Editor’s Note: This article was updated in September 2023 with new findings from WRI’s dataset tracking electric school bus adoption in the United States, covering January to June 2023. Our new data dashboard, updated monthly, has the most recent data on electric school bus adoption. Previous versions of this article are available for download at the bottom of this page.
Electric school bus adoption continues to expand in the United States. As of June 2023, there are 2,277 electric school buses that are either on order, delivered or operating. In total, there are now 5,982 committed electric school buses, an increase of almost 400 buses since the release of WRI’s December 2022 dataset and over 3,200 more buses since June 2022.
Thirty-nine percent of all committed electric school buses in the United States come from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean School Bus Rebate Program, which awarded over $900 million for more than 2,300 electric school buses to 365 school districts in 2022, in its first round of funding. Thanks to this program, there are now electric school bus commitments in 49 states, Washington, D.C., American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and four tribal nations including the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians. We previously reported 50 states, but since our last update, Wyoming has returned their funding award.
This unprecedented level of funding comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021 and would not have been possible without the tireless advocacy work of groups across the country.Why Are Electric School Buses Important?
More than 20 million children ride the bus to school and over 90% of these school buses run on diesel. Diesel exhaust, a known carcinogen, has proven links to serious physical health issues as well as cognitive development impacts. Daily exposure contributes to asthma and other respiratory diseases. Last year, the Electric School Bus Initiative published the first nationwide dataset of asthma rates by school district, based on census tract-level data from CDC PLACES and found that encouragingly, nearly 50% of electric school buses are in areas with high rates of adult asthma. This is especially important, as evidence suggests that children are especially susceptible to these impacts.More than 90% of school buses today run on diesel, with dangerous fumes that have proven links to serious physical health issues and cognitive development impacts. Photo by Denisse Leon/Unsplash.
Students from low-income families are particularly exposed to the dangers of diesel exhaust pollution: 60% ride the bus to school, compared to 45% of students from families with higher incomes. In addition, Black students and children with disabilities rely on school buses more than their peers, meaning they’re more likely to be exposed to diesel exhaust. Children of color are also more likely to suffer from asthma, due in part to historically racist lending, transit, housing and zoning policies that concentrated Black and Brown communities closer to highways and other sources of vehicle-based air pollution. Electrifying the entire fleet of school buses can help address these health concerns and inequalities.
Electric school buses don’t have any tailpipe emissions, reducing students’ exposure to harmful pollutants, which studies have shown can have positive and significant effects on student test scores — in some cases, on par with increased teacher experience levels.
Electric school buses produce less than half the greenhouse gas emissions of diesel or propane-powered school buses, even after accounting for emissions for electricity generation. Plus, unlike other fuels, the use of electric buses will continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as more electricity generation comes from renewable energy. School bus electrification can also offer resiliency support to the electric grid by providing access to large batteries when not in use and add jobs in the growing electric vehicle industry, although this transition needs to be thoughtfully managed with equity considerations in mind.
WRI has been tracking electric school bus adoption across the U.S. and recently released updated data covering the first and second quarters of 2023.
Here are the key findings and trends from this new data:The United States Has Almost 6,000 Committed Electric School Buses; More Than 1,200 Are on the Road Today
We consider an electric school bus “committed” when a school district or fleet operator has been awarded funding to purchase it or has made a formal agreement for a purchase with a dealer or manufacturer. Committed buses also include those in operation and buses that have been delivered to the school district or fleet operator.
As of June 2023, we identified 5,982 electric school buses that have been awarded, ordered, delivered or are operating across 914 U.S. school districts or private fleet operators. There are more than triple the number of districts since our first count in the summer of 2021, while the amount of electric school buses committed has increased five-fold. We estimate approximately 69,000 students across the country are currently served by electric school buses that are delivered or in operation.
We collect data on four phases of the electric school bus adoption process that fit under the umbrella term “committed:” “awarded,” “ordered,” “delivered” and “in operation.” As of June 2023, there are 992 electric school buses on order, more than twice the number in December 2022, affirming that there is significant follow-through by districts that receive electric school bus awards. Approximately 1,285 electric school buses in 40 states have been delivered or are in operation — about the size of the entire school bus fleet of Broward County Public Schools in Florida. This is an increase of more than 300 buses in communities since December 2022.
Our research shows that an average of 16 months passes between the awarding of funds to the delivery of the electric school bus. This range varies from less than three months to almost four years, but the amount of overall time is less since the first electric school bus hit the roads in 2014. Supply chain issues during the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated delivery delays for all school bus types. While these have improved since 2020, such delays are expected to continue for some time.Electric School Buses are Committed in 49 States; One-Third are in the South
Forty-nine states have electric school bus commitments, in addition to five tribal schools, one private school operated by a tribal nation, Washington, D.C., American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
As of June 2023, 119 electric school buses funded by EPA’s Clean School Bus Rebate Program have been delivered or are already operating and at least another 349 are on order, representing more than 100 school districts in 32 states.
California still leads in electric school bus adoption, with over 2,000 committed electric buses across the state, at least 34% of which are delivered or operating. This is more than five times as many buses as the next leading state, Maryland, with 391 commitments. California also has the largest increase since December 2022, with 226 new commitments. New Jersey has the second largest increase with 107 new committed electric school buses. New Jersey is also now within the top 10 states with the most committed electric school buses for the first time since tracking began. West Virginia has the third largest increase with 42 new commitments. The updated data shows electric school bus commitments are now more evenly distributed across the country.
Before October 2022, 59% of electric school bus commitments were in the West (based on U.S. Census regions), including over 50% in California. Now, California represents just 35% of committed electric school buses, only a little more than the South’s 33% share of commitments. New England and the Midwest have 16% and 10% respectively of committed electric school buses.
With 2,339 electric school buses awarded — and more on the way — the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program far surpasses any other single funding source by the number of buses funded. The next largest funding source is California’s Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Program (HVIP), which has funded 1,029 buses. Unsurprisingly, California-specific funding sources comprise five out of the 10 largest funding sources. The state’s robust incentive programs are partly why more than half of all delivered and operational electric school buses can be found there.Top 10 Electric School Bus Funding Sources Rank Funding Source Funding Administrator Number of ESBs Funded 1 Clean School Bus Rebate Program Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2,339 2 California's Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Program California Air Resources Board 1,029 3 Volkswagen Settlement Multiple 712 4 School Bus Replacement Program California Energy Commission 228 5 Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Multiple (MA and NJ) 187 6 Rural School Bus Pilot Project California Air Resources Board 143 7 Diesel Reduction Act EPA 140 8 Carl Moyer Program California Air Resources Board 133 9 Community Air Protection Incentive Program California Air Resources Board 108 10 Electric School Bus Program Dominion Energy (VA) 59
Most of the 914 U.S. school districts or private fleet operators with electric school buses — around 71% — have committed to more than one bus. One-third of all entities with electric school buses have committed to five or more and 162 (18%) have committed to 10 or more, compared to 60 school districts just one year ago. Forty-nine states, plus Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and three tribal nations have at least two electric school bus commitments. Seventy-two districts have electric school bus commitments that amount to 50% or more of their current fleet size and 14 districts currently have a school bus fleet that is at least half electric. These numbers suggest growing trust in electric school bus technology and market conditions, as well as wider funding availability.Top 5 School Districts by Number of Electric School Buses Committed* Rank Entity name State Number of ESBs 1 Montgomery County Public Schools MD 326 2 Los Angeles Unified School District CA 253 3 New York City Public Schools NY 118 4 Twin Rivers Unified School District CA 84 5 Troy Community Consolidated School District 30-C IL 64
Source: Lazer and Freehafer, 2023
*awarded, ordered, delivered or in operation.
The dataset includes information on “batches,” or groups of electric school buses that went through the adoption process at the same time. We consider a district’s buses to be in the same batch if one of their adoption phases — when they were awarded, ordered, delivered or first operating — occurred within roughly six months of each other. For example, if a district ordered five buses in January and then ordered five more in May of the same year, those 10 buses would all be grouped into one batch. This variable can help to demonstrate adoption patterns at the school district level, like how batches differ in size and how long it takes before districts receive an additional batch.
The average time between a district’s batches is a little over a year. Since December 2022, 24 districts have added a batch of electric school buses, bringing the total number of districts with more than one batch to 162. Fifteen districts have four batches, and one district, Los Angeles Unified School District, has five. We found that most batches are small, with a median size of two buses. However, the batch sizes range widely, suggesting that they may be largely dependent on the amount and type of funding and financing available at the time.Larger Buses Dominate Electric School Bus Sales
School buses are generally classified into four categories based on size and construction: the smaller types A and B, which carry between 10 and 30 passengers and the larger types C and D, which carry between 50 and 90 students. The four largest manufacturers all offer Type C electric models, which is the most common bus type, according to a 2021 maintenance survey conducted by School Bus Fleet Magazine. This aligns with our findings on electric school bus types; 63% of committed electric school buses are Type C, while 22% are the bigger Type D. Sixteen percent of electric school buses are Type A. Only a handful of electric school buses are Type B.Is Electric School Bus Adoption Occurring Equitably?
EPA’s Clean School Bus Program prioritized school districts based on whether they were “high need” (including high-poverty districts and those located in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa or Northern Mariana Islands), rural, tribal or a combination of these criteria. Out of all committed electric school buses nationwide that fit into the criteria of low-income, rural, tribal or located in a U.S. territory, the Clean School Bus Program funded most electric school buses in each of these categories. Notably, the Clean School Bus Program led to a more equitable distribution of electric school buses across locales. The share of districts with at least one electric school bus in each locale (rural, town, suburban and urban) aligns almost exactly to the distribution of all school districts nationwide among these locales. Forty percent of school districts with at least one committed electric school bus are in rural locales, 24% are in suburban, 20% are in urban and 15% are in town locales.
The amount of electric school buses in school districts with the highest shares of low-income households has increased significantly, mostly due to the Clean School Bus Program’s prioritization of low-income school districts. In June 2022, the largest percentage of electric school buses were in districts with the smallest shares of low-income households. Now, 62% of committed electric school buses are in districts with the highest shares of low-income households.
Electric school bus adoption appears to be occurring equitably when looking at how the vehicles are distributed among communities of color. Eighty-six percent of committed electric school buses are in school districts with the highest percentages of non-white/Hispanic residents (defined as “people of color” in the EPA’s EJScreen data). The Clean School Bus Program did not use race or ethnicity as prioritization criteria, so policymakers, utilities, nonprofit organizations and teams charged with program design and implementation should commit to ensuring this trend continues.
We compiled data on concentrations of Particle Matter (PM2.5) and ozone in school districts because of the harmful health effects of these pollutants, their close linkage to diesel exhaust and the availability of data. The data shows school districts with the highest levels of PM2.5 air pollution have committed more electric school buses. Over two thirds of committed electric school buses are located in school districts with the highest concentrations of PM2.5.
The trend continues with ozone pollution. Approximately three quarters of committed electric school buses are in districts with the highest concentrations of ozone pollution.
School districts with electric school buses are fairly evenly distributed among different levels of adult asthma rates. A little less than half (43%) of committed electric school buses are in school districts with the highest adult asthma rates.
Approximately 57% of committed electric school buses are in school districts with lower adult asthma rates. Efforts must continue to ensure that electric school buses are brought first to communities that will benefit the most from air quality improvements.
Overall, committed electric school buses are largely concentrated in historically underserved school districts. Since tracking began, we have seen an increase in buses in low-income areas and areas with the highest levels of PM2.5 and ozone pollution. A majority of electric school buses continue to be in school districts with high populations of non-white and/or Hispanic residents. As electric school bus adoption continues to scale up across the United States, we must continue to center communities that disproportionately bear the burden of on-road air pollution.
It’s important to note that the metrics we have chosen are by no means comprehensive. WRI is conducting more in-depth research on the equity of electric school bus adoption and continuing to work alongside partners to ensure that underserved communities remain front-and-center in the transition.What’s Next to Scale Up Electric School Bus Adoption?
Our most recent update to WRI’s Electric School Bus Adoption dataset saw a continued increase in the number of committed buses, in large part due to awards through EPA’s Clean School Bus Program. We also recorded a twofold increase in the number of electric school buses on order over the last six months and an increase of over 100 buses in operation. This signals that there is significant follow-through by districts that receive electric school bus awards, and that funding is putting more buses on the road.
A second round of federal funding, in the form of a grant program through the EPA, recently closed its application cycle on August 22, 2023. Another round of rebates by the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program is expected to open later this year. In addition, in June 2023, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued proposed regulations for elective payment options for claiming certain clean energy tax credits —which allows entities like school districts to claim electric school bus-relevant credits such as 45W (Qualified Commercial Clean Vehicles) and 30C (Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit). The IRS is expected to release a pre-filing registration portal later this year, which would allow school districts to take the first step in applying for the credits.
State legislatures are also bolstering the electric school bus transition. Since 2022, five states have statutorily enacted zero-emission school bus transition mandates, including Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Maine and New York. Delaware is the most recent state to enact its transition mandate in August 2023, requiring that 30% of new school buses be electric by 2030. Colorado, Michigan and Washington D.C., have non-binding transition goals, aiming for 100% zero-emission buses on the road by 2035,100% of school bus sales to be electric by 2030, and the replacement of 100% of school buses with electric models beginning in 2021, respectively. Approximately 20% of school buses and 16% of all school bus riders are impacted by these targets. In July 2023, Michigan further demonstrated their commitment to electric school buses by passing a historic budget that included $125 million for Michigan’s Clean School Bus Program. Washington State has also allocated $100 million toward the procurement of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, including school buses.
This progress has spurred the consideration of funding and fleet transition targets and propositions in even more states, including California, Hawaii, Illinois and Massachusetts.
This latest data shows that electric school buses have nationwide momentum. If progress toward an all-electric school bus fleet is to persist, policymakers at the federal and state levels, including state utility regulators, need to continue establishing electric school bus enabling policies, such as fleet transition targets and programs to support charging infrastructure deployment. Federal and state governments can continue to address the upfront cost premium of electric school buses through new and augmented funding opportunities and, importantly, financing programs that help maximize the impact and reach of grants and leverage them for greater scale and ambition. Across these efforts, policymakers should ensure benefits are equitably accessible to communities that would benefit most from school bus electrification.
View past editions of this article:
- April 2023 Edition
- February 2023 Edition
- September 2022 Edition
- June 2022 Edition
- February 2022 Edition
- August 2021 Edition
STATEMENT: Countries Offer Lackluster Progress at Climate Ambition Summit; Steep Road Ahead to COP28
NEW YORK (September 20, 2023) — The UN Climate Ambition Summit concluded today at the UN Headquarters, with heads of state and world leaders making speeches, showing progress and announcing new commitments on climate action. The summit came on the heels of a massive march in the streets of New York where thousands gathered calling for an end to fossil fuels.
Taking place alongside New York Climate Week, the SDGs Summit and UN General Assembly, the Summit is an important milestone on the road to COP28 in Dubai. There countries will determine how to respond to the Global Stocktake report findings to keep the 1.5 degrees C goal alive and address climate impacts.
Following is a statement from David Waskow, Director, International Climate Initiative, World Resources Institute:
“The small steps countries offered are welcome, but they’re like trying to put out an inferno with a leaking hose. There is simply a huge mismatch between the depth of actions governments and businesses are taking and the transformative shifts that are needed to address the climate crisis.”
“The Secretary-General clearly laid out how countries must hit “fast forward” with his Acceleration Agenda. A few countries rallied behind the agenda, but far too many key players didn’t touch the accelerator. And some of the biggest emitters were noticeably absent from the stage.
“Germany stepped up with its replenishment commitment to the Green Climate Fund, Denmark shifted its net zero goal forward to 2045, and Brazil committed to undo the previous administration's backsliding on its climate target.
“Outside the Summit, thousands of people of marched in the streets calling for an end to fossil fuels, businesses showed how they are reducing food waste though overall progress is lagging, new evidence highlighted the immense potential of ocean-based climate solutions, and the COP Presidency rightly elevated cities’ role on climate action, announcing the first-ever local climate summit will take place at COP28 this year.
“All eyes are now on COP28. Governments have a historic opportunity to correct course, transitioning to a better economy that lifts people out of poverty and provides people with good jobs and clean power. They should be spending the next two months rallying behind a rapid response plan to the Global Stocktake like people’s lives depend on it — because they do.
“At COP28, countries should commit to rapidly shift away from fossil fuels and triple renewable energy, double the share of fossil-free transport and transform food systems to address the growing hunger crisis and cut emissions. And countries must operationalize the loss and damage fund and deliver on previous commitments to climate-vulnerable countries, such as doubling adaptation finance by 2025 and fulfilling the $100 billion goal.
“The onus is especially on the world’s wealthy countries and biggest emitters to step up both by drastically cutting their own emissions and showing solidarity with climate-vulnerable countries.”International Climate Action COP28 Type Statement Exclude From Blog Feed? 0
With climate extremes dominating the global news cycle in 2023, from record heat both on land and at sea to devastating wildfires and floods around the world, the need to address climate change is more apparent and urgent than ever.
But one of the most promising areas for climate action has been largely overlooked and underinvested to date: the ocean.
New research commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel) shows that ocean-based climate solutions can deliver up to 35% of the annual greenhouse gas emission cuts needed in 2050 to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) — the threshold scientists say is necessary to avert the worst outcomes from climate change. This represents a significant increase from previous estimates, which put the ocean’s potential emissions reductions at around 21% of the total needed by 2050.
This research is based on solutions that are ready to implement and economically viable today. But while investments in a sustainable ocean economy are seen to be profitable — with data showing that investing $1 in key ocean actions can yield at least $5 in global benefits, often more, over the next 30 years — finance for these solutions has largely been lacking to date. Countries must substantially increase investments in the necessary technology and infrastructure if we are to take full advantage of the ocean’s ability to help tackle the climate crisis.
Here are seven key opportunities for ocean-based climate action that can deliver substantial emissions cuts alongside social, economic and environmental benefits for coastal communities:1) Scaling Ocean-based Renewable Energy
Ocean-based renewable energy is a major area of opportunity with ready-to-implement solutions — including offshore wind as well as floating solar and tidal power — which could slash greenhouse gas emissions by up to 3.60 gigatonnes per year in 2050. That’s more than the total combined emissions for all 27 EU member states in 2021. Increasing deployment of renewables will also be critical to meeting global energy demand as the world works to phase out coal and other fossil-based energy sources.
This potential is more than theoretical, with investment in ocean-based renewables already ramping up significantly. Global pledges in offshore wind have approximately doubled in the last four years, bringing targeted deployment to up to 2000 GW (enough to power approximately 1.5 billion homes annually) by 2050. And certain countries are leading by example: Norway, for instance, is home to the world’s largest fully operational floating offshore wind park, Hywind Tampen. It has also allocated areas for 30 GW of offshore wind power production by 2040 and announced a competition for offshore wind production in two areas on the Norwegian continental shelf: Sørlige Nordsjø II (3000 MW) and Utsira Nord (1500 MW).Wind turbines are assembled in Stord, Norway for delivery to a floating wind park. Increased use of offshore renewable energy is one of the most impactful ways to leverage the ocean for climate change mitigation at a global scale. Photo by teaa1946/iStock
To accelerate this transition at a global scale, countries must set ambitious national targets in their upcoming 2025 climate commitments (NDCs) to increase the share of renewable power in the energy mix. They must also provide a stable economic and regulatory framework to stimulate investments in supporting infrastructure for ocean-based energy systems. This includes reducing barriers in scaling up offshore wind turbines (both fixed and floating) as well as investing in new, innovative ocean-based energy sources, such as floating solar photovoltaics, wave power and tidal power, that can help meet the world’s energy needs while minimizing harm to surrounding marine environments.2) Reducing Emissions from Ocean-based Transport
Currently, the international shipping industry carries about 80% ￼of the world’s trade between nations; if counted as a country, it would be among the world’s top-10 largest emitters. In a bid to align more closely with global climate goals, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) recently revised its emissions-reduction strategy, setting a target to reach net zero “by or around” 2050 according to “national circumstances.”
While some progress has been made toward decarbonizing ocean-based transport over the last decade — primarily through energy efficiency measures such as redesigning and refurbishing ships to reduce fuel use and lower emissions — meeting the sector’s net-zero goals will require much more investment in both existing and emerging low-carbon shipping solutions.
Shipping companies must enhance efforts to increase operational and logistical efficiencies, such as reducing the speed of vessels and taking weather conditions into account when planning routes. At the same time, companies and governments will also need to step up investments in new zero-emission fuel technologies, such as those made from hydrogen and ammonia, as well as supporting infrastructure, including ￼ fuel storage and processing facilities. Taken together, these solutions could lower shipping emissions by up to 2 gigatonnes per year in 2050 — equivalent to taking over 400 million cars off the road every year.3) Conserving and Restoring Coastal and Marine Ecosystems
Healthy “blue carbon” ecosystems such as mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and tidal marshes are powerful carbon sinks that can store up to 5 times more carbon per area than tropical forests and absorb it from the atmosphere about 3 times as quickly. This makes them an important — though often overlooked — ally in tackling the climate crisis.
Beyond their ability to remove and store carbon from the atmosphere, these ecosystems also offer myriad co-benefits that can support sustainable development and climate resilience, particularly in vulnerable coastal areas. They sustain economies through fisheries and tourism, provide crucial habitat for diverse marine species and help enhance freshwater quality, all while buffering coastal communities from the impacts of increasingly extreme weather events like cyclones.Students plant mangrove seedlings in Situbondo, Indonesia. Protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems like mangroves, salt marshes and seagrass meadows can increase carbon removal and storage while helping protect nearby communities from climate impacts. Photo by Sam maulidna/Shutterstock
However, blue carbon ecosystems are disappearing at a rapid pace, driven by the “coastal squeeze” between climate-driven impacts (including sea level rise and extreme weather events) and development of coastal areas. Action to address and reverse this degradation has been woefully inadequate to date.
Enhanced efforts to conserve, restore and sustainably manage blue carbon ecosystems can contribute significantly to global climate targets — removing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 76 coal-fired power plants per year in 2050 — while also helping achieve the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity (including 30 by 30) and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.4) Expanding Sustainable, Ocean-based Food Production
As the global population rises, so, too, will the need food and protein sources. The ocean can play a key role in meeting this need with a wide range of sustainable seafoods — such as algae, fish and invertebrates like shellfish — which are less land intensive and require fewer resources to produce than options like beef and lamb. Incorporating these “blue” foods into global diets not only diversifies protein choices but could also reduce global emissions by up to 1.47 gigatonnes per year in 2050, comparable to removing 393 coal fired power plants annually.
