You are here

Climate, Energy & Transport

What do you do when extended droughts make your family’s traditional farming vocation harder and harder to sustain? Or when your town’s water supply is no longer sufficient for people to draw water from their wells, forcing them to buy water from private suppliers? Or when the weakening agricultural economy leads families to pull their children out of school to do household chores, as their fathers seek seasonal work farther and farther from home?

If you represent the national or local government in a developing country, you are beginning to face more climate-related questions like these, making decisions on resource allocation increasingly difficult. You always have to start with the present – to support farmers during droughts, find ways of improving water services and see how children of poor families can be protected. However, you sense that you are not dealing with temporary phenomena, but with the foreboding of longer-term change.

This post also appears on

Google is backing it. So is Warren Buffett, America’s most-watched investor. GE, one of the world’s biggest manufacturers, is too.

Each of these corporate icons is placing big bets and hundreds of millions of dollars on a future powered by wind and solar power. Apple just joined them, announcing plans to power its main U.S. data center in Maiden, North Carolina, entirely with renewable energy by the end of this year. So why - yet again - are pundits making dire warnings about prospects for renewable energy?

The answer is that the clean tech industry is at a critical crossroads.

This post was written with Youba Sokona, coordinator of the African Climate Policy Center (ACPC) at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. ACPC and WRI have signed a memorandum of understanding to partner on analysis, convening, and other joint activities to promote low-carbon, climate-resilient development in Africa.

WRI recently published "Ready or Not", a report on the roles of national institutions in adapting to climate change, based on WRI’s National Adaptive Capacity (NAC) framework. On February 21, WRI Vulnerability and Adaptation Initiative Co-directors Heather McGray and Johan Schaar led a workshop introducing the NAC framework to 17 staff and fellows of the African Climate Policy Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Gebru Jember of the Ethiopia Climate Change Forum also shared his organization’s experience using the NAC through the ARIA project.

When you have a simple headache, you can take an aspirin, and it usually clears up. But if you have heart disease, you will likely need to make some major changes in your lifestyle: diet, exercise, plenty of doctors’ visits, and perhaps a long-term course of expensive prescription medicine.

Climate change, unfortunately, is no mere headache. Building a climate-resilient society will require long-term and potentially fundamental transformations, including changes both large and small. This is why institutions are central to the climate-resilient development agenda.

At WRI, we like to say that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” For managing and mitigating climate change, one of the most fundamental measurements is a periodic inventory of the problem’s root cause: greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activities.

GHG emissions inventories are carried out at several levels, including corporate, city, and state. Measuring emissions for entire nations has its unique challenges, but it’s a critical first step for any country that wants to effectively manage its contribution to global climate change. National GHG inventories provide a baseline of data and, if regularly updated, a tracking mechanism for assessing how domestic policies impact emissions.

At an official side event to the UNFCCC Bonn Climate Change Conference this week, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), ICLEI– Local Governments for Sustainability, the World Resources Institute (WRI), and partners released Pilot Version 1.0 of the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GPC). The release of the GPC Pilot Version 1.0 marks an unprecedented international consensus on the greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting and reporting framework for cities and communities. For the first time, cities around the world will be able to manage and reduce their GHG impacts through a method that’s both comprehensive and easy-to-use.

How much fast-start climate finance is actually flowing, and where is it being spent?[^1] This question has come up repeatedly alongside the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) climate talks in Bonn this week.

Today the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Overseas Development Institute (ODI) published two working papers examining the fast-start contributions of the UK and US (GBP 1.06 billion and USD 5.1 billion, respectively). These papers seek to shed light on how developed countries are defining, delivering, and reporting fast-start finance. A similar paper on Japan’s contribution is under development, led by the Tokyo-based International Group for Environmental Strategies (IGES). The studies are carried out in collaboration with the Open Climate Network (OCN).

Since the conclusion of the UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa (COP 17) last year, there has been robust debate on the merits of its outcomes.

Some argue that the deal – including a new Durban Platform to negotiate the climate regime’s long-term future, a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, and an array of decisions to implement the Cancun Agreements – is an inadequate answer to a world facing rapidly increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Others point to encouraging elements of the Durban package, such as a renewed commitment to international collaboration, a vision of an ambitious post-2020 settlement, and a series of steps designed to facilitate creative thinking on closing the emissions gap.

This post was written with Heleen de Coninck, Programme Manager at the Energy Research Center of the Netherlands. It was originally published on the Climate & Development Knowledge Network.

On February 15-17, the UNFCCC Technology Executive Committee (TEC) held its second meeting. On May 28-29, it will meet again. The TEC is informally called the “policy arm” of the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism, which aims to enhance climate technology development and transfer for mitigation and adaptation. Despite its importance, the TEC has not been much discussed or studied. In this blog, two followers of the UNFCCC technology negotiations give their views on how the TEC can make a difference for addressing climate change.

This post also appears on

Thousands of companies have developed greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories in recent years as a crucial first step towards measuring and ultimately reducing their emissions. Agricultural emissions are a large part of many of those inventories: farming is currently responsible for between 10 and 12 percent of global GHG emissions. Globally, agricultural emissions are expected to increase by more than 50 percent by 2030, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

There is much uncertainty about how agricultural emissions should be reported in GHG inventories, a situation that hinders measurement and reduction efforts in the sector. To address this issue, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol is developing industry-wide best practices for reporting agricultural GHG emissions.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued final rules to reduce air pollution at natural gas wells and other sources in the oil and gas industry. The rules—a New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and National Emissions Standards for hazardous air pollutants—establish the first federal standards for emissions from production wells (natural gas processing plants were already covered). They are designed to limit the release of VOCs and other air toxics that contribute significantly to smog and are associated with a wide range of adverse health effects. (For more on the oil and gas rules, see M.J. Bradley & Associates’ Issue Brief.)

In addition to reducing VOC and air toxics emissions, these rules will help reduce methane emissions from shale gas development. According to the EPA, there are over 11,000 new hydraulically fractured wells each year, and while water-related environmental concerns have received the lion’s share of public attention and are the focus of EPA’s ongoing hydraulic fracturing study, uncontrolled emissions from hydraulic fracturing can negatively impact air quality and the climate.


Stay Connected