What are the top environmental and development issues that will shape 2012? This morning, I presented the World Resources Institute’s 9th annual “Stories to Watch” at the National Press Club. While we can’t predict the future, here’s a rundown of the key issues to keep an eye on:
This piece was written with Vinod Thomas, Director General, Independent Evaluation, Asian Development Bank. It originally appeared in The Guardian.
As we enter a new year, the world continues to be in the grips of dual crises. A stubborn economic downturn with widespread job losses combined with accelerating global warming threatening vulnerable communities. Many argue that dealing with climate change in the midst of an economic slump will hurt recovery efforts. The underlying reality, however, is quite the opposite. Not only can preparing for climate change offer opportunities for economic growth, it would be unwise to pursue one without the other.
Innovation can close the gap between the low-carbon technologies of today and the low-cost, high performance technologies the world needs.
In the United States, there is a heated debate about how much government should support renewable energy innovation. While you won’t find anyone who says they don’t value ‘innovation’, the U.S. federal investment in energy innovation across both fossil and renewable technology is still anemic, badly trailing China and only about one third of the amount recommended by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. That’s unfortunate, because there are compelling reasons to accelerate innovation in the energy sector, and specifically in renewable energy.
On October 20, I spoke at an Interactive Dialogue of the UN General Assembly about the imminent report of the High Level Panel for Global Sustainability. The Panel, convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is charged with articulating a new vision for sustainable growth and prosperity. Its report, due at the end of 2011, will set the tone for intergovernmental action in the coming years, including at the 2012 Rio+20 Earth Summit.
With a roster of current and former world leaders (including Mrs. Tarja Halonen, President of Finland and Mr. Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa) the Panel is uniquely positioned to set an agenda for green growth and prosperity. As I say in my remarks below, we already know what we need to do to promote sustainability. The real question lies in how to move forward and overcome both the political and behavioral hurdles that have hampered progress so far. Can the Panel craft a vision that is ambitious, politically realistic, and persuasive to the larger public?
Denmark’s new coalition government, elected last month, has adopted a new, more ambitious climate policy committing the country to reduce its GHG emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020 through domestic action. This target brings Denmark into line with the level of reduction proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as with the targets of several other Nordic and Northern European countries.
This post is based on a release that originally appeared on the website of The Climate Institute.
Australia’s House of Representatives voted to pass the Clean Energy Future Legislation on October 12th. The legislative package will put a price on carbon pollution, promote investment in renewable and clean energy technologies and support action to reduce carbon pollution.
This post originally appeared on the Corporate Eco Forum's Ecoinnovator blog.
Tomorrow’s leading companies will be those that pioneer innovative solutions to match climate change challenges. Today, this is largely uncharted territory; current best practices often focus on incremental product improvements (e.g., cars with moderate fuel efficiency gains) or are limited by existing business models (e.g., facility upgrades with high first costs). This type of change is not sufficient to achieve the 80 to 95 percent reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions the science tells us we need by mid-century.
The Open Climate Network recently concluded a three-day workshop in which participants from 18 organizations in 13 countries gathered to refine methodologies for the network’s first national assessment report, expected next year. The report will analyze country progress on climate change commitments, with a view towards “ground-truthing” countries’ performance on implementing effective policies that contribute to the low-carbon transition.
Today the GHG Protocol launches two new global greenhouse gas accounting standards - for corporate value chains (scope 3) and product life cycle emissions. Janet Ranganathan, WRI's Vice-president for Science & Research, and Pankaj Bhatia, WRI’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol Director since 2004, describe the 12-year program's critical role in business and government efforts to address climate impacts.