However, while these foods are common in some cultures, awareness and use of them remains limited at a global scale and prices are sometimes prohibitively high for consumers. More must be done by governments and industry to raise awareness, send clear policy signals (such as subsidizing these foods) and invest in an enabling environment to take advantage of this opportunity.Farmers tend to a large seaweed farm in Jangheung-gun, South Korea. Ocean-based foods such as seaweed and fish are often less resource-intensive and more sustainable than land-based protein options like meat. Photo by Stock for you/Shutterstock
Some countries are starting to do this. Australia, for example, is investing AUD $70 million (US $45 million) in the Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre to bring together expertise in aquaculture, marine renewable energy and marine engineering as part of a collaborative effort between industry, researchers and the community. It aims to develop innovative and sustainable offshore industries to increase Australian seafood and marine renewable energy production.5) Leveraging the Ocean’s Potential for Carbon Removal and Storage
The latest climate science recognizes that, in addition to deep emissions cuts across all sectors, meeting global climate goals will require removing some of the carbon that’s already been emitted into the atmosphere. Alongside restoring blue carbon ecosystems which absorb CO2 naturally, ocean-based carbon removal approaches, including marine carbon dioxide removal and carbon capture and storage in the seabed, have sparked interest globally in recent years.
Carbon capture and storage involves harvesting carbon from the atmosphere through direct air capture or waste combustion and pumping the liquified carbon into chambers below the seabed, where it can be stored permanently. These methods are currently more mature than marine carbon dioxide removal techniques and could provide up to 1 gigatonne of emission reduction potential in 2050 if current deployment trajectories continue.
Marine carbon dioxide removal includes a range of techniques such as ocean alkalinity enhancement, where alkaline minerals are added into the ocean to alter its chemistry and increase carbon uptake, and ocean nutrient fertilization, which spurs massive algal blooms that take up huge amounts of carbon. These strategies show promise, but are currently only at concept, prototype or early demonstration stages of development. Prior to scaling marine carbon dioxide removal, thorough research on the ecological and socio-economic impacts of these techniques must be conducted in addition to addressing policy and governance questions.
While research into ocean-based carbon removal technologies should be accelerated, it should not be a reason to delay solutions that are already viable and ready to implement today — such as offshore wind, marine ecosystem restoration and conservation and increasing low-carbon food from the sea.6) Decarbonizing Ocean-based Tourism
Coastal and marine tourism represents at least 50% of total global tourism. It also constitutes the largest economic sector for most small island developing nations and many coastal ones. But, while critical to these countries’ economies, cruise tourism is also a considerable polluter: One recent study found that a large cruise ship can have a carbon footprint greater than 12,000 cars. Cruise ships also emit other pollutants besides carbon dioxide — such as sulfur oxides, nitrous oxides and particulate carbon — that can harm marine ecosystems as well as human health.A large cruise ship sails off the coast of Portugal with dark fumes emitting from its smokestack. Cruise ship pollution is harmful not only to the climate but also to human health and marine ecosystems. Photo by Amra Pasic/Shutterstock
In the near term, efforts to reduce emissions from ocean tourism should start with improving the efficiency of ships, such as through investing in net-zero fuels and decreasing ship resistance in the water. Policies promoting fuel efficiency and the use of alternative fuels (such as liquefied natural gas and other bio and synthetic hydrogen-derived fuels) are also needed to drive investment and development at the global, regional and national levels and enable long-term emissions reductions throughout the sector. Successfully decarbonizing ocean-based tourism could deliver 0.1 gigatonne of emissions reduction potential in 2050 — equivalent to the annual emissions of 251 natural gas-fired power plants.7) Reducing Offshore Oil and Gas
The world cannot tackle the climate crisis without drastically reducing fossil fuel production and consumption. Phasing down offshore oil and gas offers the largest opportunity for ocean-based climate action, with the potential to eliminate up to 5.30 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases annually in 2050, equivalent to taking about 1.1 billion fossil-fuel cars off the road each year. This assumes that energy demand formerly supplied by fossil fuel generation can be met by a parallel increase in zero-emission energy sources (such as ocean-based renewables).
To help accelerate this transition, governments can withdraw fossil fuel subsidies in countries which currently provide them; enact legislation and/or regulations to ban routine flaring (a method and current practice for disposing of large unwanted amounts of associated petroleum gas); stop new licensing for offshore oil and gas extraction; and invest public finance in energy security and access for the most economically vulnerable communities.Investing in the Ocean as a Climate Change Solution
These ocean-based climate solutions could potentially exceed one-third of the total emissions reductions needed to meet global climate goals — but that’s not all. They can also contribute to the development of a sustainable ocean economy and may come with a wide range of co-benefits, including protecting coastal communities from storms, providing jobs, protecting biodiversity and improving food security.
However, these benefits can only be realized if investments are made in developing the technology and infrastructure needed for full implementation. Fulfilling the ocean’s potential in emissions reductions will require at least $1 trillion of additional finance between now and 2030, increasing toward $2 trillion between 2030 and 2050.
These investments must be applied intelligently across each sector to maximize impact. Where finance is already available (for example with offshore renewable energy), it needs to be fully directed toward strategies that align with net-zero pathways. Where funding is scarce, such as is the case for blue carbon solutions, de-risking, guarantees and blended finance can help by making investing in these solutions more attractive.
New research commissioned by the Ocean Panel lays out how these ocean-based climate actions can be fully leveraged to help put the world back on track to 1.5 degrees C. To learn more, see: The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change: Updated Opportunities for Action.offshore-wind-farm-uk.jpg Ocean Ocean Climate National Climate Action nature-based solutions Type Finding Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Katie Wood Oliver Ashford
RELEASE: Ocean-based Climate Action Could Deliver Up to 35% of Emission Cuts Needed to Limit Temperature Rise to 1.5°C by 2050
NEW YORK (SEPTEMBER 20, 2023) - Ocean-based action can play a critical role to help the world avoid the worst impacts of climate change, according to a new study commissioned by the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel). The new report finds that ready-to-implement ocean solutions could close the emissions gap in 2050 by up to 35 percent on a 1.5°C pathway, a reduction equivalent to four times the annual emissions of European Union countries.
The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change: Updated Opportunities for Action was published today as the 17 Ocean Panel Heads of State and representatives gathered at their annual meeting in New York. During the meeting, Ocean Panel leaders shared domestic progress and priorities in utilizing the ocean to tackle climate change and discussed near-term collective action to encourage the implementation of ocean-based climate solutions globally.
“This latest Ocean Panel report demonstrates the significant potential of ocean-based climate action in closing the emissions gap,” said Jonas Gahr Støre, Prime Minister of Norway and Co-Chair of the Ocean Panel. “However, while the opportunities are there, the report also warns that they must be taken up urgently if we are to halt the worst impacts of climate change. Ocean-based climate action is the lifeline that coastal and ocean states must take advantage of to help benefit the climate while creating jobs and economic prosperity.”
The report, produced by 28 independent experts, representing four continents, 13 universities and six NGOs, takes stock of the latest science and knowledge, assessing the potential of seven distinct ocean-based sectors to provide solutions to curbing the worst effects of climate change. The solutions also contribute to the development of a sustainable ocean economy while protecting coastal communities from storms, providing jobs and improving food security. These solutions include:
• Scaling ocean-based renewable energy
• Decarbonizing ocean-based transport
• Conserving and restoring coastal and marine ecosystems
• Utilizing low carbon food from the ocean
• Developing marine carbon dioxide removal and carbon capture and storage under the seabed
• Decarbonizing ocean-based tourism
• Reducing offshore oil and gas extraction
The report cautions that financing the solutions identified is an urgent, time-sensitive challenge that world leaders must grapple with now. Of all the UN Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 14 (the global goal to conserve and sustainably use the ocean, seas and marine resources for sustainable development) is by far the least funded, representing just 0.01% of all funding for development. To fulfill the ocean’s potential for emission reductions will require a global trajectory of U.S. $2 trillion of targeted investment into sustainable ocean solutions between 2030 and 2050.
Offshore renewable energy is a major area of opportunity with ready-to-implement solutions providing potential savings equivalent to the annual emissions of about 800 million gasoline-powered cars (up to 3.60 Gt CO2e per year in 2050). Global pledges in offshore wind have approximately doubled in the last four years. If implementation follows these pledges, offshore wind may produce over 26 times the current electricity generating capacity of the UK (2000GW) in 2050. With this production, there is higher potential for offshore renewable energy to displace fossil fuel generation and associated emissions.
Healthy ‘blue carbon’ ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass meadows and tidal marshes are significant carbon sinks, making them an important, though overlooked, ally in tackling the climate and biodiversity crises. Scaled up action to conserve, restore and sustainably manage blue carbon ecosystems could avoid or reduce emissions by up to 0.285 GtCO2e (equivalent to the annual emissions of around 76 coal-fired power plants) per year in 2050. The numerous co-benefits of these ecosystems make them key to achieving global goals and commitments under the UNFCCC and Convention on Biological Diversity (including 30 by 30) and SDGs.
Emerging technologies such as marine carbon dioxide removal could offer even greater emissions reductions, however the report highlights the need for further technological development and research into the potential impacts of such an approach before these can be considered as viable, ready-to-implement solutions.
The report is an update to the 2019 analysis, The Ocean as a Solution to Climate Change: Five Opportunities for Action. The updated 2023 report shows that the ocean continues to offer huge potential in mitigating climate change from ready-to-implement actions. However, in a message consistent the recent Global Stocktake report, the 2023 report also warns that time is running out to realize the ocean’s full potential. Rather than a cause for despair, the 2023 report provides motivation and guidance for ocean to contribute to the ‘midcourse correction’ needed to deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement, which must be met with rapidly accelerated ambition and implementation to contribute significant emissions reductions in 2050.
“The people of Palau know as much as anyone how the future of humankind and the ocean are inextricably linked,” said Surangel S. Whipps Jr., President of the Republic of Palau and co-chair of the Ocean Panel. “With the extreme global heat and weather events in 2023, the UN Secretary General has stated that the era of “‘global boiling”’ is upon us. Urgent action is needed to address both the causes of climate change and its impact on the ocean’s health. This report further underlines this relationship and how investing in a sustainable ocean economy is not only an investment into ocean health, but an investment into a more stable, prosperous and equitable society.”
“With this summer being the hottest on record, and ocean temperatures reaching all-time highs, ambitious ocean-based climate action has never been more critical,” said António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. “I commend the Ocean Panel for highlighting the importance of bold commitments by all governments to maximize the ocean’s potential to help tackle the climate crisis and build a more sustainable and resilient world.”
"Being an archipelagic state constituting of 99.9% of ocean, Seychelles understands the importance of ocean-based sustainable development," said Wavel Ramkalawan, the President of the Republic of Seychelles. "The ocean is our ally in achieving improved food security, increased clean energy production, sustainable socio-economic growth, and in tackling the climate crisis. Unfortunately, the impact of the climate crisis is undeniably disproportionately felt by Small Island Developing States, both in terms of contribution and the ability to absorb shocks. These innate challenges make us much more vulnerable and force us to think outside the box to seek innovative solutions to satisfy both our environmental as well as socio-economic needs."
“In this report, a diverse and global team of authors have demonstrated, using the best science available, that the ocean is one of our greatest allies in tackling climate change,” said Dr. Jacqueline Uku, Senior Research Scientist, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) and Co-chair of the Ocean Panel Expert Group. “The recent Global Stocktake report warns that the world is lagging behind in efforts to reduce emissions, with an urgent need to ‘correct the course’ as soon as possible. The Ocean Panel-commissioned report highlights the significant potential the ocean can play in this, with a pathway to cutting emissions from ready-to-implement solutions. With the ocean on our side, we have the capability to take substantive action, should we choose to do so.”
Treaty on Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ)
In a joint communiqué published today, Ocean Panel heads of state welcomed the biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ or ‘High Seas Treaty’) agreement, calling for its early implementation. In a demonstration of leadership, Ocean Panel member countries were among the first to sign the ‘High Seas Treaty’ agreement today with others committing to follow in coming months. In March 2023, BBNJ Treaty negotiations concluded after nearly 20 years and, once ratified by all UN members the agreement will outline procedures to establish large-scale marine protected areas. The protection of these areas will contribute to achieving targets in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, like the ’30 by 30’ target which aims to protect at least 30 percent of land or sea by 2030.
The Seychelles joins the Ocean Panel
The Ocean Panel also increased its ranks this week by welcoming the Seychelles as its 18th member country. President Ravel Ramkalawan’s government will work towards the shared aim of the Ocean Panel to sustainably manage 100 percent of national waters.
The ocean as a Solution to Climate Change: Updated Opportunities for Action report is an independent input to the Ocean Panel process. The arguments, findings, and recommendations made represent the views of the authors. While the Ocean Panel supports the importance of the findings and recommendations identified, members have not been asked to formally endorse the report and should not be represented as having done so.
About the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy
Co-chaired by Norway and Palau, the Ocean Panel includes Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, France, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Palau, Portugal, Seychelles the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Together, these 18 nations represent 50% of the world’s coastlines, 45% of global EEZs, 26% of the world’s fisheries, 20% of the world’s shipping fleet. The Ocean Panel is supported by the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Ocean. Based on the shared understanding of the need to improve the state of the ocean, the countries in the Ocean Panel are committed to producing national sustainable ocean plans with the aim of sustainably managing 100% of the ocean area under national jurisdiction. Learn more at oceanpanel.org. World Resources Institute (WRI) serves as the Secretariat for the Ocean Panel. Learn more at www.wri.org/our-work/topics/ocean.
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Transportation is changing rapidly as the world moves to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While passenger transport shifts to electric vehicles with increasing momentum in the U.S., the picture for freight transport — the movement of goods by truck, rail, ship or plane — is more complex.
Electrification is a good option for some freight transportation, such as short- and medium-haul trucking, but is more challenging for other parts of the freight system, such as ocean shipping or aviation. “Drop-in” alternative fuels — those that can be used in place of fossil fuels in existing engines — can play an important transition role if sustainably produced, but the limited supply of truly sustainable drop-in fuels will mean these will play more of a niche role in the long term.
Sustainable hydrogen and ammonia offer possible long-term solutions for freight transport that are difficult to electrify.
While shifting fuels will be critical in meeting climate goals, improving the efficiency of energy use in freight transport will also need to play a critical role. For example, electric vehicles increase the efficiency of delivered energy, while truck, ship, plane and engine design improvements can also play a role. Additionally, in maritime freight, wind power is making a comeback with innovations in the use of sails on ships, opening the door to less fuel use.
Improving supply chain management and logistics planning will also be important. Reducing the overall demand for freight transportation and improving the efficiency of the system will mean less need for low- and zero-carbon fuels and the equipment to utilize them, easing the challenge of scaling up these technologies.
The opportunities and obstacles to using electrification, sustainable drop-in fuels, and hydrogen and hydrogen-derived fuels to decarbonize freight transportation are discussed below.Role of Electrification in Freight Transport
Battery-electric vehicles, which are taking center stage for passenger transport, can also play an important role for short- and medium-distance road freight. Last-mile deliveries and fixed route shipping to and from distribution centers are amenable to electrification since the trucks and vans providing these services travel shorter distances and have greater opportunities for recharging. There are also significant incentives in place for truck electrification. Similarly, electrification may play a role in short-haul and regional aviation and in river and coastal shipping.
While electrifying long-haul freight is more challenging, battery electric vehicles may still be the best option for trucking. Multi-megawatt charging stations at truck stops with battery designs that enable their use may be less of a challenge than hydrogen fueling and will very likely remain cheaper. Innovation to increase the energy density of batteries and/or autonomous trucks could lead to battery electric trucks dominating this use case.A hybrid electric heavy-duty truck, used to move freight at the Long Beach Port in California, is plugged in to charge. Battery-electric vehicles can play an important role for short- and medium-distance road freight. Photo by Dennis Schroeder/NREL / Flickr.
Vehicles using fuel cells, which convert a fuel like hydrogen directly to electricity, may provide another workable option for decarbonizing long-distance freight. While fuel cell technology itself is relatively mature, widespread adoption in truck, rail and marine freight transport will require significant development and cost reduction of low-, zero- or negative-carbon hydrogen or other fuels, along with distribution and fueling infrastructure. Improved batteries and charging infrastructure may allow batteries to compete favorably with hydrogen fuel cells for long-distance road freight.
Batteries are not well suited for shipping freight across the ocean. With current technology, increasing battery capacity to increase range means a significant weight penalty and reduced cargo space. Battery weight is also a major limiting factor for electrifying aviation, particularly for long-distance flights. These kinds of transportation will require energy-dense alternative fuels to decarbonize.
Electrifying freight transport and operations at ports and railyards can also provide significant health and equity benefits for local communities. The current reliance on burning diesel fuel for freight transport comes with significant air quality costs that are borne most heavily by low-income and minority communities that live near major highways, ports and transportation hubs.Role of Drop-in Liquid Fuels in the Transition to Decarbonization
Energy-dense liquid fossil fuels are the mainstay of the current freight transportation system, whether in the form of diesel fuel for trucks and locomotives, jet fuel or fuel oil for shipping. Such fuels are operationally ideal for long-distance transportation and aviation, providing high energy content per unit of volume or weight of the fuel. Many pathways exist to develop low-, zero- and negative-carbon drop-in fuels, and these can provide an important transitional role by reducing the emissions from the equipment in the existing freight system. However, significant challenges remain to scaling up these alternatives sufficiently to replace the current fossil fuel supply.
Current alternative transportation fuels offer some greenhouse gas advantage over gasoline and diesel, but do not offer a pathway to fully decarbonizing the transport sector. The primary alternative transportation fuel in the U.S. today is corn ethanol (4% of total U.S. transport energy), along with less than 1% each for biodiesel and renewable diesel. Ethanol is added to most gasoline sold in the U.S. as an oxygenate, which reduces conventional air pollution by enhancing fuel combustion. In the U.S., ethanol is primarily produced through fermentation of corn, with corn representing over 90% of biomass input for biofuels by weight in 2022.
Biodiesel is produced by transesterification, which uses alcohol to break down plant and animal fats, oils and greases to produce fuels. Soy oil is the most common feedstock in the U.S., though other vegetable oils and waste fats and oils are also used. Biodiesel is approved for blending with petroleum diesel.
Renewable diesel can be made from the same feedstocks, but is made by hydrogenation, which converts the oils and fats to a fuel with the same chemical makeup as fossil diesel and can be used as a drop-in fuel. Hydrogenation can also produce hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HEFA), which can be used today as a drop-in alternative aviation fuel.
The use of purpose-grown fuel crops creates significant tradeoffs with food production and other land uses. The growing demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel in the coming decades is increasing competition for use of land. Increasing production of fuel crops puts pressure to use other land for food production and other uses. For example, given linked global markets, using soy oil for biodiesel increases overall demand for soy and other vegetable oils. Palm oil plantations in Indonesia and soybean production in Brazil are both major drivers of deforestation, so increasing demand for soy oil for biofuel production can increase carbon emissions from land-use change.
Production of biofuels from waste materials, such as used cooking oil and agricultural residues, can have significant greenhouse gas advantages over fossil fuels while avoiding the food and land use competition concerns of energy crops, though the supply of bio-waste materials is insufficient to supply the full transportation sector. Biodiesel, renewable diesel and HEFA can be readily made from waste fats and oils. Liquid biofuels can also be produced through pyrolysis or hydro-thermal liquefaction of residues, such as corn stover (the stalks, leaves and cobs left over after corn harvest).
Synthetic liquid fuels can provide a pathway to low- or zero-carbon transportation fuels when they are produced with clean hydrogen and renewable energy. The carbon required can come from sustainable bio-based feedstocks or from carbon dioxide captured from the air. The Fischer-Tropsch process can deliver a variety of liquid hydrocarbon fuels that can be used as drop-in substitutes for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. Clean hydrogen can also be used to produce ammonia and methanol, which may both play a role as a low-carbon fuel for marine freight transportation.
While these technologies are well developed, the cost of production of alternative fuels through these pathways is currently too high. Significant investments are needed to help bring down those costs and strong climate policies need to be enacted if these fuels are to be widely deployed. Combustion of these fuels will result in local air pollution similar to burning fossil fuels, giving an advantage to non-combustion options such as battery- and fuel-cell-electric vehicles where feasible.
Because sustainable production of these alternative liquid fuels is likely to be limited due to limited supply of sustainable biomass resources and high production costs, it will be important that they are only used where other options are not available. High on that list is long-distance aviation. While aviation is a small player in terms of share of freight tonnage and freight carbon emissions, the overall demand for sustainable aviation fuels going forward will likely limit the potential for these sustainable liquid fuels in other parts of the freight transportation system.Role of Hydrogen and Hydrogen-derived Fuels for Long-Term Decarbonization of Freight Transport
Hydrogen and hydrogen-derived fuels will need to play a major role in the long-term decarbonization of freight. Hydrogen fuel cells can be used to electrify long-distance road and rail freight transport and may play a role with shorter distance maritime freight, while renewable liquid fuels such as ammonia and methanol can be produced from clean hydrogen. Obstacles to scaling up the use of these low-carbon fuels include the high cost and lack of production of clean hydrogen and the lack of infrastructure to get the hydrogen and hydrogen-derived fuels to the trucks, trains, ships and airplanes to use them.
As with alternative liquid fuels, these barriers suggest the importance of focusing the use of clean hydrogen to the right freight transport use cases and considering the competition — such as industrial sectors requiring high heat — for clean hydrogen from other sectors of the economy. While reducing the overall energy demand from freight transport through increased efficiency and improved logistics and using batteries for electrification can contribute to emission reductions, clean hydrogen will likely remain an important mitigation approach for targeted freight transport that lack other clear decarbonization options.A cargo vessel departs from Port Newark’s Container Terminal. Improvements in supply chain management and logistical planning will be crucial to improving energy efficiency in the freight sector. Photo by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey/Flickr.
Two pathways offer a method to producing hydrogen at very low or even net negative greenhouse gas emissions — electrolysis and biomass gasification using waste feedstocks combined with carbon capture — but both require cost reductions. In addition, the relatively limited supply of waste biomass feedstocks will limit the scale at which that pathway can be developed.
