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Experts Weigh In: How Can We Make Progress at the Doha Climate Talks?

“Two years ago at the UNFCCC conference in Cancun, negotiators agreed that the world would seek to limit global average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius,” Andrew Steer, WRI’s president, said during a recent press call. “We are not on track for that. We’re a long way off, and the situation is very urgent.”

That’s why the upcoming U.N. climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar (COP 18) are so critically important. As sea level rise, wildfires, and devastating droughts showcase, climate change’s impacts are already being felt across the globe. Meanwhile, extreme weather events—most recently, Hurricane Sandy—serve as powerful reminders of what will likely become more and more the norm if action is not taken. When negotiators meet in Doha at the end of this month, they’ll need to figure out a way to make progress, both to finalize the rules of past decisions and how to come to an international climate agreement by 2015.

Listen to a recording of WRI's press call on the upcoming Doha climate talks.

3 Companies that Are Making Money by Embracing Sustainability

Superstorm Sandy and the subsequent Nor’easter were the biggest news this week and last. The combination of two powerful forces resulted in unprecedented and widespread damage. Our thoughts are with those who have been impacted.

I can’t help but draw the connection between our recent extreme weather and businesses today—corporations are increasingly recognizing that they, too, are navigating two powerful forces. One force demands financial results, while the other requires increasingly sophisticated techniques to respond to climate, energy, resource scarcity, and other sustainability risks. The ways businesses navigate both these forces will determine whether they are truly viable over the long-term.

3 Pioneering Businesses Focused on Profits and Environmental Stewardship

On the eve of Hurricane Sandy, I moderated a Net Impact conference panel titled “Driving Bolder Investments in Sustainability.” This panel brought together representatives from Waste Management, Intel, and Pepsi to discuss how sustainability is no longer an add-on, but is becoming core to business planning. These three companies are incorporating environmental initiatives in order to shield themselves from business risk and boost their profits.

3 Climate Change Action Items for the Second Obama Administration

With President Obama’s re-election, he has the opportunity to extend his legacy and take on big challenges. Climate change stands high on the list of issues that need to be addressed. As the President said in his acceptance speech:

“We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

In the final days of the campaign, Hurricane Sandy provided a wake-up call about the impacts of climate change. Recent extreme weather and climate events make clear that ignoring climate change will be costly in human, environmental, and economic terms for the United States and the world. How President Obama addresses climate and energy issues will help define his legacy.

As America recovers economically, we can--and must--also protect the environment and safeguard people’s health. The economy, environment, and public health are not in conflict, but complementary--they cannot be sustained over time without each other. America needs to get on a path that builds economic strength through investment and policy decisions that reward clean energy and enhance climate resilience.

We Need Your Help: Take Our Survey on Greenhouse Gas Accounting for the Financial Sector

The Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol recently partnered with the UNEP Finance Initiative in a critically important endeavor – developing guidance to help the financial sector measure its ”financed emissions” and track reductions. These types of emissions, which are associated with lending and investments, are the most significant part of a financial institution’s carbon footprint.

We are seeking responses to a short (5 – 10 minute) online survey to assist us in establishing the content of the new guidance, which will supplement the GHG Protocol’s Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Accounting and Reporting Standard. The deadline for completing the survey is November 23, 2012.

As risk management experts, it’s essential that financial institutions have the necessary tools to consider the implications of continued investment in, and financing of, carbon-intensive sectors and companies. Some financial institutions have developed their own methodologies for accounting for financed emissions, but there’s a lack of consistency between them. Financial institutions need new guidance like that being developed by GHG Protocol and UNEP to adopt risk-management policies and lending procedures that address climate change in a systematic way across the sector.

Listening to Hurricane Sandy: Climate Change Is Here

This post originally appeared on Bloomberg.com.

Hurricane Sandy was a massive and deadly storm, extending more than 1,000 miles, bringing huge waves and more than 13 feet of water to parts of New York City. In Manhattan, floods swept away cars and overflowed subway stations. Along the Jersey shore, homes, property, and businesses were washed away in just a few hours. More than 8 million people in the northeastern United States lost power. Tens of millions more have been affected. And tragically, more than 160 people lost their lives. Outside of the United States, six Caribbean countries were battered by the storm, taking lives and destroying property as it struck. Some early estimates say the storm will cost $50 billion; others say it will be more.

Sadly, science tells us that this type of event will become much more common as our climate continues to change.

Climate change is here and its impacts are being felt today. As Governor Cuomo said earlier this week, “Anyone who says there is not a dramatic change in weather patterns is denying reality.”

Why Businesses Must Focus on Climate Change Mitigation AND Adaptation

This week, Hurricane Sandy drew attention to the increasing climate-related risks for communities and businesses.

