By Ruby Russell
It was only in the mid-20th century, in the wake of the shattering impact of World Wars and when capitalism and communism were competing for global dominance, that we began to measure the success of an economy in terms of gross national product, or GDP.
Zero-Emissions With Twice the GDP<p>"The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in their <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/syr/" target="_blank">Fifth Assessment</a>, have 116 mitigation scenarios with a chance of staying below the 2 degree Celsius threshold. All of those scenarios assume 2-3% GDP growth rates," says Jon Erickson, an ecological economist at the Gund Institute for Environment in Vermont, adding that this implies doubling the global economy by somewhere <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/net-zero-by-2050-what-does-it-mean/a-48958487" target="_blank">around 2050</a>.</p><p>These scenarios rely not just on switching to renewables, but also on the large-scale <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/carbon-capture-paris-agreement-co2-emissions-soil-reforestation-biochar-biomass/a-54717755" target="_blank">extraction of massive volumes</a> of carbon from the atmosphere using as-yet unproven technology, which Erickson describes as "wildly unrealistic." </p><p>"None of those models and the IPCC community even bother simulating a scenario where the global economy contracts, stabilizes and maybe even degrows," Erickson says. "Yet that's probably the one realistic scenario that would significantly affect greenhouse gas emissions." </p><p>It is easy to see why the idea that we must keep growing is hard to give up. When economic activity declines and we go into recession, people lose their jobs and are plunged into poverty. </p><p>Yet those arguing for "degrowth" — a managed contraction of economic activity— say it doesn't have to be this way. </p>
Time for a Different Approach?<p>Federico Demaria, an economist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, who has authored several books on degrowth, says that neoclassical economics — which has dominated economic discourse over recent decades, has "never looked at the question of how an economy could be managed without growth. It only looked at questions like, why do economies grow? If it's not growing, how can we make it grow? Or, how can we make it grow even faster?"</p><p>These have become pertinent questions even — or especially — for wealthy, industrialized economies, where growth has slowed over recent decades. "What the mainstream economists are doing is just trying to relaunch growth," Demaria says.</p><p>A different approach, which aims to rein in growth without inflicting the pain that recession has traditionally entailed, comes from the field of ecological economics. </p>
Embedding Economics in Ecology<p>Neoclassical economic models picture economies as closed systems, with no inputs of materials or energy and no outputs of pollution and waste. But ecological economists insist there is no real separation between economy and ecology. After all, if we destroy the planet that feeds us, economic activity will collapse pretty quickly too.</p><p>In an effort to fix this oversight, Demaria is among those devising <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-020-0484-y#:~:text=A%20combination%20of%20market%2Dincentive,mitigating%20its%20environmental%20impact2" target="_blank">new economic models</a> that include factors like emissions and resources use. They are also working in things like social equality, debt, deficits and monetary systems, which have social impacts, and play into cycles of boom and bust.</p><p>Which is why Demaria says their work is attracting attention from surprising quarters. </p><p>"The main idea of ecological macroeconomics is that the economy is embedded into the environment," he says. "The second problem is that the neoclassical models were not realistic — look at the financial crisis; they didn't see it coming because they were completely unable to model it. So central banks, for example, are showing a lot of interest in ecological macroeconomics." </p>
Degrowth Vs. Green Growth<p>Yet mainstream environmentalism is still firmly entrenched in the idea of "green growth."</p><p>The IPCC, the <a href="https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2019/10/15/delivering-green-growth" target="_blank">World Bank</a>, the <a href="https://www.oecd.org/greengrowth/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">OECD</a> and countless think tanks and national governments rely on us being able to "decouple" growth from its ecological impact. And some economies, like Germany, have grown while emissions level off, or even decline. </p><p>Countless <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13563467.2019.1598964" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">scientific papers</a> have been dedicated to the fierce debate over whether these cases represent an absolute break or just a tempering of the link between growth, emissions and resource-use. </p><p>But proponents of <a href="https://eeb.org/library/decoupling-debunked/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">degrowth </a>argue that to date, decoupling has only happened in wealthy economies that have outsourced emissions-heavy sectors like manufacturing to economies like China, and that globally the correlation is still strong. </p><p>As exemplified by the IPCC scenarios, the argument for "green growth" rests on the assumption that technology will save us. By recycling more, swapping energy from fossil fuels to that from renewables, and improving efficiency so we need less of it overall, proponents of green growth hope to keep expanding without sacrificing our planet's ability to feed us and maintain a stable climate.</p>