The use of hydrogen as a transport fuel in the U.S. will require significant distribution and fueling infrastructure across the country. Hydrogen gas itself is energy dense by weight but not by volume, making its storage and distribution for direct use in transport a challenge. Liquefying or compressing hydrogen to reduce the volume needed for storage and distribution comes with energy and cost penalties. Similarly, conversion of clean hydrogen to ammonia improves the volumetric energy density of the fuel, but comes with energy and cost penalties.
An additional factor to consider is how hydrogen leakage affects climate change. While typically not considered a greenhouse gas itself, hydrogen released into the atmosphere can prolong the time methane remains in the atmosphere and increase stratospheric water vapor. These effects have recently been estimated to make hydrogen 33 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide on a 20 year time horizon, making it essential that leakage be reduced as much as possible in the distribution, storage and use of hydrogen.Prioritizing Clean Fuels for Freight Transportation
Freight managers are looking for deep emissions reductions to meet both ambitious near-term and long-term emissions reduction goals and standards. While electrification is a first choice for freight transportation where that is feasible, such as short- and medium-haul trucking, other types of transportation, like aviation and maritime shipping, will be more difficult to electrify. This creates a need for cleaner alternate fuels in the near term that is challenging the capacity of existing fuel production pathways and technologies.
Given the many technical and economic challenges for production and use of alternative transportation fuels, a clear prioritization needs to be kept in mind. The first priority goes to decreasing the energy demand for freight transport through increased efficiency and improved logistics and supply chain management. The next priority is to electrify freight transportation as much as possible with the use of batteries and, when needed for longer distance freight, fuel cells. The final priority goes to the targeted use of sustainable fuels from waste biomass or clean hydrogen. These fuels will be needed for parts of the freight transport system that are hard to electrify, such as long-distance aviation and shipping. Because the supplies of these sustainable fuels will likely remain limited, their use should be focused where needed.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of WRI's work on clean transportation fuels, which is supported by UPS Foundation. This article reflects the independent views of the author.decarbonize-freight-emissions-container-yard.jpeg Energy Clean Energy Type Explainer Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Kevin Kennedy John Feldmann
Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the world’s most authoritative body on climate science — agree that in addition to rapid and deep emissions reductions, we will need to pull carbon dioxide directly from the air through a process known as carbon dioxide removal (CDR). CDR includes a range of approaches and technologies which will be necessary — likely at a multi-billion-ton scale globally by midcentury — to meet climate goals. With this growing recognition, carbon removal has gained attention and investment from both the public and private sector over the last several years as a viable and necessary tool to help mitigate the impacts of climate change.
In order to reach the expected scale of carbon removal needed to meet national and global climate goals, increased investment in research, development and demonstration is needed to develop a robust portfolio of natural and technological approaches. A broad and diversified portfolio of carbon removal approaches will help reduce cost and risk and balance tradeoffs associated with each approach. Successful policy implementation will require a multi-year, whole-of-government approach.
The Carbon Dioxide Removal Research and Development Act of 2023 — introduced by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) in the U.S. Senate and Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) in the U.S. House of Representatives — would take significant steps toward reaching this vision. It would:
- Support cross-agency research and development on carbon removal, with more than $12 billion in funding over ten years. This includes a $2 billion program for competitive carbon removal demonstration projects, with a carve-out of $500 million for smaller-scale projects.
- Provide funding to nine government agencies, reflecting the wide range of carbon removal pathways that require research and development — from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to advance research on ocean-based carbon removal pathways, to the National Science Foundation to conduct research on governance frameworks for large-scale carbon removal, to the Federal Highway Administration to develop carbon mineralizing cement and concrete for transportation infrastructure.
Total funding over ten years, million $
(most to least)
Areas of research, development, and demonstration activity (not comprehensive)
Department of Energy
- Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management
- Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
- Office of Science
- -Research and development on direct air capture contactor design; advanced biomass supply, logistics and pre-treatment; assessments of alkaline resources for mineralization; cross-cutting analyses of technology and cost performance
- -Carbon removal competitive demonstration awards: $1.5 billion for large-scale projects (>$100 million) and $500 million for smaller scale projects ($10-$100 million).
Department of Agriculture
- Agriculture Advanced Research and Development Authority (AgARDA)
- National Institute of Food and Agriculture
- Agricultural Research Service
- Natural Resources Conservation Service
- U.S. Forest Service
- -Addition of advancement of terrestrial and biological carbon removal technologies and methods to the focus areas for the AgARDA
- -Research on biomass supply, logistics and pre-treatment; soil carbon; high-carbon-input crop phenotypes, agroforestry; perennial plants on marginal lands; enhanced soil monitoring; enhanced forest stock monitoring; integrated assessment modeling and grassland and forest impacts modeling; social science research and extension programs; preservation of harvested wood; conservation practices data collection
Department of Commerce
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- National Institute for Standards and Technology
- -Addition of carbon dioxide removal scientific objectives into NOAA’s mission responsibilities for ocean and coastal programs
- -Research on coastal ecosystem carbon sequestration; mapping of coastal ecosystems for carbon removal potential; ocean modeling; establishment of national coastal wetland data center; research on aquatic biomass cultivation, alkalinity modification and seawater carbon extraction; research on carbon dioxide impact and fate in the oceans; enhanced monitoring
- -Development of materials testing and standards for technologies and processes related to carbon removal; develop, test and establish standards for carbon-sequestering construction materials
National Science Foundation
- Directorate for Biological Sciences
- Directorate for Engineering
- Directorate for Geosciences
- Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences
- -Genetic modeling and tools to increase carbon uptake and conversion in biological materials
- -Research and development on the integration of carbonation with CO2 capture processes
- -Soil carbon research; research to improve existing soil carbon storage modeling tools; research on mineralization kinetics; pilot studies for mineralization; research on ocean alkalinity enhancement and coastal marine carbon
- -Research on direct air capture solvents, sorbents, membranes and catalysts; new materials development for carbon capture and utilization
Department of Transportation
- Federal Highway Administration
- -Research on durability, strength and stability of carbon sequestering materials for transportation infrastructure; support development of new standards; research on lifecycle assessments of these new materials
- -Establishment of a grant program for public procurement of carbon sequestering new materials
Department of Defense
- Army Corps of Engineers
- -Field trials of coastal wetlands restoration optimized for carbon sequestration
Environmental Protection Agency
- Office of Research and Development
- -Research on environmental impacts of direct air capture; research on environmental and social impacts of mineralization; research on decision science; research on environmental and social impacts of biomass use in carbon removal technologies; lifecycle assessment for mineralization
Department of Interior
- United States Geological Survey
- Land and Minerals Management
- -Mapping and technical assessments of geological resources for mineralization; field experiments on carbon sequestering mine tailings; research on environmental and social impacts of mineralization and expanded mining; development of new mineralization pathways
- -Assessment of ability use federal land and abandoned mine land for carbon removal including forest restoration
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- Earth Science Division Program
- Aboveground carbon monitoring; mapping and evaluation of coastal marine ecosystem resources for carbon removal potential
Why This Legislation Is Important
The Carbon Dioxide Removal Research and Development Act of 2023 builds on annual appropriations for carbon removal research and other federal funding for carbon removal that has grown significantly in the past few years but remains lower than what is needed. The level of funding authorized by this bill is aligned with levels recommended by major reports on carbon dioxide removal research agendas from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine and the Energy Futures Initiative, which both recommend ten-year federal carbon removal research, development and demonstration programs on the order of $10 billion.
In addition to supporting research, development and demonstration across a wide range of carbon removal approaches and technologies on land and in the ocean, the bill includes an emphasis on better understanding environmental impacts as well as social and community impacts of scaling up different CDR pathways. These types of research are critical to making sure that carbon removal is not only beneficial in terms of the global climate, but also that it is minimizing local risks to people and the environment.
The bill also includes a short but important section on developing a plan to increase international coordination on carbon removal research, development and demonstration, which will be beneficial to accelerating learning and progress in this area.
Overall, this bill provides holistic accounting of the level of resources needed to seriously support carbon dioxide removal and ensure it can play an important role in a future climate action portfolio.us-capitol.jpg U.S. Climate United States Climate carbon removal Climate Governance U.S. Climate Policy-Direct Air Capture carbon removal legislation & policy Type Project Update Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Katie Lebling
Hydrogen is sometimes referred to as the Swiss Army Knife of climate solutions due to its potential to replace fossil fuels in multiple sectors. However, not all hydrogen is created equal – with certain production methods better for the climate than others. Prioritizing end-uses for hydrogen based upon regional characteristics can also ensure that project investments are as optimal as possible.
This blog post examines California’s opportunity to produce and consume clean hydrogen. It identifies promising production methods in electrolysis and biomass gasification as well as end-use options in long-duration energy storage, transportation fuels and fertilizer production. It concludes by outlining key deployment considerations, including that grid-connected electrolysis does not draw renewable electricity from the grid resulting in increased fossil fuel combustion, the role of infrastructure as well as a potential near-term opportunity to buy-down costs by mandating procurement from refineries.
For more information, see the Landscape of Clean Hydrogen: An Outlook for Industrial Hubs in the United States as well as WRI’s Industrial Innovation and Decarbonization Initiative which outlines emissions reduction strategies for key sources including cement, chemicals, refineries, and more.
California’s ambitious climate goals require an unprecedented expansion in solar and wind energy, batteries, electric vehicles and clean fuels, notably hydrogen. The 2022 Scoping Plan estimates needing an enormous 1,700x increase in clean hydrogen to meet carbon neutrality by 2045. More recently, Gov. Newsom identified clean hydrogen as a priority decarbonization option for the state.
What is clean hydrogen? And how should it be deployed to achieve climate goals across the U.S.? A recent report by World Resources Institute and Great Plains Institute titled Landscape of Clean Hydrogen examined these questions. Below, we outline the key findings as they relate to California.What is Clean Hydrogen?
Clean hydrogen refers to low- and zero-carbon as well as carbon-negative hydrogen which can be produced via a number of feedstocks and technology processes (Fig. 1). Hydrogen produced via electrolysis is a leading zero-carbon option. Biomass can be converted into hydrogen via multiple processes and has the potential of being carbon-negative if appropriate feedstocks are used. Natural gas may provide low-carbon hydrogen provided there is minimal upstream methane leakage and highly efficient (i.e. 95%+) carbon capture.Fig. 1: Clean hydrogen supply methods and their carbon-intensity, ranging from negative-carbon through high-carbon 1SMR = steam methane reformation; AMR = autothermal reformation.
2Electrolysis is a reliable zero-carbon option provided it uses zero-carbon electricity and does not draw renewable resources from the grid in a way that results in increased fossil fuel combustion.
3Biomass pathways vary in carbon-intensity based upon the source of feedstock (waste vs. energy crops) as well as application of CCS. In general, waste biomass sourced from within state is likely to be very low- or zero-carbon. Adding CCS can make pathways carbon-negative.
Different regions have different opportunities for clean hydrogen production. California has high potential to produce renewable hydrogen from water electrolysis and biomass. This is due to both the state’s high solar energy potential as well as abundance of annual biomass waste from farms and forests that is otherwise typically burned in piles or left to decompose, releasing carbon and air pollution.Applications for Clean Hydrogen
Hydrogen is an energy carrier, fuel, and chemical feedstock that can enable decarbonization in multiple applications. Petroleum refining and fertilizer production consume the vast majority (90%+) of hydrogen produced today which could be immediately replaced with clean hydrogen (Fig. 2). Net-zero economies will require many more applications of clean hydrogen, which could include materials manufacturing, electricity generation and storage, clean fuels for aviation and shipping, and more.Fig. 2: Clean hydrogen demand options1 1 Note that this figure is provided for illustrative purposes only to show the breadth of potential clean hydrogen end-use options. The number estimates themselves are relevant to a national, not state, scale.Clean Hydrogen Opportunities in California
The multitude of potential hydrogen end-uses means that prioritization based upon regional and in-state characteristics is needed to optimize investments. For example, the Gulf Coast and Great Lakes have major steel industries that could be sustained by leveraging clean hydrogen for decarbonization. The Midwest has an obvious need for ammonia for fertilizer production. Northeast manufacturing industries could swap fossil fuels for clean hydrogen as an alternative source for high-temperature heat.
Like these regions, California has its own opportunities. We identify three such opportunities below:
- Long-duration storage. California’s goal of a high-electrification, renewables-heavy economy creates a need for long-duration storage which can be met in part with hydrogen. During periods of low energy demand, excess supply can be used to produce hydrogen via electrolysis that is stored in large quantities in caverns, depleted oil fields and aquifers. This can then provide a ‘firming’ option during periods of high energy demand in the evening. With a growing number of extreme heat events, clean hydrogen storage is likely to be a critical adaptation measure for California
- Transportation fuels. California’s transportation sector is its largest source of emissions. Clean hydrogen as a feedstock can enable drop-in fuels that cut emissions in freight transport where there are barriers to electrification. It can also enable sustainable aviation and shipping fuels, both widely anticipated to be dependent on liquid fuels over the long-term. California could progressively transition its major refining industry to support clean fuels production.
- Fertilizer production.As the ‘vegetable basket’ of the nation California consumes a significant amount of synthetic fertilizer. However, over 90% of this fertilizer is imported, including a potentially sizeable amount from Russia. There is a compelling opportunity for California to drive part of its merchant clean hydrogen production towards a new clean fertilizer industry. This can create rural jobs and limit the state’s exposure to potential new geopolitical crises in the future.
Clean hydrogen can play a meaningful role in supporting California’s climate goals. However, this ultimately depends on how the technology is deployed.
One key issue is ensuring clean hydrogen produced via water electrolysis actually uses renewable electricity. Specifically where electrolytic hydrogen is produced via grid-connected renewables there is a risk that this production draws clean energy from the grid and results in more fossil fuel combustion. Proposals to mitigate this risk include “additionality” which requires grid-connected producers match their consumption by separately purchasing carbon-free generation on the open market (i.e., effectively mimicking ‘behind-the-meter’ users) and “hourly matching” which requires hydrogen producers match or verify their renewable consumption occurred in the hour it was generated.
Another key consideration relates to hydrogen delivery and the role of infrastructure. Hydrogen has a low energy content by volume and is a slippery molecule that is prone to leakage. This means that, as hydrogen is variously produced, compressed, moved and stored, it rapidly loses efficacy as a climate-friendly energy carrier. Minimizing delivery steps is therefore important, underscoring the importance of building infrastructure that is targeted to priority end-uses. Go-Biz’s forthcoming Market Development Strategy will be an important forum to address these considerations.
A final issue relates to credibly scaling clean hydrogen. The main hurdle to wider clean hydrogen uptake is cost: it is currently 3-5x more expensive than conventional fossil hydrogen. Bridging this gap was a focus of the Inflation Reduction Act, which included the 45V tax credit. Additional state-level policies could buffer this measure. For example, the state could consider mandating that refineries must procure a small but progressively increasing amount of clean hydrogen. This offtake assurance is often more powerful than a tax credit and could drive early in-state production. As other state policies drive a phase-down in refineries, including multiple retirements, this clean hydrogen could be used to support the remaining refineries that transition to clean fuels production.Conclusion
Clean hydrogen can play a key role in California’s path to net-zero emissions. However, this depends on multiple factors including how its produced, transported, and consumed. California is well-placed to lead on electrolytic and waste biomass hydrogen production, which makes sense to target largely towards long-duration storage, transportation fuels and fertilizer production. New policies including additionality for grid-connected electrolysis as well as procurement can ensure that clean hydrogen is both truly clean and scalable. Finally, forthcoming plans should consider that although hydrogen has the benefit of being versatile, this benefit can decline rapidly due to inefficient transportation and/or leakage. As a result hydrogen infrastructure investments should be designed carefully to support priority end-uses.
For more information on clean hydrogen opportunities in California, please contact Sam Uden (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The above excerpt was originally published by CSG. Click here to view the full article.Climate Type Project Update Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Sam Uden Amanda DeMarco Zachary Byrum Angela Anderson
City officials tasked with reducing and eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from their communities face a tricky task in estimating building emissions as they work to prevent the most harmful impacts of climate change. The biggest challenge is that there are there isn't consensus on an internationally accepted definition of Net Zero-Energy Buildings (NZEBs) and Zero-Carbon Buildings (ZCBs), as they are defined variously across geographies and government agencies. Complicating matters more, these definitions are updated from time to time by the International Energy Agency (IEA). At present, there is a worrisome potential that interchangeable use and unclear interpretations will result in different objectives, policy directions and outcomes for building decarbonization.
NZEBs are defined as buildings where total production of energy is equal to the overall consumption, even some buildings produce a surplus through solar PVs etc. (referred to as Net positive energy buildings). This reasoning assumes that cleaner electricity sources, or surplus power generation at the building site, results in the overall reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. However, this is only a partial consideration of operational energy and neglects what’s known as embodied emissions, which are released during various lifecycle stages throughout the lifetime of the building.
In contrast to this reasoning, a carbon-based life-cycle assessment (LCA) of buildings quantifies both operational and embodied emissions. Research suggests that the proportion of emissions in a building's overall life can fluctuate, depending on several parameters (project site, transportation of materials, etc.). Therefore, a NZEB may not achieve zero carbon emissions over its lifetime.
This calls for a need to understand efficient NZEBs and ZCBs through lifecycles and develop appropriate strategies for maximum carbon reduction at various stages. A strategic plan for reducing emissions rapidly through policy becomes critical in achieving large-scale impact. While reducing operational carbon through policy action has been the focus internationally, embodied carbon policies are just beginning to gain importance.
This document lists a series of tools for building LCAs and guidelines that can aid city officials in strengthening their capacity and creating their own strategies that are in line with national roadmaps (if any exist for their nation) or with national policies.
It is recommended that a metric be used in a LCA for all building phases, including material extraction, construction and demolition. This should take into consideration greenhouse gas emissions, which are measured in terms of carbon dioxide equivalents.
A widely used methodology is shown below, which categorizes emissions into the product manufacturing stage (A 1-3), also called the design stage, followed by the construction stage (A 4-5), the operation stage (B 1-7) and finally the end-of-life stage (C 1-4).
Some LCA tools, like openLCA, are available for free for the building and construction sector. Operating these tools requires technical expertise, therefore building the capacity of various stakeholders in the construction value chain is important. The Life Cycle Inventory database can be region sensitive and lack of data, quality, costs, regulatory mandates other than technical capacity also hinder application of these tools.
- One Click LCA: One Click LCA is used for calculations across all life-cycle stages from Cradle to Grave (production to end-of-life). It allows one to obtain outcomes that meet EN and ISO standards, LEED, BREEAM and more than 40 other certifications. LCA Academy also offers free training modules.
- Tally: To compare different design possibilities and study the environmental impact of building materials, architects and engineers using the Revit® program (a Building Information Modelling [BIM] software) can use the Tally application. EC3/Embodied Carbon Calculator is another tool that is often used with Tally for comparing the embodied carbon of various building materials, to make informed choices right at the design stage for new as well as refurbishment projects.
National roadmaps are being developed around the globe based on approaches present in guidance documents like Global Roadmap for Buildings and Construction 2020-2050. Cities are also in the process of developing climate action plans and decarbonization strategies for various sectors. Following are some documents that can aid planning for building decarbonization:
- 2022 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction: This document lists progress on national roadmaps for building decarbonization across various nations, especially focusing on building materials, explores several case studies and provides key recommendations for policymakers.
- Carbon Leadership Forum Policy Toolkit: Carbon Leadership Forum launched an embodied carbon policy toolkit which comprises of procurement policies, climate action plans, building codes and regulations, fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, and material reuse guidelines. It intends to provide decision-makers, business leaders and environmentalists with a carefully crafted package to direct the development of decarbonization policies at local, state and federal levels.
- Adopting Decarbonization Policies for the Buildings and Construction Sector: This handbook provides a practical overview of the alternatives for procuring sustainable buildings and construction in developing countries and emerging economies. It also lists case studies across housing and commercial building types — where reductions in energy consumption were achieved — and provides recommendations for participatory planning, developing a financing strategy, influencing user behavior and more.
- Buildings and Climate Change Adaptation - A Call for Action: This manual promotes awareness of and suggests solutions for climate change issues in the real estate, building and construction (RBC) industries. This document is one of the first to discuss both the advantages of the RBC sector's activities and the difficulties with climate change adaptation.
- Green Building: A Financial Blueprint for Emerging Markets: This document looks at the responsibilities of governments, as well as green building developers and owners who are crucial in creating a market for green construction. It also lists barriers like the perception of high construction costs, a lack of incentives and benefits, alignment of values among market participants, and an imbalance between the relatively short hold periods of real estate assets in portfolios and the lengthy lifespans of buildings.
- Handbook of Sustainable Building Policies: Policymakers and professionals can use this handbook as a reference guide to learn about different policy instruments and how they relate to one another. The handbook presents 25 different policy instruments, under the following headings:
- Regulatory-normative (e.g., building codes and standards)
- Regulatory-informative (e.g., certification and labeling programs)
- Economic and market-based (e.g., preferential mortgages or carbon market mechanisms)
- Fiscal instruments and incentives (e.g., taxes, subsidies or loans)
- Support, information and voluntary action (e.g., public leadership programs for awareness)
Cities are often seen as leaders in climate governance when they implement experimental policies. While multi-level governance is crucial, city autonomy and capacity along with non-state actor’s participation can speed up the decarbonization of all sectors, including the construction industry. Most of the tools and guidelines listed here are available free of cost and can inform various decisions by stakeholders across the construction value chain. These include architects, urban planners, state officials (for planning and design commissioning), private investors, material manufacturers and more. Decarbonizing construction activities, if done judiciously, can become a profitable business and help yield both financial and environmental benefits.decarbonization-city-action-plans-karl-callwood-unsplash.jpeg Cities net-zero emissions Cities Urban Efficiency & Climate Type Project Update Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Pooja Gangwar
Electric vehicle sales have been growing exponentially due to falling costs, improving technology and government support. Globally, 10% of passenger vehicles sold in 2022 were all-electric, according to analysis of data from the International Energy Agency. That’s 10 times more than it was just five years earlier.
Electric Vehicles (EVs) produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than internal combustion engine vehicles, such as gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles. Once the electric grid shifts to zero-carbon power, emissions will be even lower. For this reason, ramping up EVs will be one of the most important steps in reducing transportation emissions — alongside reducing private vehicle travel and shifting to public transit, biking or walking.
