Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Union Preview

Bush is expected to talk about a new greenhouse gas mitigation plan tonight. He’s talked about ending the “oil addiction”, increasing efficiency and shifting to cleaner energy sources in just about every SoU, but with a focus on voluntary action and little follow through in the way of policy. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with tonight. Some things to keep in mind as he talks:

  • the US Climate Action Partnership has released a report calling for mandatory regulation on GHG emissions – the group consists of Alcoa, BP America, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, DuPont, FPL Group, General Electric, Lehman Brothers, PG&E, and PNM Resources, along with 4 NGOs -- Environmental Defense, Natural Resources Defense Council, Pew Center, and World Resources Institute. They have said that they are doing this now, in part because they expect softer caps under Bush than they will get under the next administration

· there have been plenty of bills on GHG regulations put forward in Congress of late. PointCarbon North America offers a recap:

In the US, the new senate majority leader Harry Reid introduced a message bill on energy, designed to frame broad goals for upcoming legislation. This “National Energy and Environment Security Act of 2007” calls for mandatory greenhouse gas regulation, and according to Reid’s staff it implies cap-and-trade. With Democrats now holding a one-seat majority in the US senate, his staff predicted that by the end of January “we’ll see at least a dozen bills popping up that deal with carbon emissions, many of them from senior people like committee chairmen.”

Indeed, Senators Lieberman and McCain re-introduced their cap-and-trade proposal last Friday (see page 2), with a new co-sponsor – presidential hopeful Barak Obama. Yesterday former Senator Jeffords’ greenhouse gas cutting bill was reintroduced, and Senator Diane Feinstein’s office will release hers this week. Barbara Boxer, who heads the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, has indicated the climate change hearings she plans to hold will produce several proposals for regulating US emissions as well. Her first hearing on the issue will be held 30 January.

New faces in key positions on the state and regional level may accelerate progress toward carbon trading as well. Massachusetts’ new Governor Deval Patrick plans to bring his state, one of the biggest emitters in the northeastern US, back into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)

Hopefully these forces coming together, with the back drop of the wind storms in Europe, ice storms in Texas, etc. will spark some meaningful, decisive action. Stay going.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Tesco's carbon rating

Some good news from UK's retail giant Tesco (from the Financial Times):

Tesco will become the first supermarket chain to assign a "carbon rating" to everything it sells in the latest attempt by a retailer to cash in on consumers' concerns about the environment.

The fifth-largest retail chain said on Thursday it would work with Oxford University's environmental change institute to create an index to measure the carbon required to produce, transport and consume every product it sells...

...Labels showing energy content could encourage shoppers to opt for lower carbon goods. This could boost local suppliers to Tesco stores and encourage manufacturers to cut carbon emissions in order to attract shoppers to their brands...

...The retailer said it would spend up to £500m during the next five years in reducing energy use. It has already put £100m into a sustainable technology fund. Its capital expenditure budget is about £3bn a year.

Sustainable consumption has become a hot topic for retailers over the past year as they look to win over the growing legions of shoppers who are expressing concerns about the environment.

This is great news to see the trends going this way, and making it easier for us to make better-informed "votes" at the cash register. Hopefully this will also make the choice between "local or organic" easier - while work towards the time when everything will be both.

Check out the full story: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/133d5be4-a718-11db-83e4-0000779e2340.html

Stay going.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

New year’s and Climate Change

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday season. I spent a good portion of it traveling (a terrible habit I’m working to break) and talk from various parts is ever-more focused on the weird weather, and the economic costs. Wind storms in the north west have been responsible for Stanley Park in Vancouver losing around 4,000 trees, and two deaths, and restoration efforts will cost at least $5 million, according to recent estimates, though they won’t know for sure until this summer at the earliest. Province-wide the utility there is already looking at upwards of $40 million in storm damage, vs. the $5 million budgeted.

Also, couple of other interesting headlines from Environmental Finance:

London, 11 January: The World Economic Forum (WEF) has upped its assessment of the risk posed by climate change, estimating that it could cause up to $250 billion of economic losses over the next 10 years.

(Read the full story)

London, 11 January: The European Commission has called on industrialised countries to cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.

(Read the full story)

All of these represent examples or manifestations of the funnel walls for individuals, businesses, universities and all other organizations. Luckily, solutions-oriented approaches are finally becoming more common, and this is where it gets fun – when we pull together against our common enemy of unsustainability and start developing the creative, innovative solutions that will move us past the carbon economy, provoking us to step back and reconsider what is the real purpose of our endeavors here on Earth, reconnect with our local communities and throughout it all learn together.

One such uplifting recent development is the Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability opening this month and general trends towards sustainability in higher education. My company Greenland Enterprises will be in the mix over the coming months helping out with the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment mentioned in the article. We’re very excited about this, and encourage anyone working in college administration, or know people who are, or if you’re a student, or an alum or a college or university to encourage those institutions to take a stand and make the commitment, and enjoy a leadership role in this exciting challenge.

We’re also very excited to be back in Boston, and look forward to catching up with everyone, and getting involved with exciting sustainability initiatives going on around here. More excited still for the Pat’s game this afternoon and a graceful defeat of San Diego on their home turf. Stay going.