Cutting-Edge Projects Aim to Decarbonize US Cement Emissions

1 día 20 horas ago
Cutting-Edge Projects Aim to Decarbonize US Cement Emissions shannon.paton@… Wed, 07/17/2024 - 17:34 .commercial-cement-projects-table { width: 75%; margin: 0 auto; }

New innovations are yielding promising technological solutions for cement production, which has historically been considered one of the most challenging of the heavy industrial sectors to decarbonize.

As a key ingredient in concrete, the primary material in our roads, bridges, homes and offices — and the second-most consumed material on the planet — cement’s massive scale makes it responsible for 8% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and about 1.5% of U.S. emissions.

Reducing, avoiding or eliminating cement emissions is a difficult puzzle to piece together given the extremely high heat requirements and CO2-producing chemical reactions of its production process, coupled with the material’s low price and the industry’s small profit margins. Meeting the U.S.’s net-zero goals of eliminating climate-harming emissions by 2050 will require the cement sector to decarbonize a lot faster than the current rate, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Fortunately, recent DOE funding is laying the foundation for new projects across the U.S. that aim to produce low-carbon cement (also known as green cement). However, to scale the cutting-edge technologies being demonstrated in these projects, the U.S. will need to implement additional policies that will incentivize and facilitate their widespread adoption throughout the cement sector.

Several cement masons and concrete finishers pour fresh concrete on a bridge in Seattle, Washington. Cement, an ingredient in concrete, is the second-most consumed material on the planet. Photo by Sonja Blom / Alamy. U.S. Investment in Abating Cement Emissions

As part of a recent push to decarbonize U.S. heavy industry, the DOE is investing $6.3 billion in 33 projects across eight industries to demonstrate cutting-edge decarbonization technologies. This Industrial Demonstrations Program (IDP), managed by the DOE’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED), is by far the largest government investment to substantially reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from industry, the third highest emitting sector in the U.S. These government investments will also be matched by over $14 billion in private funding.

As of 2022, the U.S. has 91 operating cement plants that are responsible for 68 million metric tons (Mt) of direct CO2 emissions — the emissions equivalent of around 16 million gas-powered cars — annually.

DOE’s IDP awards, which are still under negotiation, will grant up to $1.6 billion — the greatest share of the total funding — to six projects in the cement sector, which are expected to avoid 4 million tons of CO2 emissions annually.

Beyond the IDP, DOE and private sector funders have also made smaller investments in projects geared toward researching, developing and demonstrating (RD&D) innovative methods to reduce emissions from cement production. Based on WRI analysis of green cement projects in the U.S., there’s nearly $65 million worth of government funding devoted to additional RD&D projects in the cement sector. It’s also likely that private funding far exceeds direct public investments for these projects.

Types of Cement Decarbonization Technologies

The potential decarbonization solutions cement producers are pursuing range from more established options, such as lowering the amount of clinker in cement (clinker is a precursor material in cement and its production accounts for 85% of emissions from cement production), to technologies that reinvent cement as we know it. There isn’t one solution that will get us to zero-emissions cement — multiple technologies, such as blended cements, novel cements, carbon capture and sequestration and carbon mineralization, will need to be deployed in tandem across the sector to rapidly scale the availability of low-carbon or near-zero cement. And the technologies themselves will need certain infrastructure and regulatory support such as readily available clean electricity and permits for CO2 transport and sequestration.

Low-Carbon Cement Commercial Demonstration Projects Facility/Project NameDecarbonization TechnologyGovernment Funding SourceTotal Gov Funding AmountLow-carbon Production Start DateExpected Low-carbon Cement Production Capacity (t/yr)Estimated Emissions Abatement PotentialBrimstoneNovel Cements

OCED Industrial Demonstrations Program

 

$189,000,000Not Available140,000Not AvailableFortera – ReddingMultiple: Novel Cements, Carbon MineralizationNonen/aAlready producing low-carbon cement15,00070%Fortera – Full-Scale PlantMultiple: Novel Cements, Carbon MineralizationNonen/a2027400,00070%Heidelberg Materials - MitchellCarbon CaptureOCED Industrial Demonstrations Program; DOE Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management$508,662,03420302,100,00095%Lebec Net Zero Cement PlantMultiple: Carbon Capture, Fuel-Switching, Blended CementsOCED Industrial Demonstrations Program$500,000,00020311,200,000100%Roanoke Cement CompanyBlended Cements

OCED Industrial Demonstrations Program

 

$61,700,0002028Not Available83%Sublime - HolyokeNovel Cements

OCED Industrial Demonstrations Program

 

$86,900,000202630,000>90%Summit Low-Carbon Calcined Clay Demonstrations – Elmendorf, McIntyre, Port Deposit, Sulphur SpringsBlended Cements

OCED Industrial Demonstrations Program

 

$215,600,000 across four projects2029Estimated 2,400,000 split between four projects*61%*

Sources: Department of Energy, company websites, company outreach conversations and authors’ analysis.

*Summit's four projects are projected by DOE to meet 2% of U.S. cement demand by 2030, (averaging 600 Kt/yr of cement per project). Applying the U.S. average emissions intensity (0.75 t CO2/t cement), Summit's plants would emit 1.8 Mt CO2 without reductions. DOE estimates a reduction of 1.1 Mt CO2 from the projects, suggesting a 61% reduction of estimated emissions.
Note: More information on these projects and the feasibility studies/pilot projects is available at this table and in the map below.

 

Blended Cements

One of the fastest and cheapest ways to cut U.S. cement and concrete emissions is to make cements with less clinker. Cement producers can do this by incorporating substitute materials, called supplementary cementitious materials (SCMs), to make blended cements. Because the United States uses more clinker in its cement than most other countries, this option is considered a particularly low-hanging fruit.

Half of the IDP-funded cement projects will demonstrate the potential of these lower-carbon alternatives to conventional cement. For example, the Roanoke Cement Company in Virginia will replace much of its clinker with SCMs. It estimates emissions reductions of 83% compared to the commonly used Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC). Denver, Colorado-based Summit Materials, another awardee, will construct four plants to produce enough blended cement to satisfy 2% of U.S. cement demand by 2030.

Due to its low-cost relative to other decarbonization pathways, many other non-IDP projects are geared toward production of blended cements for significant emissions reductions. The Ash Grove Cement Company, in Overland Park, Kansas, has been awarded more than $4 million from the DOE Industrial Efficiency and Decarbonization Office to develop low-carbon, circular practices in the cement industry by converting sediment waste from further up the cement supply chain into SCMs. The company estimates this process will reduce cement’s carbon intensity by up to 70%.

Even with blended cements, demand for clinker will remain. Thus, the cement industry will need to find solutions that eliminate emissions from the remaining clinker production. This is where innovative processes that are less technologically ready must be developed and scaled.

Novel Cements

One option is to develop new methods and products that avoid the process emissions from clinker production entirely by using different raw materials that don’t contain carbon. Two startups will be awarded substantial DOE funding through the IDP to construct small-scale commercial plants to demonstrate the feasibility of these innovative processes at scale.

One of them, Sublime Systems from Somerville, Massachusetts, uses an electrochemical process in electricity-powered electrolyzers to turn carbon-free rocks into an alternative cement that is as durable as OPC. It is developing a plant in Holyoke, Massachusetts, which will begin producing 30 kilotons (Kt) of cement per year in 2026 and plans on constructing a megaton scale plant in a yet to be determined location by 2028.

The other startup slated to receive IDP funding, the Oakland, California-based Brimstone, produces OPC also using non-carbonate rock with a different process that doesn’t release CO2 when transformed into cement. Brimstone’s plant, which is still in its planning phase, is expected to have a production capacity of 140 Kt of cement per year.

By switching to non-carbonate rocks as feedstocks, these startups’ production methods will avoid the process emissions of conventional cement production. They will still require clean energy — to power electrolysis in Sublime’s case and heat kilns in Brimstone’s — to completely decarbonize. Electricity from renewables and low-emission thermal energy powered by technologies such as thermal heat batteries will enable these companies to produce near-zero emissions cements at scale.

Another approach already being deployed by a privately-funded California startup named Fortera involves recirculating CO2 from the clinker kilns of its partner, CalPortland, to make 15 Kt of novel cement and SCM products through carbon mineralization at its plant in Redding, California. Fortera recently broke ground on an additional plant where they will scale this process to produce an estimated 400 Kt of low-carbon cement per year with 70% fewer emissions than conventional cement production.

Carbon Capture and Sequestration

Aside from novel and blended cements, carbon capture can be used to stop CO2 emitted during conventional production from entering the atmosphere. Once the CO2 is captured, it can be injected and permanently sequestered deep underground. 

Cement production is one industrial sector in which carbon capture is expected to play a critical role in decarbonization. Unlike the power sector, which has cheaper and more efficient decarbonization options like renewables, the combination of process emissions and high heat requirements leaves conventional cement production without widely available decarbonization alternatives to carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) for deep decarbonization. 

The U.S. government, industry associations, international organizations, civil society and cement companies themselves agree: a significant scale up of CCS is needed to decarbonize the cement industry. The unique importance of this technology for cement decarbonization is reflected in the fact that the only two IDP projects involving CCS are in the cement sector. One project is Heidelberg Materials’ cement plant in Mitchell, Indiana — one of the largest operating cement plants in the U.S. This plant has the benefit of being located above geologic formations that are ideal for carbon sequestration. When its CCS system is fully operational, 95% of the CO2 generated at the facility — up to 2 million tons — will be captured and injected far below the Earth’s surface each year.

National Cement Company’s plant in Lebec, California, plans to utilize waste-biomass for fuel, shift to blended cements and install carbon capture and sequestration, with the goal of achieving net-zero emissions. Photo by National Cement Company of California.

Several other cement companies are seeking to retrofit their facilities with carbon capture systems, taking advantage of dedicated grants for carbon capture retrofits from DOE. For example, the Swiss-based Holcim, one of the largest cement companies in the world, has received DOE funding to conduct front-end engineering design (FEED) studies into carbon capture on two of its U.S. cement plants in Colorado and Missouri, the latter of which is the largest cement plant in the U.S.

Carbon capture can also be deployed alongside other decarbonization technologies to achieve near- or net-zero emissions at cement plants. This is the National Cement Company’s plan for their plant in Lebec, California. The company could be awarded up to $500 million through the IDP to continue developing a combination of retrofits on the plant, including increasing its use of waste-based biomass to replace fossil fuels and continuing its switch to blended cement production. The plant will also install a CCS system to reduce its remaining emissions. If all goes to plan, the Lebec plant will be producing cement with net-zero emissions by 2031.

Carbon Mineralization

Carbon dioxide can also be utilized in concrete as a method of technological carbon removal. For instance, CO2 captured from industrial plants or direct air capture facilities can be mineralized in concrete just as Fortera does with cement, preventing it from entering the atmosphere. Companies like Solidia Technologies, CarbonCure and Blue Planet are developing technologies for mineralizing carbon in concrete and aggregates to mitigate some of the overall emissions from cement production downstream of the cement plant.

Challenges that New Cement Technologies Must Overcome

The evolving landscape of U.S. cement decarbonization projects represents promising momentum. But they face hurdles that need to be overcome for successful deployment. Challenges include lack of permits and infrastructure for CO2 transport and sequestration, market acceptance of novel and blended cements, and access to clean energy. The timelines of large industrial projects like these and future availability and acceptance of low-carbon cement are therefore subject to some unpredictability.

Once operational, however, these first-of-a-kind cement plants will play a vital role in demonstrating to cement producers, cement consumers and financiers the technical and economic viability of these decarbonization technologies at the commercial scale.

Policy Support Needed for Scaling Technologies

Despite the unprecedented scale of these green cement projects, they will likely only supply around 5% of the 120 million tons of cement annually consumed in the U.S. once deployed. Additional policies and incentives to facilitate their widespread adoption will be needed.

Government RD&D grants for low-carbon cement production, like the IDP or those proposed in the recent bipartisan Concrete and Asphalt Innovation Act, can accelerate the improvement of some of these technologies, making them appear less risky. In doing so, they serve a vital function in carrying emerging technologies across what’s known as the investment “valley of death,” a phrase used to describe how the diffusion of emerging technologies can be stymied from a lack of funding.

However, to support a rapid scale-up and adoption of cement decarbonization technologies, federal and state policymakers should adopt the next generation of additional policy measures such as the following:

  • Demand-side Policies: Governments can demonstrate there is a market for low-carbon products through green public procurement, advanced market commitments and similar policies.
  • Tax Subsidies: Tax credits can provide incentives for low-carbon production and investment.
  • Market-based Policies: Policies like a Low-Carbon Product Standard, the proposed Clean Competition Act or an industrial sector-wide cap-and-trade program can provide incentives for companies to meet or exceed emissions intensity benchmarks. 

Adding these policies to the mix would accelerate the growth of a vibrant and self-sufficient low-carbon cement industry — a necessity if the U.S. is to achieve its net-zero goals by mid-century — while allowing U.S. businesses to benefit from being a “first mover” in green cement production.

 

Analysis for this article was primarily based on information from public online sources such as the Department of Energy and company websites, and was supplemented with information after contacting several of the companies featured in this article.

 

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shannon.paton@wri.org

Oslo's 'Climate Budget' Is Building a Cleaner City

4 días 2 horas ago
Oslo's 'Climate Budget' Is Building a Cleaner City alicia.cypress… Mon, 07/15/2024 - 11:35

In the stylish Grünerløkka neighborhood in Oslo, construction workers are busy rehabilitating Sophies Minde, an old medical clinic, into a new nursery school and maternal health center. Tidy piles of building materials along the perimeter of the construction site wait to join the choreography of excavators and workers moving in deliberate sequence. But amid the activity, one tell-tale indicator of construction remains notably absent: noise.

Oslo is one of fastest growing cities in Europe and construction is critical to transforming its urban landscape. But thanks to the city’s climate policy, construction is now going net zero — eliminating greenhouse gas emissions — by using electric machinery and other interventions to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

"This is something I have worked towards for three years," said Mathias Kolsaker, a construction project manager at Sophies Minde. "I notice the difference when I go out on the construction site and hear how silent these electrical machines are compared to the old diesel-driven machines."

Construction at Sophies Minde is being done exclusively with electric-powered machinery, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, noise and local air pollution. Photo by WRI.

Quieter and cleaner construction sites are just one way the city is being shaped by its Climate Budget, which was created in 2016 by Oslo’s Climate Agency after Norway signed the 2015 Paris Agreement to help limit global temperature rise well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F).

The fiscal tool puts a cap on climate-harming emissions permitted across the city each year, monitors progress over time and helps identify the most impactful interventions. And since it is integrated into the yearly municipal budgeting process, it builds accountability for achieving high targets.

The results have been dramatic, prompting changes in multiple sectors, improving people’s lives and creating a model that other cities are now following.

A Tool for Accountability

Urban contributions to climate change are complex and not easy to track. How do city governments begin to change the trajectory of the many different sources of urban greenhouse gas emissions? And how can we be sure urban emissions are actually declining?

The Climate Budget is Oslo’s way of ensuring accountability for its ambitious pledge to reduce its city-level greenhouse gas emissions by 95% by 2030 compared to 2009 levels.

"The Climate Budget was started because our politicians got tired of climate action plans that they … sent out into the bureaucracy, but then it was never really followed up," said Heidi Sørensen, director of the Oslo Climate Agency. "They needed a governance system."

The Climate Budget is enabling the reduction of climate-harming emissions in Oslo and creating a safer city for the people who live there. Photo by WRI. 

Now climate considerations are at the heart of policymaking for the city. The Climate Budget allows city agencies to share the burden of emissions reduction in a transparent, collaborative manner that is anchored within the finance department. While the resulting actions taken are not necessarily unique to Oslo, the Climate Budget is a novel framework that ensures accountability of greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

"Everyone who has a budget could have a climate budget," said Sørensen. "It will create a better city, with lots of co-benefits that all people, even those who are a little bit skeptical of climate change, will benefit from."

How the Climate Budget Is Reducing Oslo’s Emissions

The key strengths of the Climate Budget are that it incentivizes early action, identifies interventions that that depend on multiple city agencies to succeed and allows the city to work directly with private companies to create demand for new technologies.

Some of the interventions include transitioning to electric vehicles, making the city safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, creating zero-emissions construction sites and installing carbon capture technology at a waste incineration plant.

Residents and tourists in Oslo have convenient, zero-emission transport options including electric ferries and bike sharing. Photo by WRI.

Through the power of public procurement and incentives, Oslo enables widespread electrification of public buses, trams and ferries, as well as for private delivery vehicles and heavy-duty construction machinery. The city has introduced a variable congestion charging system on a main toll road, specifically targeting diesel-powered vehicles. And for municipal projects, Oslo incentivizes contractors to invest in electric machinery to stay competitive.

Oslo is enabling more sustainable transport modes by expanding cycling lanes by 100 kilometers, which has already resulted in a notable 51% increase in cycling since 2016. Street transformations are making walking and cycling much safer. Since 2019, there have been zero pedestrian and cyclist deaths. Additionally, when people do drive private vehicles, electric charging stations are widely available.

In Oslo, cycling lanes are protected from motorized vehicle traffic keeping all road users safer from collisions. Photo by WRI.

Further emissions reductions will come with the completion of the Klemetsrud power plant in 2027, which will address 17% of the city’s emissions originating from waste incineration and energy production. Klemetsrud is set to become the world’s first waste-to-energy plant with full-scale carbon capture and storage, able to capture 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Inspiring More Cities to Act

Overall, the Climate Budget is helping Oslo achieve a 28% reduction in citywide greenhouse gas emissions and is projected to reduce emissions by 65% by 2030 with current adopted measures.

The Climate Budget’s impacts are reaching beyond Oslo’s boundaries, too. About 200 Norwegian municipalities of various sizes, like Asker and Bodø, are following Oslo’s guidance to incentivize net-zero construction and zero-emission transport. And a dozen cities — including London, New York and Mumbai — are participating in the Climate Budgeting Programme with C40 Cities, a global network of nearly 100 cities dedicated to climate action.

But back in Oslo, the Climate Budget continues quietly transforming the city. Construction workers like Mathias are proud to be leaders of change. "The municipality of Oslo is an example that is inspiring others. We are able to meet the challenges that arise and fully turn 100% emission-free," he said.

The 2023-2024 WRI Ross Center Prize for Cities celebrates projects and initiatives building momentum for climate-ready communities. From five finalists, one grand prize winner will be announced Sept. 25.

Oslo-Climate-Budget-Construction-Site.jpg Cities Norway WRI Ross Center Prize for Cities Cities climate policy greenhouse gases Urban Development Urban Efficiency & Climate Urban Mobility Featured Popular Type Vignette Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Authors Jen Shin Anna Kustar
alicia.cypress@wri.org

US Federal Environmental Justice Strategic Plans Aim to Advance Equity in Agency Operations

1 semana 1 día ago
US Federal Environmental Justice Strategic Plans Aim to Advance Equity in Agency Operations shannon.paton@… Wed, 07/10/2024 - 16:42

President Joe Biden’s commitment to addressing climate and environmental injustices faced by vulnerable and historically marginalized communities is demonstrated by his administration’s transformative approach to federal agency operations.

Through a series of executive orders, including Executive Order 14096 the administration has laid the groundwork for restructuring agency operations and programs to prioritize environmental justice and equity.

A significant requirement under this new framework is for agencies to update and strengthen their Environmental Justice Strategic Plans (EJSPs). These updated plans are a key component of the administration’s “all-of-government” approach to addressing the climate crisis, designed to ensure accountability and embed and operationalize environmental justice in relevant federal activities.

Harmonizing Environmental Justice Strategic Plans with Broader Strategies and Public Engagement

Biden’s approach signifies a departure from previous administrations, emphasizing a holistic and inclusive strategy. EJSPs are designed to be harmonized and aligned with other operational strategies, such as Equity Action Plans, Agency Strategic Plans and Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plans, to ensure effective coordination across departmental programs. This alignment is critical for identifying and addressing programmatic barriers that may impede the achievement of agency environmental justice goals.

Like each of these plans, EJSPs must be developed with a robust process that allows for meaningful public engagement. However, the format, structure and content of EJSPs is further guided by input from environmental justice movement leaders on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC). Their recommendations focus on strengthening previous EJSP approaches by enabling departments to create more effective roadmaps for decision-making, resource allocation, performance measurement and updated reporting requirements.

By incorporating the insights of these leaders, EJSPs will better support the implementation of more than 500 federal programs aimed at ensuring disadvantaged communities receive at least 40% of the overall benefits from federal climate investments covered by the Justice40 Initiative.

Draft EJSPs are under development and will soon be available for public review and feedback. Some agencies have already started engaging the public through webinar events to develop their plans. The final version of federal agency plans must be submitted to the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) by October.

Public Accessibility of Existing Federal Environmental Justice Strategic Plans

The U.S. Government Accountability Office conducted a review of federal environmental justice activities including the status of agency EJSPs in 2019. Their report found that “agencies’ progress toward environmental justice is difficult to gauge, however, because most do not have updated strategic plans and have not reported annually on their progress or developed methods to assess progress.”

For this article, we conducted a systematic review of online resources from 24 federal agencies, including their official websites. This review, undertaken without reaching out to agency personnel, aimed to compile a comprehensive understanding of the historical development and accessibility of EJSPs. The objective was to establish a baseline understanding of existing agency plans and identify areas for improvement as agencies prepare updated draft EJSPs for public feedback.

