifies minimum legal standards for implementation of Principle 10.
- The decision requires UNEP’s Executive Director to assist countries in implementing programs and policies around access — and thus ensures that UNEP has a mandate to continue advancing the implementation of Principle 10 at the national level.
- The GC’s formal adoption of the guidelines will be critical in strengthening the case that officials and civil society can make for open information systems and decision-making processes.
WRI’s Access Team and partners played a significant role in leading the push to convince GC members to formally adopt the guidelines, rather than simply “note” them. Staff wrote online articles informing access proponents of the opportunity, and WRI sent staff and international partners to three UNEP meetings. WRI Staff Member Carole Excell participated in the Nairobi Expert Meeting in November of 2009 and played an important role in helping revise the guidelines.
Perhaps most critically, WRI successfully helped influence the U.S. delegation to the GC through communications with the USEPA and the U.S. Department of State. To our knowledge, no other U.S.-based NGO pressed the delegation on the issue of adoption. Ultimately reversing its earlier position, the U.S. delegation pushed strongly for adoption of the guidelines and successfully persuaded holdout countries to move toward a consensus for adoption.
UNEP’s poverty and environment division thanked WRI for its help in reaching this critical milestone.
Federal government of Mexico (PROTRAM) leads improvements in urban mobility by providing funds to public transit projects
Embarq’s Center for Sustainable Transport in Mexico (CTS-Mexico) has played a leading role in the implemen-tation of the federal government’s Public Transportation Federal Support Program (PROTRAM).
On the heels of successful sustainable transport implementation in several key Mexican cities, the federal government’s creation of PROTRAM in 2009 signaled an important shift toward strong institutional support for nationwide sustainable mobility. PROTRAM offers grants to subnational governments for up to 50% of the infrastructure cost of public transportation projects. As the first program that provides federal funding for urban public transit, PROTRAM is a critical component of the mainstreaming and replication of sustainable transit systems across Mexico.
CTS-Mexico has served as the government’s main advisor in implementing PROTRAM effectively and improving the quality of its projects. The Secretary of the Treasury and Public Credit appointed CTS-Mexico to evaluate the technical and financial feasibility of public transportation projects seeking funding from PROTRAM. In this role, CTS-Mexico developed project evaluation guidelines that allow for rapid analysis of each project, and is responsible for continuous high-quality operational and financial reviews. CTS-Mexico is uniquely positioned to reconcile competing interests and offer objective, forthright advice.
CTS-Mexico has reviewed a total of 21 projects and positively influenced the design quality of eight projects now in the investment phase -— in Guadalajara, Mexico City, Chihuahua, Mexicali, Tijuana, Culiacán, Monterrey, and Veracruz. One of these projects, the second line of Guadalajara’s BRT, has been funded by PROTRAM and is now under construction. The other seven projects are confirmed in PROTRAM’s financing pipeline and are moving forward toward implementation. By providing project evaluation guidelines and assistance, CTS-Mexico has not only improved the efficacy of each project proposal submitted, but also strengthened PROTRAM’s institutional capacity to provide funds in the future.
Illegal logging declines by nearly 50% in Cameroon
Illegal logging in Cameroon has decreased by approximately 50 percent since 2000, according to an independent Chatham House report.
Cameroon’s forests, covering more than 20 million hectares, offer a range of ecosystem services and are vital resources for both biodiversity and economic growth. But illegal loggers also find value in the forests, and illegal logging has long threatened local livelihoods, decimated wildlife, and squandered public revenue. The Cameroonian government is responsible for controlling logging activities, but a lack of adequate forest-related information, tools, and capacity has historically made it difficult to monitor logging activities.
Recognizing this critical gap, WRI launched a partnership in 2002 with Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and interested NGOs. WRI’s goal was to provide information and tools that would improve transparency, accountability, and forest monitoring — ultimately serving as the springboard for a crackdown on illegal logging. WRI developed interactive maps, data, and decision-support systems to monitor logging activities and trained government officials, NGO, and private sector representatives on their use. These systems have:
- Enabled Cameroonian officials to systematically detect logging violations in protected areas and outside of forest concessions.
- Empowered local NGOs to conduct independent monitoring of logging operations.
- Helped ensure wood products leaving Cameroon were harvested legally, in compliance with international import regulations such as the FLEGT and U.S. Lacey Act.
As the first international NGO to map Cameroon’s forests and place accurate, up-to-date information into public hands, WRI sent ripples through the Cameroonian forest sector, making it clear that illegal logging would no longer go unnoticed or unpunished.
Sustainable urban transport emerges as a priority on Brazil’s political agenda
When Brazil secured its position as future host to both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games, a new opportunity to upgrade urban transport came into focus. In 2009, the federal government announced $6.6 billion of funding for improved urban mobility to host cities, and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) became a central plank of this agenda. Around 500 km of BRT systems will be constructed in eight cities, almost doubling the current BRT lineage in all of Latin America.
EMBARQ’s Center for Sustainable Transport in Brazil (CTS-Brasil) convened a pivotal international event at which President Lula declared sustainable mobility a priority for Brazilian cities—marking the first time that a president of Brazil attended an urban transport event. CTS-Brasil leveraged its expertise, relationships, reputation, and political and technical leadership to promote high-quality BRT in four major cities:
In Recife, CTS-Brasil introduced the BRT concept and technically supported the terms of reference for contracting a $1.3 million BRT engineering design study.