There are already a number of countries switching to EVs at impressive rates. The top 5 countries with the highest share of EV sales are Norway (all-electric vehicles made up 80% of passenger vehicle sales in 2022), Iceland (41%), Sweden (32%), the Netherlands (24%) and China (22%), according to our analysis. China’s place on this list is especially significant considering it is the biggest car market in the world. The other two biggest car markets have lower EV sales but are growing quickly: the European Union (12%) and the United States (6%).People enter a BYD store in Shanghai, China. The Chinese brand is one of the biggest electric vehicle producers in the world. Photo by Robert Way/iStock.
Globally, EVs need to grow to 75% to 95% of passenger vehicle sales by 2030 to be consistent with international climate goals that limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) and prevent many harmful impacts from climate change, according to a high-ambition scenario from Climate Action Tracker. This target is within reach given recent exponential growth in EV sales. The average annual growth rate was 65% over the past five years; over the next eight years the world needs an average annual growth rate of only 31%.National EV Sales Follow a Pattern of Exponential Growth
While EV sales have started accelerating at different years for different countries, they are all following a similar S-curve pattern of growth. This is a typical trajectory for the adoption of innovative technologies. Once a technology reaches a tipping point — for example, when EVs become cheaper than traditional gas- or diesel-powered vehicles — the trajectory curves upward. Eventually, growth diminishes as the technology approaches 100% saturation. When it comes to EVs, no countries have reached this slowing-down phase yet, though Norway may be close. The initial acceleration and eventual slowdown create an S-curve. It will never be a perfect S-shape because policy changes and social and economic factors can speed up or slow down rates of adoption, but the overall pattern holds in most cases.*/ /*-->*/ text --> //--> */ /*-->*/
Falling costs and advancing technology have made it possible for EV sales to accelerate faster today than in the past. Our analysis of the International Energy Agency’s EV Data Explorer shows that countries where EV sales reached 1% in the past five years have grown at a faster rate than countries that did so earlier.
For example, India’s EV sales grew from 0.4% to 1.5% in just one year from 2021 to 2022. That's about three times faster than the global average, which took three years to grow from 0.4% EV sales in 2015 to 1.6% in 2018. Israel jumped from 0.6% EV sales to 8.2% in just two years, from 2020 to 2022. It took the world more than five years to achieve that much growth, from 0.5% in 2016 to 6.2% in 2021.
So far most of the EV leaders have been high-income countries, like in Scandinavia, or countries with a lot of market power, like China. Strong government policy and financial incentives from these countries paved the way for a dynamic EV industry to rise and helped costs to fall. Now as the economics of EVs become more favorable, other countries at lower income levels or in different national situations may be able to follow in the same footsteps or go even faster.Parking spots reserved for EVs in Herzilya, Israel. In just two years, the country saw a significant increase in EV sales. Photo by Vered Barequet/Shutterstock. How the Largest Car Markets Can Drive Industry Change
Helping the world transition to electric vehicles largely relies on the performance of the three biggest car markets — China, Europe and the United States — which are collectively responsible for 60% of all global car sales. All three markets have seen big upticks in EV sales in the past few years. China’s EV sales share is currently double the global average. Europe’s EV sales share is slightly above the global average. The United States’ EV sales share is about one year behind the global average (in 2022 the U.S. was at 6.2% EV sales, which is exactly what the world was at in 2021). Sales in the U.S. are poised to grow quickly after the Inflation Reduction Act spurred $62 billion in EV investments during its first year.
Sales are still low in India and Japan, the fourth- and fifth-biggest car markets respectively. However, they are finally beginning to accelerate, and as recent sales data has shown, late-adopting countries often grow faster than the early adopters.2 Countries Achieving Electric Vehicle Success
Let’s dive deeper into Norway and China, two of the countries that have been most successful in scaling up EVs, to learn from their experiences.1) Norway Is the Only Country Where the Majority of Car Sales are All-Electric
Norway is one of the coldest regions in the world and is crisscrossed by fjords that make some areas difficult to access. Given concerns that EV batteries don’t run effectively in low temperatures and don’t have as long a range as gasoline vehicles, one would expect that Norway would be one of the last regions to adopt EVs. To the contrary, Norway and its Scandinavian neighbors such as Iceland and Sweden are far and away the leaders in EV adoption. Eight out of 10 passenger car sales in Norway were all-electric vehicles in 2022, with 150,000 sold in total.
Norway is so far ahead of the pack because the government has deliberately and consistently promoted EVs, starting those efforts in 1990, long before the rest of the world. It has a target to phase out internal combustion engine vehicle sales by 2025, the earliest of any country.
There are three reasons why Norway’s efforts to make EVs the default option for new car buyers have been successful:
First, government incentives have made EVs the best financial choice for consumers. Norwegians who buy all-electric vehicles do not have to pay high value-added taxes or registration taxes and receive other financial benefits as well. This eliminates a substantial portion of the cost of buying and owning an EV. These incentives were gradually rolled out in the 1990s and early 2000s, with support from multiple governments and all political parties. The government was originally trying to support a Norwegian EV brand called TH!NK. The company wasn’t successful and most Norwegian cars are imported from abroad, but the government continued to promote EVs due to the environmental benefits.
Even with generous incentives, EVs didn’t take off until the technology had advanced. The real turning point was around 2012, when the total cost of owning an EV over its lifetime (including the costs of purchasing, maintaining and charging the vehicle) became cheaper than the total cost of owning a traditional gas- or diesel-powered vehicle, when including all the tax breaks. By 2021, EVs were also on average 5,000 euros cheaper to purchase when including all the tax breaks.
Second, the government has invested heavily in EV chargers and as a result Norway has the most public fast chargers per capita of any country in the world. These can get an EV battery from zero to 80% in as little as 20 minutes. In addition, Norway has established a right to charge for people living in apartment buildings and provides grants for housing associations to install their own chargers.
Third, Norway has also provided EV owners with some attractive perks, such as free parking in cities, exemptions or reductions in road tolls, access to priority bus lanes and reduced rates for EVs to be transported by ferry (ferries are frequently used given Norway’s fjord-covered landscape).
Given the success of its EV policies, the government has started gradually rolling back EV incentives for luxury cars and some of the other perks for all EVs. Now that everyone in Norway is buying EVs, it no longer makes sense to allow all cars to have bus lane access and free parking. Plus, some of these policies may encourage people to choose car travel over public transit, which would increase emissions, so Norway is now more consciously considering how to promote other transport options besides private cars.2) China Sold More EVs Last Year Than the Rest of the World Combined
China is by far the biggest player when it comes to EVs. In 2022, 22% of passenger vehicles sold in China were all-electric, which adds up to 4.4 million sales. That’s higher than the 3 million EVs sold in the rest of the world combined. China’s support for EVs has helped drive down battery costs and make EV adoption easier all over the world.
China, which was far behind other countries in the production of internal combustion engine vehicles, saw EVs as a strategic investment in a new area of automobile manufacturing where it could develop an edge if it started early enough. It was also interested in the role EVs could play in reducing air pollution and dependence on imported oil.
In 2009 and 2010, China first rolled out financial subsidies and tax breaks for both EV producers and consumers, starting with pilot cities around the country. Cities could customize the amount and type of EV subsidies to fit their needs and worked with local EV companies to help them grow. For example, Chinese EV company BYD started out with close ties to the city of Shenzhen and has since grown to be one of the biggest EV producers in the world. After the pilot cities programs, China continued to spend billions of dollars on various national and local subsidies and tax breaks. In 2018, China began a transition to a market-based zero-emissions vehicle credit system, adapted from California’s zero-emissions vehicle mandate, to replace direct subsidies. The transition has been gradual, and some of the EV subsidies and tax breaks have been extended past their planned expiration date.
Overall, the industrial promotion policies have been effective. Today, eight out of the top 10 EV models sold in China are made by Chinese companies, and China has begun to export EVs globally. Chinese consumers can choose from nearly 300 EV models, more than anywhere else. Chinese companies have also done more than any other country to develop affordable EV models. In many other countries the focus has been on larger vehicles which require more expensive batteries, but in China, smaller vehicles are the norm. BYD recently launched an $11,000 EV hatchback, and the $4,500 Wuling Hongguang Mini EV has been one of the top sellers.
The retail price of many electric cars in China has fallen below that of comparable gas or diesel-powered vehicles, when including subsidies. And Tesla’s entry into the Chinese market has spurred a price war that is pushing down EV costs further.
Another major factor that has encouraged uptake is that China has installed 760,000 public fast charging points and 1 million public slow charging points, which is more than the rest of the world combined. And like Norway, China has extended non-monetary benefits to EV drivers, mostly at the city level. For example, in the city of Beijing, car license plates are rationed and have a long wait time, but the process is essentially waived for EV buyers.A large Tesla sign hangs above a showroom in Hong Kong. Tesla's entrance into China's electric car market has spurred a price war helping to drive down the costs of EVs. Photo by robertcicchetti/iStock.Government Leadership Is Key for Faster EV Uptake
The experiences from Norway and China can provide lessons for other countries. Both countries had governments that made a deliberate choice to promote EVs, invested in public chargers and implemented policies to make EVs cost competitive. EV adoption grew rapidly once EVs were a better financial decision for prospective car buyers than traditional gas- or diesel-powered vehicles, especially when buyers were confident in the range of the vehicles and their ability to easily access public chargers.
Thanks to the policy pushes in countries like Norway and China, it won’t take long for cost competitiveness to arrive for more countries, given the falling EV prices, but those governments should not sit back and wait for this to happen given the urgency of the climate crisis. Not every country is as wealthy as Norway or has the market power and government structure of China, but electric vehicles can be an economic and environmental win for a wide variety of developing countries.
So far, cost competitiveness has mostly been achieved through subsidies, but these can be quite expensive for government budgets and there are other options too. Policies mandating 100% EV sales are the single most effective policy to drive the transition. Currently, 16 countries, including Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom, have some form of policy mandating 100% EV sales in 2035 or earlier. More countries should create and enforce such policies. If the EU, U.S. and China all aligned their national regulation to aim for 100% EV sales by 2035, the scaling up of production would lower costs worldwide, bringing forward cost parity in other countries, such as India, by as much as three years. In addition, countries should increase the number of public chargers, and particularly the number of fast public chargers, in order to make EV ownership an easy choice.
The shift to EVs must be done equitably. Governments should incentivize carmakers to produce more affordable EV models. When subsidies are used, they should be targeted at low-income households, which in addition to being equitable is also more effective at increasing EV adoption, given that low-income households are more sensitive to price changes.
Rapidly increasing EV adoption to reach 75% to 95% of global passenger vehicle sales by 2030 will be challenging, but it is achievable if the world heeds these lessons and keeps up the current rapid pace of change.
Finally, it’s important to note that increasing EV sales is only part of the story. To decarbonize road transportation, old gas- and diesel-powered vehicles will need to be retired rather than be sold to other drivers or to developing countries and the increasing popularity of large vehicles like SUVs will have to be reversed. What’s more, the goal shouldn’t be for everyone to own a car. Transforming the transport system to increase access to other forms of mobility can lower emissions, reduce automobile-related deaths, save time lost in traffic and limit ecosystem damages.
Data for all-electric vehicle sales in this article is from the International Energy Agency's Global EV Data Explorer, as of September 2023. Data is presented for both all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid; author split out the all-electric vehicles.
This article is the second in a series of deep-dive analyses from Systems Change Lab examining countries that are leaders in transformational change. Systems Change Lab is a collaborative initiative — which includes an open-sourced data platform — designed to spur action at the pace and scale needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, halt biodiversity loss and build a just and equitable economy.
electric-vehicles-norway.jpg Electric Mobility Tracking Climate Action Climate U.S. Climate Policy-Electric Vehicles transportation Type Finding Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Joel Jaeger
Energy services are highly interconnected between socio-economic development and human well-being. Yet, life without reliable energy is a reality for more than 675 million people globally while more than 2 billion people use polluting fuels to cook their meals. Effectively expanding energy access requires integrated and inclusive planning and access to transparent data and analytical tools. To help address this challenge, WRI collaborated with partners to launch an updated version of the Energy Access Explorer — a free and open source “Digital Public Good” software — to deliver climate-friendly and viable energy transitions for all.
Currently available in 8 countries in Africa and Asia, the Energy Access Explorer counts more than 15,000 users to date, including energy planning agencies, clean energy enterprises and development institutions. The majority of these groups were previously left out of energy planning conversations. They are now able to utilize granular data and analytics and gain actionable insights to expand energy services where it’s needed the most.
The upgraded Energy Access Explorer 2.0 includes new data, geographies and functionalities. Here are six practical ways the Energy Access Explorer can expand modern energy services for achieving critical development outcomes.1) Integrated and Inclusive Energy Planning
Energy plans need to account for aspects of demand and affordability before designing supply options (grid network, mini grids, solar home systems). For example, Kenya is still classified among the top 20 countries with the largest access deficits, with about 23% (12 million people) still without access to electricity and about 80% (42 million people) are without access to clean cooking fuels. Sub-national governments in Kenya, mandated by the 2019 Energy Act, utilize Energy Access Explorer to inform the design of local County Energy Plans.
The Energy Access Explorer analyzes local data on energy resource availability, power infrastructure, socio-economic activities, demographics and other important parameters on energy demand and supply which vary from one community to another. Furthermore, the Energy Access Explorer is being used to support the upcoming Kenya National Clean Cooking Strategy — a roadmap for achieving universal access to clean cooking by 2028 by identifying strategic interventions, setting timelines, estimating the cost and deriving indicators for monitoring and evaluating its implementation.2) Powering Productive Uses of Energy — Critical for Socio-economic Growth
Energy is vital to producing one of our basic necessities: food! Yet, a large share of smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa grows more than 80% of the food relying mainly on family labor and rainfed agriculture because there is limited or no access to reliable power. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the share of agriculture in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is about 17.2%, more than 4 times higher the global average (4.3%). Therefore, a key enabler for economic development known as “Productive Uses of Energy” can be used to help power industrial, agricultural and commercial appliances to generate income and support poverty alleviation in the region
Mapping agricultural activities and energy supply is essential for identifying areas where Productive Uses of Energy interventions may be needed the most to mitigate existing climatic and socio-economic challenges. In Nigeria, the Rural Electrification Agency is using the Energy Access Explorer to support the country’s Energizing Agriculture program.Data from Energy Access Explorer show high priority areas in Nigeria for expanding productive uses of energy. This sample analysis includes areas with rainfed agriculture, population density greater than 50 people per square kilometer, at least 2 kilometers away from distribution lines and at least 5 kilometers away from mini grids. Source: WRI.
Similarly, in Kenya, SNV and local county governments utilize Energy Access Explorer to map Productive Uses of Energy. In Jharkhand, India, the state livelihood department used Energy Access Explorer to identify 140 villages (out of 1,200) in one of the state’s subdistricts where solar-powered irrigation facilities can be installed.3) Powering Healthcare — Quintessential for Equitable Development
Health care facilities with reliable energy supply save lives. Still, 50% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa are served by facilities that have no or unreliable access to electricity. Where are these facilities, how much energy do they require and how shall they be best served? The Ministry of Health in Uganda utilizes the Energy Access Explorer to assess the energy needs of health care facilities. Over 3 million people in the country are served by 675 facilities without off-grid or on-grid electricity. All these facilities are in areas that have a significant solar energy potential with a global horizontal irradiation range of 1,650-2,260 kilowatt hours per square meters. Under the right conditions, these facilities are eligible to generate electricity through a solar PV system.
Similarly, in Nagaland, one of the energy poor states in Northeast India, Energy Access Explorer is used to indicate the areas where over one third of health clinics and schools have erratic or no power at all. In Jharkhand, one of the resource rich yet poor states in India, Energy Access Explorer has been leveraged to prioritize 300 health care facilities (out of 3,000 in total) for solarization.Data from the Energy Access Explorer plot the daily electricity requirement range for Uganda health centers. Source: WRI. 4) Market Intelligence — Unearthing Fresh Market Prospects for Clean Energy Enterprises
Clean energy enterprises provide electricity services to those unserved or underserved by the main grid. In Tanzania, more than 30 million people — about half the country’s population — are living without access to basic electricity services. The Tanzanian Renewable Energy Association utilizes the Energy Access Explorer to lead the development of the Tanzania mini-grids geospatial.
The mini-grid database yielded over 200 existing mini grids across mainland Tanzania. According to data collected, over 60% of these mini grids are still operational, with solar photovoltaic and hydro as the most common, accounting for over 70% of operating mini grids. The data can be used to develop custom market prospect analyses by screening locations to expand businesses and introduce targeted investment for electricity service solutions towards developing more resilient communities.Data from Energy Access Explorer show Tanzanian mini grid locations and attributes. Source: WRI.5) Investing for Impact
Donors and development institutions need to identify areas where their grants or investment will have the most impact. In Ethiopia, where more than 55 million people have no access to electricity, Energy Access Explorer is being used by the Ministry of Water and Energy and the World Bank to inform the design of the Results Based Financing Scheme for off-grid electrification of Ethiopia’s woredas (districts). More than 19 million people out of 26.3 million people living in 145 woredas have been prioritized for off-grid electrification.6) Effective Data Governance
Local ownership and sustainability go hand in hand. With energy cutting across disciplines, local, cross thematic Energy Access Explorer Working Groups are established to not only own but ensure the sustainability of this initiative. Working group members come from not only the typical energy stakeholders (energy ministries, rural electrification agencies, power utilities) but also from key development actors (departments of health, agriculture, education, environment, bureau of statistics). It’s critical to involve local academia to ensure that in country capacity is not only strengthened but most importantly retained within the countries. As such, Energy Access Explorer establishes partnerships with academic institutions such as Strathmore University in Kenya, Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia and Makerere University in Uganda. Energy Access Explorer functions as a dynamic information system, reducing software engineering and data transaction costs for both data providers and users, facilitating data management and improving data governance.Moving Forward
Adapting and scaling the Energy Access Explorer technology in a transparent and collaborative manner can equip stakeholders with a digital public good to plan for the attainment of critical development outcomes on health, education, livelihoods. Together with partners and local stakeholders, we plan to expand Energy Access Explorer to capture countries with at least 50% of the total unserved population.
energy-access-explorer-hero.jpg Energy Access Type Project Update Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Dimitrios Mentis Akansha Saklani Douglas Ronoh Victor Otieno Alemayehu Agizew Woldeamanuel Santiago Sinclair Lecaros Jake Stockman Shikha Anand Abdul Khalid Tarannum Sahar Christine Odeph
California has long been a national leader on ambitious climate policy and action. In 2006, the state passed landmark legislation that led to the first economy-wide cap-and-trade system. It later became the first state to set strict greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for vehicles and last year approved a net-zero plan to eliminate GHG emissions by 2045, five years ahead of the national target.
Now, California is beginning to lead the nation in its carbon dioxide removal policies and actions to mitigate climate change and help meet net-zero goals. Carbon dioxide removal approaches directly remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and are needed alongside deep emissions reductions to reach net-zero.
The carbon removal-related policies that were recently passed or proposed in California are largely the first of their kind in the U.S. or are unique and innovative in other ways. The legislation establishes a foundational framework to guide responsible carbon removal development in California, which could provide a model for other states.In Switzerland, the company Climeworks installed direct air capture technology on top of a garbage incinerator in Hinwil, outside of Zurich. Technologies like this, used to extract carbon dioxide from the air, are what California is creating its policies and legislation around. Photo by Orjan Ellingvag / Alamy Stock Photo. California’s Scoping Plan and Key Carbon Dioxide Removal Policies
In late 2022, the California Air Resources Board, the air pollution regulator in California, adopted the state’s latest Scoping Plan, which serves as a roadmap for how California can reach carbon neutrality by 2045 or sooner. Although it does not create any laws, it serves as a guide for agencies and regulators. Included in this fourth update is a target for net-zero GHG emissions by 2045 and as part of achieving that, a mandate to reduce GHG emissions to 85% below 1990 levels by that same year. The 2022 Scoping Plan also lays out specific targets for carbon removal in California: 7 million metric tons of CO2 in 2030 and 75 million metric tons of CO2 in 2045.
These targets include removals by both natural (such as forests or grasslands) and working lands (such as croplands), as well as novel, technological approaches, such as direct air capture and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. However, because the Scoping Plan only expects a small role for net removals from natural and working lands (roughly 1.5 million metric tons of CO2 per year through 2045), the majority of removal to meet these two targets are expected to come from newer, technological methods.
Recent legislation and federal funding — which can all help meet the goals outlined in the Scoping Plan — are putting California at the forefront of scaling up carbon dioxide removal.Existing and Proposed Carbon Dioxide Removal Policies and Activities in California Legislation or Activity Details Status California Climate Crisis Act (AB 1279) Establishes legal target of 85% emission reductions by 2045. Signed into law in 2022. Carbon Sequestration: Carbon Capture, Removal, Utilization, and Storage Program (SB 905) Establishes a regulatory foundation to govern the safe deployment of carbon dioxide capture, removal, utilization and sequestration, including rules for monitoring, permitting and reducing GHGs and co-pollutants, among others. Signed into law in 2022.
Carbon Dioxide Removal Market Development Act
(SB 308)Would require emitting entities to purchase increasing amounts of negative emission credits to counterbalance their emissions. Proposed legislation (introduced in 2023 and passed Senate; currently on hold). Carbon sequestration: state goals: natural and working lands: registry of projects (SB 27) Establishes and maintains a directory of projects for carbon sequestration from natural and working lands and direct air capture. Signed into law in 2021. Direct Air Capture Hubs funding The federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided $3.5 billion to build 4 direct air capture plants each at a million metric ton per year scale. Four feasibility and engineering studies awarded in California in the first round of funding awards announced in August 2023. California's Innovative Policy Directions
California is the only U.S. state so far that has set a specific quantitative target for scaling up carbon removal. Complementing this, the state has begun to develop a broader regulatory framework to scale and meet these targets.Ensuring Carbon Removal Doesn’t Take Away from Emissions Reduction Efforts
The California Climate Crisis Act, or AB 1279, was signed into law in September of 2022, and requires net-zero greenhouse gas emission by 2045 and net-negative emissions thereafter. It mandates at least 85% emissions reductions from 1990 levels by 2045, ensuring that carbon dioxide removal does not play an excessive role in meeting net zero.
