Four years ago, few financial firms factored climate change impacts into their operations. Now, due in large part to WRI’s work to examine the risks and opportunities that climate change is creating for business, industry leaders such as ABN AMRO, Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, and Lehman Brothers are committing significant resources and billions of dollars toward cleaner technologies and climate change solutions. What started as “boutique research” is now a mainstream issue. WRI believes that financial markets attuned to environmental issues will create powerful incentives for companies to improve their environmental performance, while also ensuring better returns for investors.
Climate, Energy & Transport
In early 2007, the politics of climate change experienced a tectonic shift when the CEOs of ten major corporations and four national environmental groups – including WRI – joined together in calling on the U.S. government to quickly enact strong national legislation requiring significant reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) and its bold proposals have advanced the policy debate in Congress. As USCAP membership grows (now at thirty one participating organizations representing over 2 million people in membership and over $2 trillion in market capitalization) so does the number of climate bills introduced. WRI was instrumental in the formation of USCAP, which is the result of a ten-year effort to engage the private sector in the design of business strategies and market-based policies to achieve strong national GHG reduction goals.
The first step in addressing the challenge of climate change is to define a consistent way to measure its causes. In April 2007, thirty-four U.S. states formed the Climate Registry to measure, track, verify, and publicly report GHG emissions accurately, transparently, and consistently across borders and industry sectors. The Registry will support voluntary, market-based, and regulatory GHG emissions reporting programs. The states joining represent 78% of the U.S. population, with impressive geographic, economic, and political diversity. WRI played a pivotal role in helping to convene this initiative and by providing technical consulting. Ideally, these standards and strategies will help support and provide a common template for federal climate change policies and programs.
Brazil currently ranks fifth in the world in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The country’s energy mix, long dominated by hydro power, is trending towards fossil fuels, and the Brazilian general public is increasingly concerned with climate change.
Although not bound by Kyoto Protocol GHG emissions limits, Brazil is committed to fighting global warming. In partnership with WRI and other organizations, the Brazilian government launched the Brazil GHG ProtocolProgram, a voluntary public registry of corporate greenhouse gas emissions. Participants will log annual inventories of emissions and will receive training on accounting practices and management reduction strategies. Sixteen major corporations joined the effort, the first program of its kind in South America.
Standardizing how greenhouse gases are measured and reported lays the foundation for future mitigation efforts. Our goal is to expand the program and bring GHG accounting tools and training to the agricultural, biofuel, and forestry sector, which are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil.
The Bali Action Plan, agreed to by 187 nations (including the U.S.) in December 2007, is a critical step forward in shaping an international climate agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. It contains no binding commitments, but calls for deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions and provides a timetable of two years to shape the agreement.
It also introduced the notion of “nationally appropriate actions” whereby developing countries in a new international agreement meet CO2 reduction targets in ways that don’t constrain their ability to reach their sustainable development goals. It’s a concept WRI’s climate experts have been instrumental in shaping and expanding over the last few years in the international climate arena. WRI worked closely with South African negotiators and others to draft the language agreed to in the Bali Action Plan.
China makes and uses almost half of the cement in the world. Between now and 2030, some estimates are that China will erect half of all buildings expected to be constructed in the world. Cement is an energy intensive and polluting business currently responsible for 15% of China’s emissions of carbon dioxide.
Working with China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC)
and the China Building Materials Academy, WRI is providing greenhouse
gas (GHG) accounting tools and training to help cement companies
measure GHG emissions and better understand their energy needs. It’s a critical step in helping a booming industry meet government
mandated energy reduction goals.
The GHG Protocol (developed by WRI and the World Business
Council on Sustainable Development) is the basis for the
program. It has been adopted by China’s NDRC as a standard in its efforts to lead national programs to address global
warming. Our aim is to work with the NDRC to expand use
of the GHG Protocol into other energy- and GHG-intensive
industries (oil and gas, petrochemical, chemical, power
generation, and iron and steel).
An increasing number of U.S. states and Canadian provinces are enacting regulations to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. WRI has been an active contributor to this movement, providing critical technical and policy advice, and facilitating negotiations.
Arizona, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and four Canadian provinces recently agreed to collectively reduce GHG emissions by 15% of 2005 levels by 2020 and establish a cap-and-trade system. Under the plan, companies obtain permits for the emissions attributable to their operations. Cleaner, more efficient companies needing fewer permits may sell what they don’t need to those with larger emissions. This initiative is the largest effort of its kind in North America. Member states account for nearly 27% of total U.S. GHG emissions. Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, along with Manitoba, have also agreed to design an emissions reduction market.
Both efforts build off of the experiences of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a similar program among ten northeastern states targeting electric utilities that WRI helped create in 2005. Carbon trading began in September 2008.
Germany’s energy transition (or “Energiewende”) is the most ambitious current effort to put a large industrial economy onto a sustainable energy path, recognizing the 21st century reality of a climate-constrained world. If the world’s fourth largest economy demonstrates that this shift is possible without undermining economic growth, it could be a major factor in enabling a global energy transition. And with climate change intensifying – 2012 was the 36th straight year of above-average global temperature, and 2011 and 2012 each produced more extreme weather events costing over one billion dollars each than any other year in recorded history – reducing greenhouse gas emissions is imperative for any future energy system. Thus, the Energiewende is critical to the ongoing fight against global warming.
When President Barack Obama announced the country’s first national climate strategy, many people wondered what it would mean across the nation. Yet, the strategy may carry even more significant implications overseas.
The plan restricts U.S. government funding for most international coal projects. This policy could significantly affect energy producers and public and private investors around the globe.
As impacts from climate change become more visible and costly, leaders across the nation are responding. In the wake of projections from the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science showing that Maryland could face sea-level rise of more than six feet by the end of the century, Governor Martin O’Malley unveiled a state climate action plan this week. The initiative will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also supporting job creation and economic growth.