Our review uncovered significant deficiencies in the accessibility of previous plans, as several agencies did not have their EJSPs readily available on their websites. In certain cases, these plans were neither accessible online nor referenced in other operational documents of the agencies. The timeline of publication for agency plans was elucidated by the historical context provided in the background sections of the few EJSPs we managed to locate online. Despite some agencies having developed multi-year plans, these documents were frequently absent from available online resources.

These findings highlight significant gaps in the public accessibility and continuity of EJSP documentation across federal agencies, underscoring the need for improved transparency and consistency in the availability of these critical documents.

US Federal Agency Environmental Justice Strategic PlansU.S. Federal Agency# of EJSPs IdentifiedPublished EJSPs Referenced in Other Documents# of Online EJSPs

Most Recent EJSP Updates

 

Justice40 Covered ProgramsAmeriCorps000n/a4Appalachian Regional Commission000n/a2Delta Region Authority000n/a2Denali Commission000n/a2Department of Agriculture3122016-202065Department of Commerce21120112Department of Defense2022024 draft goals and approach0Department of Education000n/a0Department of Energy4042019 5-year implementation plan146Department of Health and Human Services4042022 Draft EJS13Department of Homeland Security211EJS FY 2021-20254Department of Justice4222024 draft summary0Department of Labor110n/a4Department of Transportation312201639Department of the Interior4222024 draft goals and objectives75Environmental Protection Agency3032016-202079General Services Administration2022016-2018 EJ Strategy (Download)0Department of Housing and Urban Development3122016-2020 EJS26National Aeronautics and Space Admin10119952National Science Foundation000n/a3Small Business Administration000n/a0Tennessee Valley Authority000n/a0U.S. Army Corps of Engineers1012022 EJ Strategic Plan11Department of Veterans Affairs1012011-2012 EJ Strategy1Framework and Implementation Guidelines

A critical change for 2024 EJSPs is to intentionally “foster transparency, consistency, and accountability," which is driven by the directives in a new set of agency guidelines released by CEQ. This comprehensive roadmap is intended to provide direction on the development of a structured plan outline, a detailed step-by-step process for developing a strategic planning logic tool and a planning guide with a checklist to ensure effective implementation. These resources aim to ensure uniformity across agencies in meeting the mandates of Executive Order 14096. Specifically, to maintain consistency of information and to enhance transparency, plans will include:

New Definitions from Executive Order 14096:

Environmental Justice: “the just treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of income, race, color, national origin, Tribal affiliation, or disability, in agency decision-making and other Federal activities that affect human health and the environment so that people:

(i) are fully protected from disproportionate and adverse human health and environmental effects (including risks) and hazards, including those related to climate change, the cumulative impacts of environmental and other burdens, and the legacy of racism or other structural or systemic barriers; and

(ii) have equitable access to a healthy, sustainable, and resilient environment in which to live, play, work, learn, grow, worship, and engage in cultural and subsistence practices.”

Federal Activity: "any agency rulemaking, guidance, policy, program, practice, or action that affects or has the potential to affect human health and the environment, including an agency action related to climate change.”

  • An environmental justice vision statement that provides insight into the agency’s intended impact from addressing environmental inequities on the public they serve overall in the coming year, over the four years of the EJSP, and in the long-term.
  • An overview of the agency's public engagement and tribal consultation process during the development of the EJSP.
  • Details on how the agency intends to accomplish the Executive Order 14096 requirements by articulating three to five overarching goals, each supported by three to five specific objectives. Each objective will be paired with outcome-oriented performance metrics or qualitative indicators to measure the effectiveness of actions aligned with that objective. Examples of specific minimum metrics or indicators to enhance agency accountability include:
    • Public reporting by regulated entities.
    • Use of pollution measurement and other environmental impact or compliance assessment tools such as fenceline
    • Improve the effectiveness of remedies to provide relief to individuals and communities with environmental justice concerns, such as remedies that penalize and deter violations and promote future compliance, including harm mitigation and corrective action.
    • Consider whether to remove exemptions or waivers that may undermine the achievement of human health or environmental standards.

Biden’s approach to EJSPs broadens the scope of actions that agencies must consider in their strategies. The updated definitions of "federal activity" and "environmental justice" in Section 2 of Executive Order 14096 (see text box) now encompass actions related to climate change. Additionally, the revised definition for environmental justice now includes tribal affiliation and disability, expanding the groups that agencies must consider. These updates will help streamline agency responses to address the systemic barriers faced by communities disproportionately impacted by climate change and pollution.

Plans will also be available through the annual Environmental Justice Scorecard to provide transparency and accessibility to the public. CEQ developed this new tool to track and measure the progress of federal agencies in advancing environmental justice goals. The significance of the scorecard lies in its ability to hold agencies accountable, promote transparency, and ensure that environmental justice considerations are integrated into federal policies and programs, ultimately driving more effective and equitable environmental outcomes.

All updated EJSPs must be submitted to CEQ and made available to the public online by Oct. 21 and are required to be updated every four years. However, considering these initiatives result from presidential executive orders, the operational framework could change or be jeopardized under a different administration.

Environmental Justice Strategic Plan TimelineDateAdministrative ActionApril 21, 2023Signing of Executive Order 14098.Nov. 3, 2023CEQ releases “Strategic Planning to Advance Environmental Justice” guidelines and template for agency EJSPs.April 21, 2023 – Oct. 20, 2024Public input and feedback; agency EJSP development.Oct. 21, 2024Deadline for agencies to submit final plans to CEQ.Oct. 21, 2025CEQ submits report to the President on the implementation of EO 14098 and includes all agency EJSPs.Oct. 21, 2026Agencies submit an assessment that evaluates the effectiveness of the EJSP.Oct. 28, 2028Agencies submit an updated EJSP.Evaluating the Efficacy of New Environmental Justice Strategic Plans

Since the signing of Executive Order 12898 in 1994, federal agencies have been mandated to develop and publish agency-wide environmental justice strategies and report on their implementation progress. Despite this requirement, most agency plans from previous years were not available online and consisted of sporadic updates rather than a complete, consecutive series of updates over the years. Progress reports were also mostly missing from agency websites.

Now, 30 years later, CEQ has provided comprehensive guidance for the development of the 2024 EJSPs, Biden established a framework for prioritizing environmental justice, and environmental justice leaders are engaged through WHEJAC. Given this momentum, there is hope that this iteration of EJSPs can serve as robust mechanisms for addressing longstanding inequities, advancing procedural fairness and equitable distribution of benefits through inclusive policymaking and targeted resource allocation in agency activities.

The strategic organization and implementation of these plans represent critical investments in federal agencies' operations. Therefore, immediate establishment of monitoring processes of these plans’ implementation by CEQ, coupled with required updates to the public on agency actions, is essential.

Additionally, a comprehensive and comparative evaluation of the 2024 EJSPs could reveal how well environmental justice principles are integrated into agency operations across the federal landscape. This assessment may reveal gaps or redundancies in agency coordination on environmental justice strategies to be addressed quickly and demonstrate the potential of the new strategic approach to address environmental injustices and systemic barriers for underserved communities.

This proactive approach will enhance transparency, facilitate timely improvements of any shortcomings in plans, and foster significant strides in advancing environmental justice.

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shannon.paton@wri.org

US-China Dialogue Identifies Priority Areas for Climate Cooperation

1 semana 2 días ago
US-China Dialogue Identifies Priority Areas for Climate Cooperation alicia.cypress… Wed, 07/10/2024 - 13:20

A group of high-level delegates from the U.S. and China joined together in Beijing on April 25 and 26 for a dialogue to identify opportunities that address some of the most pressing climate change issues and to deepen collaboration. Delegates discussed topics including power sector decarbonization, methane, energy efficiency, carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS), trade, corporate disclosures and climate finance.

Why the US-China Dialogue Matters

The United States and China have a long-standing history of joint global leadership on climate change; however, the relationship between the two countries has been inconsistent and particularly challenging in recent years.

Despite announcements in 2021 and 2023 of intentions to work together, it has been difficult for both countries’ central governments to meet in an official capacity. This dialogue, which is convened under the Chatham House rule to foster more open exchange, has been ongoing since 2015, and provides a trusted space for U.S. and Chinese experts to work through difficult climate-related conversations.

As the two largest economies and the two largest emitters of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it is imperative for the U.S. and China to continue to make joint progress on climate change and provide leadership that will encourage action from the rest of the world. Without commitments from the U.S. and China, there will be less willingness from other nations to commit to and implement GHG reductions.

What Was Discussed at the Dialogue?

Delegates identified many areas for future collaboration including:

  • Increasing joint efforts on scientific research in areas such as the impact of vehicle-to-grid integration and the systemic nature of methane emissions, looking more closely at natural sources and atmospheric chemistry.
  • Improving methane reporting methods, including implementing mandatory reporting systems, creating better inventories, and facilitating dialogue between research institutions in both countries.
  • Support of clean tech research, development and deployment, including through aligning climate finance and knowledge sharing for emissions reduction technology achievements.
  • Strengthening cooperation in climate finance infrastructure, such as on standards for climate finance and carbon accounting methods for financial institutions.
  • Joint research and development on building energy efficiency retrofitting and technological advancement in CCUS.
  • Working on interoperable standards for measuring embedded GHG emissions measurement in products.

There were also areas where delegates from the two countries did not see eye-to-eye, including whether China would join the ranks of donor countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, how ambitious China’s next nationally determined contribution (NDC) commitments would be, and whether any NDC created by the U.S. this year would survive if a new administration enters the White House in 2025.

The closing session was dedicated to understanding the two countries’ primary concerns, looking forward to the next two UN Climate Change Conferences (COP29 and COP30).

A more comprehensive summary of the dialogue and briefing papers are available for download at the bottom of the page. These documents provide an in-depth look at the current state of U.S. and China affairs related to the topics covered in the dialogue and provide expert analysis of the achievements, challenges and plans in each country.

What’s Next for US and China Climate Cooperation?

Moving forward, dialogue delegates will continue to come together in a range of fora including engagement of high-ranking government officials, subnational efforts, expert working groups under the Sunnylands Agreement and working groups established under the purview of the dialogue.

For more information, visit our webpage and contact Briana Fowler-Puja.

Briefing Papers china-u.s.-flags.jpg Climate China United States U.S. Climate GHG emissions climate policy international climate policy Type Project Update Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Authors Melissa Barbanell W. Briana Fowler-Puja
alicia.cypress@wri.org

STATEMENT: Bipartisan and Bicameral PROVE IT Act Promotes Climate Competitiveness of Manufactured Goods

1 semana 2 días ago
STATEMENT: Bipartisan and Bicameral PROVE IT Act Promotes Climate Competitiveness of Manufactured Goods casey.skeens@wri.org Tue, 07/09/2024 - 16:36

Washington, DC (July 9, 2024) – Today in the U.S. House of Representatives, John Curtis (R-UT-3) and Scott Peters (D-CA-50) introduced the bipartisan “Providing Reliable, Objective, Verifiable Emissions Intensity and Transparency (PROVE IT) Act of 2024,” with a total of 19 co-sponsors. It complements the bipartisan Senate version of the PROVE IT Act introduced in August 2023 and passed with bipartisan support by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in January 2024.

The bill would direct the Department of Energy, in coordination with other federal agencies, to study the carbon intensity of certain industrial goods produced in or imported into the U.S. An initial report would be required within two years of the bill’s passage, with updates at least every five years. Calculating the carbon intensity of goods demonstrates their emissions profiles and can increase American competitiveness in domestic and global markets.  

Following is a statement by Angela Anderson, U.S. Director of Industrial Decarbonization and Carbon Removal, World Resources Institute:

“This century’s Industrial Revolution is clearly being defined by the environmental competitiveness of manufacturing. The climate is now central to the economy, and supporting American businesses to thrive in this new paradigm is critical.

“As the European Union (EU) begins to implement its Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) – one of the most extensive environmental trade policies so far – continued U.S. leadership as a global producer requires highlighting high-quality and low carbon intensity American goods with robust data and transparency.  

“The House and Senate versions of the PROVE IT Act exemplify the possibility of bipartisanship when it comes to keeping U.S. goods competitive in a global marketplace increasingly favoring lower carbon products. WRI welcomes the contribution these bills make to help companies demonstrate their transformational leadership for high-quality, low-carbon industrial products.”   

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casey.skeens@wri.org

Lessons From the Coal Boom That Didn’t Happen

1 semana 2 días ago
Lessons From the Coal Boom That Didn’t Happen margaret.overh… Tue, 07/09/2024 - 15:14

In 2015 when the Paris Agreement was reached, its new goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) was at risk of being dead on arrival because the world was on the verge of a coal-plant-building boom.

In 2015, the world had 1,496 GW of new coal in development — enough to almost double global coal capacity. Such a large increase in coal power would have been catastrophic for the climate, as coal is the most polluting fossil fuel.

However, since then the amount of coal power in development has fallen dramatically to 578 GW.

Of all the new coal plants that were in development in 2015, 56% were cancelled or suspended as of 2023, according to our analysis of data from Global Energy Monitor.

Only 31% went into operation.

The rest are still in development today, alongside additional coal capacity that has been put into development since 2015.

It’s clear that growth in coal power is slowing down, meaning the worst-case scenario has not come to pass. But slower growth is not enough. Total coal power consumption was at record highs in 2023. The world needs to reverse course and completely phase out unabated coal power by 2040. That means coal plants in development need to be cancelled and existing coal plants need to be retired.

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At the same time, countries need the right policies and finance in place to quickly scale up enough clean power to fill the gap and meet people's energy needs. This has to be an all-in global effort, with the international community providing finance and technological support to developing countries that are dependent on coal.

Here, we explore the history of coal plants cancellations to help understand how the world can speed up cancellation of the remaining coal project pipeline. (We cover retirement of existing coal plants in a separate piece.)

What's Driving Coal Plant Cancellations?

Global electricity needs have continued to grow, so why were so many coal projects cancelled over the last decade?

A big part of the answer is that clean energy filled the gap. The world added 2,032 GW of solar, wind and other clean power capacity from 2015 to 2023, far outpacing forecasts from 2015. Falling costs and improving technology made wind and solar a cheaper and better option, steadily tilting the playing field away from coal. In 2023, coal made up only 9% of new electricity capacity additions, while clean energy made up 83%.

On top of that, coal has lost ground as countries ramp up their efforts to tackle the climate crisis and air pollution. Most of the biggest emitters, such as the United States, European Union and China, have announced goals to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. These targets are not compatible with the 37-year lifetime of the average coal plant.

The biggest public financiers of overseas coal projects have also committed to stop lending, making it more difficult to finance new coal plants. On the other side, climate finance for renewable energy and other low-carbon solutions has grown.

Finally, not every coal plant in the project pipeline is a firm commitment. Governments and companies may announce plans for new plants before they've secured the necessary financing, developers or support, which means only a subset of projects that are announced are destined to be built. Still, the fact that the number of plants in the project pipeline is shrinking overall is a positive development.

How Do Coal Development Patterns Differ by Region?

When it comes to coal power, Asia is the key region to watch. In 2015, more than 90% of all coal in development was concentrated there, and the pattern has continued since then. China alone has been responsible for more than half of the coal project pipeline. Electricity demand has been rising quickly in many Asian countries, and is expected to continue to grow, improving the quality of life for billions of people. But if this growth comes from coal rather than other sources, it will seriously damage the climate and local air quality.

The good news is that the top coal-developing countries in Asia all decreased their coal project pipelines from 2015 to 2023. China's pipeline of coal projects in development shrank from 738 GW to 408 GW. India's coal pipeline plummeted from 312 GW to 77 GW. Turkey and Vietnam stand out among smaller countries, as both had plans to increase their coal capacity multi-fold but ended up cancelling or suspending most of those plans.

Overall, the situation today is better than in 2015, though the amount of new coal still in development in the region would be too much to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Outside of Asia, the amount of new coal developed from 2015-2023 was low. No countries in Europe or the Americas increased their coal capacity by more than one gigawatt over that time period, and many are retiring coal plants. Notably, nine African countries had plans in 2015 to build their first ever coal plants, but none of these had been built by the end of 2023. In a telling example, Egypt had proposed building the second-biggest coal plant in the world, but the government shelved it in 2020, recognizing the need to shift to renewable energy instead.

3 Countries to Watch for Coal Development

To learn what's driving coal cancellation trends — as well as the remaining challenges — let's examine three of the countries that had a lot of coal power in development but managed to substantially shrink their project pipelines.

China restricted coal development drastically, but now it's rebounding.

As the largest coal user globally, the history and future of coal development in China has vast implications for whether the world can meet its climate goals.

In 2015, China had more coal power in development than any other country. The central government had recently shifted more control of coal plant permitting to the provinces, which took this as an opportunity to announce more coal plants that would boost GDP — even if they weren't needed and would lead to overcapacity. Provincial authorities were 3 times more likely to approve permits for new coal plants than the central government had been.

As the environmental, social and economic costs of coal became clearer — for example, with Beijing's record levels of smog — China's government committed to address coal overcapacity and promote a shift to renewables. It issued new restrictions to discourage provinces from proposing or permitting new plants, and the cancellations and suspensions that followed cut the number of coal plants in the pipeline by more than half.

Coal development stayed low for several years even as China's energy demand continued to rise, thanks to the growth of renewable energy. By 2020, China was building 4 times more solar and wind capacity than coal, due in part to strategic government investments. China also became the world's largest exporter of green technologies like solar panels. Yet, permitting and coal financing ticked back up during Covid-19 as a form of economic stimulus.

In 2021, President Xi Jinping announced that China would strictly control the growth of coal use until 2025 and then start to gradually reduce it. Many provinces seemed to interpret President Xi's pledge to mean that pre-2025 was their last chance to build new coal capacity, so the coal pipeline started growing again. But China does appear to be on track to peak coal generation before 2025.

China has also faced challenges with energy security. In 2021, global fossil fuel prices spiked following Covid recovery and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. China had plenty of coal power plants, but not enough coal to run them, which led to power rationing and blackouts in many Chinese provinces. Then in 2022 and 2023, China experienced historic heat waves, provoked by climate change, that increased electricity needs for air conditioning and reduced the supply of hydro power. To compensate, the government fast-tracked more coal projects. In the long term, however, energy security and a stable climate will only be enabled by scaling up clean energy and decarbonizing the energy system.

China's electricity demand will keep growing as the country continues to develop and as it undergoes rapid electrification. Ultimately, new coal will not stop being built until clean energy and energy efficiency can fulfil and exceed all the demand growth.

India's coal project pipeline has plummeted, but challenges remain.

India, the world's second largest coal user, has also made substantial progress in diversifying from coal in recent years. But it faces important challenges in canceling its remaining pipeline.

India experienced a coal permitting boom in the mid-2000s as it moved toward privatization of its coal industry. By 2015 its boom had already started to bust, with investors pulling out of projects that didn't make financial sense. But even then, India still had 312 GW of coal plants in development — enough to more than double the country's coal fleet.

In 2016 India's Ministry of Power said that no new capacity additions were needed at the time, so developers drastically cut back: The coal pipeline fell by two-thirds from 2015 to 2018. It has stayed relatively low since then.

Meanwhile, India has become a clean energy leader. The government has increased the ambition of its renewable energy targets multiple times. India's support for effective auctions for solar and wind helped the technologies lock in lower prices for power distributors, increasing cost advantages over coal. In 2023 clean energy made up 70% of India's new capacity additions.

However, the total amount of energy being built from all sources each year has been lower than in the past. From 2014 to 2016 India added approximately 30 GW per year of all new power capacity, but since then it has only added about 17 GW per year. Coal capacity additions fell so drastically after 2016 that even the substantial growth in renewable energy wasn't enough to keep total capacity additions at the same level. One challenge is that the cost of raising capital for clean energy projects in developing countries like India is much higher than in developed countries, due to higher investment risks.

Much more electricity capacity will be needed as the country develops; today, the average person in India uses 10 times less power than the average person in the United States. The government's stated goals will require adding more than 40 GW of clean power every year until 2030. But with demand for new power rising faster than renewable capacity, the Indian government has said that it intends to build out approximately 88 GW of new coal capacity by 2032.

High-income countries should lend financial assistance and support technology transfers to help India's renewable energy industry grow, so that electricity demand growth can come from clean energy rather than coal. India has to balance multiple different priorities: meeting rising power demand, ensuring it is affordable, keeping the grid balanced, developing domestic industry and reducing emissions. What's more, it will need to watch out for the welfare of the 1.6 million workers in coal production.

Shifting to more clean energy will be challenging, but there are myriad benefits. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it would help reduce the impacts of air pollution, which causes more than 2 million premature deaths in India each year.

In Vietnam, coal was expected to be the future, but plans are changing.

In 2015, Vietnam had enough coal plants in development to raise coal capacity from 13 GW to 69 GW — a fivefold increase. Like China and India, Vietnam's electricity demand had been growing rapidly as the economy developed, and coal was seen as the best way to meet that need. But while Vietnam did approximately double coal capacity to 27 GW by 2023, most of the rest of the plants in development were replaced by renewable energy.

In 2016, Vietnam's government for the first time announced that it would consider limiting coal development (although this was not reflected in official development plans). In 2017 and 2018, the government introduced strong feed-in tariffs for solar and wind. These incentivized companies to invest in renewables by guaranteeing that the electricity would be bought at a high subsidized rate.

By 2019, Vietnam leapt from installing less than 0.2GW of wind and solar per year to more than 5GW. Whereas renewable energy received a government guarantee and could be built quickly, coal plants faced long development times, public opposition and difficulty finding financing.

In early 2021, China pledged to end its overseas coal financing. China was the biggest public financer of coal plants in Vietnam. With countries like Japan and South Korea making similar commitments, Vietnam's options for international coal financing started to dry up.