A common concern is that carbon dioxide removal could be used as an excuse to not reduce GHG emissions, and as part of that, continue oil and gas production. By placing legal requirements on the amount of emission reductions needed by mid-century, legislation like AB 1279 helps ensure that the state’s priority remains on emission reductions and avoids over-relying on carbon removal to achieve climate targets; or it being used to justify continued production and use of fossil fuels.
Other states, particularly those with net-zero targets, should make sure that emissions reduction remains the top priority in reaching net zero, which can be done by establishing minimum emission reduction levels (for example 85% or higher), as part of the overall target. This helps ensure that carbon removal does not end up playing an excessive role in helping meet climate targets.
Besides California, New York has also set an 85% emissions reduction requirement and Washington has set a legally binding 95% GHG emission reduction goal by 2050 — both part of goals to reach net-zero by 2050.
Beyond requiring specific levels of emission reductions, other states that have net-zero targets could also consider making the role of carbon dioxide removal more explicit, defining residual emissions that are appropriate to be counterbalanced by carbon removal, and distinguishing between the role of enhancing natural carbon sinks and scaling up novel, technological carbon removal approaches, as California has also done in its Scoping Plan.
While California’s Scoping Plan relies exclusively on direct air capture and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, there is a broad range of carbon removal approaches that should be considered (with some approaches being more applicable in some states compared to others) including carbon mineralization, seaweed cultivation and other types of biomass carbon removal. Previous analysis looking at carbon removal potential in California found that biomass conversion to hydrogen with carbon capture could play a large role.Laying a Regulatory Foundation for Scaled-Up Carbon Dioxide Removal
The Carbon sequestration: carbon capture, removal, utilization, and storage program, or SB 905, was signed into law at the same time as AB 1279. This bill establishes regulatory foundations to enable scale up of carbon dioxide removal, as well as carbon capture, utilization and sequestration projects. The two processes are distinct from one another: Carbon capture technology captures emissions at the source, while carbon removal approaches directly remove it from the air. However, some carbon removal approaches — like direct air capture or biomass with carbon capture and storage — can share infrastructure with carbon capture approaches. Therefore, SB905 will help create a regulatory framework around both approaches.
SB 905 directs the California Air Resources Board to establish a program to evaluate the safety and viability of different technologies, while also facilitating and governing the safe deployment of carbon capture and carbon dioxide removal projects where appropriate. The bill also requires the board to adopt regulations to minimize GHG emissions, co-pollutants, air and water pollution, seismic impacts, and potential health and safety risks to local communities. The monitoring of social and environmental criteria as well as toxic air pollutants is also required.
The California Air Resources Board is also required to establish a unified permitting approach; publish a governing framework to address when multiple landowners overlay a geologic sequestration site; adopt regulation for CO2 sequestration operators to take on a minimum of 100 years of liability; and develop a centralized database to track carbon capture and carbon dioxide removal projects.
It is important to note that implementation of SB 905 is just beginning, with many details still to be worked out in regulatory proceedings. Several amendments to this law are also currently under consideration.SB 905 Requirements Topic Area SB905 Requirements and Regulations Overall
Project developers must do the following:
* Submit measurement, reporting and verification plans to state regulatory agencies to ensure efficacy and safety of projects.
* Develop strategies to minimize co-pollutant emissions and local water pollution to ensure that projects do not have adverse impacts on local air quality and public health.
* Meet best available control technology requirements (as determined by local air district).Liability
* The California Air Resources Board is directed to adopt regulations to establish rules for financial responsibility for projects and geologic CO2 injection sites for a minimum of 100 years.
* Project operators must submit 1) an air monitoring and safeguards plan to detail how potential air pollutants are to be mitigated; and 2) a plan that covers emergency response, monitoring, seismic activity liability, CO2 leakage and environmental and public health protection.Pore-space Ownership and Surface Rights
* The California Natural Resources Agency is directed to establish a framework on governance of land and geologic storage reservoirs relevant to the project.
* This framework will include requirements including the allocation of liability for the reservoirs and injection wells, standards for monitoring, etc.Enhanced Oil Recovery The bill prohibits the use of projects for the purpose of “enhanced oil recovery,” which involves injecting CO2 into depleted oil wells to access additional oil. Carbon Dioxide Pipelines The bill establishes that CO2 pipelines can only be used for projects once the federal-level Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration finalizes its safety measures. Geologic Carbon Sequestration Group A Geologic Carbon Sequestration Group is to be established at the California Geological Survey to provide regulatory guidance to the California Air Resource Board and to identify high quality, suitable injection sites (that have been modeled to be capable of maintaining integrity for at least 1,000 years) and potential hazards. Permitting The California Air Resource Board is directed to create a unified permitting process for carbon dioxide removal and carbon capture, utilization and sequestration projects.
Selecting one agency to oversee regulation of these activities can streamline processes and improve coordination and is an approach that could be adopted by other states seeking to implement carbon removal projects. At the same time, it’s important to note that California’s Air Resources Board is the nation’s largest and most well-resourced state-level environmental regulator, so centralizing regulatory authority might be more difficult in other states. Although the details are still being worked out, SB 905 demonstrates the value of having one comprehensive regulatory framework that addresses key issues related to carbon capture, removal and sequestration.Requiring Emitters to Pay for Carbon Dioxide Removal
In early 2022 California State Sen. Josh Becker (D) introduced a bill called the Carbon Dioxide Removal Market Development Act, or SB 308. Although the proposed bill is currently on hold and may be revised, it provides an innovative framework that could hold emitters accountable while increasing state-level carbon removal capacity. It could help scale-up the carbon removal capacity that will be needed alongside emission reductions to reach net zero. If passed, it would be the first state-level carbon removal legislation of its kind (in comparison to other state level bills that require government procurement of carbon removal).
If enacted, SB 308 would direct the California Air Resources Board to adopt regulation that would require emitters already reporting emissions to the state inventory, and producing more than 25,000 metric tons of GHGs annually, to compensate for their climate impact by buying carbon removal credits equal to a certain percentage of their emissions. This percentage would start small, requiring emitters to compensate for 1% of their emissions with carbon dioxide removal in 2030, ramping up to 100% by 2045, when net zero is targeted. These obligations would be additional and separate to those of the California cap-and-trade program.A bicyclist rides along the beach past a factory in Manhattan Beach, California. A proposed rule would require emitters to purchase carbon removal credits to offset their emissions. Photo by rarpia/iStock.
The California Air Resources Board would establish rules and processes to certify carbon dioxide removal activities eligible to produce carbon removal credits and to track those removals over time, creating a framework that would make SB 308 one of the first pieces of legislation to establish rigorous and standardized eligibility, monitoring and reporting requirements.
SB 308 would be a mechanism to require emitters to begin paying for carbon removal and thus creating a market to enable its scale up. While several proposals have advocated for the government’s role in procuring carbon removal, fewer have put this responsibility directly on emitting entities. And because it sets purchase thresholds tied to existing emissions, it goes beyond incentives and actually mandates the purchase and scale up of carbon removal.
While requiring emitters of GHG gases to purchase carbon removal credits is a direct method to address the origin of the climate problem, it presents obstacles that would need to be navigated in many states. For example, in California, many emitting entities already subject to the cap-and-trade system oppose this mandate as an additional burden. While government and voluntary market support can play critical and catalytic roles, they will likely not be able to finance long-term scale up of carbon removal alone, so regulation requiring emitting entities to do so can be a powerful mechanism to support that needed scale up.Including Communities: Emerging Lessons from Direct Air Capture Hubs
Kern County, located in the southern part of California’s Central Valley, is the host to four potential direct air capture projects that were awarded millions of dollars in August 2023 from the Department of Energy’s Regional Direct Air Capture Hubs program, funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Three feasibility projects will receive around $3 million each; and one project will receive around $12 million for an engineering and design study.
The $3.5 billion U.S. Department of Energy program ultimately aims to fund the development of four Direct Air Capture Hubs across the country and represents the largest public investment into technological carbon removal. Each hub must demonstrate the capture and storage or end-use of at least 1 million metric tons of CO2 removed annually, while meeting requirements for community engagement, environmental justice, and workforce development.
These hubs are likely to be built in locations that have safe geologic storage sites and space to support clean energy. Additionally, the workforce and infrastructure needed for projects combined with Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requirements mean they are likely to be sited in communities with a history of extractive or other environmentally damaging industry, which have negatively impacted health, air quality and the overall environment.The Mojave Desert in Kern County, California is home to the Tehachapi Pass wind farm. Four potential direct air capture projects in Kern County are being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Direct Air Capture Hubs program. Photo by GaryKavanagh/iStock.
For example, the two projects at the construction stage awarded a total of $1 billion are both in the Gulf Coast, an industry-heavy region. Given that these communities are likely to have faced longstanding and systemic discrimination and multiple dimensions of disadvantage and vulnerability, Direct Air Capture Hubs should commit to renewable energy sources for their operations so they don’t further contribute to negative health impacts, and prohibit the use of enhanced oil recovery. Most of the projects awarded funding indicate this commitment, but without a lot of detail.
Ensuring that Direct Air Capture Hubs remove carbon in a way that minimizes environmental and social harm will require effective and meaningful community engagement; free, prior, and informed consent; a seat at the decision-making table; and continuous proactive outreach. One way of prioritizing community needs and incorporating communities’ concerns and considerations into siting and decision-making processes, is through Community Benefit Agreements. These legally binding agreements are negotiated by communities and project developers prior to the approval of a project. They generally include provisions for employment, housing, environmental safeguards, and other benefits. All Department of Energy-funded projects under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law require Community Benefits Plans, which may turn into Community Benefit Agreements.
Another emerging idea is around alternative, or public, ownership models to help expedite the scale up of carbon dioxide removal. For example, following a utility or waste management model where the state plays a role in overall siting and ownership to ensure the infrastructure is built out quickly, safely, with high environmental standards, and access is at-cost, while avoiding monopolies forming in the private sector. Although this model is untested in the United States and requires additional research, it could help ensure that communities benefit from projects, and play an integral role in their design and deployment. One of the three feasibility studies awarded in California is designed to explore these models while prioritizing delivery of meaningful community benefits.What’s Next for Carbon Dioxide Removal Policy Across the U.S.?
Looking ahead, there is still a lot to be seen in terms of how carbon removal projects are developed and operated. Many of the policies are still pending or have only recently passed. The policies are also largely the first of their kind in the U.S., establishing the foundation of a crucial legislative framework to guide carbon removal developments in California.
Although states across the U.S. have different political contexts and levels of interest in climate policy, the way that California has approached carbon removal in policy can provide valuable insights if not a model for other states on how to ensure carbon dioxide removal does not take away from emissions reduction, how to create a potential financing backstop and how to establish a comprehensive state-level regulatory framework. At the same time, given the magnitude of California’s commitment toward carbon removal — 75 million metric tons of CO2 per year by 2045 — there is still room for additional innovation and creativity to help achieve this ambitious goal.sacramento-california-state-capitol-building.jpg U.S. Climate United States carbon removal U.S. Climate Policy-Direct Air Capture climate policy Type Explainer Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Katie Lebling Danielle Riedl
STATEMENT: More Leadership Needed from G20 Countries on Global Crises, Despite Some Positive Signals
NEW DELHI, INDIA (September 9, 2023) — Today the G20, made up of the world’s largest economies, issued the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, which emphasizes the importance of G20 countries cooperating to address global challenges like the climate crisis.
The declaration follows yesterday’s release of the Global Stocktake synthesis report, which offers the most comprehensive overview of climate action since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, as well as a roadmap for government to move forward.
Following is a statement from Ani Dasgupta, President & CEO, World Resources Institute:
“The world is burning, people are starving, and the world is not on track to meet its climate goals. The G20, accounting for most of the world’s wealth and emissions, is vital to mobilizing the political will and finance we need to address these global crises.
“Given the world just experienced its hottest summer on record, there is a massive disconnect between what the world needs and what the world’s largest economies are delivering.
“There were some positive signals, which countries now need to translate into meaningful action. Countries committed to pursue low-carbon, climate-resilient development, build more sustainable food systems, restore degraded ecosystems, conserve forests and the ocean, and fully implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. They supported a shift to sustainable production and consumption to slash emissions, particularly through the India-led Lifestyle for the Environment (LiFE). They emphasized accelerating green hydrogen production, which will be important to decarbonize critical sectors, so long as countries adopt strong standards to ensure hydrogen is not produced with fossil fuels. And the G20’s commitments to increase women’s participation and decision-making power on climate efforts and promote food security solutions by and for women farmers are welcome steps.
“But countries also did not go far enough on finance and fossil fuels. The declaration draws attention to the scale of climate finance that is urgently needed and puts its weight behind growing calls to make international financial institutions more responsive to developing countries’ needs. The G20 needs to adopt concrete new actions to address the severe lack of finance and debt crises that climate-vulnerable countries face. Countries must also rapidly shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewables, which are now cheaper in most parts of the world, if they are to meet their commitments.
“The upcoming COP28 summit presents an opportunity for these countries to step up. The just-released Global Stocktake report provides countries with a blueprint for how to get the job done. They should commit to triple renewable energy and significantly grow fossil-free transport, transform our food systems, bolster resilience, and deliver the finance that climate-vulnerable countries need.
“The actions of this group of countries will determine the course of our future. As Brazil and President Lula take over the next G20 presidency, these countries must accelerate the scale and pace of change, demonstrating the leadership the world needs on climate action, equity and food security.”
This year is a critical moment for climate action.
The mounting impacts of climate change, from floods and droughts to hurricanes and heat waves, are taking a major toll on human lives and economies globally — particularly in vulnerable developing nations with the fewest resources to protect themselves.
Current climate actions are not nearly enough to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) and avoid the worst of these impacts, and countries must step up their efforts to get on track. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report tells us that actions taken this decade will have impacts “for thousands of years.”
The Global Stocktake, happening in 2023, offers a pivotal opportunity to correct course and accelerate global climate action.What Is the Global Stocktake and Why Is It Important?
The Paris Agreement’s Global Stocktake process is designed to assess the global response to the climate crisis every five years, with the first-ever Stocktake slated to conclude during this year's UN climate conference (COP28) in December. It evaluates the world's progress on slashing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience to climate impacts, and securing finance and support to address the climate crisis.
The first Global Stocktake marks the most extensive assessment of global action on climate change to date, distilling over 1,600 documents from diverse sources and drawing from consultations not only with scientists and governments but also cities, businesses, farmers, Indigenous people, civil society and others.Expert Deep Dive: Crafting a “Rapid Response” to the Global Stocktake
WRI experts have been closely tracking the Global Stocktake process in the leadup to COP28. In this Expert Note, we outline key areas which can be addressed in response to the Stocktake’s findings in order for COP to drive the transformative change the world needs to see.
Its key findings, released in a Synthesis Report in September, lay bare just how far the world is from achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals and emphasize the closing window of opportunity. It underscores that if we don’t take stronger action before the second Global Stocktake in 2028, we may witness the devastating reality of global temperatures soaring beyond 1.5 degrees C.
But the report also illuminates a path forward that governments will need to follow to combat the climate crisis. It pinpoints key areas where immediate action must happen and provides a roadmap for the systems transformations needed to dramatically reduce emissions, build resilience and safeguard our future.
By the end of COP28, countries must agree on how they will leverage the Stocktake’s findings to keep the global goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C alive and address the impacts of climate change.Extreme flooding in Sylhet, Bangladesh in 2022 led to a shortage of clean drinking water. The Global Stocktake will assess the world’s progress on addressing the climate crisis and its escalating impacts. Photo by H.M. Shahidul Islam/iStockWhat Is the Purpose of the Global Stocktake?
Established under Article 14 of the Paris Agreement, the Global Stocktake is designed “to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of [the Paris] Agreement and its long-term goals. Those goals include cutting greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and ideally 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F); building resilience to climate impacts; and aligning financial support with the scale and scope needed to tackle the climate crisis.
The Global Stocktake is intended to evaluate progress on climate action at the global level — not the national level — and identify overall gaps to achieve the Paris Agreement as well as opportunities to bridge them.
But the Global Stocktake is meant to go far beyond an assessment.
In the Paris Agreement, Parties agreed that the Stocktake should inform countries in updating and enhancing their climate actions and support, and in strengthening international cooperation for climate action. It should also inform countries’ new climate plans (known as “nationally determined contributions,” or NDCs) which will be fully updated next in 2025. Conducting the Global Stocktake every five years is meant to ensure that countries and others are increasingly ambitious with their actions to keep the Paris Agreement’s goals in reach.
If undertaken effectively, the Global Stocktake can provide the basis that guides countries’ and non-state actors’ climate policy and investment decisions. And it can help drive transformational action across systems like energy, nature, food and transport.Which Aspects of Climate Action Does the Global Stocktake Assess?
At COP24 in Katowice, Poland in 2018, countries agreed that the Global Stocktake would address climate progress in three key areas:
- Mitigation: Evaluating global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and ideally 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F), and identifying opportunities for additional emissions cuts.
- Adaptation: Measuring progress in countries’ abilities to enhance their resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate impacts.
- Means of implementation, including finance, technology transfer and capacity building: Assessing progress on aligning financial flows with emissions-reduction goals and climate-resilient development, and providing support to developing nations to address the climate crisis.
Additionally, the Global Stocktake is meant to address loss and damage, helping assess the actions and support needed to respond to climate impacts that go beyond what communities and ecosystems can adapt to. It also considers the unintended social and economic consequences that may arise from climate action and implementation, known as response measures. In addition, the Global Stocktake is intended to emphasize the importance of promoting equity and leveraging the best available science to inform strategies for tackling the climate crisis.What Does the Global Stocktake Process Look Like?
The Global Stocktake is meant to be a participatory process that is open, inclusive and transparent, as countries agreed at COP24. Taking place over the course of two years, the Global Stocktake begins with data collection and technical assessment phases and culminates with a high-level political phase. This cycle’s final political phase will take place at COP28 in Dubai in December 2023.What’s happened so far in the Global Stocktake process?
In its initial data collection phase, which ended in March 2023, the Global Stocktake collected inputs from the UNFCCC Secretariat, its constituted bodies and the IPCC to ensure balanced and comprehensive information across all thematic areas. Parties to the Paris Agreement, international organizations and non-Party stakeholders (such as members of civil society) also had the opportunity to submit relevant information via a public information portal.
The second phase, technical assessment, convened Parties, experts and non-Party stakeholders to evaluate the information gathered in Phase 1, identified important technical insights and made way for the final political phase of the Global Stocktake. It involved a series of three dialogues that commenced in June 2022 and concluded at the 2023 intersessional meetings in Bonn, Germany. A summary report was developed after each dialogue.What were the key findings from the first Global Stocktake?
The Global Stocktake’s technical phase ended with an overarching Synthesis Report, released in September 2023, which summarizes key findings that will inform the Stocktake’s political outcomes at COP28. While the report highlights progress that has been made since the Paris Agreement — global temperatures are now expected to rise by 2.4-2.6 degrees C (4.3-4.7 degrees F) by the end of the century, compared to 3.7-4.8 degrees C (6.7-8.6 degrees F) in 2010 — it also makes clear that greater ambition and urgency are needed on all fronts to combat the climate crisis.Explore Systems Change Lab
Systems Change Lab monitors, learns from and mobilizes action to achieve the far-reaching transformational shifts needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C, halt biodiversity loss and build a just and equitable economy.
The Synthesis Report underscores a persistent “emissions gap,” noting that current climate commitments are not in line with pathways needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C. But it also charts a path forward, emphasizing the urgent need for system-wide transformations that can slash emissions and ensure a climate-resilient future. Most pressing is the need to phase out unabated fossil fuels, scale renewable energy, significantly shift transport and industry, and reduce non-CO2 emissions such as methane. Preserving nature, ending deforestation and embracing sustainable agriculture are also key to enhance resilience and deliver emissions cuts.
Critically, the Stocktake report puts people at the heart of these transitions and underscores the imperative for resilience and equity in all transformative efforts. It stresses the urgency of increasing adaptation support and addressing loss and damage, particularly for vulnerable communities. It also emphasizes that plans and commitments for adaptation action and support have been poorly implemented, are unevenly distributed and have progressed only incrementally.
To address these issues, it underscores the need to reorient trillions of dollars in global finance and mobilize significant resources in support of a zero-carbon, climate-resilient and equitable future. The report is clear that just transitions, equity, and tailoring approaches to local contexts will be key to ambitious and robust outcomes that advance sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.What will happen at COP28?
The third and final phase of the Global Stocktake, consideration of outputs, will take place at COP28 in Dubai. This stage is critical, as it will determine how countries respond politically to the gaps and opportunities identified in the technical phase.
During Phase 3, country delegates will discuss the Stocktake’s technical findings, identify opportunities and challenges, and assess measures and best practices for climate action and international cooperation. Following these discussions, countries will collectively produce a summary of key political messages, which can then be referenced in COP28’s final decision. This final decision would formalize the guidance and commitments all countries adopt in developing their future climate actions and support.A work crew cleans up rubble after a major typhoon in the Philippines in 2022. The political phase of the Global Stocktake will inform countries’ future climate actions and support for vulnerable nations. Photo by Pascal Canning/Shutterstock
The Global Stocktake’s final phase at COP28 has the potential to result in bold political commitments that can drive breakthrough solutions across systems and sectors. However, with a lack of political will, the Stocktake risks becoming an information-sharing exercise coupled with broad, unactionable recommendations.
Countries must fully leverage the Stocktake’s political phase to maximize its impact and avoid drawing vague conclusions. It will then be up to national policymakers to use the outcomes of the Global Stocktake to strengthen national implementation of their climate commitments as well as increase their ambition and action — including through greater finance and support.
Crucially, the response to the Global Stocktake should include an unequivocal signal that countries will submit enhanced NDCs with ambitious 2030 and 2035 climate targets well ahead of COP30. Finance to enable the development and implementation of these NDCs will be essential. As an outcome from the Global Stocktake, the UN Secretary General can convene a high-level event in early 2025, inviting countries to present their new NDCs and finance commitments. Countries can also invite voluntary national, regional and thematic stocktakes to be held in 2024 to help inform NDCs and other national commitments.
