Earlier this week, I sat down with Monica Trauzzi of E&E TV about the future of federal support for clean tech in the United States. This appearance follows the release of a recent report, Beyond Boom and Bust: Putting Clean Tech on a Path to Subsidy Independence, that I co-wrote with experts at the Brookings Institution and the Breakthrough Institute. The report documents a 75 percent drop in federal support for clean tech between 2009 and 2014, barring new action by Congress. Just between 2011 and 2012, support dropped 50 percent. This comes as U.S. solar and wind industries, in particular, face intense international competition and record-low natural gas prices.
This piece originally appeared in the Guardian Sustainable Business.
In 1992, heads of state converged on Rio for the Earth Summit, a bright moment that seemed to herald a new era for sustainable development. Bold speeches were given, important treaties signed. Saving the planet was cast as a moral imperative. Multilateral institutions would lead the way.
Twenty years later, the world looks much different. The unipolar system of U.S. domination that followed the end of the cold war is now multipolar. The locus of global growth and consumption has largely shifted to developing countries, especially in Asia. And for all the good intentions voiced in Rio, the health of our climate, water resources and ecosystems has been deteriorating at alarming rates.
This article is one in a series of updates from WRI’s Next Practice research team to highlight tools and guidance for developing corporate sustainability strategies. It builds on previous themes - Filling the Sustainability Innovation Gap and Mining Megatrends for Innovation - with examples of recent research and evidence that help build the business case for sustainability.
A recent KPMG report highlights ten “sustainability megaforces” that will shape markets in the decades to come. The list includes population growth, energy and fuel, ecosystems decline, and material resource scarcity, among others. These interconnected trends will create risks and opportunities for business. In response, companies need new strategies, particularly for market impacts relating to what KPMG calls the “megaforce” influencing all others: climate change.
Many people have wrestled with how best to convey the latest scientific research on climate change. Here’s your chance to help us figure out the answer.
Last summer I was selected as a Google Science Communication Fellow and had the opportunity to explore this topic. Now, we are launching a pilot project that aims to assess whether video can be a compelling way for a climate scientist to describe his/her recent findings – and, if so, which type of video works best.
As world leaders prepare to converge on Rio in June for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), civil society groups around the world are making demands of their leaders. In India, a broad coalition of environment and development NGOs are decrying state-sanctioned violence during hearings for major projects. In Colombia, civil society groups are calling for training of judges who often don’t understand environmental law. These are just a few of the many governance demands made by NGOs in more than 30 countries associated with the Access Initiative (TAI).
But, how will leaders react? Many may come to Rio+20 with commitments, but how can we hold them accountable to fulfill these commitments?
Let me ‘fess up. The state of the environment sometimes gets me down. But to be fair, Earth’s vital signs would drive any respectable emergency room doctor into a state of utter panic. Globally, two thirds of ecosystem services, such as freshwater, pollination, natural hazard regulation, have been degraded in the past 50 years. Annual rates of growth in yields of many basic crops have declined over the past 20 years. The effects of global climate change are already being felt around the world.
But attending the Ceres annual conference this week gave me a refreshing dose of optimism. Ceres, a coalition of investors, environmental organizations, and other public interest groups, drew together hundreds of businesses, investors, and non-profits to share innovative approaches for corporate sustainability. Here are three rays of hope from the conference.
This post was written by Nicholas Bianco, Senior Associate, WRI, and Rolf Nordstrom, Executive Director, Great Plains Institute
We are launching a new online tool, the Power Almanac of the American Midwest, that will assist government officials, industry leaders, energy analysts and others in making informed energy decisions in the region. The Almanac integrates key energy and environmental data from some 50 disparate sources, tailored to the Midwest region, in a graphic and easy-to-use way.
The Almanac is built around a dynamic interface that allows users to explore the power sector through interactive Google maps, graphs, and charts. You can use it to learn more about an individual coal mine or power plant, or to compare wind and solar resources in the Midwest to the rest of the United States. You will also find a range of other useful background, including up-to-date information on relevant state and federal energy policies.
This piece was co-authored with Vinod Thomas, Director General of independent evaluation at the Asian Development Bank. It originally appeared in the South China Morning Post.
China, South Korea, Russia, the United States and two dozen others face potential leadership transitions this year. The prospect for economic growth and prosperity is likely to be the central determinant of these events. Not on the agenda, however, is climate change. Yet, it should be - because our growing understanding of its science and economics warns us that people's welfare hinges on it.
Greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere continue to climb at alarming rates. Temperatures are breaking records around the globe. The just-released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes a link between more intense rainfall and more extreme temperatures with man-made climate change.
Around the world and throughout every sector of the economy, companies and investors are increasingly aware of risks associated with their dependence on fresh water. For example, a recent report by the Carbon Disclosure Project’s Water Disclosure branch looked at water-stressed South Africa and revealed that 85% of water-intensive companies in the country are exposed to water risks, with 70% expecting to face water impacts to their operations within the next five years.
A Proliferation of Tools
In response to the growing urgency of water risk, there has been a proliferation of tools, frameworks and surveys aiming to help companies, investors and others understand and respond to these water risks. The different tools and approaches provide a valuable diversity of expertise and a better understanding of the nature of water stress, but it is not always clear which tools should be used by whom, for what, and how they overlap or complement one another.
This story was co-authored with Viviane Romeiro, an intern with WRI's CCS team.
Industry has been exploring CCS as an option to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants for several years, but so far it remains at a demonstration level. To reach the next stage of deployment, it must be tried at scale on different types of power or other industrial plants, and in different geographic regions using suitable geologic reservoirs. Currently, there are 74 projects in process, of which only eight are operational, according to the Global CCS Institute. With a lack of strong carbon policies, along with a range of other issues outlined below, CCS has lost momentum in recent years and demonstration projects are proving hard to see through.