The same year, Vietnam committed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and signed a UN statement pledging to stop building new unabated coal plants. This was a big deal: Of the 39 countries that had any coal in development at the time, Vietnam was one of only four that fully endorsed the statement. With this decisive shift away from coal, Vietnam hoped to attract more international investment in clean energy. It also agreed on a Just Energy Transition Partnership in 2022, in which G7 countries pledged $15.5 billion of public and private capital to support its energy transition. This stipulated that Vietnam would reduce its plans for coal capacity growth and peak emissions by 2030.

The success of the partnership remains to be seen, and some coal plants continue to move into construction. But overall, there has been a major shift in policy: Vietnam's Power Development Plan, published in 2023, reduced plans for coal growth in line with its international commitments and agreements.

While the rapid construction of solar and wind farms in Vietnam has enabled the country's pivot away from coal, it has also created challenges. Power lines are not being built at the same pace, so many renewable sources have been asked to curtail their output. In 2021, when the initial feed-in tariff expired, massive wind power projects were stuck waiting to get connected to the grid as developers negotiated with the government on new rates. The state-owned utility was not expecting to have to pay so much to renewable energy producers, which has strained government finances.

For Vietnam to build out enough renewable energy to meet demand growth, it will need to invest in grid upgrades; build out battery storage; and ensure that renewable energy incentive policies are clear, consistent and sustainable.

Renewables Are the Key to Canceling Coal for Good

It's encouraging that unchecked expansion of coal has been avoided. Thanks in part to cancelled coal plants, the world's emissions trajectory is less dire than what it was in 2015. When the Paris Agreement was reached, the world was on track for global warming of 3.6-3.9 degrees C (6.5-7 degrees F) by 2100; now that projection is more like 2.7 degrees C (4.9 degrees F).

However, this amount of warming would still come with dire impacts for people, ecosystems and the economy — from extreme heat to worsening storms, floods, droughts and more. The ultimate goal is to hold warming to 1.5 degrees C and limit future damage from climate change as much as possible, which the world remains far off track from achieving. If all the coal plants remaining in development are built, it will blow the global carbon budget or else the plants will become stranded assets. On a pathway to net-zero emissions by 2050, more than a trillion dollars in coal power assets could be stranded.

As demonstrated by countries like China, India and Vietnam, the story of coal can never be told without talking about renewable energy. Electricity demand will continue to grow in all the countries that still have coal projects in the pipeline. The rise in demand will need to be met with a rise in zero-carbon electricity sources and increased energy efficiency in order to displace coal and ensure a safer, more livable future for all people.

 

Unless otherwise noted, coal capacity numbers used in this article are from analysis of data shared with WRI by Global Energy Monitor in March 2024.

This article is part of a series from Systems Change Lab examining countries that are leaders in transformational change. Other articles in the series analyzed countries leading on renewable power, electric vehicles and coal phase-out. 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 C, halt biodiversity loss and build a just and equitable economy.

coal-plant-apartments-china.jpg Energy Energy Climate fossil fuels renewable energy data visualization Type Finding Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Authors Joel Jaeger
margaret.overholt@wri.org

Rebuilding Kenya Stronger: Here's What's Needed to Rebound After Catastrophic Floods

1 semana 3 días ago
Rebuilding Kenya Stronger: Here's What's Needed to Rebound After Catastrophic Floods shannon.paton@… Tue, 07/09/2024 - 12:25

In Kenya and throughout East Africa, flooding this past April and May wreaked havoc, leaving a path of deadly destruction. The unprecedented deluge of heavy rainfall resulted in a catastrophe that many in Kenya have never witnessed.

According to a June 18 report by the Kenya Red Cross, the staggering toll from this disaster includes 294 fatalities, 162 missing persons, 101,132 affected households, 151 school disruptions, 45 affected healthcare facilities and 65,0377 acres of decimated farmland. The start of the school year’s second term had to be postponed by two weeks and infrastructure, such as roads, railways and bridges were also severely impacted. 

Some of the highest impacts from the floods are being felt by people living in informal settlements. In Nairobi, the country’s capital city, over 40,000 households living in informal settlements have been displaced. The Kenyan government has since decided to demolish houses (largely focused on informal settlements) that were built 30 meters on either side of the major rivers of Nairobi. 

In addition, these communities have lost sanitation facilities, multiple informal schools that plug the gap of the public school system and spaces where many of the residents earn a living. As a result, the humanitarian crisis for these highly vulnerable communities continues to be dire.

Although heavy rains due to El Niño were predicted, the intensity of the storms have far surpassed its projections, demonstrating how climate change can exacerbate extreme weather phenomena. In fact, these same El Niño effects are also causing the worst drought in 40 years for countries in Southern Africa.

This is not the first time Kenya has suffered from devastating floods. An El Niño 1997 and 1998 also resulted in many fatalities and detrimental destruction. The recent destruction witnessed in Kenya is a testament to the urgent need to rebuild better than in the past. As climate change continues to influence severe storms, Kenya is likely to have more catastrophic climate events.

What Makes Kenya’s Landscapes So Vulnerable?

Kenya’s landscapes are interconnected. The very denuded hills in the Great Rift Valley and the Aberdare Ranges contribute to rapid run-off into rivers downstream that fuels flooding in Nairobi and surrounding peri-urban areas.

Likewise, towns like Narok, located about 142km (88 miles) west of Nairobi, experience cyclical flash flooding because of the degraded water catchments in upstream areas. 

These floods have exposed Kenya’s vulnerabilities, poor implementation of plans (such as the 2015-2045 National Spatial Plan and the 2018 Thematic Plan for Disaster Risk Management) and the country’s inadequate disaster preparedness, especially impacting its poorest population.

An informal settlement in Nairobi where houses near a riverbank were demolished by the government after heavy damage from Kenya's floods. Photo by Susan Onyango/WRI Africa.

Nationally, over 38% of the population is characterized as poor, with this figure rising to more than 60% in cities. These communities are disproportionately affected by the floods and have limited capacity to economically cope with climate disasters (through savings or insurance). Yet in most instances, they are the most exposed to climate shocks. Many settlements and low-income housing are also found in the areas most prone to floods and landslides, such as along riverbanks, in flood plains and along dangerously steep slopes.

The major challenge behind Kenya’s multiple development plans is their implementation. Different spatial plans at the national, county and urban levels, for instance, have proposed conserving water catchment areas, climate-proofing infrastructure, introducing early warning systems and creating social safety nets for the poorest. Yet, most of these proposals only collect dust on shelves. For example, despite early warning systems during the most recent floods, the government was slow to respond.

Garbage collection also remains a big problem, especially in large cities like Nairobi. Trash finds its way down rivers to different parts of the city where garbage collection services do not exist. 

The polluted waters of the Mathare River in 2020. A tributary of the Nairobi Basin River, it's one of three rivers that fuels flooding in Nairobi. Photo by Alex McNaughton/Alamy Stock Photo.

With a struggling economy, Kenya will need major finances to rebuild its infrastructure at the expense of planned development initiatives. Crops washed away from the floods will mean a huge drop in harvests. Many will go hungry, while farmers will lose income. Rivers are heavily silted because fertile topsoil has been washed away. People will need to borrow or dip into their savings, if any, to restore their homes.

How Kenya Can Build Back Better

To effectively rebuild from this disaster, Kenya will need to intentionally take measures to strengthen its resilience to the impacts of future floods and other weather-related disasters, which are projected to be exacerbated by climate change. Here are the measures it should take:

Nature-based Solutions to Restore Ecosystems 

In the immediate aftermath of the floods, Kenya’s government announced a public holiday on May 10 to show respect for those affected by the floods and encouraged people in Kenya to plant trees to help mitigate climate change.

Indeed, carefully planned ecosystem restoration — including in urban areas — will help enhance the resilience of landscapes, reduce erosion and sedimentation, improve water infiltration and provide valuable ecosystem services that help to mitigate flood risks and protect communities and infrastructure from the impacts of flooding.

Furthermore, national and county governments should promote green infrastructure and nature-based solutions, such as wetlands restoration, floodplain reconnection and riparian buffers, to enhance natural flood management and reduce flood risks.

These approaches harness the capacity of ecosystems to absorb, retain, and slow down floodwaters while providing additional benefits such as water purification, habitat conservation and recreational opportunities. However, this is only possible if the country plants the right tree species in the right areas, and robustly monitors landscape restoration, while ensuring that the needs and interests of local communities are safeguarded.

Proper urban planning will help protect infrastructure. County governments must step up compliance, especially in the cities where flooding has been catastrophic. Green spaces in the city must be preserved and construction guidelines should be respected. Most of what happens in cities is directly linked to upstream landscapes where nature-based solutions such as landscape protection and ecosystem restoration can significantly mitigate the impacts of floods and climate change. It is critical that Kenya’s efforts to restore forests and landscapes are kept on course.

As part of its Urban Water Resilience and Cities4Forests initiatives, WRI is providing support to the city of Nairobi and the Nairobi Rivers Commission to increase adoption and investment in community-led solutions for urban river regeneration. 

Secure Adaption Financing

Kenya must push for implementation of the Loss and Damage Fund established at COP28 to help rebuild the country’s infrastructure, although the pledges are woefully inadequate. More than ever, the government must mainstream adaptation into its planning processes, coupled with increased access to adaptation finance. The African Adaptation Acceleration Program, for instance, offers an opportunity to scale up nature-based solutions for adapting the continent’s urban and rural infrastructure to climate. The African Development Bank has already surpassed its target of 40% of its total financing to climate finance to 55%. This demonstrates the opportunity for countries to tap into financing for climate adaptation.

Kenya needs to do more robust climate risk assessments and plans to widen the country’s access to adaptation financing opportunities. WRI, through its New Climate Economy program, and the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA), have created a cross-economy analysis of the existing macro, climate-related and green economic modeling in Kenya, which identified several data management, research, tools and capacity gaps that the government can use to shift to a green economy.

Further measures to enhance the adaptive capacity of economic sectors that are highly sensitive to climate shocks, such as agriculture and tourism, are necessary. The recent floods, for example, necessitated the evacuation of tourists from the world-famous Maasai Mara game reserve during the floods.

Establish and Adopt Effective Early Warning Systems

Early warning systems that provide timely and accurate information about impending floods to at-risk communities can go a long way in helping communities prepare for floods, evacuate safely and minimize loss of life. With climate shocks projected to increase in the future, Kenya should particularly prioritize early warning systems that work for multiple climate hazards, such as droughts, landslides, coastal storms, among others. 

Efforts should also be made to conduct comprehensive climate-risk assessments and mapping to identify disaster-prone areas and assess the potential impacts on communities, infrastructure and the environment. This information will serve as the basis for effective flood-risk management planning and decision-making.

Improve Community Engagement

Both the national and county governments should engage with local communities to raise awareness about flood risks, build capacity for preparedness and response, and empower residents to take proactive measures to protect themselves and their properties. Community-based initiatives, such as flood awareness campaigns, training workshops and neighborhood resilience projects, strengthen social cohesion and resilience to floods.

During the recent floods, community-based organizations were the first responders to the crisis. In Nairobi, these groups organized community members to quickly evacuate and also collected data of affected households with speed. These local community groups became the custodians of already established informal mechanisms of warning dissemination and response that can be tapped, enhanced and scaled. Communities must also be empowered to co-develop disaster response strategies and plans together with government agencies.

Members of Kenya's National Youth Service carry mattresses to rescue centers for Kenya's flood victims. As of June 2024, more than 55,000 households were displaced from the heavy floods that devastated the country. Photo by James Wakibia/SOPA Images/Sipa USA/Alamy Live News. For a Climate Resilient Future, Kenya Must Act Now 

The trail of destruction is already impacting Kenya’s economy. For example, about $8 million will be needed to repair a washed-away railway line important for exporting goods to neighboring Uganda. Nearly $300 million will be needed to fix a network of roads damaged by the floods. And in June, funding was released to reconstruct the schools damaged by the floods.

At the heart of all the proposed solutions must be a nationwide behavioral change: Kenya must stop the indiscriminate dumping of solid waste into storm waterways, corruption and greed that result in ignored regulations or poor-quality works. Lives were lost when buildings collapsed, so building regulations must also be followed to prevent destruction and fatalities when disasters strike. 

A collective effort among Kenya’s government and its people will be key to preventing future destruction. Through stewardship, people will thrive with nature and make the world a better place for future generations. We must all step up now.

WRI India’s Walter Samuel, Bina Shetty and Vaibhav Shrivastava contributed to the maps on this page.

CORRECTION 7/15/2024: An earlier version of this article stated that Nairobi’s government decided to demolish houses that were built within 30 meters of the Mathare River. The scope of the demolition was larger, encompassing homes 30 meters on either side of all of Nairobi's major rivers and the decision was made by the Kenyan government, coordinated by the Nairobi Rivers Commission. 

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shannon.paton@wri.org

STATEMENT: Election of New UK Government Heralds Major Opportunities for Ambitious Action and Leadership on Climate, Development and Nature

2 semanas ago
STATEMENT: Election of New UK Government Heralds Major Opportunities for Ambitious Action and Leadership on Climate, Development and Nature alison.cinnamo… Thu, 07/04/2024 - 17:39

LONDON (July 4, 2024) — Today, voters in the United Kingdom elected a new Labour government in the first general election in nearly five years. The Labour Party’s manifesto sets out numerous commitments on climate, development and nature, both in terms of national UK policy as well as with respect to the UK’s presence on the international stage. 

Following is a statement by Edward Davey, Head, World Resources Institute Europe UK Office:

“The Labour Party’s victory provides a resounding mandate for the UK to deliver ambitious action on climate, development and nature, both at home as well as internationally. There is a big opportunity — as well as a pressing responsibility — for the new government to show its citizens, as well as the world at large, what it means to be a leader on climate, development and nature once again. 

“There is a lot to do. The first priority is to accelerate the implementation of ambitious national climate policies that tangibly respond to voters’ concerns, including on net zero, clean energy, land use and nature. The new government will need to release an ambitious national climate plan (NDC) later this year, with revised targets that address the latest findings of the Climate Change Committee. It should also fulfill its manifesto commitments on sewage, fresh water, sustainable farming, and the protection and restoration of nature — all central to people’s lives and wellbeing.

“Delivery at home must be matched with renewed leadership overseas. The UK needs to rebuild trust with partners in the Global South that are facing the devastating impacts of a changing climate and growing debt. As a first step, the UK should commit to providing significant climate and development finance for the poorest countries — by recommitting to deliver its International Climate Fund contribution, ensuring that this increases in line with Official Development Assistance, and announcing a review of UK financial instruments. The UK should also make a strong commitment to the World Bank’s International Development Association replenishment and a sizeable additional contribution to the Loss and Damage Fund. As an influential leader in global finance, we expect the UK Government to advocate for an ambitious climate finance target to be agreed at the climate summit COP29 in Baku.

“The UK can do even more to support developing countries: it should help broker a broader financing package to support inclusive, climate resilient, nature positive development plans. This should bring together International Financial Institution reform and capital increases with South-South finance, international taxes, work to build a high integrity carbon market, and a comprehensive debt relief package. It should set up a technical assistance fund to support countries in designing their climate, nature and development transitions, and ensure international finance is aligned behind these transition plans.

“Finally, the UK should also take active steps to lead on the international stage on energy, cities, food and land use, the ocean, and nature. It can join existing coalitions and step up its diplomatic and bilateral engagement. The new UK leadership should use key international meetings in the coming months to signal its commitment to driving action on finance (including at G20 meetings in Brazil), the ocean (at a leaders’ level meeting in New York in September) and biodiversity and climate at the UN meetings in Colombia and Azerbaijan.

“At a deeply challenging time for the world – amid a series of interlocking crises spanning conflict, climate, poverty, debt, and nature loss – the UK has an opportunity and important obligation to lead by example and rebuild trust.”

 

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alison.cinnamond@wri.org

WRI Türkiye Leads Development of Turkey’s First Building Decarbonization Roadmap

2 semanas 4 días ago
WRI Türkiye Leads Development of Turkey’s First Building Decarbonization Roadmap shannon.paton@… Mon, 07/01/2024 - 11:26

In today’s rapidly urbanizing world, the demand for natural resources and energy is steadily increasing alongside technological advancements. Environmental pollution, the escalating impacts of climate change and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events highlight the critical need to consider the entire built environment throughout a building’s entire life cycle. Planning and creating building stock comprehensively, along with meeting energy needs through renewable sources instead of fossil fuels, is required for the building and construction sector to achieve desired sustainability goals. As such, new buildings must be designed and constructed with a holistic approach that is in harmony with nature and considers buildings’ entire life cycles: from site selection and material choices, construction, operation to demolition. Buildings should also be climate and region-specific, utilizing natural resources like water at minimal levels and meeting energy needs through on-site and off-site renewable energy sources.

Turkey’s building sector — responsible for approximately 32% of the country’s total energy consumption and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions — is an important component to achieve the 2053 net-zero emission and green development targets.

To support the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change’s innovative efforts within the building sector, the Ministry took part as the main beneficiary of the Zero Carbon Building Accelerator (ZCBA), a flagship of World Resources Institute (WRI), supported by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the Global Environment Facility. Within the scope of the project, short-, medium- and long-term strategies were developed to decarbonize Turkey’s building sector and the Türkiye Building Sector Decarbonization Roadmap was prepared.

About the Roadmap

Turkey's Building Sector Decarbonization Roadmap was meticulously developed through a transparent, participatory process within the framework of the ZCBA project. It aims to guide the building and construction sector by offering comprehensive, pioneering and sustainable solutions to combat climate change. The Roadmap will directly benefit all building sector stakeholders and the greater public by improving energy efficiency in buildings, leading to lower energy bills and healthier living conditions through better indoor air quality and the use of sustainable materials. It will also create job opportunities in construction, engineering and renewable energy sectors, enhancing economic growth and resilience against climate change impacts. By promoting zero carbon buildings (ZCB) and climate-resilient designs, the Roadmap ensures safer, more comfortable living spaces.

The Roadmap will be implemented immediately; it targets government bodies, construction industries and energy providers, guiding central and local policies, as well as practices towards sustainability. Expected outcomes include a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, energy savings and widespread adoption of renewable energy systems in buildings, ensuring the green transition in the building sector, as well as fostering a sustainable and resilient future for Turkey.

The Roadmap identifies potential actions to transition to ZCBs throughout buildings’ entire life cycles by specifying possible steps to reduce emissions associated with embodied carbon and operational carbon. Within the scope of this Roadmap, national decarbonization strategies are evaluated in six main sections: Building Construction and Demolition, Building Materials, Existing and New Buildings, Renewable Energy, Climate Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Change, and Financing and Gender Equality.

Turkey's Building Sector Decarbonization Roadmap provides a clear and actionable path towards a sustainable future. By addressing key areas, the Roadmap not only targets significant reductions in carbon emissions but also promotes resilience and economic growth. This pioneering initiative underscores Turkey's commitment to combating climate change and achieving its 2053 net-zero emission targets, ultimately benefiting both the environment and the well-being of its people.

To learn more, explore the full Roadmap in English or Turkish.

Cities Cities net-zero emissions Buildings GHG emissions renewable energy Type Project Update Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Related Resources and Data Colombia Launches National Roadmap for Net Zero Carbon Buildings Stakeholder Engagement Underpins a Bold Roadmap to Zero-carbon Buildings in Turkey Developing City Action Plans for Building Decarbonization Projects Authors Meltem Bayraktar Baret Binatlı Tuğçe Üzümoğlu
shannon.paton@wri.org

The State of Electric School Bus Adoption in the US

2 semanas 4 días ago
The State of Electric School Bus Adoption in the US helen.morgan@wri.org Mon, 07/01/2024 - 09:00

Editor’s Note: This article was updated with new findings as of June 2024 from WRI’s Electric School Bus Data Dashboard and Dataset of Electric School Bus Adoption in the United States.  The dashboard, updated monthly, reflects the most recent data on electric school bus adoption. The dataset, updated biannually, reflects data on electric school bus adoption as well as details about individual buses, school districts and student populations. Previous versions of this article are available for download at the bottom of this page.

More than 21 million children ride the bus to school in the U.S. and over 90% of these school buses run on diesel fuel, putting children’s health at risk every school day. Diesel exhaust is a known carcinogen, with proven links to serious physical health issues as well as cognitive development impacts. But with more electric school buses on the road, these risks can be reduced greatly.

Electric school buses have zero tailpipe emissions, preventing students’ exposure to harmful pollutants. Plus, electric school buses are cleaner for the environment, producing less than half the greenhouse gas emissions of diesel or propane-powered school buses, even after accounting for emissions for electricity generation from current sources.

Electric School Buses By the Numbers

As of June 2024, electric school bus adoption in the U.S. has grown to a total commitment of 12,164 buses since 2012. 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 those delivered to the school district or fleet operator. Approximately 200,000 students across the country are currently served by electric school buses.

Over two thirds (67%) of all committed electric school buses in the U.S. were funded by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean School Bus Program, which awarded more than $900 million for nearly 2,300 electric school buses to 365 school districts in its first round of rebate funding in 2022. An additional $1 billion in Clean School Bus Program funding through a second round of grant funding released in January 2024 added approximately 2,700 more electric school buses in 270 school districts. And a third round of rebate funding announced last month selected nearly 500 school districts to receive $900 million in funds to replace diesel-fueled school buses with 3,177 electric buses.

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 several tribal nations including the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians and the Umo N Ho N Nation. 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.