Increased Efficiency, Greater Energy Use<p>Yet technological advances don't always have the desired outcome.</p><p>When new engines that needed less coal to produce the same amount of energy were introduced in the 19th century, coal consumption didn't fall. Instead, better efficiency increased profits, made products cheaper, and drove up demand, meaning coal use <a href="https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/jevons-the-coal-question" target="_blank">actually went up</a>. </p><p>This trend — called <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0921800905001084" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Jevons paradox</a> — has persisted, meaning that improvements in efficiency tend to come with a rebound effect that wipes out any actual energy savings. Similar effects can be seen in resource use, and even labor, as automation has done more to boost consumption and production <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/do-we-need-to-work-less-to-save-the-world/a-53742751" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">than free time for workers</a>.</p><p>In a system geared toward infinite expansion, opportunities to tighten our belts tend to be seized as new ways to keep getting bigger. </p><p>But degrowthers argue that we do have to tighten our belts — and it doesn't have to be painful. If we could reverse the central logic of economic systems that prioritize growth over human and ecological wellbeing, they don't believe we would miss the furious activity that's keeping a minority of the human population in must-have products and ever-more material wealth.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Hao Tan, Elizabeth Thurbon, John Mathews, Sung-Young Kim
China's President Xi Jinping surprised the global community recently by committing his country to net-zero emissions by 2060. Prior to this announcement, the prospect of becoming "carbon neutral" barely rated a mention in China's national policies.
Goodbye, Fossil Fuels<p>Coal is currently used to generate <a href="https://ieefa.org/coals-share-of-china-electricity-generation-dropped-below-60-in-2018/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">about 60%</a> of China's electricity. Coal must be phased out for China to meet its climate target, unless technologies such as carbon-capture and storage become commercially viable.</p><p>Natural gas is <a href="https://chineseclimatepolicy.energypolicy.columbia.edu/en/natural-gas" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">increasingly used</a> in China for heating and transport, as an alternative to coal and petrol. To achieve carbon neutrality, China must dramatically reduce its gas use.</p><p>Electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles must also come to dominate road transport - currently they account for <a href="http://www.xinhuanet.com/fortune/2020-01/08/c_1125433202.htm" target="_blank">less than 2%</a> of the total fleet.</p><p>China must also slash the production of carbon-intensive steel, cement and chemicals, unless they can be powered by renewable electricity or zero-emissions hydrogen. One <a href="https://www.energy-transitions.org/publications/china-2050-a-fully-developed-rich-zero-carbon-economy/" target="_blank">report</a> suggests meeting the target will mean most of China's steel is produced using recycled steel, in a process powered by renewable electricity.</p><p><a href="https://www.energy-transitions.org/publications/china-2050-a-fully-developed-rich-zero-carbon-economy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Modeling</a> in that report suggests China's use of iron ore – and the coking coal required to process it into steel – will decrease by 75%. The implications for Australia's mining industry would be huge; around <a href="https://minerals.org.au/minerals/ironore" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">80%</a> of our iron ore is exported to China.</p><p>It is critically important for Australian industries and policymakers to assess the seriousness of China's pledge and the likelihood it will be delivered. Investment plans for large mining projects should then be reconsidered accordingly.</p><p><span></span>Conversely, China's path towards a carbon neutral economy may open up new export opportunities for Australia, such as "green" hydrogen.</p>
A Renewables Revolution<p>Solar and wind currently account for <a href="https://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy.html" target="_blank">10% of China's total power generation</a>. For China to meet the net-zero goal, renewable energy generation would have to ramp up dramatically. This is needed for two reasons: to replace the lost coal-fired power capacity, and to provide the larger electricity needs of transport and heavy industry.</p><p>Two factors are likely to reduce energy demand in China in coming years. First, energy efficiency in the building, transport and manufacturing sectors is likely to improve. Second, the economy is moving <a href="https://apjjf.org/2018/10/Tan.html" target="_blank">away</a> from energy- and pollution-intensive production, towards an economy based on services and digital technologies.</p><p>It's in China's interests to take greater action on climate change. Developing renewable energy helps China build new "green" export industries, secure its energy supplies and improve air and water quality.</p>
