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Climate, Energy & Transport

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.

If one thinks of the ongoing climate negotiations as a paint-by-numbers picture, the Cancun Agreements outlined what to paint and the basic colors to use. In last week’s Panama talks, Parties continued painting with various hues that, once complete, will hopefully create a detailed and beautiful picture. The painting does not yet have a frame, however, as the Parties still have to decide on what kind of “agreed outcome” the negotiations are leading to – i.e., a legally binding agreement or a non-binding one. At the same time the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period ends in 2012, which adds complexity but also opportunity to the picture.

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.

The American author Tom Peters once wrote “if a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade”. Next week’s UNFCCC session in Panama is the penultimate stop in what has been a long and at times difficult year in the climate negotiations. The road to COP 17 in Durban has featured contentious agenda items, complex issue areas, and moments to test the resolve of the most patient negotiator. Yet despite these trying times glimmers of progress are evident, and as the year draws to a close we are beginning to see outlines of a deal that is both ambitious and imaginable.

In 2009, China’s Twelfth Five-Year Plan set a goal to cut the country’s carbon intensity by 17 percent by 2015. Responsibility for achieving portions of this target has been allocated to provinces and cities. This three-part series explores the vital role of China’s municipalities in reaching the national carbon intensity goal. Part 1 presents low-carbon city targets and plans developed to date. Part 2 will explore some challenges related to designing city-level low-carbon plans and mechanisms to track progress towards them. Part 3 will present some possible solutions to these challenges.

This statement from the director of the Texas Forest Service makes it clear that the recent wildfires that scorched Texas belong in a new category of disaster. Already, the state’s wildfires this season have consumed 3.6 million acres (an area the size of Connecticut), swallowed over 1,500 homes, and killed at least four people. According to NOAA, the current wildfire is costing more than $1 million per day and exceeds $5 billion in overall damages across the Southwest. These are costs that will be borne by government, business and residents, alike.

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