The total number of electric school buses is also likely to expand considerably thanks to a fourth round of Clean School Bus Program funding planned to open later in 2024, as well as the EPA’s new Clean Heavy Duty Vehicles Grant Program, designed to help transition heavy duty vehicles — including school buses — to zero-emission models. EPA expects around 70% of the funding, or around $700 million, to support school bus replacement projects. Further, several states have passed laws and statutes to transition to zero-emission school buses, setting the stage for widespread electric school bus adoption.

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.

WRI has been tracking electric school bus adoption across the U.S. since Summer 2021. We recently released updated data covering the third and fourth quarters of 2023. This more comprehensive dataset allows us to better compare the data over time and identify specific trends as more electric school buses make their way to the road.

Here are the key findings from this updated dataset:

The U.S. has more than 3,500 Electric School Buses on the Road Today

As of December 2023, we identified 8,570 committed electric school buses across 1,132 U.S. school districts or private fleet operators. That’s 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 six-fold.

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 December 2023, among the total number of committed buses, 5,117 are on order, delivered to the school district or already operating. An additional 3,453 buses have been awarded to school districts from federal and local government initiatives but have not yet been ordered or delivered.

Through our data tracking, we can see that school districts that receive electric school bus awards have significant follow-through. For example, as of December 2023, over 1,348 electric school bus awards have translated into bus orders.

Electric School Buses Are Committed in 49 States; Large Increases Were Seen in the Southeast 

WRI’s third and fourth quarter 2023 dataset update shows every U.S. state, except Wyoming, has electric school bus commitments, as well as 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.

The updated data shows electric school bus commitments continue to become more evenly distributed across the country. When tracking first began, more than half of electric school bus commitments were in the West (based on U.S. Census regions). Now, the West represents 37% of committed electric school buses, only a little more than the South’s 34% share of commitments. The Northeast and the Midwest have 16% and 13% of committed electric school buses, respectively.

California continues to lead in electric school bus adoption, with over 2,300 committed electric buses across the state, of which nearly 70% are delivered or operating. This is more than five times as many buses as the next leading state, Illinois, with 418 commitments.

The remaining top 10 states with the most committed electric school buses include New York (406), Maryland (386), Florida (378), Virginia (302), Texas (301), Georgia (285), Pennsylvania (256) and New Jersey (245).

California also had the largest increase since our last update in June 2023, with 319 new commitments. Illinois had the second largest increase with 208 new committed electric school buses. Other states that saw a significant jump since June 2023 include Georgia (157), Texas (154), Pennsylvania (144), Louisiana (128), North Carolina (122), and Florida (121). Much of these increases can be attributed to the EPA Clean School Bus Program funding. For example, 100% of electric school buses in Louisiana were funded by the program, as well as 99% in Georgia, 94% in Texas, and 42% in Florida. The southeast region of the U.S. now has around 1,400 committed electric school buses.

With approximately 5,000 electric school buses awarded as of December 2023 — 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 comes from California’s Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Program (HVIP), which has funded 1,039 buses. Unsurprisingly, California-specific funding sources comprise half of the 10 largest funding sources. The state’s robust incentive programs are partly why 28% of all committed electric school buses in the U.S. can be found there.

Large Commitments for Electric School Buses Are Increasing

The growing number of commitments for more buses suggests increasing trust in electric school bus technology and market conditions, as well as wider funding availability.

Seventy five percent of the 1,132 U.S. school districts or private fleet operators with electric school buses by December 2023 have committed to more than one bus. Over one-third (39%) of all entities with electric school buses have committed to five or more and 243 (21%) have committed to 10 or more, compared to 60 school districts just one year ago. Ninety districts have electric school bus commitments that amount to 50% or more of their current fleet size.

Top 5 School Districts by Number of Electric School Buses Ordered, Delivered or Operating as of December 2023RankEntity NameStateNumber of ESBs1Montgomery County Public SchoolsMD3262Los Angeles Unified School DistrictCA2533Twin Rivers Unified School DistrictCA844Troy Community Consolidated School District 30-CIL645Broward County Public SchoolsFL60Is Electric School Bus Adoption Occurring Equitably?

Students from low-income families are particularly exposed to the dangers of diesel exhaust pollution from school buses: 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. 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, and prioritizing these communities in the transition, can help address these concerns.

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 particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone pollution. A majority of electric school buses continue to be in school districts with high populations of people of color.

Notably, the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program led to a more equitable distribution of electric school buses by prioritizing school districts based on whether they were “high need” (focusing on 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.

The share of districts with at least one electric school bus in each type of locale (rural, town, suburban and urban) also aligns closely to the distribution of all school districts nationwide among these locales. Thirty- six percent of school districts with at least one committed electric school bus are in rural locales, 25% are in urban, 24% are in suburban and 15% are in town locales.

The concentration 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.

Electric school bus adoption appears to be occurring equitably when looking at the distribution of vehicles among communities of color. Eighty-nine percent of committed electric school buses are in school districts with the highest percentages of people of color (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.

WRI also evaluated data to see if electric school buses were equitably distributed across communities impacted the most by harmful pollutants. We compiled data on concentrations of PM2.5 and ozone in school districts because of their harmful health effects, 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 more committed electric school buses. Over two thirds of committed electric school buses are in school districts with the highest concentrations of PM2.5. The trend continues with ozone pollution. Almost three quarters of committed electric school buses are in districts with the highest concentrations of ozone pollution.

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. Data on childhood asthma rates at the census tract level was not available.

As of December 2023, school districts with electric school buses are fairly evenly distributed among different levels of adult asthma rates. A little less than half (48%) of committed electric school buses are in school districts with the highest adult asthma rates.

Approximately 52% 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.

It’s important to note that the metrics presented here show only a few examples of equity measurements. WRI is also closely tracking other community characteristics including disability access and services and tribal equity to ensure there’s an equitable transition to electric school buses. Later this year, WRI anticipates the publication of a more in-depth analysis on the equity of electric school bus adoption revealing where the most polluting buses and fleets are located and who is most affected, as well as which districts have succeeded in procuring electric school buses thus far. WRI is committed to working alongside partners to ensure that underserved communities remain front-and-center in the transition.

What’s Next to Scale Up Electric School Bus Adoption?

With the recent EPA awards, more electric school buses are expected to be introduced across the U.S. through 2024. But that’s not the only government program putting more electric school buses on the road.

Last summer, 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). School districts and other tax-exempt entities can now access these credits through the “elective” or “direct” pay mechanism.

These credits can save school bus operators tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars on school bus electrification.

State legislatures are also bolstering the electric school bus transition. Since 2022, seven states have statutorily enacted zero-emission school bus transition requirements, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New York and the state of Washington. Around 100,000 diesel school buses (19% of the entire U.S. fleet) and 6 million school bus riders (26% of all riders) are impacted in these states.

Washington is the most recent state to enact its transition target in March 2024, requiring that 100% of new school bus purchases be zero-emission once the total cost of ownership is on par with that of diesel buses. The grant programs must also prioritize environmental justice communities.

ColoradoMichigan 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.  

In March 2024, New Jersey’s Electric School Bus Grant Program, funded by the state’s Board of Public Utilities’ Clean Energy Fund, opened $45 million in grant funding over three years to replace diesel school buses with electric school buses, as well as to install associated charging infrastructure. Additional funding is available for school districts willing to participate in vehicle-to-building technology, which will enable electricity to flow from electric school bus batteries to school buildings.  

This state-level progress has spurred the consideration of funding and fleet transition targets and propositions in other areas, including Hawaii, Illinois and Massachusetts.

The 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, will 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.

Looking to follow the most up-to-date, interactive electric school bus data? Check out our Electric School Bus Data Dashboard, where you can easily explore trends and dive into the latest data.

View past editions of this article:

School bus USA martinedoucet/iStock Air Quality United States Cities electric mobility transportation U.S. Climate Policy-Electric School Buses Featured Type Finding Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Authors Lydia Freehafer Leah Lazer Brian Zepka
helen.morgan@wri.org

Development Banks Can Catalyze the Clean Energy Transition, Starting in South and Southeast Asia

2 semanas 6 días ago
Development Banks Can Catalyze the Clean Energy Transition, Starting in South and Southeast Asia margaret.overh… Fri, 06/28/2024 - 14:00

South and Southeast Asia are in many ways central to the global clean energy transition.

More than one in four people in the world live in this region, which stretches from Pakistan in the west to Vietnam in the east and the Philippines in the south. Its population and economies are on the rise, with energy demand growth among the fastest in the world. Because renewable energy is not scaling quickly enough to keep pace with population and economic growth, these countries are still adding new fossil fuel-based power.

As a result, the region is one of the world's largest carbon emitters and still climbing. And its people are feeling effects of a warming planet keenly, from suffocating heat in Pakistan and India to deadly floods in Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Shifting Asia's energy systems to clean, renewable power is critical to slowing the pace of warming and reining in these impacts, while also meeting the energy needs of its growing population. This will require massive resources: Some developing countries need a seven-fold increase in energy investment and finance to meet global clean energy goals by 2030. Based on current trends and projections, most of this finance will have to come from private sector investments, both domestic and international.

However, many countries in South and Southeast Asia lack the right ingredients to attract clean energy investment: a supportive and predictable policy environment, enabling financial systems, and modern grid infrastructure that can handle renewables. Overcoming these barriers will be key to unlocking more finance and catalyzing the region's clean energy transition. And multilateral development banks (MDBs) can help.

Overcoming Clean Energy Barriers with a Boost from MDBs

To attract the up-front investment needed to build a clean energy sector, countries need a national environment that can support and facilitate clean energy scale-up. Investors in South and Southeast Asia have been hindered by range of issues on this front, including unclear and inconsistent policies and regulations (such as for energy procurement); persistent fossil fuel subsidies; and insufficient or outdated transmission and grid infrastructure — all of which create real and perceived risks for foreign investors and raise the cost of capital. In addition, many South and Southeast Asian countries have a limited range of financial products available to scale clean energy finance. And coordination among local, national, regional and international stakeholders is lacking.

A small solar system in front of a store in downtown Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Renewables can help meet people's energy needs in countries like Cambodia, which face energy shortages and high electricity costs. Photo by fototrav/iStock

Countries may need help addressing these challenges — both financial and capacity-related — to transition to a low-carbon economy.

This is where multilateral development banks come in. MDBs are increasingly shifting their focus to not only support economic growth in developing countries, but also ensure that this growth is sustainable and low carbon. Because they operate at the nexus of public and private finance, MDBs can play a supporting role in overcoming investment hurdles and catalyzing private finance for clean energy. This can include financing projects directly, lowering risks for private investors, or helping governments build their capacity to develop policies and regulations to support the clean energy transition.

Three MDBs operate in South and Southeast Asia: the World Bank Group, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). By collaborating with local partners, each other and other international organizations, they can help speed the transition to renewable energy in this critical region and ensure all of its people have access to clean, reliable, affordable power.

1) Support Projects to Modernize Grids and Transmission Infrastructure

Despite a growing pipeline of clean energy projects dominated by wind and solar, many countries lack the grid and transmission infrastructure needed to transition to clean energy. Renewables require modernized battery storage, transmission, distribution and power management systems; without them, even a grid with ample renewable resources will have to turn to fossil fuels when sun and wind are scarce or when electricity needs are surging. A modern grid is also important for matching demand and supply — ensuring that generated electricity is available where and when it is most needed.

This is particularly true in South and Southeast Asia. In Thailand, for example, the government has enacted policies to increase renewable power generation. But their impact has been constrained by the country's limited transmission grid, which is unable to handle large-scale renewable deployment — especially to serve the region's large, growing cities. Fragmented island nations like the Philippines and Indonesia may also need distributed generation facilities, built in many locations, to reach remote communities.

Windmills and powerlines flank a road in Tamil Nadu, India. As countries scale up renewable energy sources like solar and wind, it's equally important that they modernize their grid infrastructure to deliver clean power to end users and help balance supply and demand. Photo by Kamionsky/iStock

Grid modernization projects face even higher barriers to private investment than many renewable installations. This is primarily because the public ownership of grid infrastructure (often through state-owned-enterprises) makes it better suited to public financing. In addition, the grid — which includes pylons, wires, transformers and more — is physically extensive. Upgrading it means dealing with landowners, permits, and a bevy of local authorities and their permitting departments. MDBs can help overcome these complexities and bring transmission projects to fruition.

The Asian Development Bank, for example, has designed projects to improve transmission infrastructure while also expanding electricity access locally. ADB provided loans to Nepal's government to upgrade transmission and distribution infrastructure and power management systems in the Kathmandu Valley. These upgrades have increased access to renewable power and helped Nepal move away from expensive and polluting diesel generators to meet peoples' daily electricity needs.

In addition to grid improvement loans, MDBs can provide training in power management and modeling tools to enable utilities to better anticipate supply and demand. They can support the modernization of countries' power markets and associated regulations. And they can provide expertise and legal resources to help strengthen power purchase agreements (PPAs) to lock in demand and provide more flexible power systems.

2) Reduce Investment Risks to Attract More Private Finance

For developing countries, attracting private finance for clean energy is especially difficult because investments are seen as riskier. In markets where utilities struggle financially, investors face "off-taker credit risk," or the risk of not being paid for power output. Supply chain risks can cause delays in obtaining equipment. Investors are also wary of losing money due to unexpected fluctuations in local currencies. Where bankers and investors are unfamiliar with newer business models associated with clean energy projects, these risks may be perceived as larger than they really are.

These real and perceived risks constrain clean energy finance by raising the cost of capital. Interest rates for borrowing money in developing countries can be 3 times higher, on average, than the rates in developed countries, thereby making it harder for renewables projects to be economical.

To help attract private capital to traditionally "risky" countries, MDBs have proven effective at de-risking investments through a variety of strategies. This can include providing grants or low-interest loans as well as blended finance support (which combines public with private finance), such as concessional debt capital, insurance and partial risk guarantees. By lowering risks, MDBs can help attract investment from private investors, commercial banks and national development banks.

In Bangladesh, the World Bank and Global Environment Facility have joined other development finance institutions in funding the country's Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), a non-bank financial institution established by the government in 1997. Leveraging more than $400 million in financing provided by the World Bank for its Solar Home Systems program, IDCOL has been able to provide local partner organizations, such as Grameen Shakti, with more than $500 million in credit and almost $100 million in grants. These local partners then offer microfinance loans and direct subsidies to homeowners who install solar power. Between 2003 and 2020, the program helped provide electricity services to 20 million people, increasing the percentage of Bangladesh's population with access to energy from 27% to 97%.

Expanding access to this type of support will require ramping up MDBs' coordination at the country level with both local development and commercial banks. Efforts among MDBs to standardize risk underwriting and concessional credit lines for borrowers would help scale up this support and facilitate more lending by local banks.

Rooftop solar panels in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Financial support from the World Bank and other development banks has helped supply clean electricity to more than 20 million people in the country. Photo by NurPhoto SRL/Alamy Stock Photo 3) Work with Governments to Enable Country-level Energy Transitions

As in most regions, some countries in South and Southeast Asia lack policies that can support the clean energy transition by giving markets clear signals about the future of renewables.

Persistent fossil fuel subsidies create strong disincentives in many countries for energy users to switch to renewables; this is the case with Bangladesh's subsidies for kerosene. Some countries offer no tax rebates for renewable energy projects. And firms avoid investing in clean energy in countries where energy planning, permitting and procurement policies are onerous or unclear. Cambodia, for example, has no standardized procedures for securing approval for new renewables projects from the relevant energy authority. The resulting lack of coordination among government ministries can lead to delays and increase project development costs.

Governments, local banks and other stakeholders in the region may also lack internal capacity and resources to create strong policy and regulatory systems that support renewables. Thailand, for example, has no auction frameworks specifically for renewable energy projects. MDBs can help address these issues by working directly with governments and local financial institutions in the design and financing of countries' energy strategies and development "platforms."

This is an opportunity for MDBs to expand their impact by leveraging their experience, expertise and convening power. Examples include:

  • Sharing climate and development analyses among funders. For example, the World Bank's Country Climate and Development Reports (CCDR) analyze what actions are needed at the national level to meet both climate and sustainable development goals. These could be used across banks to ensure that all funders involved have access to the same information.
  • Blending financial capabilities to finance large portfolios of projects and accelerate the energy transition across the region. MDBs that have the ability to design policy-based lending, which provides finance in exchange for policy action, could explore ways to provide the full suite of their capabilities, including reforming energy markets and innovative financing. This could benefit country-led clean energy initiatives and provide a stable and supportive policy backdrop for sustained financing of this sector.
  • Building capacity among local institutions. MDBs can also share expertise with national development banks, working with local banks' workforces to source and finance clean energy project pipelines. And they can support governments in creating financial mechanisms to help scale up investments. Since 2018, for example, the World Bank has been collaborating with PT-SMI — a special vehicle under Indonesia's Ministry of Finance — to build their technical capacity to issue "green bonds" in Indonesia.
4) Improve International Coordination to Bolster Clean Energy Investment

Even with assistance at the project and country level, scaling up clean energy financing throughout South and Southeast Asia will require a more coordinated effort by governments, MDBs and other institutions to address barriers that affect the entire region.

Consider green bonds, for example, which are a type of bond that can be used by governments or the private sector to raise funds for climate and other environmentally friendly action. A survey of investors and underwriters carried out by ADB in 2022 showed broad agreement across the region that providing credit enhancement for the underwriting of green bonds, such as risk insurance, could lower the price of borrowing and thus support investments in clean energy. However, it also identified a range of shared barriers among countries interested in using this financial tool. These include uncertainties around the level of government support for clean energy and different definitions of what would qualify for green bonds. Concerted effort among regional development banks to coordinate green bond definitions (as seen in the EU) could spur an increase in this type of finance.

Other ways MDBs can facilitate international collaboration on clean energy deployment include:

  • International and regional MDBs can collaborate more systematically to address regional transmission challenges. In 2024, the World Bank and African Development Bank announced a partnership to help 300 million people in Africa gain access to electricity through distributed renewable energy systems or grid-connected electricity. By focusing the different partners' energies on both addressing transmission challenges and mobilizing private capital at scale, MDBs could potentially replicate such an initiative in South and Southeast Asia. ADB's 2017 Cambodia Solar Power Project could also be a source of inspiration for partnerships of this kind with a private mobilization aspect.
  • MDBs can work with national development banks in the region to aggregate projects and facilitate private investment. One challenge for projects in low-income countries is that small-sized clean energy producers often don't have access to finance; this is partly because financiers are not willing to pay the high transaction costs associated with taking up multiple smaller deals. One solution is to pool similar types of projects across countries or even regions and aggregate them to enable cross-learning and increase ticket sizes for private investors. National development banks may be better placed to handle these types of aggregated projects in specific areas. Engagement between multilateral and national development banks could also open opportunities to develop project pipelines for larger projects, share risk across clean energy portfolios, and share institutional knowledge and capacity.
  • MDBs can work with other global entities to scale up facilities to mitigate currency risk, one of the common barriers to investment in the region. The latest evaluation of the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency showed that the deployment of guarantees hinges upon currency depreciations and cost overruns, as well as construction delays. To address this, MDBs can work with local banks or existing platforms to provide mechanisms to hedge currency risk or find scalable solutions for lending in local currency.
Turning the Tide on Fossil Fuels

Shifting from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy is the most urgent priority to curb climate change and sustainably meet Asia's growing energy needs. It's also one of the most difficult. A successful and equitable transition will require collaboration at every level; from national and local governments to utilities, private companies, the financial sector and international institutions. While national governments must take the lead, development banks and others can and should serve as partners.

As multilateral development banks continue to incorporate climate considerations into their operations, supporting the energy transition in South and Southeast Asia offers an opportunity to make a significant impact. By drawing on their financial firepower, convening ability, experience with private financiers and policy acumen, MDBs can help turn the tide on fossil fuels and help some of the world's most dynamic countries meet their growing energy needs more sustainably.

solar-panels-da-nhim-vietnam.jpg Finance Asia Finance multilateral development banks Clean Energy Type Commentary Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Authors Valerie Laxton Kamal Ali Laura Van Wie McGrory
margaret.overholt@wri.org

4 Takeaways from the Recent Congo Basin Forest Partnership Meeting (MOP20)

3 semanas ago
4 Takeaways from the Recent Congo Basin Forest Partnership Meeting (MOP20) nicole.greenfi… Fri, 06/28/2024 - 10:28

The 20th Meeting of Parties (MOP20) of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) convened June 3-5, 2024. Over 600 leaders, activists and researchers from 11 Congo Basin and partner countries met in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to share best practices and inform the collective agenda for managing the region’s rainforests. MOP20 also aimed at enabling parties to harmonize narratives ahead of the three upcoming UN conferences (COPs) on climate change, biodiversity and desertification.  

Despite being driven by a forest conservation agenda, MOP20 significantly underscored the urgency of finding the fine balance between conservation and economic development imperatives. As shown by WRI’s analysis, threats to the world’s largest carbon sink — the Congo Basin rainforests — are continuing to rise year after year. In 2023 alone, the Democratic Republic of Congo lost over half a million hectares of natural forests.  

MOP20 stressed that Indigenous people and local communities should be placed front and center of all efforts to reduce the current worrying trends of poverty, forest and biodiversity loss, and climate vulnerability. They should be given the opportunity to steer the conversation around conservation, restoration and management practices of the forests that they have safeguarded for centuries. Halting deforestation or sticking to 1.5 degrees C will work only if we drastically shift narratives.  

It was inspiring to learn how grassroots organizations influenced the recent Indigenous People Legislation in the DRC and how they are mapping hundreds of thousands of hectares of land to help their communities obtain and manage community forests. Even more, the recent progress on free, prior and informed consent in the Republic of Congo, and the gradual inclusion of forest-dependent communities in land-use planning processes across the region, are beacons of hope. These are only a few examples, within a constellation of little and unseen successes led by Indigenous people and their supporters. 