The Global Picture<p>It's worth considering what factors may have motivated China's announcement, beyond the desire to do good for the climate.</p><p>In recent years, China has been viewed with increasing hostility on the world stage, especially by Western nations. Some <a href="https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/09/23/asia-pacific/china-carbon-neutral-2060/" target="_blank">commentators</a> have suggested China's climate pledge is a bid to improve its global image.</p><p>The pledge also gives China the high ground over a major antagonist, the US, which under President Donald Trump has walked away from its international obligations on climate action. China's pledge follows similar ones by the European Union, New Zealand, California and others. It sets an example for other developing nations to follow, and puts pressure on Australia to do the same.</p><p>The European Union has also been <a href="https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/europe-urges-china-to-match-its-climate-ambitions/" target="_blank">urging China</a> to take stronger climate action. The fact Xi made the net-zero pledge at a United Nations meeting suggests it was largely targeted at an international, rather than Chinese, audience.</p><p>However, the international community will judge China's pledge on how quickly it can implement specific, measurable short- and mid-term targets for net-zero emissions, and whether it has the policies in place to ensure the goal is delivered by 2060.</p><p>Much is resting on China's next <a href="https://chinadialogue.net/en/climate/11434-the-14th-five-year-plan-what-ideas-are-on-the-table/" target="_blank">Five Year Plan</a> – a policy blueprint created every five years to steer the economy towards various priorities. The latest plan, covering 2021–25, is being developed. It will be examined closely for measures such as phasing out coal and more ambitious targets for renewables.</p><p>Also key is whether the recent <a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/guest-post-why-chinas-co2-emissions-grew-4-during-first-half-of-2019" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rebound</a> of China's carbon emissions – following a fall from 2013 to 2016 – can be reversed.</p>
Wriggle Room<p>The 2060 commitment is bold, but China may look to leave itself wriggle room in several ways.</p><p>First, Xi declared in his speech that China will "aim to" achieve carbon neutrality, leaving open the option his nation may not meet the target.</p><p>Second, the Paris Agreement states that developed nations should provide financial <a href="https://unfccc.int/files/essential_background/convention/application/pdf/english_paris_agreement.pdf" target="_blank">resources and technological support</a> to help developing countries reduce their emissions. China may make its delivery of the pledge conditional on this support.</p><p>Third, China may seek to game the way carbon neutrality is measured – for example, by insisting it excludes carbon emissions "embodied" in imports and exports. This move is quite likely, given exports account for a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140988316302432" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">significant share</a> of China's total greenhouse gas emissions.</p><p>So for the time being, the world is holding its applause for China's commitment to carbon neutrality. Like every nation, China will be judged not on its climate promises, but on its delivery.</p>
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By Pep Canadell and Rob Jackson
The Paris climate agreement seeks to limit global warming to 1.5℃ this century. A new report by the World Meteorological Organization warns this limit may be exceeded by 2024 – and the risk is growing.
Greenhouse Gases Rise as CO₂ Emissions Slow<p>Concentrations of the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide (CO₂), methane (CH₄) and nitrous oxide (N₂O), have all increased over the past decade. Current concentrations in the atmosphere are, respectively, 147%, 259% and 123% of those present before the industrial era began in 1750.</p><p>Concentrations measured at Hawaii's Mauna Loa Observatory and at Australia's Cape Grim station in Tasmania show concentrations continued to increase in 2019 and 2020. In particular, CO₂ concentrations reached 414.38 and 410.04 parts per million in July this year, respectively, at each station.</p>
Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO₂), methane (CH₄) and nitrous oxide (N₂0) from WMO Global Atmosphere Watch.<p>Growth in CO₂ emissions from fossil fuel use slowed to around 1% per year in the past decade, down from 3% during the 2000s. An unprecedented decline is expected in 2020, due to the COVID-19 economic slowdown. Daily CO₂ fossil fuel emissions declined by 17% in early April at the peak of global confinement policies, compared with the previous year. But by early June they had recovered to a 5% decline.</p><p>We estimate a decline for 2020 of about 4-7% compared to 2019 levels, depending on how the pandemic plays out.</p><p>Although emissions will fall slightly, atmospheric CO₂ concentrations will still reach another <a href="https://theconversation.com/carbon-dioxide-levels-over-australia-rose-even-after-covid-19-forced-global-emissions-down-heres-why-144119" target="_blank">record high</a> this year. This is because we're still adding large amounts of CO₂ to the atmosphere.</p>
Global daily fossil CO₂ emissions to June 2020. Updated from Le Quéré et al. 2020, Nature Climate Change.