More and more companies are recognizing and reporting on actions they’re taking to “mitigate” climate change, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through energy efficiency, renewable power, and cleaner vehicles. Now, businesses are finding they’ll also need to “adapt” to more volatile conditions and help vulnerable communities become more resilient. Adaptation means recognizing and preparing for impacts like water stress, coastal flooding, community health issues, or supply chain disruptions, among other issues.

WRI discussed why businesses need to embrace mitigation AND adaptation strategies at the recent Net Impact conference, where I sat on a panel entitled: “Climate Change Adaptation: Mitigating Risk and Building Resilience.” Dr. David Evans, Director of the Center for Sustainability at Noblis, moderated the panel. Other panelists included Gabriela Burian, Director for Sustainable Agriculture Ecosystems at Monsanto, and John Schulz, Director of Sustainability Operations at AT&T.

Silence on Climate Change Is Deafening

This post originally appeared in the National Journal's Energy Experts blog as a response to the question: "What Is Climate Silence Costing Us?"

The recent silence on climate change in the U.S. political discourse is extremely troubling. As we can see from the recent spate of extreme weather events, the costs of inaction are clear in terms of both environmental and economic impacts. If we are going to meet the challenge of the global climate threat, we need to have a real, rational discussion about climate change. Having that discussion requires national leadership on this issue.

The irony is that despite the relative silence on the campaign trail, U.S. public opinion on climate change is shifting, with a growing number of people recognizing that more needs to be done to address this issue. As WRI’s president Andrew Steer said in a recent New York Times interview, “On climate change, the political discourse here is massively out of step with the rest of the world, but also with the citizens of this country. Polls show very clearly that two-thirds of Americans think this is a real problem and needs to be addressed.”

Two Degrees Clubs: How Small Groups of Countries Can Make a Big Difference on Climate Change

Last week, ministers from 50 countries convened in South Korea for a “Pre-COP” meeting to prepare for the upcoming UNFCCC conference in Doha, Qatar (COP 18). Ministers confirmed their commitment to negotiate a new international climate framework by the end of 2015, as outlined in the Durban Platform agreed to at COP 17 last year.

While the Durban Platform gave new momentum to multilateral climate negotiations, the emissions gap remains large: The greenhouse gas reductions countries are currently willing to commit to don’t add up to the global reductions needed to limit warming to 2° C above pre-industrial temperatures. It’s clear that leaders need new ways to increase ambition enough to close this gap and reinforce the UNFCCC.

In this context, we are seeing a renewed interest in “clubs” – smaller groups of countries coming together to act on climate change, complementing the UNFCCC process. The question, though, is whether such clubs can make real progress toward closing the emissions gap.

More Extreme Weather: America Prepares for Hurricane Sandy’s Impacts

This post was co-authored by Forbes Tompkins, an intern with WRI's Climate and Energy Program.

With much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast bracing themselves for Hurricane Sandy's landfall, it’s important to note the human toll this hurricane has already left in its wake. At least 39 lives were lost in Haiti and Cuba, and more than 3,000 buildings were damaged in eastern Cuba alone by the hurricane.

Many are predicting that this storm will bring significant damage to United States. If Sandy hits with full force, the Mid-Atlantic could face rainfall totals between 3 and 7 inches in Washington, D.C., historic flooding along the coasts, and widespread power outages resulting from wind gusts that could exceed 60 mph. The storm could exceed the impacts of Hurricane Irene, in August 2011, which brought record rainfall and cost nearly $10 billion in damage.

States along the eastern seaboard are preparing for the storm. Governor Christie ordered the evacuation of New Jersey’s barrier islands and closure of the state’s casinos by 4 p.m. Sunday. Governor Cuomo ordered New York City’s transit service to suspend bus, subway, and commuter rail service starting at 7 p.m. Sunday.

The Climate Change Connection

Policy Experts Provide Insights into China’s Leadership Transition

This post was co-authored by Dominique Labaki, an intern with WRI's External Relations department.

Last Friday, experts from the ChinaFAQs Network and top media representatives participated on a press call on climate and energy policy under China’s incoming president, Xi Jinping, and other new leaders. The participants focused on the drivers underlying China’s energy and climate policies and actions. Key issues included whether the country can sustain its renewable energy growth, confront rising coal demand, and follow through on its climate change targets in the 12th five-year plan. All of these issues are emerging as the country faces its first major economic slowdown in more than a decade. This blog post highlights experts’ discussion during the press call.

New Leadership and the 12th Five-Year Plan

Kenneth Lieberthal, Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy and Global Economy and Development at Brookings, opened the discussion. As he explained, nearly 70 percent of China’s top leadership positions are expected to change in November, but the make-up of the Standing Committee of the Politburo remains uncertain. In Lieberthal’s view, China’s new leaders will first focus on domestic challenges, primarily around re-balancing the economy.

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