The declaration of the 20th MOP underscores the renewal of ambitions by members to protect the Congo Basin ecosystems, and to move jointly toward the next conference in Belém, Brazil, in 2025 to give the forests of Central Africa the visibility they deserve. The declaration also highlighted recommendations from the thematic sessions. 

Below are WRI’s four key takeaways following MOP20: 

1. Innovative Financing for Economic Development in the Congo Basin 

As the world’s second-largest tropical forest and the biggest carbon sink, the Congo Basin forests hold immense potential to drive economic development in the region. Spanning 178 million hectares across six counties in Central Africa, the Congo Basin regulates much of the continent’s rainfall patterns, determining the availability of freshwater and food. Protecting it is critical for the health and prosperity of the continent — and the world. But it’s impossible to do that without simultaneously improving the livelihoods of people who depend on it for food, fuel, ancestral medicine and much more. 

One major contributor to deforestation is the unsustainable production of charcoal, the main source of energy for 90% of the population. It is also a source of income for many people. Addressing this problem — and other drivers of deforestation such as subsistence agriculture — will require financing mechanisms that will foster the development of alternative energy sources as well as income. Public and private funding from both international and national sources must be mobilized to create new development pathways, away from unsustainable forest management practices and toward a low carbon, flourishing economy for the people of the Congo Basin.  

WRI’s work in Brazil and Indonesia shows that, with the right policies in place, it is possible to end deforestation, create new jobs, and a thriving, low-carbon economy. This can be replicated in the context of the Congo Basin, where the protection of forests benefits its people, including youth and Indigenous communities. 

2. Building Institutional Capacity for Sustainable Management of Forest Resources 

Weak institutional capacity and unclear roles in the forest sector are big challenges for effectively managing forest resources in the Congo Basin. The success of locally led initiatives hinges on the capacity of governments and public institutions, in addition to the private sector. Strengthening them through knowledge, research and tools can play a big role in helping Central African counties better manage their forests and land, and in enabling them to lead the global discourse on the Congo Basin. 

Initiatives like WRI’s Forest Atlases — through which we work with forest ministries to build the capacity of forest stakeholders in remote sensing, GIS and forest information management — are helping governments better manage and monitor lands.  

WRI also provides information that supports the development of national strategies on forest management through tools and platforms such as Global Forest Watch, Forest Watcher and Open Timber Portal

However, more needs to be done to get the right tools and information into the right hands, in ways that are accessible and relevant, and at a larger scale, to transform the institutional capacity of forest stakeholders. 

3. A New Narrative for Restoration in Central Africa 

Congo Basin countries committed to restore 34.5 million hectares of degraded lands, including farmlands, grasslands and forest landscapes, under the 2015 African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100). Making this ambition a reality will require harnessing the efforts of hundreds of “restoration champions”. These people, associations and enterprises across the sub-region are already restoring lands and landscapes, making the soil more productive while boosting local economies, bringing back biodiversity, helping adapt to the impacts of climate change, and increasing carbon stocks.  

Land and forest landscape restoration represent an amazingly untapped economic and food security opportunity. The project goes beyond is just planting trees. It increases the productivity of degraded landscapes, and improves many of the earth’s vital resources, such as food, water and air. It also has economic rewards: For every $1 investment, the economic return can range from $7–$30.  

As we are currently learning through Restore Local and other initiatives across Africa, this opportunity will only succeed if restoration champions have access to the right kind of capacity development programs, raise flexible and predictable finance though classic grant schemes and blended finance mechanisms, operate in an environment where policymakers collaboratively identify and address gaps in restoration-related policies, and monitor restoration efforts to enable champions to track, understand and celebrate their successes using both cutting-edge data and on-the-ground information. 

Bringing these four ingredients together is not an easy task. Central African governments can play a big role in formulating policies that protect land tenure rights, incentivizing restoration, putting risk mitigation mechanisms in place so that the private sector can invest, establishing coordination platforms where multiple stakeholders can coordinate efforts, promoting the economic benefits of restoration, and in general, fostering an institutional architecture that considers the existing socio-economic and ecological contexts to create an environment conducive for restoration. 

4. On the Road to Belém: What’s Needed Next? 

As we prepare to head to Belém next year, the people and leaders of the Congo Basin need to coordinate and amplify their voices around financing mechanisms to support their local and national economies, while preserving this unique ecosystem. At COP28 in Dubai, Brazil announced the launch of the Tropical Forests Forever fund, a financial instrument for standing forests, with contributions from countries with sovereign wealth funds and other investors. This $250 billion fund aims to encourage and compensate for forest protection, including in countries with large tropical rainforests like the Congo Basin. 

Recent diplomatic efforts, especially the Three-Basin Summit and the launch of an OPEC for the three rainforests, helped advance the agenda of a three-basin cooperation. However, a track 2 diplomacy effort led by Indigenous people and local communities, scientists, civil society leaders and the private sector is urgently needed. Grounded in science and traditional ecological knowledge, it should provide the substrata for organically building a common identity across the basins. 

congo.jpg Forests Democratic Republic of the Congo biodiversity Climate climate finance forest monitoring Type Project Update Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Authors Teodyl Nkuintchua Tsion Issayas
nicole.greenfield@wriconsultant.org

Kenya’s Farmers Restore Lands — and Hope — After Floods

3 semanas ago
Kenya’s Farmers Restore Lands — and Hope — After Floods shannon.paton@… Fri, 06/28/2024 - 09:55

As the first raindrops began to fall in March, Phylis David Kiveli, a farmer in Makueni County, Kenya, felt a wave of relief.

The previous year had been plagued by drought. Many farmers watched helplessly as their crops withered and animals died. This rainy season brought with it a promise of better yields. Kiveli, a member of Ahadi Achievers Empowerment CBO (AAE), an organization restoring degraded landscapes in the Greater Rift Valley, was optimistic that her fruit tree seedlings would soon bloom. From her many years of farming, she knew that the rains would start lightly in March, build up in April, and slowly subside in May.

But this time, things were different.

Women escape floods in northeastern Kenya. Photo by Development Response-Kenya (DREK)

It rained ceaselessly, day and night. By May, rains still poured.

“I have never seen such heavy rains in my entire life,” Kiveli said. “My only two cows were swept away, and I lost a section of my farm. We couldn't go outside. There was water everywhere.”

Nearly 300 people died and more than 160 went missing due to Kenya’s unusually heavy rains in March-May 2024. Over 50,000 households were displaced after a series of flash floods closed schools, interrupted health services and destroyed thousands of acres of crops in the East African country.

Anthony Muchiri is the executive director of Development Response-Kenya (DREK), a youth-led organization that plants trees on farms — a practice known as agroforestry — in northeastern Kenya’s Garissa County. While more mature trees can usually withstand floods and other extreme weather, DREK’s main nursery lost 80,000 saplings when a river burst its banks, submerging nearby farms for several weeks.

“We had planted mostly neem and mango trees and were expecting a good yield,” he said. “The flood waters destabilized the tree’s root systems that we had just planted, and we watched sadly as they were washed away.”

Muchiri and Kiveli are both “restoration champions” with TerraFund for AFR100, a fund co-managed by WRI that supports local projects to restore degraded landscapes in Africa — activities like agroforestry, growing native trees and fruits, sustainable farming and more. They’re two of countless smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs who lost crops, animals or property during Kenya’s floods.

But just as these farmers are victims of the extreme floods, so, too, are they architects of a solution: Restoring the Greater Rift Valley’s denuded landscapes can help communities better withstand shocks like floods, droughts and other escalating disasters.

Indigenous women plant native trees to restore Kenya's degraded landscapes and build resilience against escalating threats from climate change. Photo by Third Factor Productions/WRI A Changing Landscape in Kenya’s Greater Rift Valley

Kenya and parts of East Africa typically experience two rainy seasons: the “long rains” from March to May, and the “short rains” from October to December. This year, Kenya’s weather agency predicted that the long rains would bring flooding and landslides. And they did.

They weren’t a one-off event. Climate change is fundamentally altering weather patterns in Kenya, causing both too much rainfall at some moments and too little at others. This year’s floods were preceded by a devastating drought the previous year. In Garissa County, Muchiri’s organization has joined several food drive appeals over the last few years to save families fleeing in desperate search for food and pasture.

And then there’s the land degradation that makes communities more vulnerable to floods, droughts, landslides and other natural disasters being intensified by climate change. In Kenya, nearly 80% of the land is eroded, nutrient-depleted, deforested or otherwise degraded. The key drivers are deforestation, overgrazing and unsustainable land use practices such as overusing fertilizers, up-down hill ploughing, and development along rivers and lakes. Farming and harvesting sand too close to the riverbanks have caused them to collapse, releasing sediment into waterways. In addition to polluting the water, the sediment increases lake levels and causes rivers to burst their banks, leading to frequent flooding.

Villagers haul firewood from a forest. In Kenya, nearly 80% of the landscape is eroded, nutrient-depleted or otherwise degraded. Deforestation is a major driver. Photo by Jake Lyell/Alamy Stock Photo

Desertification is also intensifying due to deforestation and unsustainable land management. Once-fertile landscapes have transformed into arid deserts, threatening millions of inhabitants and severely reducing the land’s productivity.

Restoring Degraded Landscapes Offers Hope

Revitalizing this degraded landscape is paramount to improving local livelihoods, long-term food security, biodiversity conservation and climate stability. It’s also essential for building resilience to increasingly dangerous floods, droughts and other impacts of climate change.

For example, increasing tree cover through agroforestry and tree planting in degraded forests and along waterways can enhance water absorption and reduce the speed of water flow. Adopting sustainable agricultural practices such as terracing, cover cropping, mulching and cultivating across slopes also greatly reduces flood risks.

Indeed, restoration and “green infrastructure” enhances the land's capacity to manage water effectively. Planting trees and grasses increases ground cover, intercepts rainfall, and allows more water to infiltrate the soil, reducing surface runoff and boosting water security. The roots of these plants stabilize the soil, preventing erosion. Wetlands, when restored, act as natural reservoirs that absorb excess rainwater and release it slowly, reducing the likelihood of peak flows in rivers.

Small Farmers and Local Entrepreneurs Are Key to Kenya’s Restoration

It’s people like Kiveli, Muchiri and hundreds of community organizations, small business owners and farmers who are doing this kind of work to restore the Greater Rift Valley’s denuded landscapes. Through TerraFund for AFR100, individuals receive grants, loans and equity investments, as well as training and assistance to launch restoration-focused businesses like sustainable farms or tree nurseries. Their work is essential to revitalizing Africa’s millions of acres of degraded land: Research shows that locally led restoration projects — as opposed to those run by governments or international NGOs — are 6-20 times more likely to achieve long-term success and benefit communities.

TerraFund for AFR100 provides grants, loans, technical assistance and other support to help achieve Africa’s goal of restoring 100 million hectares of degraded lands by 2030. It is managed by WRI, One Tree Planted, Realize Impact and Barka.

Funders for the TerraFund for AFR100 Top 100 cohort include Bezos Earth Fund, Meta, Good Energies Foundation, Lyda Hill Philanthropies, DOEN Foundation, AKO Foundation, and Caterpillar Foundation. Bezos Earth Fund and The Audacious Project anchor the TerraFund for AFR100 Landscapes cohort. Learn more.

For example, Caroline Mwangi is the founder of Kimplanter Seedlings and Nursery Limited, a seedling propagation company in Ruiru in central Kenya. Kimplanter started her business in 2012, and this year, received a loan through TerraFund for AFR100 to continue land restoration projects. Her business grows trees and trains other small-scale farmers on the best climate-smart agricultural practices and how to access quality seedlings. While she lost her greenhouses, seedlings and shade nets to the recent floods, she plans to rebuild and continue the work.

Tecla Chumba, chair of the Community Social Environmental Association in Eladama Ravin, Baringo County has been rallying community members to rehabilitate the degraded Chemususu and Narasha forests using a grant from TerraFund.

“Communities hold the key to restoration,” she said. “Communities are where the real action is, where the deserts and forests are. It is where the degradation is happening. So you have to involve them in the restoration.”

They have now partnered with the organization Kenya Forest and are incentivizing community members to grow several species of trees in the forests and on their small farms.

Restoration champions in Kenya are restoring trees and other vegetation to the landscape to mitigate floods, droughts and other climate-related disasters. Photo by Third Factor Production/WRI Starting a Restoration Revolution in Kenya and Beyond

Admittedly, restoration is not the magic pill that will erase all the climate change-related problems the world faces. Nor will it alone fully protect Kenya from the kinds of floods experienced earlier this year. That will take more comprehensive efforts—from better early warning systems to more adaptation planning and finance.

However, investing in local communities and empowering them to participate in finding solutions goes a long way in forest and landscape restoration. TerraFund restoration champions say disasters such as floods and drought might set them back, but they are reminders that people need to take care of their environment. They are not giving up — even if it means starting over more than once.

But to truly restore Africa’s degraded landscapes and build resilience for a changing future, farmers, community organizations and entrepreneurs need support. Only a few hundred of the thousands of restoration champions who have applied for funding and training through TerraFund have received assistance due to limited capacity. Traditional finance is often inaccessible for small- and medium-sized restoration enterprises, with high interest rates and unsuitable repayment terms. Effective monitoring of tree growth is crucial for verifying impact and securing funding, but requires expensive tools like satellites and drones. And few governments allocate funding for restoration activities or incentivize restoration entrepreneurship, despite clear economic and public health benefits.

Despite these challenges, restoration champions like Kiveli, Mwangi and Muchiri are not giving up. They know that the young saplings they plant today will grow into trees that can make entire communities more resilient.

“We are determined to raise more than 50,000 seedlings for our next planting season,” said Muchiri.  “Slowly but surely, we shall get there.”

Caroline Njiru and Teresa Muthoni also contributed to this article.

CORRECTION, 7/10/2024: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said cashew trees are native to Kenya. Cashew trees are not native to the country. We regret the error.

restoration-avocados.jpg Forest and Landscape Restoration Africa Kenya floods extreme weather agriculture Forests Freshwater Forest and Landscape Restoration Type Vignette Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Authors Mercy Orengo
shannon.paton@wri.org

Campinas, Brazil, Launches Integrated Climate Action Plan

3 semanas ago
Campinas, Brazil, Launches Integrated Climate Action Plan ciara.regan@wri.org Thu, 06/27/2024 - 14:42

Climate challenges are cross-cutting and systemic. From how we build our cities to how we consume and generate energy to how we commute, climate change must be factored in. 

This is the approach Campinas, Brazil, is taking in its Local Climate Action Plan (PLAC). The plan affirms the city's commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and outlines priority actions to get there while also promoting climate justice and the well-being of the population.

The document was launched through the signing of a municipal decree on June 27 in a ceremony at the City Hall, where the city’s mayor, Dario Saadi, and other authorities were present, as well as WRI experts who participated in the technical support given to the city, under the Integrated Climate Action initiative.

Campinas's new Climate Action Plan was launched at City Hall on June 27, 2024. Photo by Carlos Bassan/Prefeitura Municipal de Campinas Campinas's Integrated Climate Action

The PLAC combines the actions of the various municipal sectors to generate the necessary changes to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while increasing the city's resilience in the face of extreme events and improving the quality of life of the population. This vision is reflected in the policy's five strategic objectives: to ensure that urban services are resilient, low-carbon, efficient and accessible to all; to protect communities and the natural and built environments from climate risks; to promote compact, connected and resilient urban design that prioritizes people and nature; to ensure that no one is left behind by adopting inclusive and equitable approaches and actions; and to promote sustainable low-carbon local development and the reduction of GHG emissions in the city.

The plan is structured around five axes of action: renewable, reliable energy and resilient buildings for all; resilient basic sanitation; urban mobility and sustainable transport systems; climate-smart urban and rural development; and education, resilience and climate integration. The axes contain 20 actions, 96 sub-actions and about 150 key activities, with deadlines for completion and responsible sectors or actors.

A cyclist crosses the street on a well-marked bike path in the Nova Campinas neighborhood. Improving urban design to support safe, clean, inclusive mobility is one facet of Campinas's new Climate Action Plan. Photo by Carlos Bassan/Prefeitura Municipal de Campinas Support from WRI

To guide the development of the PLAC, WRI applied a pilot methodology that seeks to reduce the time between planning and implementation and, as one of its products, included a document that shows a path to unlock key aspects for the implementation of the planned actions. The process lasted 15 months and included workshops with different sectors of the city and technical studies aligned with the most current climate science. The studies included updating the inventory of GHG emissions, projecting climate hazards and supporting the construction of GHG scenarios. 

Other documents and policies developed with support from WRI Brasil also informed the plan. The Multiscale Municipal Strategy for the Adoption of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS), prepared in 2022 under the Cities4Forests program, supported the review of the city's environmental plans and is reflected in the incorporation of NBS in different axes of the PLAC. Within the scope of the TUMI E-Bus Mission, WRI supports Campinas in planning the electrification of its bus fleet. This planning process is reflected in the targets of decarbonizing 40% of the city’s public transport fleet by 2040 and 70% by 2050.

Commitment to Integrated Action 

PLAC is the most recent point in a long trajectory of commitment to people, nature and the climate. The evidence base, integration and alignment with the various policies that affect the territory and multi-level governance are premises that every city must consider when planning its own actions.

plano-local-de-acao-climatica-campinas.jpg Cities Brazil National Climate Action Climate Climate Governance greenhouse gases Cities Urban Development Urban Efficiency & Climate Popular Type Project Update Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Authors Fernando Correa Raisa de Castro Soares
ciara.regan@wri.org

Canada's Record-breaking 2023 Wildfires Released Nearly 4 Times More Carbon than Global Aviation

3 semanas 1 día ago
Canada's Record-breaking 2023 Wildfires Released Nearly 4 Times More Carbon than Global Aviation shannon.paton@… Thu, 06/27/2024 - 08:52

Canada’s 2023 wildfires made international headlines, causing billions of dollars in property damage, displacing thousands of people from their homes, and spewing air pollution that traveled as far as Europe and China. A new analysis shows that the wildfires also had a massive effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

Researchers from WRI’s Global Forest Watch initiative and the University of Maryland find that wildfires burned roughly 7.8 million hectares of forests in Canada in 2023 — more than 6 times the annual average since 2001. This amount of tree cover loss produced roughly 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide — nearly 4 times the carbon emissions of the global aviation sector in 2022, and 25% more than from all tropical primary forest loss combined in 2023.

Unlike emissions from tropical deforestation, which involve a permanent change in land use, most of the carbon emitted from wildfires will eventually be recovered by Canada’s forests over time as they regrow. However, it will take these forests decades to re-absorb all the carbon dioxide that was emitted in just a single year; meanwhile, time is in short supply to prevent irreversible damage from climate change.

While 2023 wildfires were exceptionally bad, they are part of a growing trend of forest fires becoming more frequent and severe. And yet due to Canada’s emissions accounting methods, most of the country’s wildfire-related emissions will not be officially reported in the UN’s global inventory, despite their substantial contribution to climate change.

Climate Change Is Fueling Wildfires in Canada

The 2023 wildfires in Canada accounted for more than a quarter of all tree cover loss globally that year and were largely driven by unusually hot temperatures and low precipitation. Québec, Northwest Territories, Alberta and British Columbia all experienced record high tree cover loss due to fires in 2023.

Though forest fires in Canada and other northern boreal forests are a common and natural occurrence, drier, hotter conditions caused by climate change are leading to fires that are larger and more frequent than in past decades. One study estimates that the annual area burned in Canada increased more than 30,000 hectares per year between 1959 and 2015. Another recent analysis from WRI shows that globally, forest fires are burning nearly twice as much tree cover today as they did 20 years ago.

This trend is likely driven by the fact that in parts of Canada and other northern latitudes, land surface temperatures are warming at rates roughly double the global average. Higher temperatures caused by climate change dry out the landscape and make forests more susceptible to fire, driving longer fire seasons and larger forest fires. As larger forested areas burn, more carbon is emitted into the atmosphere, further exacerbating climate change and contributing to even more fires as part of a fires-climate feedback loop.

With climate change expected to increase annual burned area by 30-50% globally by the end of the century, wildfires will become an increasingly large source of carbon emissions, further exacerbating climate change. Correctly accounting for them in global emissions inventories is essential for accurately assessing atmospheric emissions and progress towards climate goals, such as the international target to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels.

Emissions from Canada’s Wildfires Are Largely Excluded from its GHG Inventory

There is currently a large gap between emissions reported by countries and what is measured directly in the atmosphere. And, while this is largely by design to target anthropogenic sources and many of the differences between GHG inventories and global atmospheric models have largely been explained and reconciled, the build-up of GHGs in the atmosphere still does not match the cumulative impact of national reporting.

Part of the reason is that the UN only requires countries to document emissions that are anthropogenic, or human-caused, to track progress against the world’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) above pre-industrial levels. Because it is difficult to assess which emissions and removals are caused by land management and land use changes, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) methodology used for estimating GHG emissions allows countries to designate portions of their lands as “managed” (areas where human interventions have been applied for production, ecological or social functions) and “unmanaged” (areas where no human activity is present) to better differentiate between anthropogenic and natural sources of GHGs.

The problem is that there’s a lot of ambiguity around the definition of what counts as managed land and whether natural disturbances in managed lands count as anthropogenic emissions.

Because managed lands are more likely to be influenced by human activity, countries agreed to focus their GHG reporting there. But they did not agree on a definition for what constitutes managed land, or how to report GHG emissions and removals from natural disturbances in those areas. Therefore, countries are free to interpret the definition in a wide variety of ways.