Warmest Five Years on Record<p>The global average surface temperature from 2016 to 2020 will be among the warmest of any equivalent period on record, and about 0.24℃ warmer than the previous five years.</p><p>This five-year period is on the way to creating a new temperature record across much of the world, including Australia, southern Africa, much of Europe, the Middle East and northern Asia, areas of South America and parts of the United States.</p><p>Sea levels rose by 3.2 millimeters per year on average over the past 27 years. The growth is accelerating – sea level rose 4.8 millimeters annually over the past five years, compared to 4.1 millimeters annually for the five years before that.</p><p>The past five years have also seen many extreme events. These include record-breaking heatwaves in Europe, Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, major bushfires in Australia and elsewhere, prolonged drought in southern Africa and three North Atlantic hurricanes in 2017.</p>
Left: Global average temperature anomalies (relative to pre-industrial) from 1854 to 2020 for five data sets. UK-MetOffice. Right: Average sea level for the period from 1993 to July 16, 2020. European Space Agency and Copernicus Marine Service.
1 in 4 Chance of Exceeding 1.5°C Warming<p>Our report predicts a continuing warming trend. There is a high probability that, everywhere on the planet, average temperatures in the next five years will be above the 1981-2010 average. Arctic warming is expected to be more than twice that the global average.</p><p>There's a one-in-four chance the global annual average temperature will exceed 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels for at least one year over the next five years. The chance is relatively small, but still significant and growing. If a major climate anomaly, such as a strong El Niño, occurs in that period, the 1.5℃ threshold is more likely to be crossed. El Niño events generally bring warmer global temperatures.</p><p>Under the Paris Agreement, crossing the 1.5℃ threshold is measured over a 30-year average, not just one year. But every year above 1.5℃ warming would take us closer to exceeding the limit.</p>
Global average model prediction of near surface air temperature relative to 1981–2010. Black line = observations, green = modelled, blue = forecast. Probability of global temperature exceeding 1.5℃ for a single month or year shown in brown insert and right axis. UK Met Office.
Arctic Ocean Sea-Ice Disappearing<p>Satellite records between 1979 and 2019 show sea ice in the Arctic summer declined at about 13% per decade, and this year reached its lowest July levels on record.</p><p>In Antarctica, summer sea ice reached its lowest and second-lowest extent in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and 2018 was also the second-lowest winter extent.</p><p>Most simulations show that by 2050, the Arctic Ocean will practically be free of sea ice for the first time. The fate of Antarctic sea ice is less certain.</p>
Urgent Action Can Change Trends<p>Human activities emitted 42 billion tons of CO₂ in 2019 alone. Under the Paris Agreement, nations committed to reducing emissions by 2030.</p><p>But our report shows a shortfall of about 15 billion tons of CO₂ between these commitments, and pathways consistent with limiting warming to well below 2℃ (the less ambitious end of the Paris target). The gap increases to 32 billion tons for the more ambitious 1.5℃ goal.</p><p>Our report models a range of climate outcomes based on various socioeconomic and policy scenarios. It shows if emission reductions are large and sustained, we can still meet the Paris goals and avoid the most severe damage to the natural world, the economy and people. But worryingly, we also have time to make it far worse.</p>
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California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Wednesday that would ban the sale of new cars in California that run only on gasoline by the year 2035. The bid to reduce emissions and combat the climate crisis would make California the first state to ban the sale of new cars with internal combustion engines, according to POLITICO.
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By Ajit Niranjan
When private equity giant Blackstone invested in alternative milk maker Oatly this summer, furious customers pledged to boycott the dairy-free drink.
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New technology could produce a better, cheaper beer that's also good for the planet.
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Climate change has spurred close to a doubling of natural disasters in the last 20 years, and world leaders are failing to prevent Earth from evolving into "an uninhabitable hell" for millions, the United Nations warned on Monday.