Additionally, the Global Stocktake should prompt specific actions to accelerate transformative climate action and support in high-impact areas. These include:
- Rapidly and equitably shifting away from fossil fuels and scaling up renewables. Without tackling the primary source of the problem – burning and financing fossil fuels – we will not be able to solve the climate crisis. In addition to transitioning away from fossil fuels, countries must commit at COP28 to at least triple annual renewable energy capacity by 2023 and increase the share of renewables in global electricity generation to at least two-thirds by 2030.
- Transforming food systems, agriculture, forestry and land-use to bolster food security, enhance resilience and equitably reduce emissions. Failure to accelerate this systemwide transformation in the face of intensifying climate impacts will undermine global efforts to eliminate food insecurity, hunger and poverty. Scaling up climate-smart agriculture can boost yields while reducing GHG emissions from agriculture production by as much as 25% by 2030 (compared to 2020 levels). Countries must also commit to halt deforestation and degradation, shift to sustainable, healthy diets, and halve food loss and waste by 2030.
- Rapidly reducing transport emissions and shifting to fossil fuel-free transport. Fossil fuels still meet over 90% of all transport energy demands. By 2030, countries should double the share of fossil fuel-free transport to at least two-thirds of all passenger travel. This includes shifting a significant share of trips to public and non-motorized modes of transit like cycling, while also rapidly increasing the share of electric vehicles in global passenger car sales to at least 75% and aiming for 30% zero-carbon trucks sales by 2030.
- Ramping up finance and other support for adaptation and providing new and additional funds to address loss and damage – while simplifying access to these funds and effectively channeling resources to the local level. Countries and communities that have contributed the least to the climate crisis, but often suffer its most devastating impacts, urgently need resources to enhance their adaptive capacity and address losses and damages. Developed nations must follow through on at least doubling accessible adaptation finance by 2025, scale up high-quality and accessible adaptation support for local actors, and prioritize new, innovative, grant-based finance for loss and damage.
- Delivering on climate finance commitments and urgently shifting all global financial flows at the scale needed to enable net-zero emissions and climate-resilient development. Wealthy nations must meet their $100 billion annual climate finance commitment this year and make up for the shortfalls since 2020, while ensuring faster access and higher-quality finance (for example, through grants). The Global Stocktake should also pave the way for a robust new climate finance goal, to be agreed upon at COP29, emphasizing the Paris Agreement's spirit on mobilizing efforts that far exceed previous actions. That means surpassing the $100 billion target and adopting a balanced focus on mitigation and adaptation, especially for vulnerable developing countries. By 2030, both public and private investments will need to reach $5.2 trillion per year and nations should achieve a 7-to-1 ratio for clean energy over fossil fuels investments. At the same time, essential reforms are needed in international financial architecture, including multilateral development bank (MDB) reforms and solutions for countries facing debt distress compounded by climate change.
With the release of the technical synthesis report, focus now shifts to the political phase of the Stocktake process. In the coming months leading up to COP28, ministers and negotiators will come together to leverage its findings in a bid to keep 1.5 degrees C alive and address the impacts of climate change.
A key milestone on the road to COP will be the Climate Ambition summit, to be convened by the UN Secretary-General during the UN General Assembly in September 2023. The summit will expect countries, business, cities and regions, civil society and financial institutions to come forward with new, tangible and concrete climate actions and commitments that support the objectives of the Global Stocktake.
Ultimately, the success of the first Global Stocktake hinges on whether governments adequately respond to its findings by the conclusion of COP28 — not with vague platitudes but with commitments to real action. Success depends on countries’ commitment to significantly scaling up their climate actions and support, putting forward ambitious national climate plans in 2025, and accelerating key transformative actions over the next decade.
Following the conclusion of COP28, everyone — from countries and CEOs to cities and governors — must seize the moment to reevaluate their own targets and action, ensuring their alignment with a zero-carbon future that increases resilience and boosts support for the countries and communities that need it most. The Global Stocktake at COP28 should not just be a catalog of our failures, but a global springboard to keep 1.5 degrees C and climate-resilient development pathways within reach.
This piece was originally published in 2022. It was updated in September 2023 to reflect the current status of the first Global Stocktake process as well as findings from the Global Stocktake synthesis report.restoring-mangroves-global-stocktake-insights.jpeg Climate Paris Agreement International Climate Action National Climate Action NDC climatewatch-pinned COP28 Type Explainer Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects
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WASHINGTON (September 8, 2023) — Today, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) released the Global Stocktake synthesis report, which offers the most comprehensive overview of climate action since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, as well as a roadmap for governments moving forward. The first of its kind, the UNFCCC report is the culmination of two years of data collection and insights from scientists and technocrats but also businesspeople, Indigenous leaders, farmers, youth, civil society and so many others to evaluate the world’s efforts to slash greenhouse gas emissions, build resilience and secure finance to combat the climate crisis.
The COP28 summit in Dubai, UAE, will center around how countries leverage the findings of the Global Stocktake report to keep the global goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C alive and address the impacts of climate change.
Following is a statement from Ani Dasgupta, President & CEO, World Resources Institute:
“The United Nations’ polite prose glosses over what is a truly damning report card for global climate efforts. Carbon emissions? Still climbing. Rich countries’ finance commitments? Delinquent. Adaptation support? Lagging woefully behind.
“This report is a wake-up call to the injustice of the climate crisis and a pivotal opportunity to correct course. We already knew the world is failing to meet its climate goals, but leaders now have a concrete blueprint underpinned by a mountain of evidence for how to get the job done.
“There are a few bright spots worth celebrating, such as the rapid uptake of renewable energy and electric vehicles in recent years. And numerous countries have rallied behind net-zero goals and passed important climate legislation. But overall, the report finds there are more gaps than progress – gaps that can only be erased by transformational change across systems like energy, food, land and transport.
“The future of our planet depends on whether national leaders use this stark assessment as a catalyst for bold systems transformation.
“At COP28, leaders must rally behind a response plan that accelerates action at a pace and depth not seen before. Critical steps include rapidly shifting away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy and fossil-free transport, transforming our food systems and boosting resilience. Wealthy nations need to provide far more funding to help developing countries transition to a better economy — one that lifts people out of poverty and ensures people can withstand floods and droughts, all while protecting nature and sharply reducing emissions.
“Success at COP28 hinges on whether governments respond to the Global Stocktake report not with words but through bold new commitments that steer humanity from our current destructive path.”International Climate Action International Climate Action COP28 adaptation Integrated Transport Finance Food Energy Type Statement Exclude From Blog Feed? 0
From Ethiopia’s Highlands to India’s Villages, How Faith Organizations Are Restoring the World’s Forests
On a closer look, many of Ethiopia’s surviving forests share one key feature: a church, nestled within the trees. These "church forests” are mini oases of biodiversity. They provide vital ecosystem services such as food and fresh water to local people, while serving as sacred spaces of worship for the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church which protects and maintains them.
Ethiopia’s church forests are just one example of a growing movement among faith-based organizations to support and lead on forest restoration. But they could play a much bigger role moving forward. Thanks to their broad influence, significant land holdings and, in many cases, pro-environmental values, faith-based groups can be powerful allies in restoration projects worldwide.
While faith organizations have largely been overlooked in mainstream restoration efforts to date, stronger collaboration with them presents an important opportunity for governments, NGOs and others working on restoration to expand their efforts and deepen their impacts.Protecting and Restoring the World’s Forests Requires All Hands On Deck
Forests are some of the world’s strongest bulwarks against climate change, sequestering billions of tonnes of carbon each year while providing ecosystem services that make communities more resilient, from food and freshwater security to rainfall and climate regulation.
Yet despite widespread pledges to halt and reverse deforestation, forest loss has continued at a staggering pace: In 2021, the world lost about 11 football (soccer) pitches worth of forest per minute. While countries must act swiftly to curb this deforestation, stepping up restoration efforts will also be critical to mitigating global temperature rise and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.In Ethiopia, only 2% of the country’s original forests remain intact. Deforestation and forest degradation driven by human activity pose a major threat to forest ecosystems globally. Photo by Rudolf Ernst/iStock
In expanding restoration efforts, governments cannot and should not act alone. Smaller-scale, locally led efforts — such as those driven by Indigenous and grassroots community groups in Latin America and Africa — have proven key to effective restoration in many cases. Collaboration with faith-based organizations has been limited so far. But many of these groups are increasingly espousing and acting on pro-environmental values, creating opportunities for innovative new partnerships.Why Faith Organizations Can Be Key Players in Restoration
While not all faith-based organizations prioritize sustainable forestry, certain groups, like Ethiopia’s Tewahedo Orthodox Church, actively strive to manage their lands sustainably. For them, a pro-environmental approach is an integral part of their identity, evoking a religious motivation to protect and restore not only specific forests that are considered sacred or culturally important, but also broader forest ecosystems. This commitment can stem from the perception of nature itself — often seen as Mother Earth or a manifestation of divine creation — as deserving of veneration.
One notable example is the Laudato Si’ Encyclical from Pope Francis. The Papal letter, which emphasized the importance of caring for the natural environment, prompted a multi-faith response and inspired The Laudato Si’ Action Platform, which has fostered sustainability initiatives worldwide. Representatives from the Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Sikh, and Orthodox Church together with the Anglican Communion have also issued statements and declarations in support of environmental protection.
When it comes to restoration efforts, faith-based organizations can be powerful allies and champions for several reasons:
- Broad influence: According to Pew Research Center, about 84% of the world’s population is affiliated with a religion, and even those without a specific religious affiliation hold religious or spiritual beliefs. This suggests that leveraging faith-based approaches to sustainability and restoration can reach a significant portion of the population.
- Unique perspectives and knowledge: Certain faith-based organizations can bring a profound understanding of stewardship and the oneness of all life through diverse religious and cultural perspectives — such as Indigenous cosmovisions and other forms of local wisdom. This may help promote an action-oriented or practical wisdom approach to protecting and restoring forests and landscapes.
- Substantial land holdings and assets: Faith-based organizations own about 8% of habitable land (an estimated 510 million hectares) and approximately 5% of commercial forests, creating ample opportunities to demonstrate sustainable land management and restoration practices. Faith groups also hold nearly 10% of the world's total financial investment and have a significant presence in education, media and publishing. Collaborating with these organizations, even if not all are fully committed to sustainability at present, has the potential to catalyze transformative changes and expedite global progress on restoration initiatives.
Some faith-based organizations are already taking an active approach to forest and landscape restoration, with initiatives spanning from Ethiopia to India, Japan, the Philippines and beyond.Ethiopia’s Church Forests
Ethiopia’s church forests embody a profound interconnection between spirituality and the sustainable management of natural resources. The forests are considered sacred spaces of worship and social gathering where trees are symbolic of the presence of angels guarding each church. But their value extends far beyond this religious significance: These ecosystems also provide vital resources like food, fuelwood, construction materials and water in a country that has lost around 95% of its native forests over the last century due to human activity.
Among Ethiopia’s remaining forests, the church forests play a crucial role as protectors. Although each individual church forest may not have a high variety of species, when taken as a whole, they harbor more than half of the 270 native tree species that are known to exist in tropical Northeast Africa, representing greater biodiversity than what is found in the few remaining natural forests in the same region. They also provide habitat for local pollinators that are critical not only to wild plant species but also to the surrounding region’s agriculture.
Despite the church’s longtime stewardship, however, these forests are not immune to degradation and deforestation due to agriculture, overgrazing and other human-driven threats. But diverse sectors of society have come together to help protect them.
The Tree Foundation's Save the Church Forests of Ethiopia project unites scientists and local communities to protect and restore the church forests. They build conservation walls around churchyards to safeguard the forests' canopy and conduct workshops to enhance natural resources, with a focus on local trust and collaboration. A strong relationship with the church itself is central to these efforts: As project leader Dr. Meg Lowman puts it, "The biggest solution to these forests comes from inside: the church members and clergy who believe they are stewards of all of God’s creatures, a similar mission to us as conservation biologists."EcoSikh’s Guru Nanak Sacred Forests
EcoSikh is an organization born from the Sikh community in 2009, one of 31 long-term environmental "faith commitments" worldwide launched by the United Nations Development Programme and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation. Drawing inspiration from the teachings of the Sikh Gurus and the Khalsa Panth (those that follow the way of Sikh Guru Gobind Singh), EcoSikh aims to instill a profound reverence for all creation within the Sikh way of life, including efforts to promote reforestation and conserve biodiversity.EcoSikh leads sustainability initiatives, including forest restoration projects, in multiple countries, acting on a core principle of Sikhism that considers it a religious duty to respect and safeguard the environment. Photo by EcoSikh/Flickr
Among these efforts, EcoSikh has introduced an initiative known as the Guru Nanak Sacred Forests. These forests are being established in India and other locations, such as Ireland and Canada, employing the Miyawaki methodology, a Japanese technique that involves planting micro forests on small plots of land. The key principle behind this approach is to use tree species that are native to the specific area, ensuring they harmoniously coexist to form a diverse, multi-layered forest community.
As of 2021, EcoSikh had created 303 micro forests in collaboration with schools, governments, community groups and the private sector as well as other religious organizations. Each forest comprises 550 native trees, with at least 30 different species per location. These areas not only enhance local biodiversity but have also helped to conserve more than 100 native, rare and endangered forest species.
The Sacred Forest initiative stems from a core principle of Sikhism that considers it a religious duty to respect and safeguard the environment — and by extension, per EcoSikh’s philosophy, to bring awareness about the urgent challenges of global warming and climate change to a broader audience. The Sacred Forests are also a unique fusion of faith, culture and values, integrating Sikh religious beliefs with a Japanese-originated methodology that has been adapted to suit local needs.Uganda’s Lazarus’ Trees Forest
In Uganda, the Bethany Land Institute (BLI) has become a champion for restoration and ecological education. BLI is a faith-based organization working within the Laudato Si' Action Platform that is dedicated to environmental preservation, food security and poverty alleviation.
One of BLI's initiatives is the Lazarus’ Trees Forest, which aims to plant one million trees by 2050 while transforming the forest into a thriving regional ecotourism hub. This initiative aims not only to revitalize the environment but also to bring new economic opportunities to Uganda's rural communities, particularly its youth.Tourists explore the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in southwestern Uganda. By restoring local forests in rural central Uganda, Bethany Land Institute hopes to not only improve biodiversity but also attract new economic opportunities such as ecotourism to the area. Photo by Travel Stock/Shutterstock
Through this initiative, the Institute distributes free saplings to local communities and trains caretakers to plant trees. In its first two years, BLI successfully planted over 110,000 trees on its campus and in the surrounding region, including several species listed in the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Moreover, the restoration of the Lazarus’ Forest has brought numerous animal species back to the area.
The foundation of the Lazarus’ Trees Forest initiative is spiritual. During its public launch in 2022, Father Emmanuel Katongole, co-founder and current president of BLI, urged stronger action, saying, “Mother Earth is crying. God’s creation is dying. We need to do something about it.” But its mission and impacts extend beyond religious reverence, with a goal to address the dearth of sustainable economic opportunities in rural Africa by creating teaching positions and fostering knowledge sharing.Embracing Diverse Perspectives for Effective Restoration
Understanding the interplay between faith, culture and values in ecosystem restoration is a complex and promising field. Recognizing their importance can bring about a more equitable approach to ecosystem restoration, one that — alongside the role of governments, companies, and civil society organizations — also considers religious and spiritual perspectives, respects existing differences and recognizes their value.
Learn More and Take Action
Tree growing for conservation and ecosystem restoration: A guide for faith-based actors (Trillion Trees and the WWF Beliefs and Values Programme)
Values, Culture, and Spirituality: Ecosystems Restoration Conversation Guide | UN Decade on Restoration (Center for Earth Ethics and United Religions Initiative)
The WRI Faith and Sustainability Initiative is focused on exploring the intersection of restoration with culture, values and faith. More research is needed to uncover examples, success stories and best practices as well as the challenges and limitations in this field. We invite practitioners, experts and communities who share our vision to share and collaborate with us for greater impact.
A special mention is extended to Tesfay Woldemariam, Celine Salcedo-La Viña, René Zamora-Cristales and Carlos Muñoz Pina, along with Rocío Campos, for their significant contributions and collaboration in shaping the content and ideas presented in this article.sacred-forest-ethiopia.jpg Equity & Governance Forests Forest and Landscape Restoration Equity & Governance Climate Equity Type Explainer Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Elisabet Aylwin Peter Veit Alberto Pallecchi Carrick Reddin
Rivers often make their way through many countries on their way to the ocean, as 52% of the world’s population lives in river basins that include more than one country. The countries these rivers flow through often have their own intended water uses that can lead to competition for water resources between countries, as in the Nile River between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt; the Colorado River between the United States and Mexico; and the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers between Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran to name a few.
The United Nations recommends actions to ensure this competition for transboundary water resources is solved peacefully. One of these recommendations is to address data gaps for transboundary water management: “Governments in many countries urgently need to improve their systems for monitoring transboundary waters […] and sharing information with other governments as part of cooperation arrangements.”
In response to this call, Deltares, WRI and WWF teamed up, with funding from Google.org, the European Space Agency and the Water, Peace and Security (WPS) Partnership to address data gaps worldwide and launched Global Water Watch (GWW) during the UN Water Week in March 2023. Countries can use GWW to monitor water resources stored in over 70,000 reservoirs around the world, using satellite remote sensing data both within their borders and beyond. The platform uses modern AI and EO algorithms to map dams and produce near-real-time, high-resolution spatiotemporal information on the amount of water stored in reservoirs. This data is transparent to all because GWW is an open access platform.
The goal is that GWW can give agency to those that have not had access to this water data and increase data trust to enable peaceful negotiations over water resources. The authors of a literature review on transboundary water management found that generally “Data sharing builds trust between riparian states, aids in mitigating conflict and improves environmental, economic and social outcomes.” But what is the impact on transboundary negotiations when data sharing becomes redundant because the data is freely accessible to all?
Here are four ways we hope Global Water Watch can support collaboration and peacebuilding activities between countries in transboundary basins:
- Establishing a common truth on water resources. Droughts often transcend national borders, meaning that upstream and downstream neighbors are likely suffering from a similar lack of water during hard times. By establishing a common truth with GWW — that there are less water supplies at a given time — we hope to avoid distrust between negotiators or the sense that neighboring countries are not also facing these challenges.
- Simplifying and economizing data collection. By using remote sensing to accomplish a portion of water monitoring tasks, countries can more consistently and frequently monitor their water resources and therefore have this data available to share under transboundary agreements. The Water Resources Management Authority in Zambia has piloted using GWW to more efficiently ensure compliance on water permits, monitor climate change impacts on water resources, communicate with clients on reservoir storage and resolve water related conflicts in their basins.
- Monitoring transboundary agreements. In the Murray Darling basin of Australia, researchers have found that remote sensing improves transparency and accountability in water sharing plans. They particularly highlight that remote sensing can be used to support monitoring activities such as ensuring volume storage compliance. We hope that new reservoir volume measurements on GWW can support this remote monitoring between countries sharing water basins.
- Improving the negotiating positions for transboundary countries. After the United States Geological Survey equipped Iraqi water managers with training in remotely sensed water data, they were able to bring their own information on Turkey’s water resources to the negotiation table with Turkey over releases from dams on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Now, when countries come to the negotiating table with information from GWW, they will share a common truth of upstream and downstream water resources.
Though this technology will support transboundary data sharing, transboundary peace and cooperation will require more than just technological innovations. In addition to addressing these data gaps, strengthening river basin organizations and ensuring cooperation on transboundary resources between governments is needed for transboundary peace especially with the uncertainty of changing precipitation patterns due to climate change.
In addition to diplomats and transboundary water negotiators, we are actively engaging end users in the water management, humanitarian, disaster relief, and media sectors to ensure the tool and data meets their needs — including launching volume measurements at World Water Week in Stockholm, updating more frequently and we plan to provide seasonal forecasts. We hope this data will additionally support water, food, and energy security development goals through improved water resources management.Melkstal-unsplash.jpg Freshwater Freshwater Water Security water risk Type Project Update Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Liz Saccoccia
RELEASE: Nature Positive Initiative Launches to Promote the Integrity and Implementation of the Global Goal for Nature
(September 6, 2023) — Today, World Resources Institute (WRI) joined 26 of the world’s largest nature conservation organizations, institutes, business and finance coalitions have come together to launch a new initiative aimed at driving alignment around the definition, integrity and use of the term ‘nature positive’ and supporting broader, longer-term efforts to deliver nature-positive outcomes.
‘Nature positive by 2030’ refers to halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 from a 2020 baseline, through measurable gains in the health, abundance, diversity and resilience of species, ecosystems, and natural processes.
The newly-announced Nature Positive Initiative, which will open soon for more partners, represents the second phase of work that commenced in 2019, with the development of nature positive by 2030 as the global goal for nature — equivalent to the 1.5C goal that exists for climate.
Since then, governments, business and civil society have rallied behind the ambition inherent in a nature-positive approach. Calls for action have grown stronger, with reversing biodiversity loss recognized as critical to combating the global climate crisis, preventing future pandemics of zoonotic origin, addressing water and food insecurity, supporting sustainable and equitable development, and recognizing and addressing the rights and contributions of Indigenous Peoples. In December 2022, the goal of halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 was codified in the mission of the landmark Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. Its adoption under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has been described as the ‘Paris moment’ for nature.
At the same time, use of the term 'nature positive' has grown without a clear and aligned understanding among business, finance, government and civil society actors about what the phrase represents and does not represent. Ensuring clarity and preserving the integrity of the definition is now a priority to ensure the necessary actions and accountability.
The new initiative’s overall goal is to drive alignment and synergies across a multitude of actors who will advocate, support and implement actions towards a nature-positive outcome of halting and reversing nature loss by 2030.
Core work will include preserving the integrity of ‘nature positive’ as a measurable 2030 global goal for nature for businesses, financial institutions, governments at all levels, and other stakeholders. With nature-positive ambition already receiving strong support from first movers, a priority will be supporting the rollout of the common definition, metrics and standardized tools and practices that enable all to appropriately measure and report on their impact and contributions at the actor level.
The initiative will also advocate for and support the full implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework by governments and other stakeholders.
The organizations and coalitions launching the Nature Positive Initiative (NPI) include African Natural Capital Alliance, BirdLife International, Business for Nature, Campaign for Nature, Capitals Coalition, Conservation International, Global Commons Alliance, Global Reporting Initiative, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, Indigenous Information Network, InTent, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), Nature Positive Universities / University of Oxford, Nature4Climate, NatureFinance, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Principles for Responsible Investment, Science Based Targets Network, Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures, The Climate Champions Team, The Nature Conservancy, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, World Resources Institute, and WWF International.
