Despite the numerous environmental obstacles thrown up by the previous administration, many U.S. cities have not only persevered in their efforts to combat climate change but they have made major strides forward, thanks to Bloomberg Philanthropies and its groundbreaking American Cities Climate Challenge program.
Created in 2018, the Climate Challenge, in partnership with NRDC, provided 25 cities with powerful resources to boost their efforts to tackle the climate crisis. Cities account for an overwhelmingly large percentage of global carbon emissions, primarily through transportation and buildings — sectors where mayors can enact real change.
Empowered by the Climate Challenge, these 25 cities implemented 54 major transportation, buildings and energy policies and 71 bold climate programs and initiatives — even in the midst of a global pandemic — resulting in substantial gains over just 2.5 years.
In a report that crunched the numbers, here’s what these impressive gains mean in cold, hard data: Collectively, the work of the Climate Challenge across these cities will reduce CO2 emissions by 74 million metric tons (MT) from 2020 through 2030, compared to a business-as-usual scenario. When we took this a step further and evaluated their combined achievements, including action taken outside of the Climate Challenge, we found the cities are on track to collectively reduce emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, which will beat the 2025 Paris Agreement goal of a 26 to 28 percent reduction.
Since transportation generates a significant share of emissions in the United States at 29 percent, Climate Challenge cities made cutting these emissions a priority. To date, they’ve approved 31 policies and launched 41 programs that have incentivized low-carbon transit, increased vehicle electrification and changed the face of their streets — with 510 miles of new or improved bike lanes and 75 miles of pedestrian-friendly walkways.
To reduce traffic congestion and the emissions that it produces, multiple cities raised new revenue for mass transit to help residents move around without getting into their cars. San Antonio’s innovative Proposition A reallocates one-eighth of every cent of an already existing sales tax to fund nearly $40 million toward cleaner, more efficient public transit. Hamilton County voters in Cincinnati passed Issue 7 to add eight new bus routes and provide 24-hour service in seven major corridors. Overall, Climate Challenge cities added or enhanced 37 miles of bus lanes, among other transit projects. And half a dozen cities launched affordable car-sharing initiatives as an alternative to car ownership.
Nearly half of the cities were able to obtain clean energy sources to power their buildings, with more than 800 megawatts of renewable energy under contract or pending.
Moreover, it’s clear that the future of transportation is electric, so with that in mind, several cities implemented electric vehicle (EV) readiness ordinances, accelerated electrification in municipal fleets for a total of 1,136 new EV buses and cars, and installed 14,143 new EV chargers. Many cities plan to convert to fully EV fleets in the coming years.
Boosting energy efficiency
Commercial and residential buildings, together with the electricity generated from fossil fuel sources, account for a whopping 38 percent of CO2 emissions in the United States. Climate Challenge cities tackled these interconnected sectors by focusing on increasing energy efficiency and sourcing renewable energy. In total, the cities passed 23 policies and launched 30 programs in the buildings and energy sectors.
More than 37,000 energy audits were conducted to assess current usage and efficiency in buildings. Several cities instituted benchmarking policies — covering nearly 400 million square feet of real estate — in concert with building performance standards that set targets for increasing energy efficiency and reducing emissions progressively, over time.
Nearly half of the cities were able to obtain clean energy sources to power their buildings, with more than 800 megawatts of renewable energy under contract or pending. In New Mexico, the partnership between a soon-to-be-built solar farm on the Jicarilla Apache Nation reservation and the city of Albuquerque will raise the city’s renewable energy usage to an estimated 65 percent. To ensure sustainability into the future, three cities passed reach codes (standards for energy savings beyond current state requirements) that incorporate EV charging, solar and other renewable energy readiness into new-construction buildings.
A citywide climate plan can’t be comprehensive without also addressing the needs of underserved communities, which often bear the brunt of polluting industry and have less access to public transit and clean energy options.
Multiple Climate Challenge cities expanded or added bus routes to better serve these vulnerable communities. Some cities with car-sharing programs made sure to install EV charging stations in underserved neighborhoods and/or offer pricing incentives for seniors and low-income residents to access car-sharing options.