Canada is unique from many other countries in that it excludes all wildfire-related emissions and removals in its “managed” lands from official reporting to focus more directly on anthropogenic sources of emissions, like timber harvesting. However, the UN and others have questioned this approach. During a technical review of the inventory Canada submitted in 2021, reviewers noted that Canada did not provide enough information to justify their assumption that all emissions and removals from stand-replacing fires in managed forests are non-anthropogenic. Furthermore, one recent study found that excluding wildfire emissions in managed forests in Canada may underestimate GHG emissions in the country by 80 million tons per year.

In June 2023, smoke from Canada’s wildfires caused dangerous levels of air pollution in New York City. Canada’s 2023 wildfires were record-breaking, accounting for more than a quarter of all tree cover loss globally that year. Photo by Uygar Ozal/Alamy Stock Photo Accounting for the Full Impact of Wildfires

The reality is that the lines between “natural” and “anthropogenic” wildfires are blurring. Research shows that roughly half of all fires in Canada are directly started by people and, on average, they account for about 20% of the area burned each year. Furthermore, human-driven climate change is making fire seasons longer, resulting in larger and more frequent wildfires. By excluding all emissions and removals in managed forests affected by natural disturbances, Canada’s national GHG inventory may be underestimating land-based carbon emissions.

The full impact of Canada’s record-breaking wildfire season reveals a lesson for all countries: Fighting forest fires — and accurately accounting for their emissions — are critical measures for overcoming the world’s growing climate crisis.

Canada_fires_2023.jpg Forests Forests fires GHG emissions climate change Type Finding Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Authors James MacCarthy Alexandra Tyukavina Mikaela Weisse Nancy Harris
shannon.paton@wri.org

How Faith Communities in Latin America Are Defending Land and Lives

3 semanas 2 días ago
How Faith Communities in Latin America Are Defending Land and Lives margaret.overh… Wed, 06/26/2024 - 09:30

"If we lose nature, we lose ourselves, too."

Those were the words of one female faith leader whose community was endangered by construction of the Belo Monte Dam in Altamira, Brazil. The dam, which started operating in 2016, flooded Indigenous land and displaced more than 40,000 families, many of whom are still waiting for adequate resettlement. Construction also led to severe environmental damage, leading local fishers to talk of "the dam killing off the river."

This faith leader is one of countless members of local communities standing up to threats facing the forests, rivers and ecosystems they rely on for their food, medicine, livelihoods and cultural traditions. It's an increasingly dangerous prospect: Latin America is the deadliest region for environmental defenders, with over 1,000 losing their lives since 2012 and many more facing intimidation, harassment and threats to their lives and families.

But they do not stand alone: New research from WRI and the Laudato Si' Research Institute finds that faith communities in Latin America play a critical role in defending life and territory.

Indeed, some faith communities in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico are redefining their roles beyond traditional religious practices to become active defenders of territories, ecosystems and the people protecting them. These faith groups provide not only moral and spiritual support to environmental activists, but also practical resources and networks that enhance their safety and effectiveness.

Halting Oil Exploration in Caquetá, Colombia

In the department of Caquetá, Colombia, nestled at the heart of the Colombian Amazon, faith communities are organizing to resist oil exploration led by multinational companies with support of the Colombian government. If completed, the El Nogal oil bloc would be the largest oil exploration project in the Colombian Amazon, covering 239,415 hectares. And it would threaten the health of people and ecosystems in the region due to water and soil contamination.

Demonstration against the El Nogal oil project in Caquetá, Colombia. Photo courtesy of  CVA via Facebook

Caquetá and its residents are no strangers to socio-environmental conflict. For decades, government policies have promoted foreign investment in industries like fossil fuels and mining and export-oriented crops, and have loosened environmental regulations. This encouraged extraction of the region's rich natural resources and the expansion of agriculture. As a result, Caquetá has seen rapid deforestation: It lost 791,000 hectares of forest cover between 2000 and 2021, an area nearly the size of Puerto Rico. Nearby communities say Caquetá's river basin, which represents 31% of the Colombian Amazon, has also been depleted and polluted by these activities.

Local people bear the brunt of this environmental degradation. Many have experienced chronic health problems driven by pollution, lost access to drinkable water, lost their livelihoods and even been forced to migrate.

The Catholic Church's Vicaría del Sur was created to defend Caquetá's people and nature from these threats. The group's work centers on supporting environmental defenders and fostering unity rooted in a spiritual belief that "water is life." Its Comisiones por la Vida del Agua ("Commissions for the Life of Water") emerged in direct response to new oil exploration projects in the 2010s. These are non-formal and non-hierarchical civil society organizations where local faith communities meet to coalesce, reflect and strategize actions of resistance that protect water, on which all life depends. Their work is grounded in a faith-based worldview which motivates social and ecological transformation and gives perseverance and strength to carry on despite adversity.

By blending spirituality and human rights, the Comisiones por la Vida del Agua have become hubs for nonviolent collective action and have so far halted the proposed El Nogal project and others in the region. They have acted through protests and symbolic activities of resistance across Caquetá, such as special water liturgies, and organized rural communities to care for the Amazon "as practice of faith." Collaborating with other social actors in the region, the Comisiones have provided local communities critical training about human rights, land titling and more. They have also facilitated community water monitoring, giving local communities the tools to defend their rights and protect their land.

It has been eight years since the companies behind El Nogal entered Caquetá to begin oil exploration. Despite receiving their environmental license, they have not been able to carry out exploratory studies beyond seismic studies. As the license expired in September 2023, it is very likely that such explorations will not take place. The Comisiones continue their work, increasingly joining with other civil society organizations to provide alternative economic and social opportunities in harmony with Nature such as through agro-ecology initiatives.

The Catholic Church’s Comisiones por la Vida del Agua not only oppose environmentally destructive projects, but also support communities in developing more sustainable economic opportunities. Its Finca Amazónica (“Amazonian Farm”), seen here, teaches regenerative agricultural techniques in harmony with nature. Photo courtesy of CVA via Facebook Resisting the "Highway of Cultures" in Chiapas, Mexico

The "Carretera de las Culturas" (Highway of Cultures) in Chiapas, Mexico is a planned 157 km highway due to connect the municipalities of San Cristóbal in the southwest of Chiapas to that of Palenque in the northeast, and to connect there with the Tren Maya, the intercity railway currently under construction on the Yucatán Peninsula. In addition to land loss and ecological damage from the highway, local communities fear it will bring industrial, extractive and other ecologically damaging economic activities to the region.

The project activated a large faith-led social movement known as the "Movimiento en Defensa de la Vida y el Territorio" (Movement in Defense of Life and Territory, or "Modevite"). Modevite comprises a wide range of Catholic and Indigenous communities, including tseltales, tsotsiles, and ch'oles, and is part of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas. The movement is working to resist the Highway of Cultures by empowering local indigenous people to establish a robust civil society foundation, acquire comprehensive knowledge of their rights, and foster extensive social cohesion.

A Modevite pilgrimage in November 2023. Photo by Araceli Téllez Haro

Modevite argues against the dominant narrative that mega-infrastructure projects will bring greater socio-economic opportunities to local communities in the region. It works instead toward developing alternative models of socio-economic development, such as agroecology and social and solidarity economy initiatives. It aims to create local and dignified employment for youth and protect what the group calls "Mother Earth" and all life in the territory.

Our research shows that faith has played an integral part in Modevite's efforts. Its work has been facilitated by the historical and current work of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas in human rights training, biblical formation, social programs, and nonviolence education, among others. These have helped foster a sense of belonging, unity, solidarity, persistence and hope in the face of structural violence and systemic adversity.

The group faces complex and overwhelming challenges. Modevite members cite threats of organized crime, poverty, social exclusion, racism and ecological degradation related to the highway project. In 2023, five indigenous people from the Cancuc Modevite branch who opposed the highway were sentenced to 25 years in prison, charged for a murder of which they are innocent. Yet, faith, understood as connection with God and all life, is what gives them strength to overcome these challenges. As an informant from Modevite shared, "Having [a] connection to Nature within us is the basis of the defense of life and territories. The spirituality that our ancestors have given us is the only thing that gives us strength. Without spirituality, we cannot walk in this struggle."

A sign protesting the Highway of Cultures in Chiapas, Mexico. Photo by Araceli Téllez Haro Bolstering the Power of Faith Communities to Defend Life and Land

Faith communities can help build critical transformations in the fabric of Latin America's civil society. They can forge a deep sense of hope and unity among diverse ethnic groups and inspire a sense of solidarity in the face of immense environmental and development challenges.

Local faith communities can also leverage powerful networks. Recognition and support from global religious institutions can amplify the efforts of local communities, providing them with the visibility and resources needed to continue their work. For example, in Caquetá, the Catholic Church facilitated the funding of an alternative environmental impact assessment. More generally, Pope Francis has drawn attention in global media and policy platforms to the lives of indigenous communities and the situation in the Amazon region. In the words of one local religious leader in Altamira, Brazil, speaking about the Belo Monte dam, "The Church has always defended life. Nature is life. She is defending Nature, the life that comes from God. The Pope draws attention to this modern way of life of mercantilism and utilitarianism, we must fight against this."

However, these faith communities need more recognition and collaboration both within and outside of their organizations to make an even bigger impact.

In Chiapas, Mexico in 2016, women members of Modevite joined an 11-day pilgrimage in defense of Mother Earth and dignified life. Photo courtesy of Indymedia Mexico

In particular, despite their significant contributions, women within faith communities often lack formal recognition for their leadership roles, a disparity which underscores deeper ecclesial and societal structures. Yet, they are frequently at the forefront of movements, driving initiatives that not only challenge existing development models but also reimagine them. For example, in the Vicaría's work in Colombia, strategies of territorial protection include prioritizing women's empowerment, addressing gender exclusion and gender equality, and emphasizing female leadership. Addressing gender-based violence is also a priority of Modevite.

To truly realize the promise of sustainable, community-led development, international organizations, governments, and civil society must recognize and engage faith communities as essential partners in environmental defense. This involves:

  • Explicitly acknowledging the role of faith communities in socio-environmental disputes and their contributions to defending life and territories.
  • Supporting women's leadership and ensuring their contributions and the roles they play in defending life and territories are formally acknowledged and supported.
  • Embracing community-led development strategies that integrate the visions and values of local faith communities.
  • Providing financial and legal support so that faith communities have the financial resources and legal protections needed to continue their advocacy safely and effectively.
  • Using policy and civil society platforms — from community radios to social media activism, engagement in political advocacy coalitions and more — to amplify the voices and stories of faith communities and environmental defenders, making their struggles and successes visible to a broader audience.
With Faith Comes Hope

Faith communities bring unique perspectives and strategies to socio-environmental disputes that can play a key role in protecting both human and ecological life. But they cannot do it alone; all stakeholders must work together to support and amplify the efforts of these dedicated environmental defenders.

As the community leader from the Belo Monte case study explains, "The connection with life is the source of hope to reconstruct what has been destroyed. Without that connection, that strength coming from connection with forests, rivers and ancestors, there would be no motivation for the struggle... Our struggles are survival struggles. Rivers and forests are everything, without them, there is no life."

el-nogal-protestors.jpg Equity & Governance Latin America Equity & Governance Indigenous Peoples & Local Communities natural resources Type Finding Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Authors Carrick Reddin Séverine Deneulin Carlos Zepeda
margaret.overholt@wri.org

What Economics Does — or Doesn’t — Tell Us About the Climate Consequences of Using Wood

3 semanas 2 días ago
What Economics Does — or Doesn’t — Tell Us About the Climate Consequences of Using Wood margaret.overh… Wed, 06/26/2024 - 09:00

Timothy Searchinger is a Senior Research Scholar at Princeton University and Technical Director for Agriculture, Forestry and Ecosystems at WRI. This article was written in collaboration with Steve Berry, David Swenson Professor of Economics at Yale University and Faculty Director at the Tobin Center for Economic Policy.

 

To reduce global carbon emissions, should people harvest and use more wood or less? This question underlies the merits of policies that encourage power plants and heating facilities to burn more wood pellets and builders to construct more tall wood buildings. As one illustration of the question’s importance, the U.S. government has recently requested input on whether a lucrative tax credit for carbon-neutral electricity should apply to burning wood.

In the Carbon Costs of Global Wood Harvests, published in Nature in 2023, WRI researchers using a biophysical model estimated that annual wood harvests over the next few decades will emit 3.5-4.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. That is more than 3 times the world’s current annual average aviation emissions. These wood-harvest emissions occur because the great majority of carbon stored in trees is released to the atmosphere after harvest when roots and slash decompose; as most wood is burned directly for heat or electricity or for energy at sawmills or paper mills; and when discarded paper products, furniture and other wood products decompose or burn. Another recent paper in Nature found that the word’s remaining forests have lost even more carbon, primarily due to harvesting wood, than was lost historically by converting forests to agriculture (other studies have found similar results1). Based on these analyses, a natural climate solution would involve harvesting less wood and letting more forests regrow. This would store more carbon as well as enhance forest biodiversity.

Carbon Costs focused on the pure physical emissions from wood harvest and timber management relative to leaving forests alone. This is consistent with the approach used for decades by the IPCC and numerous other papers to estimate the emissions from new wood harvests.2 However, it differs from some papers that claim the carbon emitted to the atmosphere by harvesting and using wood should generally be ignored. These papers assume that wood is carbon neutral, just like solar or wind energy, so long as other forest tracts in a large area (often a whole country) are growing enough to keep the total amount of carbon stored in forests stable — which is true of forests in most countries. By itself, this argument makes little sense: If some parts of a country’s forests are not harvested, forests in that country overall will grow more and absorb more carbon, which reduces global warming. This rationale for carbon neutrality is roughly equivalent to claiming that a money-losing company does not lose money if a country’s companies are profitable overall.

Yet, some researchers, such as the developers of the Global Timber Model (GTM), also have a more refined argument for why harvesting wood causes low, no, or even negative emissions. In a blog and a critique submitted to Nature, their core claim is that the effect of forestry on carbon is an economic question that requires analysis using an economic model rather than a biophysical one. According to the GTM, increased wood demand for any one product leads to a range of results that can lower carbon costs; these include causing people to plant more forests, to reduce their consumption of other wood products, and to intensify forest management. The first idea, that increased wood demand leads to more forests, is related to a broader idea: that forests exist because of the demand for wood. This underlies the views of many others who see wood as carbon neutral.

The GTM is by far the most cited economic model for analyzing the carbon consequences of global wood use, so its findings could have serious policy implications. Importantly, the model has been used to claim the climate advantages of harvesting more wood for bioenergy, particularly to burn in power plants. One GTM paper estimates that substantially increasing demand for wood for bioenergy could lead to roughly 1.1 billion hectares of agricultural land being converted to forests around the world. That is an area almost four times the size of India and equal to more than 70% of current global croplands — which raises the question of where the world’s food would come from.

This dialogue, to which WRI has responded in an exchange under review at Nature, provides a useful basis for exploring the effects of wood consumption on climate change and what they mean for policy. The U.S. government has specifically asked for comments about the role of economic models in treating wood as carbon neutral or negative. Here, we take a closer look at both economic and biophysical models and what each does or doesn’t tell us about the climate consequences of using wood.

Does Increased Wood Demand Lead to More Forests?

Although economic models rely on a different logic, the GTM creators and others sometimes argue that the carbon released by harvesting trees is inherently carbon neutral because it is cancelled out by the carbon that was absorbed when the trees grew.3 This theory could be valid only if all harvested forests existed solely because of the economic incentives created by wood use. If that were true, wood use would be not just carbon neutral, but carbon negative, because the very existence of these forests and the carbon they store could be attributed to the demand created by using wood.

Yet, no one seriously suggests that all or even most harvested forests exist only because of wood demand. That would include the rainforests of the Congo Basin, the Amazon Basin, South-East Asia and Alaska, each of which continues to be subject to significant harvests. It would also include the vast, heavily harvested forests of Siberia and Canada where it is too cold for agriculture. In fact, 75% of the world’s forests are owned by governments, which respond to multiple incentives. Even in the United States, a commercially oriented country, only 30% of non-corporate forest owners, who own most private forests, report timber revenue as one of the many reasons they own forests. No one seriously argues that all forests came into being because of wood demand or would disappear without it.

Even so, it is possible that increased wood demand — by boosting wood prices and therefore the profitability of forestry — could lead to planting or preserving some more forests (in addition to harvesting existing forests more). That is the claim in some GTM model outputs. But for wood demand to preserve carbon overall, it must cause forests to increase globally, not just in some areas. It does not help if forests replace agriculture in one place only to have agriculture expand into forests elsewhere to replace the lost food production. Since the GTM is the primary model making the claim that demand leads to more forests globally, what is its evidence?

This GTM result relies on a single parameter built into the model, which specifies that doubling the profitability of each type of forest leads to a 30% increase in that forest type, and this applies to all forests in the world.4 This parameter underlies the finding in one GTM paper that using enough wood for bioenergy will increase global forest area by almost 30%, equal to almost 1.5 times the size of the Continental U.S. Although applied in every world region, the GTM authors attribute this parameter to a single study of small land-use changes in the United States by economist Ruben Lubowski, published in various forms from 2002-2006.

However, what the Lubowski study found was that a doubling of forest profitability in the United States had only an “extremely small” effect on forest area. The study’s true estimate was that a doubling of profitability would lead to only about a 0.4% increase in forest area — 1/75th of the parameter used in GTM. (We confirmed the elasticity used by GTM in emails with its lead modeler, confirmed the actual elasticity in conversations with Lubowski, and explain the source of the misinterpretation in the box below.) 

The Lubowski study also emphasized that this “extremely small” effect was local only; it did not necessarily predict an increase in forest area across the whole United States, let alone globally. This is because converting agricultural land to forest tends to outsource food production elsewhere. Opening a paper mill in one location might encourage some adjacent agricultural land to be used as a forest plantation, but that would lead to at least some agricultural conversion of forest elsewhere to replace the lost food production. Counting such rebound effects, the “extremely small” local effect could easily mean no global effect or even a net loss of forests — particularly if some food production shifts from the United States or Europe to developing countries where the same food production typically requires more land (due to lower yields) and loses more carbon.

For some GTM papers, the modelers have added a term that is designed to reflect this rebound effect and reduces the extent of global forest expansion. Having any curb on the misinterpreted expansion effect is a step in the right direction. But this pushback is based on a single parameter at the global level, intended to capture the full effects of every type and use of agriculture, which has no credible empirical justification, as far as we can tell.5 Regardless, forest area expansion in the model is still heavily influenced by the overestimate of Lubowski.

Overall, we are aware of no credible evidence that wood demand has led to more forest area globally. The basic reason is that the economic returns from forestry are nearly always much lower than those from agriculture. Whether agriculture occurs in an area depends mainly on its ability to compete with agriculture elsewhere. The compelling evidence is that forests exist where they naturally grow and where such factors as temperature, steep slopes, rainfall, or limited transportation make agriculture unable to compete with farming in more favorable locations. This also means that there is no credible evidence that increasing wood demand for bioenergy or for building construction will lead to more forest area.

A major assumption built into the Global Timber Model is that doubling the profitability of forestry (profit per acre) would lead to an expansion of forest area locally by 30% (technically a forest area elasticity of 0.30). In an appendix to a 2018 GTM paper, GTM modelers wrote:

“Lubowski, Plantinga, and Stavins (2006) suggests that the price elasticity of land conversions from crops to forestry (and vice-versa) is 0.30 in the United States [30%]. We have found no similar studies for other regions. Unlike with forest yield functions, where we have data on aggregate biomass volumes for separate age classes, or where ecologists have published data from study sites in a wide range of biomes, economists have not produced land supply elasticities outside the United States. We thus apply the estimate from Lubowski, Plantinga, and Stavins (2006) to other regions.”

But the GTM authors misunderstood what this 30% elasticity represented. It was not an estimate of the percentage change in the total area of forest. Rather, Lubowski estimated that, regardless of forest profitability, a very small percentage of cropland in the United States transitioned to forest every five years (and some forest in turn became cropland). The 30% elasticity meant that a doubling of the profitability of forestry increased this very small percentage by 30%. To estimate the effect of increased forestry profitability on the total area of forest, the two percentages must be multiplied together, which results in an even smaller percentage. (For example, a 30% change in a 1% rate of change would be only 0.3%.) This was best explained in the most comprehensive version of the Lubowski study, published in 2002. As Lubowski wrote there: With a “near doubling of forest profits . . . the overall increase in forest areas . . . attributable to the increase in forest profits [is] extremely small as a percentage of the total forest area in the nation (only . . . 0.4%).” (This small effect was further shown in Figure 2 of a subsequent paper).

In short, the actual local elasticity of forest area estimated by Lubowski was only around 1/75th of the elasticity used by GTM (0.4%/30%).

Even this was only a local effect: Because of the need to replace any food displaced by forest expansion, Lubowski’s result did not necessarily imply any global forest expansion. In an apparent effort to account for this rebound effect in some way, some versions of GTM introduce a constraint on the level of forest expansion (as discussed in endnote 5), but the misinterpretation of the Lubowski elasticity is still a force in the model that drives forest expansion.

What Explains Why Forests Are Storing More Carbon Globally?

If not the demand for wood, what explains why the carbon stock of global forests is growing — despite carbon losses due to extensive logging and ongoing deforestation for agriculture?