This core group of organizations will be tasked with setting the NPI’s strategic direction, policy positions, and joint activities. They will also be responsible for convening, liaising with, and coordinating the active engagement of a much broader and inclusive constituency of partner organizations to ensure all stakeholders’ views are considered and to help support efforts to deliver nature-positive outcomes across society.
A NPI Partnership is now open to all relevant institutions and organizations who want to support and implement the global goal for nature, by pledging their support. For further information on the Nature Positive Initiative, please contact email@example.com.
Comments from core group organizations on the announcement of the Nature Positive Initiative:
Ani Dasgupta, President and CEO, World Resources Institute: “To truly make good on the landmark Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and ensure people can thrive across the world, we need to focus on collective action. Enduring solutions for the biodiversity and climate crises will only succeed if they are closely interlinked, create economic opportunity and build a foundation of equity. The Nature Positive Initiative is well-positioned to bring the right players and pieces together to support real solutions that uplift people, nature and climate.”
Marco Lambertini, Convenor of the Nature Positive Initiative: “Reversing biodiversity loss is finally recognised as essential to safeguarding planetary health and, in turn, the future of humanity. The Nature Positive Initiative aims to bring together a multitude of organizations from different sectors to preserve the integrity and the ambition of a 2030 nature positive global goal, broaden adoption, and guide and encourage measurable action. The historic agreement of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework must be the focus and catalyst for action from all sectors so that by the end of the decade we will have more nature in the world, not less, for the world to be a safer place for all of us. Action is urgent to avoid irreversible ecological tipping points. Nature cannot wait, and neither can humanity.”
Dorothy Maseke, Head of the African Natural Capital Alliance Secretariat: “Cognizant of our role as the African Natural Capital Alliance (ANCA) to mobilise the financial community’s response to the risk of nature loss in Africa, we stand resolute in our commitment to safeguarding nature and biodiversity. Our dedication is unwavering as we work collaboratively to create a positive impact on the environment, foster sustainable practices, and ensure the flourishing of our natural capital. Through these endeavours, we aim not only to protect the invaluable biodiversity of Africa but also to inspire a global movement towards a more harmonious coexistence with nature. We are pleased to be part of the Nature Positive Initiative.”
Martin Harper, Interim Chief Executive, BirdLife International: “We are in a nature and climate emergency. Our challenge is to turn the laudable global commitments into action with creativity and urgency. We know we need to transform our economies and we know that action is needed from everyone: governments, businesses, the finance sector and, of course, civil society. Alongside our sister organisations in the Nature Positive Initiative, our 120 national partners stand ready to play their part to the full.”
Eva Zabey, CEO, Business for Nature: "The UN biodiversity COP15 was a watershed moment. It is the first time in a multilateral agreement that governments have been so explicit about what they expect from businesses when it comes to tackling nature loss. The next step is implementation and today's announcement will help operationalize the term 'nature positive' and ensure companies and financial institutions adopt strategies that deliver meaningful, measurable and accountable action and secure positive and sustainable outcomes for all."
Brian O’Donnell, Director of Campaign for Nature: “With nature facing immense challenges, a united global effort to halt and reverse biodiversity loss is essential. The Nature Positive Initiative provides a platform to converge in support of an overarching goal for nature, one that offers a hope for a better future for life on earth. We are encouraged by the collaboration of so many entities working together to implement the nature positive agenda.”
Mark Gough, CEO, Capitals Coalition: "Nature underpins the success of businesses, nations, and global financial markets, as well as the wealth, health, and happiness of all people. The Kunming-Montreal agreement was a truly historic moment which placed the value of nature at the heart of the international agenda and embedded the role of business in contributing to reversing biodiversity loss for the first time. As we move into this next stage of implementing the Global Biodiversity Framework we need united action from across society. The Nature Positive Initiative will provide a platform for convergence to support the Global Goal for Nature, paving the way for the transformation we need in our economic systems to achieve a nature-positive world."
Dr. M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International: “To end and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, we must be determined and aligned: nonprofit organizations partnering with for-profit businesses, governments working in lockstep with civil society. The Nature Positive Initiative creates cohesion to collectively drive impact at scale and protect nature for the sake of our ecosystems, our climate, and ourselves. Conservation International is delighted to be part of this coalition.”
Jane Madgwick, Executive Director, Global Commons Alliance: “Recent science indicates that there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a safe and just future for people and planet. Earth system resilience and human well-being depends on stepping up action urgently and through radical collaboration across companies, in cities, landscapes and countries, to protect and restore nature at scale. Now that the global policy commitments are set and business interest is rising, this Nature Positive Initiative has a vital role to play in harnessing nature-positive ambition, building capacity and actively supporting action. The Global Commons Alliance will take an active role in shaping and implementing the Nature Positive Initiative with all partners, helping broaden the constituency as well as contributing scientific insights, metrics, tools and technical guidance.”
Eelco van de Enden, CEO of Global Reporting Initiative: “The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework made it very clear that accountability and transparency by companies is crucial. Clarity about what ‘Nature Positive impact’ means is essential for organizations to be able to report on their impacts and show progress against measurable actions and targets. This initiative comes at the right moment and we are pleased to be part of it.”
Kobie Brand, ICLEI Deputy Secretary General and Global Director of ICLEI Cities Biodiversity Center: “At ICLEI, we are fully committed to the Nature Positive Initiative’s goal which aligns with our mission to mobilize and support local and subnational governments in their efforts towards sustainable development. We further recognize the critical importance of collaboration and alignment of those leading actors working to halt biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation in this Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, as we collectively strive to meet the GBF targets. We are proud to be one of the core organizations driving and guiding this initiative.”
Dr. Grethel Aguilar, Acting Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): “The Nature Positive Initiative plays a key role in tracking measurable progress towards the goals of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. IUCN is proud to contribute with its world-leading biodiversity expertise to this endeavour, to allow companies to plan and deliver concrete actions that benefit living nature. We look forward to driving the Nature Positive Initiative forward as one of its core partners.”
Dr. Madhu Rao, Chair, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas: "Meeting the goal of halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 is essential for all life on Earth and human well-being. Protected areas are an essential part of the equation, and we look forward to working with the Nature Positive Initiative on a globally integrated approach that creates the equitable, nature-positive and carbon-neutral future we all need.”
Professor Milner-Gulland, Nature Positive Universities / University of Oxford: “As a global community of higher education institutions we are committed to playing our part in halting and reversing nature loss, by taking responsibility for our own impacts, making bold actions and transparently documenting progress towards our institutional Nature Positive goals. As part of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, we are reimagining the role universities can play taking action for nature, greening our campus spaces and addressing our biodiversity footprints, informed by science. We are excited to work together with this partnership of organizations to help safeguard a liveable future within planetary boundaries for people and nature.”
Lucy Almond, Chair, Nature4Climate coalition: “After decades of scientific research and campaigning, there is broad recognition of the critical role that nature plays in our efforts to address climate change. Nature positive is beginning to serve as an equally important guiding mechanism for action to halt and reverse biodiversity loss alongside net zero. This initiative is urgently needed to help businesses and governments better understand how they can design and implement nature-positive strategies.”
Simon Zadek, Executive Director of NatureFinance, co-lead of the secretariat, Taskforce on Nature Markets: “Although faced with divergent strategic interests, all countries need to commit to a more equitable, nature-positive global economy, including reshaped trade and investment policies, regulations and standards, and rules governing public procurement and subsidies.”
Professor Johan Rockstrom, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research: “We are at risk of losing one of eight million species. The population of wildlife like birds, fish, mammals and reptiles have been reduced by 70% since 1970. The pace of nature and especially biodiversity decline is unprecedented while we are undermining the functions in the Earth System that provide well being, a safe space that we depend on. The Nature Positive Initiative is crucial to address these nature losses, reverse them and enhance the resilience of our planet, reaching a net positive state for nature by 2030 and restoring nature by 2050.”
David Atkin, CEO, Principles for Responsible Investment: “Climate change and biodiversity loss are inextricably linked challenges, which present systemic risk for investors. PRI welcomed the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework at its launch and continues to support the Framework, committing the world to take action by 2030 to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. We recognise the importance of effective and consistent implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework among governments, businesses and investors to enable systems change. We are pleased to be part of the Nature Positive Initiative to scale action to achieve this.”
André Hoffmann, Chairman of InTent and Vice-Chairman of Roche:
“At InTent we accelerate sustainable solutions by building bridges and connecting people. The Nature Positive Initiative is a welcome coalition for executing this mission. This is about reintegrating our place as a species in the web of life on the planet. It is about identifying Nature as an opportunity for reaching our common goal of an inclusive, sustainable prosperity and not as a costly, growth limited burden. Let us plough our collective energy back within our planetary limits and reach full recovery by 2050.”
Erin Billman, Executive Director, Science Based Targets Network: “Nature positive is an essential whole of society goal, akin to the 1.5C goal of the Paris Agreement for climate. Science Based Targets Network's focus on equipping companies with the guidance to set measurable, actionable and time bound targets to do their part for this collective goal is a contribution we look forward to bringing to the Nature Positive Initiative. The NPI is a critical collaboration for ensuring speed, scale, alignment and integrity of nature positive implementation.”
Tony Goldner, Executive Director, Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD): “Following the achievement of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework in December last year, market interest in nature is now scaling quickly. That includes the idea of ‘Nature Positive’. This Initiative is important and critically timed to provide all stakeholders with clarity about what ‘Nature Positive’ means and how business, finance and other stakeholders can contribute to the shared global challenge of halting and reversing nature loss with confidence.”
HE Razan Al-Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28: "The goals of the Paris Agreement can't be met without nature. Our shared definition of 'nature-positive' is crucial for tackling both climate and biodiversity crises. COP28 should be the moment to refine the implementation of the Paris Agreement and enhance climate efforts by limiting emissions and restoring nature in a timely manner. All stakeholders must act now for a nature-positive, net-zero and equitable future."
Jennifer Morris, CEO of The Nature Conservancy: “We have collectively achieved global recognition and an agreement that we must halt and reverse nature loss by 2030 and the corporate sector is integral to this effort. Standards and accurate reporting are essential to the integrity of this work. The Nature Conservancy is committed and determined to advocate for the full implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework by governments along with our partners and stakeholders.”
Tom Dillon, Senior Vice President, The Pew Charitable Trusts: “The Pew Charitable Trusts celebrates the launch of Nature Positive Initiative 2.0 as we recommit ourselves to ensuring that inclusivity, diversity, integrity, and action remain at the forefront of global conservation. By harnessing and leveraging the collective energy of new sectors and partners, this initiative will speed up progress towards a world where nature thrives.”
Monica Medina, President and CEO, Wildlife Conservation Society: “We are in the midst of the combined crises of biodiversity loss, climate change, and pandemics of zoonotic origin. We must all do everything we can to combat these crises, and protecting and conserving our planet’s biodiversity is key. WCS works across the globe to protect wildlife and wild places—to ensure the conservation and retention of the ecological integrity of key ecosystems, from forests and savannas to freshwater systems, to coral reefs, coasts, and the world’s oceans. There is no time to waste, and we look forward to continuing to work in partnership with the Nature Positive Initiative to combat these crises.”
Diane Holdorf, Executive Vice President, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD): “The adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework last December marked a key milestone for nature action: along with our members and partners, WBCSD celebrated the inclusion of the Nature Positive goal of “halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030” in the landmark agreement. WBCSD remains fully committed to the Nature Positive Initiative to help drive essential alignment with organizations working to accelerate implementation of the agreement. WBCSD continues development of sector-specific roadmap guidance that define strategic and credible Nature Positive approaches and disclosures for business that directly support the goals of the Nature Positive Initiative.”
Kirsten Schuijt, Director General of WWF International: "Biodiversity loss threatens human lives and livelihoods, while also undermining our ability to limit global warming to 1.5C. Urgent action is needed by everyone if we are to turn the tide and secure a nature-positive world by 2030. WWF is delighted to be part of the Nature Positive Initiative (NPI) and looks forward to working across communities within the wider NPI Partnership to stimulate a rapid transition to a greener and more sustainable future for people and planet."
The science and economics are clear: The era of coal power must end.
Not only is coal the most carbon-intensive fuel source, but cleaner options like renewable energy are now more cost-effective in most markets. According to the International Energy Agency, the world needs to cut 90% of coal use by 2050 and phase out all unabated coal power plants by 2040 to achieve net-zero emissions and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
But while the science is clear, the logistics are not. Some countries have made considerable progress toward a cleaner power sector — Belgium, Austria and Sweden have already fully phased out coal, while others are rapidly scaling up renewables — but many nations are still heavily reliant on coal. In Indonesia and South Africa, for example, coal still fuels over 50% of all power generation.
In coal-dependent, resource-strapped nations, retiring fossil fuels without harming communities or economies is not just a complex social and political challenge; it’s also a financial one. These countries need more financing and alternative energy solutions, while at the same time, many have young coal fleets and new plants still under development. These plants are expected to operate for decades and risk becoming “stranded assets” if they retire early.
To be successful, therefore, coal retirement plans must be tailored to national contexts, keeping not only political stakeholders in mind but financial ones, too.A Case Study in Coal Retirement
The Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) was launched in 2021 to help developing nations end their reliance on fossil fuels — especially coal — and shift to cleaner energy sources. The initiative seeks to finance a fair and equitable low-carbon transition, with developed nations, multilateral development banks and other donors providing funding for coal retirement, expansion of clean energy, and transition support for fossil fuel workers and dependent communities.
The G7 nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the U.S.) initiated JETP with an initial focus on South Africa’s energy transition. More recent JETP programs include Indonesia, Vietnam and Senegal. (Although Senegal, which is primarily dependent on oil rather than coal, will face a different set of barriers in its transition.)
So far, G7 nations and other donors have pledged $46.7 billion to support these countries’ decarbonization efforts. Transition plans will be constructed by country governments alongside G7 partners and their public-sector entities responsible for international loans and grants — for example, in the U.S., the International Development Finance Corporation.
With finance already flowing and planning underway, JETP countries can provide a case study to the world as it works to phase out coal power. Here, we share key finance considerations for current and potential JETP members as these nations design their transition plans.1) Coal-dependent Countries Need More Financial Assistance
The first and most pressing thing developing countries need to phase out coal is more financial support. The JETP initiative was designed to help close this gap, but current financing packages fall substantially short of what’s needed.
South Africa, for example, needs an estimated $98.7 billion for its energy transition between 2023 and 2027. Its present JETP package includes only $8.5 billion for the next five years, a mere fraction of the required amount. Similarly, JETP promised $20 billion to Indonesia, while the Indonesian government estimates that $600 billion is needed to decommission just 15 GW coal power (33% of the country’s coal power capacity) and add a similar amount of renewable capacity by 2050.
JETP partners must make bigger financial commitments and undertake concrete actions to deliver that finance. Individual partner countries and institutions should establish clear financing targets through comprehensive assessments of JETP countries’ energy transition plans, considering the costs of decommissioning coal power infrastructure and integrating renewable energy capacity. Fostering public-private partnerships and exploring innovative financial mechanisms such as de-risking tactics can help mobilize private resources in addition to grant and concessional finance.2) Younger Coal Fleets Pose Unique Challenges
The age of coal fleets varies significantly among countries, with some relying predominantly on coal plants more than 2-3 decades old while others are more heavily invested in coal fleets under 10 years old or still in development. Coal plant age influences future revenue expectations and, in turn, retirement timelines.
In general, the older a plant is, the cheaper it will be to retire, because more of its initial investment has already been recouped. Aging fleets also primarily use subcritical boiler technology, which is the least efficient (most polluting) way to generate coal power. Taken together, these considerations mean retirement of older plants should be prioritized where possible.Why Coal Plant Age and Technology Matter
The three dominant boiler technologies, ranked by their efficiency in converting coal to electricity, are subcritical (33%-37% efficiency, and the most polluting), supercritical (37%-40%) and ultra-supercritical (44%-46%). All coal-fired power plants older than 20 years depend on subcritical technologies, as well as most plants aged 11-20. These technologies emit more pollution and are less energy-efficient compared to advanced alternatives, such as supercritical and ultra-supercritical plants.
South Africa has the oldest coal fleet among JETP countries, with 74% of its coal plants over 20 years old. This means it can and should take the lead, being more aggressive in phasing out and repurposing these facilities. The country’s Just Energy Transition Investment Plan charts a path to close nine of its 15 plants by 2035; other countries should watch closely as the plan is implemented and learn from its successes or pitfalls.
By contrast, Vietnam and Indonesia rely on younger fleets, with the majority of their coal plants being less than a decade old. To keep pace with global climate targets, most of these plants under 10 years old must be retired by the time they are about 25, which presents unique challenges. Investors expect revenue for decades and younger coal plants often have higher outstanding debts and expected returns. In addition, these plants primarily use more efficient technology which, while less polluting, requires a higher upfront investment. This can complicate the financial design of early retirement plans.
Due to their higher initial cost and longer operating horizon, early retirement plans for young coal fleets must incorporate additional considerations and compensations for creditors and project companies. This could include crafting policies that allow investors to recover a portion of their investment through government grants or concessional finance. Nations like Indonesia and Vietnam will need additional financial support to retire young plants early and compensate relevant stakeholders. And corresponding investments in renewable energy sources and infrastructure will be needed to replace coal and meet increasing electricity demand.
Some initiatives currently underway can be looked to as examples, including the repurposing of coal plants into renewables (such as in Spain) and refinancing strategies like the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Energy Transition Mechanisms. The latter focuses on using concessional and commercial capital to accelerate the retirement of fossil fuel power plants and replace them with clean energy. ADB’s initiative is supported by the JETP and can be leveraged as a key implementation mechanism in Asian countries with young coal fleets.3) Coal Plant Ownership Must Be Considered in Financing Agreements
Designing effective coal retirement schemes will also hinge on who owns a nation’s coal power plants, which varies widely by country. Indonesia and Vietnam, for example, have a significant presence of international independent power producers (IPPs), which are typically private owners from other countries. South Africa’s coal plants are almost entirely controlled (97%) by the state-owned utility Eskom.
State-owned entities allow governments to have a direct influence on a plant's operations, up to when and how it closes. This direct control might enable a more streamlined transition away from coal, as seen in the case of South Africa's Eskom, where the government decided to decommission nearly half of its coal capacity by 2035. However, even a centrally led approach may face external challenges: The government has since indicated it may delay retiring these plants to address electricity shortages.
In countries with substantial private participation like Indonesia and Vietnam, the landscape is more complex. Governments must prioritize negotiations with IPPs to avoid breaching contractual obligations. These contracts specify stakeholder responsibilities and afford limited flexibility for things like government-mandated retirements without compensating for investors' losses. Negotiations between governments and corporations will play a pivotal and likely more challenging role in facilitating early retirements in these countries.
The ADB is currently exploring the early retirement of the first IPP-owned coal-fired power plant in Indonesia, which could provide valuable lessons.4) Coal Retirement Plans Must Support a Just Energy Transition
Timelines and investors aren’t the only factors that matter when figuring out how to finance early coal retirement. Countries must also work towards a just transition which accounts for the direct impact of coal retirement on labor, employment and local economies, as well as the ripple effects these changes can have on individuals and communities whose livelihoods depend on fossil fuels.
Financiers and policymakers should actively contemplate how to address these potential challenges. Beyond funds allocated for the technical aspects of coal retirement, additional financial resources will be necessary to address socioeconomic concerns. These will vary by country and location, but can include:
- Environmental restoration: The environmental impacts and degradation caused by coal-fired power generation or mining may be significant. While costly in the short term, restoring the local environment may be necessary to enable communities to find economic alternatives to coal mining or power.
- Supply chain businesses and employees: Coal-fired power generation and mining operations often support a network of local businesses and employment within their supply chain, from coal transportation to electricity delivery. As a coal plant winds down, these businesses may experience revenue losses and potential job cuts. Mechanisms such as subsidies and/or workforce training programs will be needed to mitigate the economic and social impacts of this shift.
- Gender-based support: The economic impacts of the transition away from coal will be different for men and women. There is still considerable gender segregation in labor markets in addition to a persistent gender wage gap. Women often have less access to resources to support adaptation and may experience greater obstacles to recovering their livelihoods. Ignoring these inequalities in transition plans risks exacerbating them.
- Government revenue loss: Governments may face potential revenue losses due to the reduction of tax that would have been collected from retired of coal plants. This could negatively impact both local and national finances, leading to reduced funding for social services and communities. Identifying new tax sources, such as repurposing coal plants or new renewable energy plants, can help mitigate these financial impacts.
- Community support: Infrastructure provided by fossil fuel producers may be supporting vital social services such as health care, childcare, education and small business finance. Governments should make sure they include finance to support these facilities post-coal closure.
- Consumer energy burden: Access to affordable energy should also remain a priority during the transition. As they move toward cleaner energy sources, countries must protect low-income households and vulnerable populations from shouldering a disproportionate burden of energy costs.
To assess and address these potential issues as they begin designing coal retirement plans, governments should foster active engagement and participation of local communities, allowing their voices to shape the decision-making processes. This inclusivity will help address local concerns and needs, promoting a fair and equitable transition for all.What Comes Next for Coal-dependent Countries?
Governments in all countries must act now to phase out existing coal power plants and immediately halt plans to develop new ones. The diverse and complex landscape of coal-fired power plants across the JETP countries and other coal-dependent nations calls for tailored and comprehensive strategies to ensure a successful energy transition.
The right approach to retiring coal and the appropriate next steps will vary based on each country’s individual needs. For example:
- South Africa, with its older coal fleets and state-controlled plants, has already planned to close nine out of 15 coal plants by 2035. However, it needs more external support with financing mechanisms, such as Eskom’s proposed sustainability-linked loans, to accelerate the retirement timetable and to repurpose plants. Given that ongoing electricity shortages could delay these plans, JETP support must focus on increasing the deployment of renewables and other, cleaner energy sources. This can help address the nation’s power crisis and improve communities’ welfare while keeping coal retirement plans on track.
- Indonesia and Vietnam face more challenges due to their younger, IPP-owned coal power plants. Governments should renegotiate contract terms to avoid unnecessary contract breaches and lawsuits and seek resources from donor countries or multilateral development banks to explore financing options for retirement, as with the ADB’s Energy Transition Mechanism.