Cincinnati’s WarmUp Cincy program assisted low-income tenants with in-unit energy equipment upgrades to reduce emissions in rental buildings. And in partnership with the Climate Challenge and the city of Orlando, Florida, the Solar and Energy Loan Fund (SELF) empowers underserved homeowners to afford solar and other energy-efficient home improvements to amplify the city’s overall resilience against climate change.
To help build more robust, equitable economies, a handful of Climate Challenge cities and their partners introduced green workforce-development programs as part of their clean energy requirements. More than 800 residents so far have been trained or upskilled to work in high-road clean energy jobs. And, if approved by Congress, President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda will further bolster these efforts toward an equitable economic recovery for the country.
As the Climate Challenge has demonstrated, cities can have an outsize impact on climate change and improve people’s lives in a substantive way. With a new administration that’s committed to combating the crisis, federal and state governments can draw on the leading-edge policies and programs that have been test-driven at the local level. And the 25 pioneering cities that embarked on the Climate Challenge will continue to demonstrate how cities can be leaders and drive momentum at all levels of climate action.
This post originally appeared on NRDC’s Expert Blog.
Original Article: greenbiz.com
Is Climate Tech the Hottest Corner of the VC Business in the 2020s?
This is an excerpt from “Climatenomics: Washington, Wall Street, and the Economic Battle to Save Our Planet” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2022). Reprinted by permission of the publisher.
While government policies and leadership from Washington can help accelerate change, there’s another place that can accelerate change much faster: Silicon Valley.
In 2003, as a national technology reporter for a chain of newspapers, I visited the Mountain View, California campus of Google to meet with cofounder Sergey Brin. At the time, Google was still a private company, though there was widespread speculation that it would launch an initial public offering soon. The moment I pulled into the company parking lot, I got a taste that Google wasn’t a typical company. Covering many of the parking spaces were canopies made from solar panels, something that’s commonplace today but back then was pretty unusual. Even more unusual were the thick power cords hanging down from the panels over nearly every parking space, something that didn’t make sense until Brin and team later explained it to me. At the time, electric vehicles were even more uncommon than solar parking lot canopies (the first Tesla wouldn’t hit the streets for another five years). But Google knew EVs were coming someday soon, and it wanted to be ready. Google also wanted employees and other visitors to think about the possibilities that could come with solar-powered parking lots and cars that you could plug in to refuel.
Two of the forward-thinking people responsible for Google’s early solar deployment were Chris Sacca, who as the company’s corporate counsel and later head of special initiatives was involved in Google’s energy purchase agreements, and Andrew Beebe, who was chief commercial officer at solar company Suntech, which helped Google go solar.
“There really wasn’t any corporate interest until those guys stepped up and said, ‘Please build solar arrays all over our campus,'” Beebe recalled during a GreenBiz VERGE [climate] tech conference in October 2021. “But (Google executives) also said, ‘Set it up so we can have Walmart and Cisco and Microsoft and all of our competitors come over and see what we have done.’ They obviously had a hugely catalytic role in making all this happen.”
Both Beebe and Sacca would go on to become successful venture capitalists, Beebe with Obvious Ventures, the firm that helped launch companies such as Medium, Beyond Meat and electric bus maker Proterra, and Sacca with his firm called Lowercase Capital, which funded companies such as Twitter, Uber and Instagram. For about three years, Sacca also was a “guest shark” on the ABC television show “Shark Tank,” where budding entrepreneurs bid for the favor — and the funding — of millionaire investors. But it didn’t take long before Sacca was feeling unfulfilled by funding kitchen gadget start-ups on “Shark Tank” or electronic-gaming companies back in Silicon Valley. He, like Beebe, turned his attention almost fully toward clean-energy and climate-related investments.
Sacca and Beebe represent one of the hottest corners of the venture capital business in the 2020s: climate tech. Some of the companies that investors like them are backing today will likely become the Googles of tomorrow. Only instead of changing the way we search for stuff on the Internet, climate tech companies will change the way we source and store our energy, grow our food, and move from point A to point B, whether on land, water, or air. In doing so, they’ll not only transform our economy, but help save the planet.
