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Environmental Innovation Will Transform Business as Usual
By Tom Murray
As the Trump administration rolls back environmental protections that could harm human health for decades, it's increasingly up to businesses to lead the way, charting the course to a future that includes both a thriving economy and a thriving planet.
Leading the way requires first setting ambitious, public targets like the more than 340 companies taking science-based climate action and 90 that have approved science-based targets; collaborating with partners across the value chain for maximum scale and impact—Walmart's Project Gigaton, a collaborative effort to reduce 1 billion tons for emissions, is a powerful example; and, supporting smart climate and energy policy
BSR's new sustainability framework closely echoes these leadership approaches and recommends that companies create resilient business strategies that align with sustainability goals. GreenBiz's 2018 State of Green Business report further supports these and other requirements for sustainability leadership, adding that businesses need to improve reporting on climate risk, impact, and progress towards goals. The We Mean Business coalition adds further calls to action for companies: join the low carbon technology partnerships initiative, grow the market for sustainable fuels and electric vehicles, and take proactive steps to end deforestation by 2020.
Yet currently missing from all of this corporate sustainability leadership guidance is a call for companies to accelerate environmental innovation and deployment of next generation technology—sensors, AI, data analytics and visualization, and digital collaboration—to solve our most pressing environmental challenges.
We're on the verge of a new wave of environmental progress: a revolution in environmental protection and advocacy driven by new technologies that give people the power to understand problems and scale solutions like never before. Leading companies and investors have a critical role to play and will help define the impact of this wave. Ensuring that 21st century problems are met with 21st century solutions.
Fourth Wave Environmental Innovation
Environmental progress doesn't just happen. It is propelled by successive waves of innovation inspired by leaders and actions. Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir launched the modern conservation movement. This First Wave of environmental advocacy created our national parks and protected our lands. It was followed by an era defined by Rachel Carson and the birth of environmental law—the Second Wave of environmentalism.
The third and most recent wave of the environmental movement took shape in 1990 when McDonald's and EDF joined forces to drive innovation in packaging and waste reduction. Today, Third Wave problem-solving, market-based approaches and corporate partnerships have become standard practices.
Now, in the Fourth Wave of environmental progress, an upcoming report from EDF shows that business leaders overwhelmingly recognize there is more potential than previous waves to improve the economy and the environment. Eighty-six percent of executives surveyed agreed that Fourth Wave technology can help their bottom line as well as improve their impact on the environment; this figure increases to 91 percent among those in the C-Suite.
These forward-thinking executives understand that a prosperous tomorrow will come through groundbreaking innovations that help create sustainable solutions.
Innovation Is Already Underway
Already, many leading companies like Walmart and IBM have begun investing in and implementing environmental innovations that are empowering people to take action—for example, by using Blockchain to track and improve food waste across the supply chain. Here are other examples of Fourth Wave innovation in action:
EDF and Google Earth Outreach teamed up to map air pollution threats on a block-by-block scale in West Oakland, California, to give communities actionable, empowering information that previously not even government could provide.
The Mobile Monitoring Challenge, a joint effort between EDF and Stanford with technical advice from ExxonMobil and others, was launched to inspire new and innovative approaches to reducing methane emissions at oil and natural gas sites.
This challenge was preceded by the Methane Detectors Challenge, a groundbreaking partnership between EDF, oil and gas companies, technology developers and entrepreneurs that catalyzed the development and deployment of stationary, continuous methane monitors that can prevent the loss of valuable product for the oil and gas industry—and reduce pollution. By making methane data more accessible, environmental solutions can get to scale faster than ever before. Already, Shell, Statoil and PG&E are all conducting demonstration projects to test out the next-generation of methane sensors.
Pathways to Environmental Progress
Innovation will also be at the heart of EDF's work to leverage market forces to accelerate environmental protection and economic growth.
Despite the Trump administration's continued attempts to jeopardize the environmental gains of the last several decades, I'm hopeful about the future of our planet. Fueling this hope is the Fourth Wave of environmental progress, where the exponential growth in innovation will empower people—business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, individuals, and communities—to take action and fill the gaps in environmental leadership.
Tom Murray is vice president of EDF+Business at Environmental Defense Fund.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.