Climate Change Proves Deadly<p>Worsening floods and storms accounted for about four-fifths of the total from 2000-2019, while major increases were also registered for droughts, wildfires and heat waves.The report noted that extreme heat is proving especially deadly. Other major recorded disasters included earthquakes and tsunamis.</p><p>The natural disasters also caused almost $3 trillion in global economic losses — almost twice the amount in the preceding two decades.</p><p>The UN body blamed leaders for not only <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-scientists-should-cut-back-on-air-travel/a-42862862" target="_blank">insufficient action</a> in slowing down climate change but also for failing to combat the global coronavirus pandemic which has killed over 1 million people and infected over 37 million in the past nine months.</p><p>"COVID-19 is but the latest proof that political and business leaders are yet to tune into the world around them," Mizutori said in a statement. Despite warnings from experts and UN agencies, "almost all nations" have not done enough to prevent death and illness caused by the pandemic.</p>
Asia at Highest Risk<p>Though the report commended countries including India and Bangladesh for stepping up efforts in evacuating millions of people to safety from life-threatening floods and cyclones, it said the odds "continue to be stacked against them, in particular by industrial nations that are failing miserably on reducing greenhouse gas emissions" in line with an agreed aim of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.</p><p>The report, released ahead of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction on Tuesday, relied on statistics from the Emergency Events Database, which records all disasters that kill 10 or more people, affect 100 or more people or result in a state of emergency declaration.</p><p>According to the data, Asia has suffered the highest number of disasters in the past 20 years with 3,068 disasters, followed by the Americas with 1,756 and Africa with 1,192.</p><p>In terms of affected countries, China topped the list with 577 events followed by the US with 467.</p><p>"It really is all about governance if we want to deliver this planet from the scourge of poverty, further loss of species and biodiversity, the explosion of urban risk and the worst consequences of global warming," Mizutori said.<br></p>
In the coming days, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to use its power to roll back yet another Obama-era environmental protection meant to curb air pollution and slow the climate crisis.
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By Julia Conley
Climate scientists were aghast Monday at the news that David Legates, a University of Delaware professor who has repeatedly questioned the scientific consensus that human activity is causing the climate crisis and has claimed that carbon dioxide emissions are beneficial, has been named by the Trump administration to a top leadership role at the federal government's climate research agency.
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By James Bruggers
In Maine, state officials are working to help residents install 100,000 high efficiency heat pumps in their homes, part of a strategy for electrifying the state. In California, an in-demand grant program helps the state's largest industry—agriculture, not technology—to pursue a greener, more sustainable future. Across Appalachia, solar panels are appearing on rooftops of community centers in what used to be coal towns.
In Maine, Federal Funding 'Would Make a Big Difference'<p>The fingerprints of climate change are all over the state of Maine, from the invasion of temperate species into the rapidly warming Gulf of Maine to summers that are now two weeks longer than they were a century ago. But despite all this change, one thing will stay the same: Winter in Maine will still be cold.</p><p>In a state that uses more home heating oil per capita than anywhere in the nation, Maine's climate hawks are looking to make a major change in the way people heat their homes, and help mitigate climate change at the same time.</p><p>In 2019, Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill with the goal of installing 100,000 heat pumps into homes in Maine by 2025. This would represent nearly a fifth of the homes in the state. </p><p>"It's clearly the electrification strategy," said Hannah Pingree, the state's director of the Governor's Office of Policy Innovation and the Future. "Electrify homes, electrify transportation. That's a strong theme of the Climate Council."</p><p>Maine's Climate Council—a group of scientists, industry leaders, local and state officials and residents—is charged with figuring out how Maine will meet a <a href="https://www.maine.gov/governor/mills/news/governor-mills-signs-major-renewable-energy-and-climate-change-bills-law-2019-06-26" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">trio of ambitious goals</a>: reducing emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and at least 80 percent by 2050; increasing the state's renewable energy portfolio standard to 80 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050; and making the state carbon neutral by 2045. </p><p>Heat pumps—which also cool homes—draw in air from outside and use the difference in temperature between inside and outside air to keep a home comfortable. They are run on electricity, and can be paired with clean energy sources like solar or wind power to eliminate the carbon footprint of home heating.</p><p>Mills' plan offers incentives for installing the pumps, thanks to state funding that's being supplemented by some federal low-income housing funds. The program is up and running, but it's something that Pingree said could benefit from an infusion of federal funds.