In 2021, investments in climate tech companies hit more $31 billion, according to deal tracking firm PitchBook. That was 30 percent more than in 2020 and more than 2.5 times what it was in 2019. Those big numbers will likely only get bigger as federal, state and international clean climate and clean-energy policies are implemented. Quite simply, government policies and funding help reassure venture capitalists and other private investors to put more of their money at risk.
In 2021, investments in climate tech companies hit more $31 billion, according to deal tracking firm PitchBook.
Climate-tech and clean-tech investing is no longer just about solar or wind or even batteries anymore. Those businesses now attract plenty of mainstream investors. They’re almost like investing in restaurants or real estate — they’re too passe for venture capitalists who are more interested in finding more disruptive technologies that can scale quickly and create big returns.
“What we look at every day are energy innovations that are just insane, some of which are doing things that Einstein declared literally would not be possible,” Sacca said at the VERGE conference. “We see stuff happening in synthetic biology, for instance, that’s just nuts.”
Amid the hellish fires in the West, back-to-back hurricanes in the East and scientists everywhere warning that things were only going to get worse, Sacca in August 2021 stepped away from Lowercase Capital, quit “Shark Tank,” and with wife Crystal turned his attention specifically toward figuring out how to fund and support companies trying to do more to address climate change. The couple launched a new investment fund called Lowercarbon Capital. In a matter of days, they raised more than $800 million that Lowercarbon Capital could deploy to try to “un— the planet,” in Sacca’s terms. The fund was so popular, Sacca wrote on Lowercarbon Capital’s blog, that it had to turn investors away. “It turns out that raising for a climate fund in the context of an unprecedented heatwave and from behind the thick clouds of fire smoke probably didn’t hurt,” he wrote.
Since then, Lowercarbon has invested in companies that capture carbon dioxide and turn it into consumer products, reduce carbon emissions from livestock and fertilizers on the farm, and mine materials that are key to batteries and storage in ways that don’t destroy the environment. One such company is Twelve, a Bay Area start-up that “upcycles” carbon dioxide captured from industrial emissions and turns it into everything from jet fuel to sunglasses lenses, replacing fossil fuels and plastic. Another company Sacca was particularly excited about in 2021 was Lilac Solutions, which has raised $150 million to commercialize its lithium-mining technology. Lilac claims it can produce the essential element for batteries 10,000 times faster than conventional methods, using 90 percent less land and water. Lowercarbon Capital has also made numerous major investments in companies at the intersection of agriculture and climate, including start-up Formo, which is following the Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger model to make fine European cheeses that don’t require dairy or cows; Entocycle, which has figured out how to speed up the gestation period for black soldier fly larvae which happen to be some of the world’s fastest converters of food waste to protein; and Nitricity, which uses solar-powered modules placed around farms to literally make fertilizer out of thin air by converting and processing nitrates found in the atmosphere.
If garbage-eating fly larvae and fine cheeses bioengineered in a sterile laboratory don’t sound like appealing business models, think again. According to research group Climate Tech VC, food-and-water-related climate tech was the biggest sector for climate venture funding in 2021, followed by mobility, consumer goods, and clean energy. Tech investors’ take on food and agriculture is yielding new high-tech twists in one of the world’s oldest and most established economic sectors. Seattle-based clean-agriculture start-up Nori, for instance, got its start in 2017 when its cofounders entered a hackathon contest for coders to figure out new ways to use blockchain technology for social good. Far from the nearest farm, what they came up with was a way to use blockchain technology to monitor and track low-carbon agriculture practices and then monetize that by selling farm-based carbon-removal offsets.
In doing so, Nori is incentivizing farmers to use more climate-friendly agriculture practices that don’t just reduce carbon emissions but actually increase the ability of soil and crops to store carbon, while also creating a new marketplace for carbon removal and trading. In 2020, Nori raised more than $5 million in seed funding to launch its platform. “We call it climate-smart agriculture — thinking of carbon removal like a crop,” Christophe Jospe, a Nori cofounder, told E2.
This excerpt has been updated since publication.
Original Article: greenbiz.com
Walmart Begins Search for Sustainable Packaging
“We don’t have time to waste.” With this imperative tagline, American retail giant Walmart launched its Circular Connector this spring.