The primary answer is climate change itself. Higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere cause forests to grow faster. This effect is aided by warmer temperatures in cold regions, which allow forests to grow for more of the year. While there remains uncertainty regarding the precise quantity, estimates today are that climate change causes forests to absorb roughly 10 billion additional metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. That is more than one-quarter of global CO2 emissions. In addition, many northern hemisphere countries have reduced their reliance on forests for fuelwood and grazing. They have also reduced their agricultural land areas due to a variety of factors, including a shift in agriculture to the tropics, where deforestation is rising in part due to the global North’s outsourcing of food production and to the replacement of horses with cars and tractors, freeing up large areas once devoted to feeding horses (discussed here). These reductions in agriculture have allowed many forests in the temperate zone to regrow. (See this graphic for Europe as one example.)

In short, forests are growing despite wood harvests, not because of them.

Significantly for policy, this forest carbon uptake is already factored into global warming estimates and is effectively assigned as a kind of implicit carbon credit to all people. When people add CO2 to the atmosphere, scientists estimate that slightly less than half stays there (called the “airborne fraction”), so the warming effect is less than half a ton of CO2. Something like one quarter of a ton is taken up by the ocean, but probably a little more than one-quarter is taken up by additional forest growth spurred by higher CO2 and climate change itself. In other words, without this additional forest sink, the fraction of CO2 remaining in the atmosphere would be not half but three-quarters. This means that without the advantageous feedback effect on forest growth, the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere caused by people would be roughly 50% higher.

In fact, this helpful forest feedback effect of CO2 is built into estimates of CO2’s “global warming potential.” Put colloquially, this means that emitters are responsible for roughly 25% less warming than they would be responsible for without the feedback. This works as a kind of implicit carbon credit to each person who emits a ton of CO2. Without double counting, this added forest growth cannot be credited as an implicit offset to wood harvests — meaning it cannot be used treat wood as carbon neutral, except by taking it away from everyone else.

Precisely for this reason, the Paris Agreement allows countries only to take credit for “anthropogenic removals,” or those caused by their own land-management changes. And when the countries that were part of the Kyoto Protocol negotiated the rules for forests — the only time climate agreements established detailed rules of this kind — the rules explicitly provided that countries could not take credit for the carbon sequestration in their forests due either to CO2 fertilization or to the regrowth of forests harvested or reestablished previously.6

Could More Intensive Forest Management Reduce Overall Emissions?

Unlike overall forest area, which the evidence shows responds to other factors, more intensive timber management is a direct result of wood demand and can affect the carbon costs of wood production and use. The largest management change is to convert natural forests into fast-growing wood plantations, often using single species. Carbon Costs factors this plantation management into its emissions estimates, using two possible future scenarios of extreme intensification: In one, all natural forests are converted to plantations after harvest; in another, plantation yields grow by 50%. In these scenarios of extreme intensification of forest management, the annualized emissions decline from 4.2 to 3.5 gigatons of CO2 per year.

Crucially, the only reason plantations can save carbon is because wood is not carbon neutral. Because plantation forests are harvested young and repeatedly — in the tropics, often every ten years or less — they typically store less carbon than natural forests. However, plantations also produce more wood per hectare per year. This means they can save carbon overall by reducing the need to harvest wood from natural forests to meet the same demand for wood, allowing natural forests to store more carbon. If harvesting natural forests were carbon neutral, there would be no carbon losses to reduce.

Does Using Economic Models to Estimate “Avoided Emissions” from Wood Harvest Alter their Physical Emissions?

An even more fundamental question is whether emissions from wood harvest and use should be assessed using biophysical models or economic ones. The functions of the different types of models are commonly misunderstood. The basic explanation is that biophysical models calculate the physical emissions caused by human activities, whether using paper, heating a home or eating a hamburger. Economic models like the GTM, if credible, can help analyze the impact of different policies by factoring in “avoided emissions” through shifting from one type of activity to another. This is quite a different focus.

Driving large and small cars illustrates the distinction. To estimate the climate impacts of driving cars — whether large or small — a biophysical model would be used to estimate the average emissions of each compared to not driving at all (which emits no carbon). For example, by one set of definitions, driving a large car in the United States emits an average of 6.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, and a small car 3.1 metric tons per year.

By contrast, an economic model used to evaluate the impact of a policy to reduce the supply of large cars might reasonably estimate people would shift to small cars. Since small cars generate half the emissions per vehicle, the economic model would estimate that such a policy would reduce driving emissions by half. The same model might estimate that a policy that reduces the supply of small cars would shift people to large cars and double driving emissions. This could be valuable policy information. But it does not mean that driving a large car only releases half its physical emissions (on the grounds that the alternative would be a small car); that driving small cars is carbon negative (on the grounds that the alternative would be a large car); or that driving half large and half small cars is carbon neutral.

Forestry is no different. To understand the true climate impact of wood harvesting, its emissions must be compared to no human activity at all — leaving the forest land alone with no harvests and no timber management — rather than to an alternative human activity. This is how Carbon Costs, IPCC reports, and many other studies evaluate forestry (see endnote 1): the alternative is that the forest remains standing. This is also how the IPCC and others evaluate the impacts of clearing forests for agriculture. And the no-human-activity alternative is how emissions are typically calculated for all other human activities.

By contrast, an economic model like GTM seeks to estimate the effects of wood demand compared to the most likely alternative human activities. It therefore deducts from forestry emissions the emissions avoided by not doing other human activities, similar to the avoided emissions in switching from large to small cars. For example, if the model estimates that some forests would most likely be converted to cropland absent wood demand, then wood use is credited with avoiding the emissions from cropland conversion. That could be useful information if true, but it would not mean that forestry has no emissions; it would just mean converting land to cropland is worse.

The most important reason to count physical emissions rather than “avoided emissions” is that calculations will otherwise underestimate emissions. Nearly every human activity has an alternative activity that also causes emissions, such as driving large versus small cars. If each human activity were credited with avoiding emissions from another, adding them together would total far fewer emissions than the physical reality. In fact, just as the avoided emissions from driving different sizes of cars can cancel out all driving emissions, counting up avoided emissions of multiple activities would often sum to none at all.

There are also many possible policies, and the level of actual emissions helps inform what different policies might achieve. For example, instead of just shifting from large cars to small cars, policies could seek to reduce all driving. The physical emissions from driving tell us how much carbon that would save. Similarly, even if wood demand did help limit the expansion of cropland, biophysical models show how much carbon could be saved using a combination of recycling policies and agricultural policies to both reduce wood consumption and curb cropland expansion.

Careful economic modeling can play a valuable role in comparing the effects of different policies. Using an economic model to estimate “avoided emissions” is also a method commonly applied to evaluate carbon offsets, which have a special but limited role to play in climate policy (although the difficulty of the estimates contributes to controversies about offsets). But the climate outputs of such models only compare emissions from one set of human activities with another; they do not estimate actual emissions. Confusing “avoided emissions” with actual emissions would cause vast human emissions to seemingly disappear.

Would Policies to Increase Wood-based Bioenergy Reduce Wood Use Elsewhere?

Another claim sometimes used to justify bioenergy policies is that using more wood for energy, by increasing wood prices, will substantially reduce the amount of wood people consume for paper and construction. These reductions would mean that wood could replace fossil fuels without requiring much additional wood harvest, and therefore with less effect on forests and their carbon.

In the GTM, this effect is large. It assumes, for example, that if enough new bioenergy demand doubled the price of wood, consumption of all paper and timber wood products would decline by 50% — from toilet paper to cheap desks to construction timber. The GTM also assumes that these reductions would occur everywhere in the world, from the United States to Russia to Tanzania. In one paper, GTM estimates that enough wood bioenergy would drive down consumption of all these other wood products by a remarkable 80%.

The GTM authors credit this parameter (technically a demand elasticity of -1) to a book that describes what was, in essence, the first version of GTM. But that book actually claims an appropriate demand response (technically an “own-price demand elasticity”) of only around one-quarter the size of the assumption later built into the GTM.7 Furthermore, the book did not cite studies for this estimate, but stated it was chosen to be “reasonable.” Economic studies that are available (generally in the United States) tend to find elasticities of around one-tenth the size of that chosen by GTM.8 The available economic evidence, therefore, is that harvesting additional wood to burn in powerplants has only a very small effect on consumption of wood by others, so nearly the full additional quantity of wood must be harvested.

Diverting wood from other uses also has its own climate costs. While using wood for any purpose causes emissions, it is broadly acknowledged that using timber for construction is better for the climate than burning wood in a power plant. If a model assumes that increasing one kind of wood use will reduce another wood use, then it should factor in the emissions from replacing that wood (such as the emissions from alternative building materials). The GTM does account for some storage of carbon in wood products. But it generally does not account for the need to use concrete, steel, plastics or other materials to replace wood products.

Why Global Economic Forestry Models Are Likely to Generate Biased Results with Low Carbon Cost Estimates

The GTM aims to use economics to project where in the world and through what form of forestry new wood demand will be met, and how that will alter global land use and carbon storage. Such a model, if credible, could be useful for policy. However, given data limitations today, we do not believe this type of model can be credible at this time. Perhaps even more importantly, the assumptions built into GTM and other models of its kind lead to a structural bias that systematically understates the climate costs of wood harvests.

The limitations become clear from the fact that the GTM applies parameters derived from studies only in the United States to the whole world. Wood use differs dramatically by country and by product type. It is therefore not credible to assume that a demand elasticity derived for construction in the U.S. would be the same for toilet paper in Germany or housing construction in Kenya. Similarly, the Lubowski study found that even within the U.S., the change in forest area due to changes in profitability of forestry differed greatly from place to place (although it was always small). These differences make sense because land uses reflect differences in rainfall, slope and soils and access to markets. It is therefore equally unlikely that an average U.S. response will meaningfully reflect the response in every country in the world.

Modern economics requires that these kinds of analyses rely on rich data variation and use econometrically credible statistical methods. Some rough global economic models based on global data might be achievable, but at this time, global models that project precise responses in different regions or countries cannot be credible. Even for policy, the better approach is to gain insights from rigorous local studies and to estimate the future using a biophysical model to analyze a range of different scenarios.

Even more importantly, the GTM and similar models rely on a core assumption that automatically drives low climate cost estimates. This is the assumption that all forests, at least if or once they become “accessible,” are managed solely to maximize timber profits. While that is undoubtedly true of some forests, it is not true of most. Because the model assumes that trees in most forests only exist to meet wood demand, the only reason trees remain standing at any time would be to meet already expected future demand. With these existing trees and future growth already, in effect, “taken,” meeting additional demand would requires growing more wood through planting more forest area or more intensive management. In effect, the model largely assumes the new demand will not be met just by harvesting more trees that would otherwise remain standing, which is the main action that reduces carbon stored in forests.9

These structural assumptions dictate the model’s finding that increasing wood demand causes limited reductions in forest carbon. In short, the assumed model structure assumes away most of the climate costs.

What Does This Mean for Wood Policy?

The world has valuable uses for wood, just as it has valuable uses for food and many other products that also cause emissions. And, just as for other goods, the goals should be both to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions involved in wood production and to hold down overall consumption. That’s the basic reason the world recycles paper and that policies have started to encourage wood reuse. It also explains why there is some role for intensive forest management.

Under business as usual — even without policies to increase the demand for wood — the world faces a doubling in demand for commercial wood harvests by 2050 relative to 2010. The exact mix of policies to meet this demand is a complex question. But it should start with the recognition that, just like other products, using wood is not carbon-free.

 

 

Notes:

1 Other global studies which find existing forests are missing very large quantities of their carbon include Erb et al. (2018) and Walker et al. (2022). Europe-focused papers include Keith et al. (2024).

2 IPCC Assessment reports estimate emissions from land use change that have incorporated emissions from wood harvest using biophysical “bookkeeping models,” similar to the model in Carbon Costs. Bookkeeping models start with estimates of wood harvest and use. The original model primarily relied upon by the IPCC was developed by Dr. Richard Houghton and published in many papers over the years (for example, see here and here). New models have since been added, including the “BLUE model”; these two models have also been reflected in the annual carbon budget estimates provided by the Global Carbon Project, which is the most commonly cited source for annual emissions. In each of these models, emissions are based on the alternative of leaving forests alone, not on an economically estimated counterfactual. As discussed in Carbon Costs, sometimes the emissions of new wood harvests were obscured by the reporting of net emissions that combined the effect of new emissions and the recovery of previously harvested forests in one number. Although this netting could obscure the impacts of new harvests, the estimated emissions of new harvests were still based on biophysical models, for which the alternative is no harvest. This problem of netting was itself pointed out by Houghton in several papers in which he separated the effects of new harvests of some forest areas from regrowth of other forest areas previously harvested (see here and here). Numerous other papers also use biophysical models to evaluate the carbon effects of forestry. Examples include: Naudts et al. 2016; Hudiburg et al. 2019; Kalliokoski et al. 2020; Skytt, Englund, and Jonsson 2021; and Chen et al. 2018.

The major differences in the Carbon Costs model were: (1) substantially added detail for global forestry estimates relative to other models (in part because they also focused on agricultural expansion); and (2) incorporating into the costs of wood harvests the carbon sequestered by faster forest growth post-harvest because young forests tend to grow faster than older forests. This addition reduced, rather than increased, the attributed carbon costs. Carbon Costs calculated the net effect of new harvests 40 and 100 years after harvest, and it also calculated the costs using different discount rates to value emissions in a way that recognizes earlier emissions are even more costly than later emissions.

3 The phrasing of the claim is that the effects of harvesting and using wood should be counted from the time trees start to grow. As a result, wood use first receives a credit for the carbon sequestered by forests, and only spends this credit when the trees are harvested, making wood inherently carbon neutral at least.

4 Although most GTM modeling papers provide limited description, this description is provided in Appendix B of Tian et al. (2018) and quoted further in the Box.

5 This factor is described in equation 3 in Sohngen et al. (2019), although there is no reference to it in many other GTM papers. It essentially provides that as the misinterpreted Lubowski local elasticity drives forests expansion around the world, there is a pushback effect to slow this rate down. This pushback effect is based on the global change in forest area, rather than the local change. While this provision does moderate the extent of forest expansion, there is no citation, and to our knowledge no empirical support, for this function or the single parameter that controls it. A credible analysis of this rebound effect would have to account for different supply and demand elasticities for different major agricultural products, and since the model claims to be disaggregated by region, to different regions. Because the model does not include agricultural products, it does not have any of these components.

The added factor curbs expansion in some, but apparently not all, GTM papers, but does not alter the fact that forest expansion is still driven by the misinterpreted Lubowski local expansion effect of only around 0.4% rather than 30%. The interaction of this curbing factor with the local expansion effect can also cause unwarranted shifts in forest area in different regions even as Lubowski found even local effects to be “extremely small.”

6 At the first “conference of the parties” after agreement on the Kyoto Protocol, the signers adopted a specific principle for all “land use, land use change and forestry” as follows: “(h) That accounting excludes removals resulting from: (i) elevated carbon dioxide concentrations above their pre-industrial level; (ii) indirect nitrogen deposition; and (iii) the dynamic effects of age structure resulting from activities and practices before the reference year.” (Decision -/CMP.1). The last clause excludes the carbon gain from regrowing forests established prior to 1990, the base year for country reporting.

7 In Sohngen et al. (2001), GTM authors write, “Regional demand functions are calculated assuming a uniform price elasticity of 1.0 (Sedjo and Lyon 1990).” (Technically the elasticity was -1.) The reference is to a 1990 book (not available online) published by the organization Resources for the Future, entitled, The Long-Term Adequacy of World Timber Supply, which first described the model, the Timber Supply Model, that evolved into GTM. This book discusses demand elasticities only in the chapter entitled “Introducing Demand in the Timber Supply Model,” where it states: “The elasticity of world demand in the base scenario varies from 0.17 in the initial year to 0.18 in the stationary state, and for the high-demand growth scenario it varies from 0.19 to 0.30 for the two periods.” The book did not cite any studies to justify this assumption but states that they were chosen to be “reasonable” (adding the quotation markets itself).

8 In Appendix B to the 2018 GTM publication, the authors claim this -1 demand elasticity is only somewhat higher than wood “import elasticit[ies]” estimated in some papers. But wood import elasticities are not own price demand elasticities, which are those used by the model, i.e., how much wood consumption declines with a 1% rise in prices. Wood import elasticities estimate how much increases in international wood prices lead to reductions in U.S. wood imports only. Even high elasticities do not necessarily imply any reductions in the consumption of wood because U.S. imports can be entirely replaced by domestic supplies of wood. International suppliers are essentially competitors with domestic suppliers, and just like any other suppliers, will lose market share to competitors if they raise their prices. The same limitation applies to studies such as Newman (1987), also cited, which estimate the demand for wood on a regional basis, as they will measure not necessarily declines in consumption but just switches to supply to other regions or countries.

In the same publication, the GTM authors cite but do not discuss Hayes et al. (1981), yet that paper found elasticities generally around one-fifth of those in GTM. Its senior author also updated it in a subsequent paper to less than one-tenth those chosen by GTM. The GTM authors also cite Simangunson & Buongiorno (2001), which they claim had high elasticities. But that paper used multiple specifications of its model, all of which found estimates that were extremely low except one specification, which the paper criticized as having “excessive bias.” One of the two authors of that paper subsequently updated it, generating uniformly low elasticities by all methods.

9 GTM does assume that there are some “inaccessible” forests, and if wood supply from accessible forests becomes too expensive, then roads may be built, and inaccessible forests harvested. But accessible forests include most global forests, including nearly all in the U.S. and EU. (as described in this paper.) This means that the model will generally require that additional wood comes from planting more forest lands or more intensively managing existing forests.

wood-harvest-sweden.jpg Forests Forests deforestation GHG emissions land use Type Technical Perspective Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Authors Tim Searchinger Steve Berry
margaret.overholt@wri.org

The Restoration Launchpad: A Guide for Investors, Landowners and Practitioners

3 semanas 2 días ago
The Restoration Launchpad: A Guide for Investors, Landowners and Practitioners shannon.paton@… Wed, 06/26/2024 - 00:35

Unsustainable land management practices, increased fragmentation, degradation of forest and other ecosystems, and monoculture are putting nature, the climate and livelihoods at risk across the world. As soil gets degraded from unsustainable farming and grazing practices, communities struggle to produce enough food. This has a huge impact on nutritional security, especially for vulnerable groups. Meanwhile, biodiversity is lost at unprecedented rates.

It is estimated that more than half the world’s GDP — $44 trillion — depends on nature and the services it provides. Loss of nature and biodiversity not only undermines the economy but jeopardize access to clean air, soil and water, which are all necessary for good food and human health.

But a landscape approach to restoring lands can boost farming yields and associated income, make the land more resilient to extreme weather events and increase biodiversity while absorbing planet-harming carbon dioxide.

A landscape approach to restoration works by practicing more land management practices, such as increasing crop diversity or avoiding the clearing of trees and shrubs, to improve ecosystem conditions and make soil more fertile. Restoring land is possible through agroforestry (growing trees among crops), silvo-pasture (growing trees on grazing lands), reforestation (growing trees in degraded forests) and natural regeneration. These practices are also known as nature-based solutions (NbS).

As NbS become more investible by the private and public sectors, restoration projects need to provide greater accountability, ensure greater survivability and sustainability, and create greater impacts that help secure further investment Hence, projects need to be well-designed to prioritize investments are ecological and steered by the community while generating attractive financial returns to investors, land managers and landowners. Increasingly, corporations investing in restoration projects also require greater accountability and evidence of due diligence for their investment.

To help these projects succeed and secure more investments, WRI and its partners have created the Restoration Launchpad Guidebook, which offers a step-by-step outline of the restoration planning and implementation process using a landscape approach to help design, develop, implement and monitor projects.

It provides a framework for reconciling conservation and development objectives in a landscape — centering the focus on people and bringing key stakeholders together to solve problems like land degradation, conserving natural resources and enhancing local incomes and livelihoods.

Apiculture projects are among the many activities included in a landscape-approach restoration project. Photo by WRI India.

When undertaken systematically in planning and implementation, a landscape approach to restoration could enable adaptive management with a dual focus on conservation and poverty alleviation goals.

The Restoration Launchpad Guidebook proposes a framework for new and existing planners and practitioners to conceptualize restoration projects from start to finish while integrating good practices gathered from a variety of restoration practitioners who include project developers, funders and implementers. The guidebook can also be used in ongoing restoration projects to fill in any gaps and reassess social, economic, ecological and financial considerations.

5 Essential Stages of Restoration Projects 

There are five essential stages of restoration projects identified in the guidebook — Scope, Design, Finance, Implement and Monitor — that were found to be common to every restoration project. Each stage explores the most essential steps to conduct restoration effectively, followed by a checklist that planners and practitioners can use to track their progress and ensure that each topic has been taken into consideration before launching into a new project. The checklists can be used, adapted and built upon to support successful restoration on the ground and unlock finance for nature and communities.