</p><p>"The governor's heat pump program is already ambitious and innovative, but to really get to the full scale and take it even further, federal investment would make a big difference," said Pingree, who co-chairs the Climate Council. "Especially when it comes to people's homes, investments in transportation and housing stock, the federal government's participation is extremely helpful and it helps put people to work."</p><p>The heat pump program is part of a bigger picture of state and local governments working to get consumers to move away from using fossil fuels for heating. <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/12122019/natural-gas-ban-cities-legal-cambridge-brookline-massachusetts-state-law-berkeley-california" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Some local governments</a> in other states are banning natural gas hookups for new construction, and some electric utilities and clean energy advocates are asking California regulators to enact a <a href="https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/california-nears-tipping-point-on-all-electric-building-regulations" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statewide ban</a> as part of the next update of the state's building code.</p><p>Heat pumps are just one part of Maines's strategy, which will likely include a massive expansion of offshore wind and community solar projects and a push to electrify the transportation sector. At a meeting earlier this summer, more than 230 people from six working groups presented ideas to the council—more than 300 actions in all—which are being weighed now.</p><p>"If you look at the recommendations from the working groups, one of the cross-cutting ones is finance. We do need to raise revenue, and we also need the federal government to step up," said David Costello, the clean energy director of the Natural Resource Council of Maine. "It's going to be hard for Maine to implement many of the actions that we'd like to implement without increased funding."</p>
California's Grants for 'Climate Smart Agriculture' Are Successful—and Threatened<p>To say California farm country is central to its ambitious plans to combat climate change seems redundant. The $50 billion agricultural sector is a pillar of the state's economy, the world's fifth largest, encompassing 70,000 farms and ranches. </p><p>With such a vast and vital industry (which includes parts of every county in the state), California has created a suite of "climate smart agriculture" programs. The first-of-their-kind programs, launched in 2014 and expanded in 2017, are <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/25062020/california-farmers-coronavirus-emissions-climate-change" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">helping farms become more resilient </a>to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve land and protect ecosystems and communities. </p><p>The programs provide grant funds and technical assistance to farms in four key areas: conserving agricultural land against non-farm development; increasing on-farm water efficiency; improving soil health and managing manure to mitigate its climate impacts. The programs, popular with farmers, are receiving at least twice as many applications as there are grants.</p><p>They are also popular with nonprofit environmental and agricultural advocacy organizations. The California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN), evaluated the programs' climate benefits and found impressive results. To date, the programs collectively have funded more than 1,250 climate smart agriculture projects and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1.1 million metric tons of CO2 e (carbon dioxide equivalent) over the life of the projects, the equivalent of removing 67,000 passenger vehicles from the road for a year. The water efficiency programs have saved more than 110,000 acre feet of water (the equivalent of more than 50,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools).</p><p>They are also affordable, costing between $43 and $100 per metric ton of CO2 reductions. In a pre-pandemic California, one with a budget surplus and climate policy priorities, the programs would be expanding. Instead, climate smart agriculture funding is in jeopardy. The state, still partially wracked by the coronavirus, is in a worsening recession. Supporters of climate smart agriculture programs worry the state will spend its funding on other priorities.</p><p>This at a time when the coronavirus has exposed the need for greater investment in farm country, said Jeanne Merrill, CalCAN's policy director. "We're seeing the pandemic impacts on farmers is clearly a major disruption," she said, "and it's a disruption that can point to weaknesses in our current system. We're taking the lessons learned from the pandemic and applying that to how we can prepare for greater climate extremes. Investing in resilient farming is key."</p>
Across Appalachia, a New Post-Coal Economy Beckons<p>Coal mining jobs have been crashing for decades in eastern Kentucky, from roughly 30,000 in 1984 to about 3,000 now, undercutting what has long been among the most impoverished regions of the country.</p><p>For a long time, elected leaders <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/24092019/mitch-mcconnell-coal-miners-pensions-fund-appalachia-senate-campaign" target="_blank">held</a> what turned out to be false hope that the coal industry would come back.</p><p>But a nonprofit based in Berea, Kentucky, the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, has been working toward a post-coal economy since 1976. </p><p>Among its programs: training entrepreneurs and providing low-interest loans to small businesses. In the past dozen years, MACED added energy efficiency and solar power to its mix of programs, saving clients money and cutting carbon emissions at the same time.