By taking these actions, JETP countries may overcome the significant challenges posed by their diverse coal fleets and move towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future. And they can pave the way for other countries to do the same.coal-power-plant-south-africa.jpg Finance Finance Energy Clean Energy Climate Equity Type Explainer Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Lihuan Zhou Ziyi Ma Shuang Liu Amanda Carter
The United States is entering a clean energy boom thanks to once-in-a-generation investments made under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). In just seven months following the IRA’s passage, the industry announced over $150 billion in utility-scale clean energy — equivalent to five years’ worth of investments made between 2017 and 2021.
But actually breaking ground on these projects can be a challenge.
Wind farms, solar parks and other large-scale projects often face pushback from nearby communities that can delay or even halt construction. Unless developers address local concerns — including economic, environmental and health impacts — this could undermine support for clean energy deployment and jeopardize the United States’ ability to meet its climate targets, while also hindering developers' ability to meet their own goals.
Community benefits agreements and other types of project agreements can help avoid these roadblocks by promoting safe, equitable clean energy development and guaranteeing local benefits (like jobs and improved infrastructure) to garner support among nearby communities.
Some states, cities and federal agencies are beginning to mandate the use of project agreements. But these are not one-size-fits-all; they must be carefully designed to respond to each community’s unique needs. Here’s how that can be done.Why Are Clean Energy Projects Facing Opposition in the U.S.?
Meeting national climate goals, while critical, is not the only reason to expand U.S. clean energy infrastructure. These projects can also create millions of good-paying jobs and help address climate- and pollution-driven inequities.
However, the benefits of new development haven’t always flowed to nearby people. Decades of redlining policies and structural racial segregation have historically concentrated industry and infrastructure near low-income and communities of color, leading to increased pollution and serious health risks in some areas. Fear of such outcomes can cause opposition to new development, including clean energy projects, with concerns ranging from environmental impacts to lack of public participation, health and safety issues, impact on land and property values, and failure to respect Tribal rights.Solar panels seen from above near a residential neighborhood. Community pushback due to concerns about potential environmental, economic and health impacts can sometimes delay or even derail plans for new clean energy development in the U.S. Photo by yorkfoto/iStock
At least 53 utility-scale renewable energy projects in 28 states were delayed or blocked between 2008 and 2021, due in part to community opposition, among other factors. The projects represent nearly 9,600 megawatts of potential generation capacity — equal to enough solar energy to power over 1.5 million homes for a year.
Expanded use of project agreements could help clear some of these hurdles for developers and communities alike.What Are Project Agreements?
Community benefits agreements are just one type of “project agreement” used to ensure that new development projects have positive outcomes for nearby people. Project agreements can be used to guarantee economic benefits such as good jobs, to reduce delays in the process, to ensure accountability and to address environmental justice concerns. Benefits can flow to various stakeholders, including community coalitions and organizations, the public sector, businesses, project developers and labor unions.
Examples of project agreements include:
- Project labor agreements (PLAs): Project labor agreements are pre-hire collective bargaining agreements between labor unions and contractors that establish the terms and conditions of employment for a specific project. PLAs typically specify wages, benefits and working conditions, and require contractors to source labor through union hiring halls which help connect workers with jobs. They also include methods of dispute resolution to ensure that projects continue without interruption and can include no-strike and no-lockout clauses.
- Community workforce agreements (CWAs): A community workforce agreement creates economic opportunities for residents and businesses in communities where projects are being proposed. Provisions can include hiring local residents and underrepresented workers, prioritizing the re-hiring of workers from certain local industries such as a closing coal plant, and ensuring the participation of local small business enterprises in projects.
- Community benefits agreements (CBAs): A community benefits agreement is a voluntary but legally binding agreement between a developer or company and nearby community organizations that directs benefits from new development projects to local people. These benefits vary based on a community's needs; they can include employment provisions, new infrastructure, and resources for the community such as affordable housing, public parks, job training programs and/or measures to protect the environment. CBAs are negotiated prior to government approval of a project. In some cases, a local or state agency may play an active role in negotiations and can act as an enforcer of an agreement.
- Community benefits plans (CBPs): Unlike a community benefits agreement, a community benefits plan is a non-legally binding roadmap for how a developer will engage with communities during a project. While they do not always include designated funding or enforcement mechanisms, CBPs can help pave the way for future, legally binding community benefits agreements by laying some of the groundwork and bringing stakeholders together early on.
These kinds of agreements have been used in some sectors for decades. Project labor agreements are common in the construction industry, for example, while community benefits agreements have been used in both construction and real estate. Today, project agreements can be a valuable tool for delivering a new generation of low-carbon projects, from wind and solar installations to electric school buses and the mining of critical minerals.How Project Agreements Can Spur Clean Energy Development
The federal government will spend an estimated $1.25 trillion on transportation, energy, water resources and broadband infrastructure through IRA and BIL over the coming decade. This presents a unique opportunity to both overhaul U.S. infrastructure and dictate the terms of the process — especially how public and private developers engage with historically marginalized communities. These investments can be transformative, especially as they are happening alongside the Justice40 Initiative, which commits to delivering 40% of the benefits from federally funded clean energy and climate projects to disadvantaged communities.Solar panels cover a reclaimed landfill in New Jersey. Clean energy projects can provide co-benefits to nearby communities, such as revitalizing formerly contaminated Superfund and brownfield sites into renewable energy sources. Photo by Kyle Allingham/iStock
The Department of Energy (DOE) now requires developers to submit community benefits plans as part of all BIL and IRA funding opportunities and loan applications. These are evaluated based on four pillars — implementing Justice40; investing in America’s workforce; engaging communities and labor; and advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility — and will count for 20% of a project’s overall score during the review process. If a developer is selected to receive funding, its CBP will be part of the contractual agreement. Project labor agreements are also required as part of federal construction projects of $35 million or more due to an executive order signed by President Biden in February 2022.
Finance is flowing at the local level as well, offering further opportunities to leverage project agreements in negotiations. Earlier this year, for example, Georgia provided $358 million in incentives to Norwegian FREYR Battery, which is planning to invest $2.75 billion in a battery manufacturing facility outside of Atlanta. And Ford Motor will receive $1 billion in incentives to locate a $3.5 billion electric vehicle battery plant in south-central Michigan.
As they distribute these incentives, some state and local governments are incorporating project agreements into their economic development processes. In 2016, Detroit became the first city to enact a community benefits ordinance, requiring developers who receive local public subsidies or tax breaks above a certain threshold to negotiate benefits with a local advisory council. Cleveland, Ohio, Sacramento, California, and St. Petersburg, Florida have adopted or are considering some form of community benefits agreement at a city-wide level, while New Jersey was the first to institutionalize CBAs at the state level.A contracted worker cleans panels at a solar park in California. Project agreements can help ensure that employment opportunities and other benefits from clean energy projects flow to local workers and nearby communities. Photo by Dennis Schroeder/NRELWhat Does a Successful Project Agreement Look Like?
As public and private investments transform U.S. infrastructure over the coming decades, and as project agreement requirements become more common, a better understanding of how to effectively design and implement them will be key. But despite growing interest in engaging communities in climate and energy projects, there’s relatively little research on the kinds of benefits people want, what they need to be able to engage with developers, and what mechanisms can ensure accountability and faithful execution of these agreements.
Data for Progress, in collaboration with World Resources Institute, recently surveyed 1,290 likely voters across the country to better understand people’s awareness, understanding and expectations with regard to project agreements. Here are a few key insights about what communities want to see from the process moving forward:1) Increased community awareness and engagement
Public awareness and understanding of project agreements are essential to their success. However, our recent polling finds that under one-quarter of respondents are at least “a little” familiar with the various types of agreements, while only about 5% have seen or heard “a lot” about them. After reading a description of community benefit agreements, the majority of respondents (80%) support using them.
Given these results, government agencies and NGOs should do more to familiarize the public with what project agreements can provide and how to engage in the process. This will be critical to ensuring meaningful community participation and helping government agencies, in particular, become trusted messengers for driving awareness about project agreements.
Governments and NGOs can also deploy additional resources and technical assistance to help communities navigate the process of negotiating project agreements. This could include informing residents about the types of benefits they can request; connecting community members with experienced regional or national networks; and providing financial and/or in-kind compensation, such as food and childcare, for members who attend engagement events. Establishing a fund to pay community-appointed representatives or experts to participate in negotiations can also be helpful.
When Deepwater Wind proposed a wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island, for example, the New Shoreham town council was tasked with reviewing the community’s concerns and interests. However, the council did not have the technical expertise to review the project plans or explain the proposal to residents and it hired consultants to help; Deepwater agreed to reimburse the council for this expense and successfully negotiated a CBA with the town. This resulted in the developer funding the burial of existing overhead utility lines, as well as the creation of separate funds to help transition the town to renewable energy and implement water infrastructure improvements.Wind turbines are constructed at Block Island Wind Farm, America's first commercial offshore wind farm, near New Shoreham, Rhode Island. The project moved forward after its developer, Deepwater Wind, successfully negotiated a community benefits agreement with the city’s town council. Photo by Joan Sullivan/Climate Visuals2) Inclusive representation
Choosing representation is a critical part of the project agreement process because whoever gets a seat at the table will have an outsized impact on outcomes. The first step should be to form a broad coalition of community-based organizations and labor unions to do extensive outreach and gauge a community’s needs. Meanwhile, a relatively small negotiating team or a steering committee with relevant expertise — which reflects the community’s lived experiences and knowledge base — should be selected to negotiate with the project developer’s representatives.
Communities, of course, are not monoliths and will trust different types of institutions and stakeholders to work on their behalf.
Among all survey respondents, the most trusted groups to represent community interests are small businesses, community leaders, and local nonprofits or community organizations, while only 9% of respondents trust the federal government or its officials to do so. Preferences are also divided along party lines: Democrats lean toward environmental groups, non-profits and community colleges as trusted representatives, while Republicans are more likely to trust faith groups and community leaders.
As part of Detroit’s community benefits ordinance, the city’s Planning and Development Department arranges negotiations between a Neighborhood Advisory Council, which includes residents from the project’s impact area, and the developer. However, seven out of nine Council members are selected by the city council and the Planning and Development Department, while only two members are elected by local residents — making it difficult to authentically represent their interests. The ordinance also requires only one meeting between the Neighborhood Advisory Council and the developer, which has created the perception that the city council and the Planning and Development Department are catering to the preferences of developers over the needs of local communities. (Although in practice, the city’s planning staff have facilitated more than one meeting.)
Local governments and those involved in oversight should verify that developers create opportunities for diverse community members to engage early, widely and often. This can include ensuring that materials are translated and discussions are held in languages that are used locally, and holding meetings in public, accessible locations at various times so people with differing schedules can attend.3) Focus on local concerns and priorities
Every community will bring its unique priorities to the table when negotiating community benefits agreements, meaning each CBA should be tailored to local needs. In a previous national poll conducted in January 2023, Data for Progress found that voters were most interested in CBAs being used to attain labor benefits and community services such as senior citizen programs, followed by environmental benefits and community development projects. Most respondents also believed communities should have the right to refuse projects.
Creating workforce opportunities for underrepresented and underserved populations is also high on the list in many communities.
For example, in 2017, electric bus manufacturer BYD signed a community benefits agreement with a coalition in Lancaster, California that included Jobs to Move America and SMART Local 105. As part of the agreement, BYD committed to hiring 40% of its workers from populations facing significant barriers to employment, including people of color and veterans. When BYD renewed its agreement with the coalition in 2020, workers of color comprised 90% of BYD’s total workforce, with African Americans making up 30%. Other electric bus makers have followed suit: New Flyer, the largest electric bus manufacturer in North America, signed a multi-state CBA with Jobs to Move America in 2022, impacting its facilities in Alabama and California.4) Effective monitoring and enforcement mechanisms
The effectiveness of project agreements hinges on robust design, diligent enforcement and thorough monitoring processes. In previous research, Data for Progress found that communities are concerned about developers delivering on their commitments.
Voters support a range of enforcement mechanisms that can ensure the delivery of benefits to communities. One-third of respondents support agreed-upon penalties for failure to deliver on promised benefits, while many also support independent compliance monitoring and dispute resolution mechanisms. In addition to penalties, project agreements could incorporate “clawback” provisions requiring companies and project developers to return funds for noncompliance. Notably, these enforcement mechanisms are not mutually exclusive and can be used in concert to address individual community needs and strengthen project agreements.
Making a developer’s commitments public can also help enable increased accountability and transparency. Community benefits agreements should include clear metrics to measure, implement and track a developer’s commitments, along with public reporting requirements, and should specify who will be responsible for enforcement.
Detroit’s community benefits ordinance, for example, does not authorize the city’s Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity Office (CRIO) to issue fines or injunctions when targets are not met, leading to the criticism that it lacks teeth. As a result, CRIO could not fine Stellantis, which negotiated an agreement specifying benefits for the local community, when it expanded its facility in East Detroit and was consistently flagged for air quality violations. CRIO's power to enforce was restricted to monitoring and compliance reports — though Michigan's Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy did fine Stellantis for the violation.
Effective monitoring is especially critical for community benefits plans since, unlike CBAs, these are not necessarily legally binding. DOE is planning to implement monitoring mechanisms to ensure that project developers fulfill the commitments they make in CBPs.Building a Strong Foundation for the Clean Energy Transition
As the U.S. leverages historic investments to create good jobs and fulfill its climate commitments, it has a pivotal opportunity to build a more equitable economy through careful, adaptable and ongoing community engagement. Project agreements and frameworks can provide benefits to developers and local governments while ensuring that communities are empowered to participate and help drive this change.
Maximizing the potential of CBAs other agreements will require continuous improvement, including capacity building, transparency and development of best practices. While project agreements are still fairly novel within the clean energy space, past examples in other sectors — such as the Staples Center, Port of Oakland and New Flyer — can serve as helpful models. Similarly, toolkits like those offered by the Department of Energy and PowerSwitch Action can be valuable resources for all stakeholders interested in incorporating community engagement into the development process.
This article was written in collaboration with Grace Adcox and Celina Scott-Buechler of Data for Progress.solar-panel-installation-workers.jpg Climate United States Climate Clean Energy U.S. Climate climate policy environmental justice U.S. Climate Policy-Equity U.S. Climate Policy-Clean Power Type Explainer Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Evana Said Devashree Saha Grace Adcox Celina Scott-Buechler
Climate change is already having a significant impact on Africa's ecosystems, economy and society. This year alone, 1.8 million Africans were displaced during a prolonged drought, the Democratic Republic of Congo experienced catastrophic flooding, and Cyclone Freddy left a trail of destruction in Malawi and Mozambique. And these kinds of devastating events are expected to worsen as temperatures rise.
Yet just as Africa is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, so, too, can the continent be a big part of the solution. Africa’s abundant natural resources, youthful population, critical minerals and arable land offer many opportunities to drive low carbon green growth and spur climate action throughout the continent and the world. Visions of what this green growth could look like are expected to emerge at the Africa Climate Summit in Kenya next week.What to Expect from the First Africa Climate Summit
The world’s first Africa Climate Summit, hosted by Kenya and co-organized with the African Union, will take place September 4-6, 2023, providing a space for Africa’s multi-faceted voices on climate solutions to convene. It’s a major moment for the future of climate action in Africa — not only because it is the first summit of its kind, but because it is anticipated to yield a roadmap for low-carbon development throughout the continent. By the end of the conference, African governments are expected to sign on to a “Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change,” detailing numerous commitments for renewable energy development, sustainable agriculture, forest conservation and more.
If ambitious, the Nairobi Declaration can help spur momentum for climate action heading into the UN’s Africa Climate Week (September 4th – 8th) and subsequent regional climate weeks, the UN General Assembly and G20 meetings at the end of September, and the UN climate summit (COP28) in November 2023. It will also set the first formal green growth agenda in Africa that can position the continent as a globally powerful climate solutions hub.A woman tends to her cassava field. Africa's farmers are already feeling the impacts of climate change in the form of drought, crop loss, erratic rainfall and more. Photo by golero/iStock 5 Issues to Watch at the Africa Climate Summit
Both the Africa Climate Summit and UN Africa Climate Week will provide a platform for policymakers, practitioners, businesses and civil society to exchange ideas on climate solutions, overcome barriers and put forward bold new plans. But for the discussions and resulting Nairobi Declaration to be successful, it will be particularly important to make progress on five key issues:1) Climate finance for adaptation and loss and damage
The African continent is heating up faster than any other place on Earth, with impacts in the form of withering drought, lost crops, famine and more. Research shows that Africa will require $579 billion in funding for adaptation through 2030, yet the world provided only $11.4 billion on average annually for the continent in 2019 and 2020, with most funds coming from the public sector.
Meanwhile, Africa’s share of global debt rose from approximately 19% in 2010 to nearly 29% in 2022. Countries are being forced to direct a greater share of their budgets toward servicing debt at the expense of financing their development and building climate resilience.
The Africa Climate Summit and Africa Climate Week present opportunities for a consolidated push towards finance reforms for climate and sustainable development. African leaders are already calling for a new global finance deal that serves the continent’s growth goals and allows it to effectively mitigate and adapt to climate change. The summit represents the only forum where every African country has an opportunity to have its voice heard on this debate.
We expect civil society and other groups to also push wealthy nations to honor the climate finance commitments they have already made, such as their pledge to provide $100 billion in climate finance annually by 2020, double the amount of finance for adaptation, and establish a dedicated fund for countries grappling with unavoidable losses and damages from climate change.2) Africa’s energy transition
Access to clean, affordable and reliable power is essential for human health, education and economic prosperity. Yet in 2021, only 50.6% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa had access to electricity, with varying rates per country. What Africa requires is a balance between urgently increasing access to electricity and building out low-carbon energy systems for the future.
Solar mini-grids are a solution offering low-cost access to reliable power and have great potential to reach underserved rural areas. At the same time, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and South Africa are developing the continent’s largest utility-scale solar power plants, while Namibia launched a mega-hydrogen power project in May 2023.
But scaling up both distributed and larger, centralized clean energy resources — as well as the physical infrastructure, policies, jobs and skills that go with them — will require significant investment. Investment in clean energy technologies globally is now beginning to rival that spent on fossil fuels, but Africa still accounts for less than 1% of the $434 billion invested globally.
Discussions on how to mobilize development finance and private capital for clean energy solutions at scale across the continent will be on the table at the Africa Climate Summit, with announcements of major renewable energy initiatives and investments expected.People bike and walk near a market in Asmara, Eritrea. The population of Africa's cities is expected to double by 2050, reaching 1.5 billion people. Photo by Dave Primov/iStock3) Equitable and sustainable cities
Research shows that avoiding some of the worst impacts of climate change requires that all cities be carbon-neutral by mid-century. This goal will be particularly difficult to achieve in Africa, where urban residents face vast inequities and populations are growing rapidly.
The population of Africa’s cities is expected to double by 2050, reaching 1.5 billion people. Three-quarters of the infrastructure that will exist in these cities by mid-century has yet to be built. It’s essential that this development is not only low-carbon and climate-resilient, but also enhances access to essential services such as running water and sanitation, electricity, decent housing, transport, and dignified, healthy urban jobs.
It’s imperative that discussions at the Africa Climate Summit and the Nairobi Declaration lay out actions that will scale up low-carbon initiatives to help cities become more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Among other things, we expect announcements on investments in e-mobility as a way to reduce emissions and improve air quality in cities.4) Critical minerals and other clean energy resources
As countries around the world transition to low-carbon economies, they’ll need increasing amounts of critical minerals like lithium, graphite, cobalt and more to make electric vehicle batteries, wind turbines and solar panels. Africa holds about 30% of the world's mineral resources, alongside abundant clean energy resources that can serve as the foundation for clean industries and commodities. But strong resource governance is essential for ensuring that Africa’s people directly derive the benefits of these resources.
At the African Climate Summit, leaders are expected to call for restrictions on the export of unprocessed critical minerals to help drive investments towards local industries, following in the footsteps of countries like Namibia and Ghana. Discussions should identify incentives for local processing to both decarbonize the critical minerals value chain and spur economic development. We also expect civil society groups to demand that the exploitation of critical minerals be done in ways that are safe for society and the environment.5) Nature-based approaches to sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and carbon sinks
Africa is home to remarkable biodiversity, by virtue of its remarkably diverse landscapes — tropical forests, savannahs, grasslands, mangroves, deserts, wetlands and more. These ecological systems support both rural and urban life across the continent. The Great Rift Valley’s many lakes, favorable climate, and rich soils, for example, provide food and livelihoods for more than 12 million people in the Horn of Africa.
Africa’s ecosystems also benefit the world. The Congo Basin tropical forest is one of the largest carbon sinks, storing around 29 billion tons of carbon, roughly 3 times the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
However nature and biodiversity in Africa are threatened by the rapid expansion of agriculture, soil depletion, trade of illegal forest commodities, and an insatiable demand for fuelwood for cooking. Investments in solutions to restore and sustain healthy landscapes are crucial for African communities, its ecosystems, its economy, and the world at large. At the Africa Climate Summit, we expect renewed commitments by governments to halt biodiversity loss and landscape degradation.A woman buys charcoal from a market in Kampala, Uganda. Charcoal is an essential source of fuelwood in many countries, but it comes at a cost to Africa's forests. Photo by vlad_karavaev/iStockThe Africa Climate Summit Is a Starting Point
This inaugural Africa Climate Summit is a crucial moment for the continent’s collective effort towards climate action and a low carbon green growth agenda. We’ll need definitive outcomes, as well as a Nairobi Declaration that places people, climate and nature at its core.
But it’s imperative that the close of the Africa Climate Summit act as a starting point — not a finish line. Creating a roadmap and implementing the Nairobi Declaration will depend on the political goodwill of Africa’s leaders and the ability of the world to mobilize the financing and enabling environment required for its operationalization. It will also require the ongoing engagement of non-state actors, including civil society and the private sector.
Africa has been seen as a victim of climate change for far too long. This Africa Climate Summit is about demonstrating and articulating the investment opportunity that African solutions represent for the continent and for the world. It’s time for leaders to show that Africa is one of Earth’s greatest climate solutions.rooftop_solar_africa.jpg Climate Africa adaptation finance climate finance Energy Finance renewable energy Forests Cities Type Explainer Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Authors Wanjira Mathai Rebekah Shirley