The goal: to accelerate innovation in the field of sustainable and circular packaging, creating a bridge between companies looking for packaging that has less impact on the environment and those with new solutions to offer.
Searching for sustainable packaging
That the world’s largest retail multinational is launching an online platform to encourage the circular economy of packaging — even while accounting for some form of greenwashing — is undoubtedly great news.
After all, it’s a fact that consumers are becoming increasingly sensitive to the problem of plastic pollution and in general to any aspect related to the sustainability of products. And Walmart, the retail chain of over 10,000 stores around the world, is held accountable by consumers on a daily basis.
Hence the ambitious commitment that the multinational has set for itself by 2025: to achieve that 100 percent of packaging on its shelves would be either recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable. And hence the rush to find solutions to reach the goals.
It’s a fact that consumers are becoming increasingly sensitive to the problem of plastic pollution… And Walmart is held accountable by consumers on a daily basis.
The Circular Connector was therefore created as an online tool to connect packaging designers and manufacturers with companies in various sectors, from food to cosmetics, from fashion to toys. “Basically,” explains a statement on Walmart’s website, “it’s a platform to accelerate packaging innovation and implementation. We want to make it easier for suppliers and brands to find sustainable packaging solutions, thus enabling all of us to move faster toward waste reduction.”
How does the Circular Connector work?
The Circular Connector is accessed from the multinational company’s sustainability policy site, the Walmart Sustainability Hub. To participate, sustainable packaging manufacturers or designers must fill out a special questionnaire with a series of questions about the functions, materials and recyclability of the candidate packaging. Each proposal will then be reviewed according to Walmart’s packaging sustainability goals and, if compatible, will be posted on the site and made available to brands for possible supply contracts.
Reiterating, pragmatically, that they “don’t have time to waste,” the project leaders also made available the company’s Recycling Playbook, based on the two principles of recyclability established by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Namely: 1. Is there, in practice, a system for large-scale recycling of this category of packaging that guarantees at least a 30 percent recycling rate for over 400 million people? 2. Do the packaging components fit into that system?
Walmart’s handbook also contains valuable guidance on materials, such as those that are difficult to recycle and therefore tend to be excluded from sorting: metallic films, multi-layer materials, PVC or PVDC, PETG in rigid plastic packaging, oxo-degradable plastics and colored PET.
“We need to work together to promote innovative solutions on a large scale,” states Walmart. “Companies with reusable, refillable, recyclable and other sustainable packaging solutions should therefore come forward. There are hundreds of brands striving to achieve their own packaging sustainability goals, just like Walmart, and the Circular Connector is one tool available to them in this journey.”
Original Post: greenbiz.com
Episode 317: Conversations About Circularity
This week’s run time is 1:03:05.
CONSIDERING CIRCULARITY (8:50)
Featuring a recap of interviews and stories from Circularity 22, held this week in Atlanta.
INTERVIEW: Jon Smieja, vice president of circularity and senior analyst for GreenBiz, reflects on hot topics and themes
STORY/AUDIO HIGHLIGHT: Planet vs. plastic: Three steps to solving the global plastics crisis (Featuring Keiran Smith, co-founder and CEO of Mr. Green Africa, on how to encourage decisions made at the local level.)
STORY/AUDIO HIGHLIGHT: John Warner: How to do the materials economy right (Featuring John Warner, senior vice president and research fellow of Zymergen, on how green chemistry could enable the leap to a regenerative, circular economy … if we educated chemists.)
CHITCHAT: Textile recycling tech startup triumphs in Circularity 22’s Accelerate competition
AUDIO HIGHLIGHT: Suzanne Shelton, founder and CEO, Shelton Group (On the importance of shifting context; and what that disturbing baby wrapped in cellophane image teaches us about marketing circularity.)
More sustainable consumer goods (47:30)
Interview with new CEO Christy Slay of The Sustainability Consortium, about priorities, circularity and engaging nimble innovators.
*Music in this episode: Lee Rosevere: “Not My Problem” and “Let That Sink In”; ItsWatR: “Awakening Instrumental”
Original Post: greenbiz.com
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