</p><p>It's an ironic twist that rural Appalachian counties that helped power the nation with cheap—though dirty and climate warming—coal have seen residents' electricity bills <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/14082018/coal-energy-prices-appalachia-mining-electric-bill-kentucky-economy-aep-rates" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">skyrocket</a> as coal has given way to cheaper natural gas and increasingly competitive wind and solar. Utility customers have been shouldering the costs of shuttering old coal-burning power plants and cleaning up the toxic messes they leave behind, while the power companies doubled down on more expensive coal.</p><p>Since May 2015, <a href="https://maced.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">MACED</a> has helped with 30 solar installations, saving almost $400,000 in energy costs, said Ivy Brashear, MACED's Appalachian transition director. And since 2008, MACED has helped hundreds of homes and businesses reduce their energy bills by scrutinizing them for errors and helping to pay for energy efficiency retrofits, she said. She added that it included, for example, helping a grocery store stay in business to prevent a rural area from becoming a food desert.</p><p>"We listen and collaborate with people who are living and working in these communities, and help advance that new economy in ways that are really just and really equitable," Brashear said.</p><p>In solar work, MACED has focused on Letcher County, with a population of about 22,000, where businesses, faith communities and nonprofits are <a href="https://www.letcherculture.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tapping</a> their cultural strengths to create a new economy. </p><p>Whitesburg-based Appalshop, the 50-year-old arts and education nonprofit, for example, partnered with MACED to put solar panels on its new outdoor performance <a href="https://appalshop.org/solar" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pavilion</a>, which opened a year ago, to power its headquarters building and reduce electricity bills.</p><p>"In the last decade, our energy costs have gone up by 50 percent and were expected to keep rising," said Alexandra Werner-Winslow, Appalshop communications director. "That was not sustainable."</p><p>MACED, she said, "was tremendously helpful with our construction," and with the low-interest loan. At the same time, Appalshop sees solar development and energy efficiency as an important economic engine for eastern Kentucky.</p><p>MACED's funding includes grants from government and philanthropic foundations. With Congress weighing further ways to help the nation recover from an economic recession caused by the novel coronavirus, it could further a transition to cleaner energy and energy savings in rural areas through targeted investments and tax rebates, said Peter Hille, president of MACED.</p><p>"Anything that can (bring) down the front-end cost makes a big difference since that also reduces interest cost on financing over the life of the loan," he said.</p>
Mountain Towns in the West Hope for a 'Green Pathway' Stimulus<p>Jessie Burley is the sustainability director for the town of Breckenridge, Colorado, a posh, outdoorsy community in the Tenmile Range. Not only is Breckenridge a member of the statewide Colorado Communities for Climate Action but the town is also part of a national organization, Mountain Towns 2030, that's swapping ideas about how to meet a goal of net-zero carbon emissions within a decade, and one of many tourist towns focused on clean energy long before the coronavirus pandemic.</p><p>And the resulting economic downturn hasn't changed the goal, said Burley. Sustainability-minded communities recognize that jobs and businesses ought to be a focus of the Covid-19 recovery, since the pandemic has revealed how exposed existing economic systems are, she said.</p><p>"Whether it's a virus or whether it's global warming or whether it's some other kind of disaster, we are more susceptible," she said. "We also can't lose sight of the fact that going back to business as usual is not going to be enough."</p><p>Members of a Mountain Towns 2030 task force on Covid-19 are pressing for any new stimulus package to include provisions supporting "green pathway" programs, such as green infrastructure, electric vehicle charging or renewable energy jobs. In that spirit, although Breckenridge has suffered steep, pandemic-related revenue losses, a community solar program is pressing forward this year, its grants scaled back from 25 to 20.</p><p>Similarly, in Montana, where revenue from natural resource industries makes up 12 percent of the state's general fund and paychecks for 1.2 percent of the workforce, a task force is finalizing a statewide climate change plan this month, said Mark Haggerty, an economist with Bozeman-based Headwaters Economics and a member of the governor's climate task force. Planning is still underway to decarbonize Montana's electricity sector by 2035 and to decarbonize Montana's economy by 2050, he said.</p><p>"A lot of this needs to be done in recognition of the fact that [the energy transition] is already happening," said Haggerty, noting that the task force is diverse, including everyone from conservationists to energy officials.</p><p>"It is a broad-based challenge, and everyone is affected regardless of where you live or what your political affiliation is," he said of the new climate goals in a world also dealing with Covid-19's economic fallout. "But, also, we need everyone to buy into and ultimately benefit from the changes that we can enact and that will benefit the entire state."</p>
