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Foxconn Scandal Offers Supply Chain Lessons

This piece originally appeared on Forbes.

What do Apple, HP and Dell have in common – apart from making computers? They all source electronics from Foxconn, the beleaguered Chinese company under fire for working conditions at its factories.

There is a clear lesson to be drawn from the ongoing Foxconn furor. Fortune 500 companies’ supply chains are increasingly under the microscope— by consumers, investors, and the media. This scrutiny benefits not just factory workers but also the environment. And while uncomfortable for companies caught in the spotlight today, in the longer-term it will help business, too. Here’s why.

A New Snapshot of Energy Use in Midwest Manufacturing

Policymakers at all levels of government are focusing on getting the economy moving again. Recent economic news suggests that the manufacturing sector, which has struggled in recent decades and lost 30% of its workforce between 2000 and 2010, is leading the U.S. out of recession.

By including industrial energy efficiency as a core component of economic development strategies, policymakers can help ensure that today’s capital investments in infrastructure and industry leave U.S. manufacturers better positioned to compete in the 21st century.

A Look Back at the Durban Climate Talks

This post originally appeared in The Environmental Forum: The Policy Journal of the Environmental Law Institute.

The negotiations in South Africa were challenging and the politics complex. Countries were uncertain whether the international community would succeed in laying the groundwork for a legally binding agreement. Until the final weekend the prognosis was bleak, with several predicting the talks would collapse. Hence the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action was by no means an insignificant achievement. It was a product of politically sensitive negotiations that saw, for the first time, the emerging economies taking on an active role in shaping a climate agreement.

For Clean Energy, Taking Risks to Reap Rewards

This post originally appeared in the National Journal Energy & Environment Expert Blog. The question was, “Where Can Government Energy R&D Have Most Impact?”

Innovation in breakthrough energy technologies is notoriously challenging, despite having potentially large rewards. Individual innovations are embedded in larger systems where change is very hard. These innovations often carry significant capital costs to demonstrate, commercialize, or reach economies of scale. Unlike the latest cell phone, consumers are often unwilling to pay more for a new energy innovation, especially when the rewards are in the future.

Making the Most of a Second Chance: What Next for REDD+ Safeguards?

This piece was written with Gaia Larsen and Crystal Davis.

This spring, Parties to the UNFCCC must decide whether or not to continue discussions on the REDD+ safeguard information system (SIS) guidance that started in Durban. In particular, Parties have the option of developing further guidance related to the “transparency, consistency, comprehensiveness and effectiveness of the information” in the SIS. Parties may not wish to reopen this discussion given the many topics that still need to be addressed to make REDD+ operational, but not re-opening the discussion may be a missed opportunity for REDD+ countries seeking to improve the effectiveness of the implementation of the REDD+ safeguards. In order for these conversations to move forward, Parties may wish to have informal discussions next week during the REDD+ Partnership meeting in London.

National Adaptive Capacity Framework Helps Countries Get Ready for Climate Change

This week, WRI released a new report summarizing assessments of institutional readiness for adapting to climate change. The report, Ready or Not, focuses on pilot applications of the National Adaptive Capacity (NAC) framework in three countries: Bolivia, Ireland, and Nepal. Co-authors Heather McGray and Aarjan Dixit respond to questions about the NAC framework, which provided the analytic basis for this report.

China's Population Challenge: Designing Sustainable Cities for the Future

This piece originally appeared on Forbes.

Between meetings with President Obama this week, China’s vice president and leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping will make time to visit Iowa farm country. Back at home, cities– not the countryside– will likely dominate Xi’s domestic agenda.

In a momentous shift, more people in China now live in cities and towns than in rural areas. Forty years ago, eight in ten people in the world’s most populous country were peasant farmers, living off the land. Today, 51 percent of its 1.35 billion people live in sprawling cities, with high-rise skylines.

China surpassed this milestone in a fraction of the time it took Western Europe to shift from rural to urban societies. Nor is it alone. A similar exodus is taking place across Africa and Asia, prompting the United Nations Population Fund to estimate that almost 5 billion people worldwide will live in cities and towns by 2030, up from around 3.5 billion in 2010. This transformative shift in human society offers both big challenges and great promise for sustainable development.

Transparency and Accountability (MRV) in the Durban Climate Deal

The Durban climate deal reached in December 2011 marked an important milestone in the design of a system to measure, report, and verify (MRV) countries’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and their actions to reduce them. The deal succeeded in making the MRV system operational. However, the text still falls short on several important issues that WRI outlined before the meeting. In this post, we review the main MRV elements of the Durban deal.

Ambition in the Durban Climate Deal

The UNFCCC’s ultimate goal is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a “level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Thus, the most compelling measure of success of the Durban climate negotiations is arguably its ability to secure an adequate level of collective ambition on the part of countries. In this post, we review how well the Durban decisions can help reach this goal.

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