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5 Things We Learned in 2013 that Could Move the Needle on Sustainability

Two and a half millennia ago, Plato announced that “Human behavior flows from three things: desire, emotion, and knowledge.” Unfortunately, our human and corporate behavior on climate change is not even close to where it needs to be. But if the great philosopher was right (and he usually was), 2013 may have been a game changer.

The big news from 2013 came from gains in knowledge. New tools and research are opening our understanding much wider than before. But will we act on this? Knowledge can spur action, but this path is not guaranteed.

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WRI’s Top Outcomes of 2013

As 2013 comes to a close, it’s a good time to look back on the impact we’ve made in the world this year.

We made progress on tackling key sustainability challenges, including addressing climate change, promoting clean energy, ensuring food security and stable water supplies, reducing forest degradation, and creating sustainable cities. Take a look at our nine top outcomes:

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5 Ways Wisconsin Can Reduce Power Plant Emissions

Wisconsin has already taken strides to reduce its near-term power sector CO2 emissions by implementing cost-effective clean energy policies. And the state has the opportunity to go even further. In fact, new WRI analysis finds that Wisconsin can reduce its CO2 emissions 43 percent below 2011 levels by 2020 by extending its existing clean energy policies and taking advantage of existing infrastructure. Achieving these reductions will allow Wisconsin to meet even ambitious EPA power plant emissions standards, which are due to be finalized in 2015.

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New Study Raises Big Questions on U.S. Fugitive Methane Emissions

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences sheds light on a question that continues to vex industry executives and policymakers alike: How significant are fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas production?

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China Can Turn its Challenges into Clear Opportunities for Greener Growth

Confronted with a cooling economy and global headlines declaring an "Airpocalypse", China faces challenges on multiple fronts. While many people are quick to point out the hurdles, the reality is that its leaders are moving ahead with significant policy measures and reforms. If successful, these actions will not only help drive China's economic development, they will address another mounting threat: climate change.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirms the risks of climate change and humans' central role in it. China is no less vulnerable. One-third of its coastline is highly vulnerable to rising seas that will probably lead to the relocation of coastal communities. China's agricultural production - including rice, wheat and corn - could fall dramatically within a few decades due to shifts in precipitation and soil quality. Health impacts, including malaria and other infectious diseases, are also expected to mount as global temperatures rise.

As China moves to tackle issues related to the economy, pollution and urbanisation, each carries opportunities to shift the country's emissions trajectory and make progress on climate change.

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Robust, Recognizable, and Legitimate

Strengthening India's Appliance Efficiency Standards and Labels through Greater Civil Society Involvement...

Residential use accounts for 14 percent of global energy consumption. Appliance standards alone could achieve 17 percent energy reductions in the residential sector. Although appliance efficiency standards and labeling programs (AES&L) aim to influence consumer behavior, consumers and civil...

Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Fossil Fuels and Cement Reach Highest Point in Human History

We already know the world’s carbon budget is being exhausted at an alarming pace, but a new scientific assessment reveals just how sobering the picture of the global carbon cycle truly is.

The Global Carbon Project’s (GCP) 2013 report finds that at the precise time emissions reductions are needed most, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning fossil fuels and producing cement have reached their highest level in human history.

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WRI analysis finds that Colorado can reduce its CO2 emissions 29 percent below 2011 levels by 2020. These reductions would meet or exceed moderately ambitious EPA power plant emissions standards. Although EPA has not yet announced what its power plant emissions standards will look like, WRI based its analysis on two hypothetical standards. Under these scenarios, Colorado would be required to reduce its CO2 emissions in the range of 28 to 37 percent below 2011 levels by 2020.

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