In Belo Horizonte, CTS-Brasil delivered a strategic framing workshop to align stakeholders and identify potential risks to the implementation of the three planned BRT corridors. In Rio de Janeiro, CTS-Brasil applied the EMBARQ BRT Simulator to provide critical support the city’s candidacy as an Olympic site.
In Porto Alegre, CTS-Brasil and EMBARQ played a vital role in acquiring $100 million financing from CAF, and convincing CAF to approve a $1 million, non-refundable grant for refining BRT studies.
CTS-Brasil also contributed to the editing of a BRT manual which will be distributed to all urban and metropolitan bus operators throughout Brazil.
These achievements pave the way for a consistent national sustainable transport policy. In recognition of CTS-Brasil’s contributions, the Ministry of Cities invited CTS-Brasil to a prestigious group of advisors to guide its criteria for federal financing of an additional $10 billion in sustainable transit solutions.
The U.S. EPA adopts comprehensive carbon dioxide accounting rules for renewable fuels
In January 2010, two WRI-recommended features were incorporated into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) regulations for implementing the new Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). These regulatory features will help minimize the negative impacts of biofuels by ensuring comprehensive accounting of their lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The 2007 expansion of the RFS program required the EPA to set lifecycle GHG threshold standards to ensure that biofuels being used to meet the RFS emit fewer greenhouse gases than the petroleum fuel they replace. The framework the EPA would develop to calculate the GHG emissions factors of biofuels was critical. A framework that was less than comprehensive could end up creating incentives for U.S. biofuels that would actually lead to more GHG emissions than the traditional fossil-based fuels they replace. Two accounting factors were particularly important:
How to account for carbon dioxide emissions that occur in the future. WRI recommended applying a zero discount rate over a shorter time horizon, rather than the more popular proposal of a two percent discount rate over a 100 year time horizon. Our recommendation was more consistent with prior research and would minimize the risk of artificially inflating the emissions reductions benefits of bio-fuels.
Whether or not to include the emissions associated with indirect land-use changes. For example, a shift from soybean to corn farming in Iowa to make ethanol can result in a ripple effect that drives land conversion for soya in the Brazilian Cerrado. This land conversion may result in significant emissions of carbon dioxide. The uncertainty of indirect land use impacts does not render them insignificant. WRI recommended that emissions associated with global indirect land-use changes be included in the framework, along with approaches for refining the estimates as the science improves.
EPA adopted both our recommendations. In particular, the adoption of an accounting methodology that accounts for the emissions associated with global indirect land use impacts of domestic policy sets a precedent that has significant implications well beyond the biofuels sector.
WRI was the pioneering voice on the zero discount rate. WRI’s Biofuels and the Time Value of Carbon was the first and, to the best of our knowledge, only publication to address the issue of how to choose a discount rate for physical carbon in the context of biofuels accounting. WRI’s Liz Marshall was selected as one of five professional peer reviewers for the
time parameters portion of the RFS rule. WRI’s perspective on indirects, set forth in Biofuels, Carbon, and Land-use Change and Rules for Fuels, also provided the analytical foundation for advocacy NGOs during the course of this debate.
Robust, rigorous and transparent accounting of targets and finance enshrined in Copenhagen
In the lead-up to the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties 15 in Copenhagen, in December 2009, it became very clear that issues around accountability and transparency in greenhouse gas accounting were going to be a central focus. While the Kyoto Protocol includes robust accounting standards for industrialized countries, it was looking as if a new ‘pledge and review’ system’ would do away with those standards, thus removing any ability to compare the efforts of countries or create a common understanding of what is occurring country to country. In addition, increased transparency around developing country actions was becoming not only central but controversial, creating tension between the U.S. and China.
WRI identified these issues early on and worked to ensure that the complex but vital accounting topic was understood as a core outcome of the Copenhagen process. WRI also worked with key partners to provide analysis and textual solutions both on why Annex I accounting rules were vital and why it was possible for the US to sign up to these standards.
WRI used its analysis to increase awareness in the U.S. with the White House, Senate and State Department of the importance of the issue and with other countries to provide solutions and context. This work directly resulted in specific text around developed country, or Annex I, targets in the Copenhagen Accord around the need to “ensure that accounting of such targets and finance is rigorous, robust and transparent” (REF) a hook to building the system we need. No other institution was focused heavily on this outcome. WRI also started working early in China to increase understanding both in China and internationally concerning what systems for Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) China already has in place, thus highlighting where transparency existed and could be enhanced in China. We engaged top Chinese experts and negotiators more than a year before Copenhagen on these issues and continued to provide solutions throughout the UNFCCC meeting. WRI was far ahead of other organizations in providing both the analysis and the space to create understanding and trust among countries. While the issue became polarized during the meeting, it is fair to say that WRI’s background work provided a basis for the final transparency text in the Copenhagen Accord.
- Reefs: Jean-Marc Kuffer
- Wind Turbines: iStockphoto
- India BRT: flickr/Meanest Indian
- Philippines street: flickr/Keith Bacongco
- Investors: iStockphoto
- Pedestrians: iStockphoto
- Post office trucks: iStockphoto
- WRI and Sekala review maps of degraded lands in Indonesia: WRI
- Community Meeting: flickr/James Zwier
- Wall Street bull: iStockphoto
- UNEP image: April Osmanof
- Public Square, Mexico: EMBARQ
- Congo Basin: Matthew Steil, WRI
- Convenção Mobilidade Sustentável na Renovação Urbana (Brazil): EMBARQ
- Corn field: flickr/tlindenbaum
- UNFCCC meeting: flickr/UN Climate Talks