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America Can Learn from Australia’s New Clean Energy Future Package

Australia, one of world’s most carbon-intensive countries, recently began implementing a comprehensive national policy to address climate change and transition to a clean-energy economy. Yesterday, WRI had the pleasure of hosting Mark Dreyfus, Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, who outlined his country’s plans to a group of business, congressional, and NGO representatives.

One point that came through at the event is that Australia’s recent energy and climate choices can be very instructive to the United States. This post provides a quick look at Australia’s new policy and explores how it can inform and inspire U.S. efforts to move toward a low-carbon future.

Why Did Australia Adopt a National Climate and Energy Policy?

Australia faces a high level of climate risk, with significant vulnerability to sea level rise as well as to extreme weather events like drought, heat waves, and wildfires. At the same time, the country is heavily dependent on carbon-intensive resources. Australia has the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions of any country in the developed world, and it's the 15th largest emitter overall.

Improved Governance Needed in G20's Report on Infrastructure Development

A few months back, I attended the US-China-Brazil Forum on Sustainable Infrastructure and Development, organized by the International Fund for China’s Environment. I was joined by a few other development experts, including representatives from the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, Pacific Environment, the Brookings Institution, and the Heinrich Böll Foundation of North America. Our “Infrastructure Investment Strategies and Project Selection Criteria” panel provided an opportunity to discuss the final report of the G20 High-Level Panel (HLP) on infrastructure.

The HLP report, “High Level Panel on Infrastructure Recommendations to G20-Final Report,” acts as a guide for infrastructure project selection in the developing world. While the report successfully draws attention to the important topic of infrastructure development in developing countries, it has been criticized by civil society groups for failing to include effective governance strategies and for focusing too much on large-scale projects.

Calling All Businesses: Help Pilot WRI’s SWOT Tool for Corporate Sustainability

The World Resources Institute (WRI) and our corporate partners are using a new twist on an old tool to spark innovations for a green economy—a “SWOT tool” adapted for corporate sustainability.

SWOT analysis is a framework companies have used for almost 50 years to evaluate strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). In partnership with companies in WRI’s Next Practice Collaborative, we have developed a guide based on this familiar framework to help corporations find, evaluate, and act on new risks and opportunities as environmental challenges shape tomorrow’s markets.

We are excited to invite companies to help road test this new tool. Those who do will help shape the final version, have the opportunity to be featured as a case study, and can connect with other companies to share insights on the big trends they see around the corner.

Wanted: A Steve Jobs for Sustainability

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.

Where is the Steve Jobs of sustainability? The business leader with the big, disruptive ideas—and the force of will—to achieve for sustainable production and consumption what Apple’s visionary chief did for global technology and information?

This question springs strongly to mind after attending the Rio+20 conference.

Unlike the original Earth Summit 20 years earlier, business leaders were everywhere at Rio 2012. And with governments failing to make headway at the UN-led forum, there was much talk of businesses taking a greater lead in fixing the world’s environmental and development challenges.

Rio+20: More Progress from Business Needed

This piece originally appeared in The Guardian.

Big business seemed to be everywhere at Rio+20, arguably more visible than the 100 or so heads of state and government, who arrived for the final few days.

Hundreds of business initiatives were announced through groups including Business Action for Sustainable Development and the UN Global Compact's Corporate Sustainability Forum. And the corporate leaders who flocked to Brazil made all the right noises. "We have to bring this world back to sanity and put the greater good ahead of self-interest," Unilever CEO Paul Polman told the Guardian.

But how much substance lies below the surface of these declarations?

Rio+20 in the Rear View: Getting Business on Board with the Green Economy

WRI's experts will continue to provide commentary and analysis of the results of the Rio+20 conference through our series, "Rio+20 in the Rear View." For more posts in this series, see here, here, and here.

Many stories came out of the Rio+20 proceedings; Jo Confino’s blog in The Guardian is an excellent place to review what happened. But now that Rio+20 is behind us and the 50,000 government officials, business representatives, and activists have gone home, one expectation is clear: Leadership from the private sector is critical to advancing sustainable solutions in the coming years.

The question is: Are business leaders on board with this strategy? Is transformative action possible or desirable from a business perspective? We can’t speak for all businesses, but on June 17th in Rio, WRI partnered with Forum for the Future, a UK-based NGO that works with companies on sustainable business practices, to present a panel featuring corporate leaders that are currently taking steps toward "next practices."

What's Happening at Rio+20: The Final Day

Rio+20 glided to a close today. Many people are still milling about, but many others are already heading home. It will take some time to understand what this conference truly means. WRI’s Manish Bapna called it a “missed opportunity.” That said, we know that we cannot give up. The stakes are too high for that. And perhaps it’s even possible that the embers here will grow and evolve into the solutions that we need for a more sustainable world.

As the dust settles, our experts will continue to provide new information and analysis on this blog. And be sure to check out our latest posts on governance, cities, and transportation.

Dispatches from Rio+20: Visiting with Mayor Bloomberg, Riding the Bus, and More

One lesson from Rio+20 is you shouldn’t confuse what’s happening in the hallways and negotiating rooms with what’s taking place on the ground. A great example of this is the new bus-rapid-transit line that has just started running in Rio de Janeiro. The BRT has gotten a lot of attention this week– not least because New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s visit to Rio de Janeiro brought focus to the city’s transportation system.

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to join Mayor Bloomberg and Rio’s Mayor Paes, along with my EMBARQ colleagues to visit Rio’s operations center. Mayor Bloomberg was primarily here to promote the C40 Climate Leadership Group’s announcement of C40 cities' actions to reduce 1.3 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030. The Mayor also cited city-level actions already taken that will cut 248 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

What's Happening at Rio+20: June 22nd

It’s the final week of Rio+20, and WRI’s experts are on the ground for all the action. Each day, I’ll bring you highlights of what’s on the horizon. Check out the details below on the exciting things happening tomorrow. And be sure to visit the full list of WRI’s Rio+20 events.

We are heading into the last day of the conference. I'd say we are coasting in, because it seems that there won't be much drama around the resolution. I don’t think many people are really satisfied with the formal outcome, which isn't nearly ambitious enough. But it was certainly a busy, stimulating week with lots of opportunities to meet people, have interesting conversations, and wrestle with the big issues. I would also say, once again, that's it has been enjoyable to be in Rio - though the sun has turned into rain. A metaphor? Perhaps.

Final Days at Rio+20: Measuring Progress So Far

Rio+20 has not quite concluded, but we’re rapidly approaching the end line. Somewhat unexpectedly, the Rio+20 outcome document was largely finalized yesterday afternoon. NGOs have weighed in on what this means, and most are rightfully frustrated. Almost across the board, the document is much too soft and vague to solve today’s sustainability challenges. Much of the text is merely a reaffirmation of previous agreements or worse, a regression from those agreements.

That said, we’ve believed all along that the more groundbreaking action at Rio+20 would be outside of the formal process. Certainly, after attending many side events and informal meetings this week, I’ve come across numerous examples of civil society organizations, entrepreneurs, companies, and others who are moving forward with innovative approaches to address sustainability. Perhaps more importantly, outside of Rio, many national and local governments are genuinely pushing ahead on sustainability in exciting ways.

The picture at Rio is much like the world today: complex, incremental and not rising to the challenges in front of us.

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