Virginia is the South's First State to Commit to Carbon-Free Energy<p>In the wake of a political upheaval that put Democrats firmly in control of state government, Virginia in 2020 became the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-solutions/virginia-becomes-the-first-southern-state-with-a-goal-of-carbon-free-energy/2020/04/13/4ef22dd6-7db5-11ea-8013-1b6da0e4a2b7_story.html" target="_blank">first state in the South</a> to commit to 100 percent carbon-free energy and to join the northeast's <a href="https://www.rggi.org/sites/default/files/Uploads/Press-Releases/2020_07_08_VA_Announcement_Release.pdf" target="_blank">Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.</a></p><p>Most of the state's coal power would have to shut down by 2024 under the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which also lays the groundwork for a burst of new renewable energy construction. Lawmakers declared large amounts of solar and wind energy and energy storage to be "in the public interest," sweeping aside the regulatory barriers to new renewable energy projects.</p><p>This transition to renewable energy already has a footprint in the Hamptons Roads area, where the state plans to develop a wind industry hub to be overseen by a newly created state agency aimed at fostering offshore wind farms. The bill that created the agency stated Virginia's opposition to offshore drilling. </p><p>About 25 miles east, Virginia Beach is considering an array of plans to protect homes and businesses from increased climate-related flooding, storm surges and sea level rise, hoping for either state or federal funds to do everything from buying out flood prone homes to possibly building large floodgates to protect its shoreline. </p><p>In Norfolk, the state is supporting construction of new reefs using crushed concrete and granite that can serve as a habitat for the eastern oyster and also help shield the city against storm surges and erosion. The effort enabled state officials last year to declare the Lafayette River fully restored under the Chesapeake Bay Watershed agreement. </p><p>The Legislature, meanwhile, considered, but rejected, the idea of a Virginia "Green New Deal" public works-style program. Instead, lawmakers opted for a business-friendly approach that had the support of the state's big utilities, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power, by the time the legislation was<a href="https://www.governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/all-releases/2020/april/headline-856056-en.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> signed into law</a> by Gov. Ralph Northam on April 11. </p><p>The new Clean Economy Act makes it easier for rooftop solar to spread across Virginia, by expanding "net metering" for households—giving electricity customers credit for the excess solar energy they produce and sell back to the grid. It enables Virginians for the first time to save money on their monthly electric bills by going solar.</p><p>If utilities fall short on their obligations to cut carbon energy and expand renewables, they will be subject to penalties that will go into an account to fund job training, with priority given to historically disadvantaged communities, veterans and individuals in Virginia's coalfield regions. Some critics note that this set-up means there is no assured funding for worker transition programs, which could be provided by stimulus programs from the federal government.</p><p>Virginia already has more solar jobs (<a href="https://www.thesolarfoundation.org/solar-jobs-census/factsheet-2019-va/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">4,489</a>) than coal jobs (<a href="https://www.eia.gov/coal/annual/pdf/table18.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2,730)</a>, and the latter are concentrated in the rural southwestern part of the state, a Republican stronghold which has lost political power to the state's burgeoning northern suburbs. Diverse, highly educated and tech-heavy communities in the northern part of the state helped Democrats take full control of Virginia's Legislature in 2019, paving the way for passage of Northam's clean energy agenda. A chief challenge in implementing the law will be ensuring that the Republican-dominated, fossil fuel-dependent rural regions that have been resistant to change don't get left behind.</p>
The first presidential debate seemed like it would end without a mention of the climate crisis when moderator Chris Wallace brought it up at the end of the night for a segment that lasted roughly 10 minutes.
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Panera Bread customers now have the ability to make eco-conscious choices. The national soup and sandwich chain has partnered with the World Resources Institute (WRI) to label some of its menu items "Cool Food Meals," CBS News reported.
By Jessica Corbett
This story was originally published on Common Dreams on September 19, 2020.
Some advocates kicked off next week's Climate Week NYC early Saturday by repurposing the Metronome, a famous art installation in Union Square that used to display the time of day, as a massive "Climate Clock" in an effort to pressure governments worldwide to take swift, bold action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and rein in human-caused global heating.
<div id="0bde7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="002ce26d8d0c627f76d752e14d234d6e"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1307397838884741121" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">LIVE: #ClimateClock about to go live at Union square replacing the atronomical clock, with a carbon countdown!… https://t.co/5OzxwUwWDf</div> — Greg Schwedock🌹(⧖) (@Greg Schwedock🌹(⧖))<a href="https://twitter.com/GregSchwedock/statuses/1307397838884741121">1600542909.0</a></blockquote></div><p>A mobile climate clock that Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg "now carries with her, as well as the larger Climate Clock project, was assembled by a team of artists, makers, scientists, and activists based in New York, and is part of the Beautiful Trouble community of projects," according to <a href="https://climateclock.world/" target="_blank">Climateclock.world</a>, which details the science behind the numbers displayed and how to install clocks in other cities.</p>
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