1) Scope

Scoping is the process of assessing the ecological, social, economic, financial and regulatory context of any potential project site to determine where restoration is most feasible. The order of identification of the landscape and landscape goals may differ according to whether a new project developer or a local community, for instance, is leading the restoration initiative. Key actions include:

  • Define restoration goals.
  • Map restoration opportunities and prioritize landscapes and interventions.
  • Identify key enabling conditions and barriers.
  • Analyze trade-offs and develop a strategy to mitigate risks.
  • Select a project site.
  • Determine value proposition.
2) Design

Designing an effective project requires the planners and practitioners to conceptualize, define and organize all the internal and external processes that will be involved in the project during implementation. Key actions include:

  • Define restoration interventions.
  • Manage key activities.
  • Secure resources.
  • Engage and establish partnerships.
  • Protocols, standards and certifications.
3) Finance

Financing is a critical step that moves projects from design to actual implementation by way of efficient budgeting, resource allocation and funding options. Key funding considerations include:

  • Revenue sources.
  • Costs.
  • Financing options.
  • Funders.
4) Implement

Implementing a project is the process of carrying out the restoration interventions on the ground by working with the landowners and communities to correct and prepare the site, undertake interventions such as planting, regenerating, growing trees, eliminating or mitigating any disturbances, and, finally, to monitor progress in the critical early stages when species viability is tested. Key implementation considerations include:

  • Prepare site and resources.
  • Planting, regenerating and growing.
  • Site maintenance and resources.
5) Monitor

Monitoring builds on implementation in a holistic way by assessing a project’s performance across ecological, social and economic parameters, creating opportunities for adaptive management and informing developers of what is needed to move a project forward. Key monitoring considerations include:

  • Performance.
  • Adaptive learning and management.
  • Scaling and exit.
Women weeding seedlings for better growth and quality saplings to plant in Africa. A landscape approach to restoration works by using more land management practices, such as increasing crop diversity or avoiding the clearing of trees and shrubs, to improve ecosystem conditions and make soil more fertile. Photo by Arcos Network. Scope of the Restoration Launchpad

The approach, stages and principles discussed in the Restoration Launchpad have wider scope and applicability. We encourage landscape planners and practitioners to adopt and adapt this guide for different contexts to develop restoration projects that are ecologically sustainable, socially inclusive and economically feasible to spur a self-sustaining restoration economy.

As momentum for reversing biodiversity loss grows globally through large-scale efforts, individual restoration projects can help meet those broader goals. This restoration launchpad complements plans by initiatives like AFR100 in Africa, Initiative 20x20 and the Global Bonn Challenge to restore land in the right places, for the right uses and with the right species.  

farmers-rice-field-india.png Forests Forests Forest and Landscape Restoration restoration Type Project Update Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Related Resources and Data The Restoration Launchpad: A Step-by-Step Guide for Restoration Planners and Practitioners How to Monitor A Land Restoration Project: A 4-Step Recipe How To Responsibly Grow Millions of Trees Outside of Forests in India The Road to Restoration: 3 Steps For Transforming Landscapes Projects Authors Kathleen Buckingham Ruchika Singh Miguel Calmon Helen Ding
shannon.paton@wri.org

As the Earth Gets Hotter, Can Our Cities Get Cooler?

3 semanas 3 días ago
As the Earth Gets Hotter, Can Our Cities Get Cooler? ciara.regan@wri.org Tue, 06/25/2024 - 12:00

It isn't just your perception that extreme heat is happening more and more. As a result of climate change, the number of extreme heat events has accelerated around the world. The past eight years were the hottest on record. Millions of people are experiencing life-threatening temperatures, from Mecca to India to Latin America. And it is expected to worsen.

Indeed, heat is the deadliest disaster most years, killing an average of 490,000 people globally and causing severe health problems for many more. Deaths from heat are expected to grow by 50% by 2050, according to the World Health Organization. But the impact of heat on health isn’t equitably distributed — around the world or within our communities. Already vulnerable populations are at the greatest risk.

At the global scale, people in developing countries, particularly in South Asia, Africa and East Asia, who have contributed the least to cause climate change and do not have the resources to adapt are expected to have their health impacted the most by climate change-induced extreme heat.

At the city scale, neighborhoods with poorer and more marginalized populations, or with worse infrastructure and services, such as fewer green spaces and histories of restricted housing investment, are measurably hotter. This difference within cities exists in part because these neighborhoods are less likely to have tree cover and vegetation, an important mitigant of heat.

The sun sets over the Medina of Marrakesh in Morrocco. Developing countries in Africa and Asia are expected to experience the worst impacts of rising temperatures from climate change. Due to the urban heat island effect, cities are especially susceptible. Photo by Nick Gutkin/iStock.

These neighborhoods are also more likely to have hard, dark surfaces, which absorb heat. This is an example of the urban heat island effect, where cities, or parts of cities, experience more heat than rural areas because man-made infrastructure such as buildings, streets and sidewalks often retain more heat than natural surfaces.

Extreme heat can be devastating, but there are tools every community can use to make measurable differences to reduce heat hazards to health, energy systems and our economies; improve urban equity; and even curb climate change. By adjusting the same land cover components that are the largest contributors to an urban heat island — such as buildings, trees and streets and built materials, including concrete, asphalt, permeable pavements, paints and coatings — cities can dramatically lower their temperatures.

The Influence of Urban Infrastructure on Heat — Examples from Monterrey and Mumbai

In cities, land cover is determined by infrastructure — both gray (roofs, pavements) and green (urban forests, street trees, streams and reservoirs). And choices among infrastructure options that provide the same function, like stormwater management, can have very different impacts on land cover (for example, vegetated streams instead of paved drainage channels). The relationship between land cover and heat is a consistent finding in cities and research where WRI has worked to identify cooling solutions. And the absence of cooling land cover is often found in neighborhoods where vulnerable people concentrate — exacerbating inequality in exposure to extreme heat.

The extended suburbs of Mumbai, India, feature homes with metal roofs. Analysis from WRI India finds that while vegetation in a city mitigates land surface temperatures, a large share of homes in Mumbai are built with metal roofs, which leads to a higher surface temperature. Photo by KishoreJ/Shutterstock 

In Mumbai, where the city government considered heat hazards while developing its first Climate Action Plan (which defines the government’s commitment to address climate change), WRI India’s analysis found a strong relationship between the share of vegetation cover in city wards and lower land surface temperatures, with a difference of 5.5 degrees Celsius ( 10 degrees Fahrenheit) between the mean land surface temperature of the hottest and coolest neighborhoods.

Cooler and greener neighborhoods typically have a greater share of high-income residents, while hotter neighborhoods are more often informal settlements.

In addition, neighborhoods with a larger share of metal roofs, a roofing material associated with informal settlements and homes of low-income people, often had higher average surface temperatures. Around 37% of Mumbai households live under metal roofs and are exposed to higher heat risk.

In Monterrey, WRI Mexico found that the relationship between greater vegetation cover and lower land surface temperatures had very high statistical confidence in 22 out of 27 districts of the municipality.

The findings also show that land surface temperatures vary greatly between districts, with an 11 degrees Celsius (20 degrees Fahrenheit) range of temperatures. The range is still more than 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) even if only considering districts that are mostly urban.

Variations on the pattern repeats itself in cities around the world. Infrastructure, particularly vegetation and built surface types, are critical contributors to the accumulation of heat, how it is experienced by city residents and which residents experience the worst effects.

City Infrastructure as a Cooling Solution

But just as urban infrastructure choices have created areas ripe for extreme heat, the same choices can create neighborhoods and whole cities that are cooler.

Cool infrastructure, both natural and built, can reduce city air temperatures by 3 degrees to 4 degrees Celsius (5 degrees to 7 degrees Fahrenheit). Vegetation, particularly trees, cools through evapotranspiration (releasing water into the air) and providing shade. Solar-reflective built infrastructure, most notably solar-reflective materials used on roofs, streets, walls and other built surfaces, send heat back into the atmosphere rather than letting it accumulate at ground level.

Cool infrastructure options are increasingly seen as strategies to address extreme heat. In particular, a growing number of cities are strategically investing in trees, green corridors and other nature-based solutions, as well as solar-reflective roofs to help reduce the urban heat island effect and the impacts of extreme heat.

In Kochi, India, the city has implemented a tree planting campaign to reduce heat in vulnerable neighborhoods, informed by community knowledge and geospatial data.

In Medellin, Colombia, the city has planted over 8,000 trees to create an interconnected network of green spaces across the city to address heat while improved access to nature and improve biodiversity. City officials estimate that after three years of implementation, the urban heat island effect in the Medellin has been decreased by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit)

In Ahmedabad, India, the city together with non-government organizations have developed climate adaptation solutions, including painting white the roofs of 17,000 homes to reduce heat accumulation, to support women living in slum communities.

These cool infrastructure changes provide a myriad of benefits with very low costs, use technologies that are already available around the world, and do not exacerbate climate change (as distinct from mechanized cooling interventions, like air conditioning).

They also provide many co-benefits to help address climate change. By increasing the share of solar radiation that is reflected into the atmosphere and reducing energy demand required for space cooling, cities can ultimately reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Adaptation gains are provided by reducing local temperatures, thereby decreasing heat stress, heat stroke and other heat-related health conditions.

People tend to a rooftop garden in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Increased vegetation can reduce city temperatures. Photo by R. de Bruijn_Photography/Shutterstock 

Many other economic, equity and environmental benefits of cool infrastructure have been documented, including reduced energy consumption and peak electricity demand, improved worker productivity, more equitable access to green spaces, improved physical and mental health, and improved air and water quality.

From Information to Action on Urban Cooling

Cool infrastructure solutions have been piloted in hundreds of cities around the world, but there are thousands of cities that can and should adopt these tactics at large scale. However, it's difficult for communities to plan, fund, deploy and track these solutions. A key barrier is actionable data.

Cities and businesses are seeking ways to set targets, prioritize investments and meaningfully measure progress. Without these tools, adoption of projects and policies will remain too slow to save lives.​ Absent data, investments can’t be selected and sited to maximize cost-effectiveness​. Changes in urban surfaces are not being measured with methods that are repeatable, scalable and broadly accepted, stifling finance of these solutions, which relies in part on these metrics.​  

Efforts like the Smart Surfaces CoalitionArsht-Rockefeller Resilience CenterCool Cities Network, WRI projects including Data for Cool Cities and Cities4Forests, and others are aiming to address this need by generating local data on heat risk, getting it into the hands of policymakers and informing them about the impacts of their infrastructure choices. The hope is that new data used to power analytical tools that meet the needs of decision-makers can accelerate the adoption of and funding for cool infrastructure to help residents adapt to more extreme heat while bringing emissions down in time to avert even hotter temperatures.

Editor's note: This article was originally published in August, 2023. It was updated in June, 2024 to reflect recent extreme heat events.

rome-urban-heat.jpg Cities Cities Urban Efficiency & Climate nature-based solutions Type Explainer Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Authors Eric Mackres Gorka Zubicaray Bina Shetty
ciara.regan@wri.org

What Is There to Debate About U.S. Clean Hydrogen Incentives?

3 semanas 3 días ago
What Is There to Debate About U.S. Clean Hydrogen Incentives? shannon.paton@… Mon, 06/24/2024 - 13:47

Hydrogen has the potential to become a transformational decarbonization solution for many parts of the U.S. economy. It can be used as clean burning fuel, an energy storage medium or a feedstock for manufacturing processes. However, hydrogen’s promise to help reduce emissions depends on whether it’s “clean” — which means it’s produced with zero to little emissions, reducing emissions overall instead of adding to them.

To incentivize the production of clean hydrogen, the U.S. Department of the Treasury released its proposed guidance on the 45V Hydrogen Production Tax Credit on December 22, 2023, that outlines what counts as clean hydrogen. This credit, established by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022, provides tiers of tax credits to clean hydrogen producers based on the amount of emissions produced. Fewer emissions per kilogram of hydrogen produced will yield larger credits, up to a maximum of $3 per kg of hydrogen. This could spur enormous investments as the tax credit could accelerate making clean hydrogen competitive with, and eventually significantly cheaper than, today’s conventional hydrogen. Current conventional hydrogen costs between $1.00-$2.00 per kilogram and clean hydrogen is projected to drop from $4.00-$5.00 down to nearly $2.00 by 2030 and potentially less than $1.00 by 2050.

Under heavy debate and lobbying about the stringency of this guidance, the Treasury’s final rules will greatly influence investment, production and use of clean hydrogen. WRI issued a statement of support for the guidance and submitted a formal response to Treasury elaborating upon that statement, which we summarize throughout this article.

What Are the Key Proposals in the 45V Hydrogen Production Tax Credit Guidance?

The Treasury requested comments on many questions in the guidance, most of which concerned how hydrogen production emissions data can be collected and verified. One of the main questions focused on how to evaluate emissions from electricity used to split water into hydrogen through electrolysis or “electrolytic hydrogen.” This was the focus of WRI’s response. There are other clean hydrogen production pathways with their own considerations, such as sourcing biomass for waste biomass gasification with CCS, that the guidance seeks to address, but they are not the focus of this article.

Fundamentally, using electrolysis to produce hydrogen avoids greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, if it is directly powered by a clean energy source, such as renewable or nuclear energy. However, a key complication arises when electrolysis uses power from the electricity grid, causing substantially more emissions than conventional hydrogen production if the grid is powered by fossil fuels or if the additional electricity demand increases fossil fuel-based electricity generation.

Concerns around sourcing clean electricity have manifested into a debate on whether or how that electricity should be sourced from new clean power sources, produced at the same time as the hydrogen plant is operating and located near the plant — also known as the “Three Pillars” of clean hydrogen production. 

The guidance proposes a strict adoption of the Three Pillars, requiring electrolytic hydrogen be produced with additional clean energy within the same region during the hour it is produced.

Specifically, hydrogen producers would have to follow these detailed rules describing the Three Pillars:

  • Additionality (or incrementality): Electrolytic hydrogen production must be accompanied by new, matching clean power generation that has begun operation within three years of the electrolysis plant commencing operations. This reduces the likelihood of diverting existing clean electricity (such as from old nuclear plants) from current uses with fossil electricity to make up the demand gap. Certain flexibility will be allowed for existing power generation to qualify as additional, including for retrofits, deferring retirement and a 5% existing generation allowance. 
  • Time-matching (or temporal matching): Hydrogen production must occur in the same hour as the clean electricity powering it is generated starting in 2028. This would ensure that hydrogen production is not subsidized during hours when clean electricity is not being produced. Until 2028, a more flexible annual matching will be allowed to implement necessary technology changes for tracking systems.
  • Regionality (or deliverability): Electrolytic hydrogen must be produced within the same defined regions from which the clean electricity is generated. This would avoid congesting and burdening the grid, which can prevent clean electricity from reaching the hydrogen plant. 
What Are Supporters of the 45V Hydrogen Production Tax Credit Guidance Saying?

WRI and other proponents of stringent 45V rules stand by the intention of the IRA and 45V to reduce emissions. There is overwhelming evidence through research and modeling that enforcing the Three Pillars is effectively the only way to ensure 45V is not increasing emissions for grid-connected electrolysis. These models also find that strict rules would not inhibit clean hydrogen supply to an extent that would prevent the Biden Administration from reaching its clean hydrogen production goals of 10 million metric tons by 2030. 

Research on 45V assesses a wide breadth of impacts that include the carbon intensity of hydrogen, total increased emissions, production costs, power consumption and offtakers (i.e. purchasers) of clean hydrogen. Princeton Net-Zero Lab, one of the early proponents of the Three Pillars, found that grid-connected electrolysis could produce emissions two to four times (20 to 40 kilograms of carbon dioxide per kilogram of hydrogen or kgCO2/kgH2) more polluting than average hydrogen production today (9 to 11 kgCO2/kgH2). The figure below illustrates why grid-connected electrolysis can be more carbon intensive than steam methane reforming, which is today’s primary hydrogen production method in the U.S.

Source: Princeton ZERO Lab

Evolved Energy found that, cumulatively, the Three Pillars avoid 192 million to 416 million metric tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2) through 2030, and even more in the years beyond. Some studies also examine impacts of the proposed flexibility, with Rhodium Group, for example, estimating that a poorly administered 5% allowance that uses fossil fuels rather than clean energy could emit up to 1.5 billion MtCO2 through 2035, when the credit is slated to expire.

On production, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) found that the Three Pillars would prompt production of more than 10 million tons of hydrogen annually by 2030, in line with the Biden Administration’s hydrogen production goal of 10 million metric tons annually by 2030. Energy Innovation contends that loose guidance would fund competitive energy markets to produce hydrogen for uncompetitive offtakers because it would support weak project economics. This is an underappreciated consequence of subsidizing low-quality hydrogen production, as many sectors could use hydrogen even when there are less expensive, readily available options to pursue. But hydrogen is the only viable abatement option for use in a handful of sectors and stringent rules will produce pricing that will drive its use toward those sectors.

Finally, a recent Princeton supplement also found that a flexibility option proposed by some companies that would exempt additionality in states with a binding carbon-limit policy would increase emissions in next-door states because it would reduce the clean energy being exported.

And support from the private sector is building, with several companies committing to the guidance as it currently stands. For example, Air Products, Hy Stor Energy, Synergetic and EDP Renewables are planning for 50 gigawatts of combined electricity use in compliance with the guidance which could lead to 6 million metric tonnes of clean hydrogen production or 60% of the goal for 2030.

What Are Critics of 45V Hydrogen Production Tax Credit Guidance Saying?

Criticisms of the Three Pillars are not uniform nor are those critiquing them. Some contest the Three Pillars entirely, others might support one or two pillars, or suggest that they need more flexibility or time before tighter restrictions are put in place. Critics of strong 45V rules justify their rationale from two main perspectives: legal and economic.

The legal argument claimed by critics is that the IRA does not permit the Treasury the authority to impose strict rules on hydrogen production and that any criteria not explicitly granted by the legislation should be out of bounds. For example, one argument is that 45V as approved by Congress does not give the Treasury authority to indirectly regulate the power system at large, as it would be implicitly doing by adhering to the Three Pillars.

Yet the law does allow the Treasury to consider indirect emissions, such as those caused by additional fossil-fuel generation resulting from existing clean energy moving to hydrogen production. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) even wrote a letter supporting this position, arguing that such an interpretation is in line with historical interpretations of indirect emissions.

The economic criticism of the guidance and opposition to the Three Pillars entirely is based on the potential tension between aiming to produce somewhat less hydrogen of the cleanest quality or producing large quantities of cleanish to inadvertently dirty hydrogen — a debate of quality versus quantity. Critics argue that strict guardrails will increase the barriers to entry and compliance costs, stifling the industry’s launch and delaying technological maturity and related cost declines.

However, studies consistently find the benefit of lower electricity prices predicated on the availability of renewable energy during periods of clean energy generation outweighs the impact of not running the electrolyzer 24 hours a day. In fact, the Zero Lab found that total emissions increase if producers are allowed to weekly, monthly or annually match because they will operate nearly continuously while buying enough energy attribute certificates (EACs) to offset their use.

While there is truth to the argument that strict rules will create barriers for scaled expansion, sufficient analysis, such as modeling put forth by EPRI, has estimated that strict rules will not inhibit hydrogen enough to miss yearly production goals. The aim therefore must be quality over quantity. Flooding the market with less-than-ideal hydrogen will incentivize use of hydrogen in sectors in which it’s not a best use case.

What Was in WRI’s Recommendations to the 45V Guidance? 

The following are the key recommendations in WRI’s comments on the guidance:

  • A tax credit provisioned within the IRA to propel U.S. clean hydrogen production must prioritize maximizing emissions reduction.
  • Strict rules must be adhered to within the Three Pillars to best guarantee emissions reduction based on latest research and analysis.
  • Particular attention needs to be paid not just to how much clean hydrogen is produced, but who is using that clean hydrogen. More deliberate market expansion could provide time to direct clean hydrogen towards sectors with the highest abatement potential, such as heavy industries.
  • Since 45V is a subsidy and not a regulation, producers must be held to the highest standards to ensure that the tax credit achieves its intent and safeguard trust in climate policy’s effectiveness.

Our response also included a comparison of two sectors that represent weak versus strong use case scenarios for hydrogen: electricity generation versus industrial use in the steel sector. We estimated that blending hydrogen with natural gas for power generation, as many announced projects seek to do, will reduce emissions by 10% in the best-case scenario and increase emissions by 70% in the worst-case scenario. In contrast, clean hydrogen used to reduce iron ore into iron and then turned into steel in electric arc furnace has an approximately 90% emissions reduction potential in primary steel production.

For more details on the recommendations and analysis read our comments here.

What Are Some Barriers for Clean Hydrogen to Overcome?

Deploying clean hydrogen still faces significant obstacles, including the insufficient availability of clean power. The U.S. is deploying clean energy only about half as fast as needed to achieve its climate commitments due to slow permitting for new energy infrastructure and upgrades, high interest rates and supply chain issues.

Because hourly matching for EACs is not as widespread as annual matching — the current convention for offsetting — many hydrogen producers and some EAC tracking systems would need to be upgraded to measure hourly electricity consumption data. The Treasury’s proposed 2028 hourly matching phase-in is designed to provide time to bring these systems online. 

And while first-of-a-kind industrial plants at large or commercial scales are being constructed, it will take time for these processes to become widespread enough to drive demand for clean hydrogen. The federal government is working to accelerate the buildout of these advanced industrial facilities through federal investments in the IRA and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, most recently with an announced $6 billion for low-emitting industrial processes, including several that are using clean hydrogen.

A Dependable Hydrogen Ecosystem for a Decarbonized Economy

The 45V draft guidance’s adherence to the Three Pillars indicates that the Treasury is prioritizing the production of clean hydrogen to create the least amount of emissions, instead of scaled, untethered production, which carries significant risk of indirect emissions. Weakening of any of the Three Pillars could result in hydrogen production that increases GHG emissions, eliminating the intended climate benefits from clean hydrogen.

While not enforcing the pillars would catalyze more hydrogen production, that supply would not maximize emissions mitigation and risks being used in situations that are not suitable for emission reductions. Strong rules would build trust in new climate technologies and the U.S. commitment to achieving its climate goals. Conversely, a shaky foundation could set a poor precedent for future policy that similarly requires judicious implementation.

solar-wind-electric.jpeg Climate Climate U.S. Climate Policy-Hydrogen Clean Energy industry Type Technical Perspective Exclude From Blog Feed? 0 Projects Authors Zachary Byrum Ankita Gangotra
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