The Paris Effect Continues – Top 5 Happy Eco News – 2021-01-04
Thank you for reading the Happy Eco News! This week we have a guest blog by Bob Irvin whose work with American Rivers has helped raise awareness of the issues facing some of the most historic places in America. We also have a story about Amsterdam banning fossil fuel advertising, a Tesla powered water plant in Kenya, a dismal outlook for LNG, 54 cities around the world that are leading climate action and the UK ends fossil fuel subsidies.
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Guest Blog by William Robert (Bob) Irvin, President, and CEO of American Rivers
Elections are like rivers, framed by what has happened in the past and full of possibility for the future. This year’s election is no exception.
Now that Joe Biden is our President-elect, American Rivers is ready to work with President Biden, Vice President Harris, and their administration to repair the substantial damage to rivers and clean water done by the Trump administration over the past four years and, going forward, make real progress in protecting and restoring rivers and conserving clean water. We’ve identified five priorities for the Biden-Harris administration and Congress in our 2021 Blueprint for Action:
- Invest in rivers and clean water to recover from COVID-19
- Reverse regulatory rollbacks and restore strong, effective federal protection for rivers and clean water
- Improve protection and management of the nation’s floodplains
- Launch a national initiative to prioritize and fund dam removals
- Increase protection of Wild and Scenic rivers [read more]
The Happy Eco News – Top 5 Happy Eco News – 2021-01-04:
The City of Amsterdam, one of the most historic and progressive cities in the world, recently heard a motion to ban fossil fuel and air travel advertising within its jurisdiction. The motion passed on December 18 was presented by GroenLinks (the Green Party) with support from 51 other community organizations. It is no surprise; the city has a stated goal to achieve a 55% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and a 95% reduction of emissions by 2050. The country of the Netherlands has also put forth an aggressive carbon reduction plan including carbon taxation laws to help achieve its Paris accord commitments. The Dutch government aims to make electricity production 100 percent carbon neutral in 2050 and generate 70 percent of energy using from wind and solar by 2030, an effort widely supported by its citizens.
Why it’s important: These types of motions are the first steps to pass the laws that support them. The people of Amsterdam have the ability to make history by being the first to ban fossil fuel advertising in the city. This is part of a growing trend of public frustration toward the fossil fuel industry. The industry has been shown to be corrupt and extremely destructive. It often shows a complete disregard for human health or wellbeing in order to achieve increased shareholder value. Just like with big tobacco before them, advertising should be banned in the interest of human health. The public now is becoming aware of the destructive nature of their products and also understands that the marketing tactics employed by big oil have been misleading and, in some cases, dishonest.
It is important to see tangible municipal support for federal commitments to the Paris Accord. Without them, it will be very difficult to achieve the required level of carbon reduction and capture needed to reverse the effects of climate change. Amsterdam is a global city that leads in many ways. They are a model for good governance and will inspire other cities to follow. [read more]
In yet another first for Tesla, its solar panels are being used to provide the power to run a water desalination plant in Kenya. The plant, run by a non-profit organization called Give Power, provides 20,000 gallons of clean drinking water per day, enough for 35,000 people. It is a model for growth in this sector and provides a blueprint to provide clean drinking water for millions.
Why it’s important: If current trends continue, half the world’s population will be without adequate drinking water by 2025. The ocean is a huge, easily accessed source of water but until now, the cost to desalinate and purify it has been too high due to energy generation costs. With a solar power plant in place, the long-term cost to provide water becomes far less expensive. As the solar industry matures and achieves economy of scale, the efficiency of the panels increases while the cost decreases. This is great news for developing nations or any area with limited water security. It is estimated that about 80% of illnesses are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions. Better health leads to higher productivity and living conditions overall.
But the conditions for people are better not just because of water. A solar plant in a remote community can provide opportunities for health care clinics, schools to educate and so much more. [read more]
A form of fossil fuel, Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) has long been touted as a clean burning alternative to other forms of fossil fuels such as oil or coal. The problem for LNG is twofold; 1, countries are adopting stricter regulations regarding their commitments to the Paris accord, and 2, the LNG industry is now being affected by the transition to cleaner and cheaper forms of renewable energy like solar and wind. The combination is expected to create a decrease in the global market size for LNG, and as a result, stranded assets for the industry.
Why it’s important: Despite the “clean LNG” myth perpetuated by the fossil fuel industry, in practice, it is simply not true. LNG is primarily methane – a greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The problem lies not in burning it – it does burn more cleanly than other fuels – it is in the raw gas that escapes during production, shipping, and handling. Known as methane slip, a significant amount is lost to the atmosphere every time it is transferred from one vessel to another. Some escapes when it is removed from the ground, some escapes when it is put into pipelines, more escapes when it is loaded into ships to be transported to foreign markets, and again when it is put into final distribution and consumption by the end-user. Even the extraction industry that controls the wells is dirty. It often relies on fracking to be lucrative and results in all kinds of downstream effects to the communities where it occurs. Then, when the well is no longer producing enough gas to pay for itself, the parent company goes out of business or is sold, the well is often abandoned. An old, unmaintained well may leak gas for decades. To the industry this methane slip or escapement is acceptable; the value of lost gas is insignificant compared to the cost for eliminating it. The cost of producing truly clean LNG would make the product too expensive to be viable. Thus, we see increased scrutiny and regulations against the use of the product, ultimately leading to the eventual fall of the industry. [read more]
The Paris effect is again evident in the fact that more than 50 of the world’s leading cities are on track to help keep global heating below 1.5C. Together, they intend to tackle the worst impacts of the climate crisis. From mass tree-planting in Buenos Aires to new public transport networks in Mexico City, 54 of the world’s leading cities are now rolling out plans that will cut their greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris agreement. The report calculates that taken together, these plans will prevent at least 1.9 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions from being released into the atmosphere by 2030, an amount equivalent to five times the annual emissions of a country the size of the UK.
Why it’s important: As a society, we need to see major metropolitan centers make these changes. It is too easy to view big issues like climate change as overwhelming or too big to fix. Maybe a part of human nature needs to see another city go first before they take action. Maybe it’s like the law of diffusion of innovations, where the innovators and early adopters need to reach 16% of the total market before the rest follow and join the masses. The result is a tipping point where the vast majority (78%), are working to make things better. In the case of cities adopting serious and measurable climate action, this could drive the cost for other cities to participate lower, and the new way of running a society becomes far more affordable than the old, polluting ways. In fact, by the time this tipping point is reached, the old ways may be so far gone that they would be nearly impossible to go back to. [read more]
In December UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a major change in policy direction. He stated: “Climate change is one of the great global challenges of our age, and it is already costing lives and livelihoods the world over. Our actions as leaders must be driven not by timidity or caution, but by ambition on a truly grand scale. I’m pleased to say that the UK will end taxpayer support for fossil fuel projects overseas as soon as possible.” This means that the UK government will no longer provide financial support for the fossil fuel industry. The country has been phasing out the use of coal-fired energy for years and already announced a carbon footprint reduction target of 68% by 2030 far above the EU’s target of 55%. The most recent announcement comes a day before he co-hosts a virtual summit with more than 70 world leaders to mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris climate accord. While there is no doubt a sincere sentiment and it is certainly a strong statement, the timing may indicate it is a way to gain points with the other nations involved. Another instance of the Paris effect.
Why it’s important: Major economies all seem to be tripping over themselves to show their green credentials lately. Mr. Johnson, a career politician, has never supported any legislation to benefit the environment until 2020. Now, as he bumbles through Brexit and alienates the UK’s largest trading economy, he must show a willingness to work with the EU’s aggressive decarbonization plan or risk losing access to their market altogether. But more important for any self-serving politician is re-election. If the majority of constituents support strong climate action, then that is exactly what the politicians will pay lip service to (and hopefully follow with action). A recent survey showed that 63% of UK adults agreed that “the UK should be a global leader in tackling climate change.” In the under 40 age group, 66% of adults agreed. The numbers are virtually the same within his own party and it is increasingly becoming obvious that climate is a non-partisan issue that even conservatives can back with confidence. Lastly, according to the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economic and Political Science, conservatives have proven that the UK can grow its economy while also reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. The most recent official figures show annual emissions were 43 percent lower in 2017 than in 1990, while GDP increased by 71 percent over the same period.
Regardless of an ulterior motive or not, citizens of the UK and the world at large all benefit from the decision to end support for fossil fuels and decarbonize the British economy. Best of all, the economic benefits are tangible too. The carbon race is on and England is becoming a front runner. [read more]
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