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Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life
A woman is seen shopping in a boutique. Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

By Amol Mehra

Set against rising calls for action to combat growing inequality and the climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of the key drivers of industry and economic reform: workers, communities and the environment.

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Work commuters pass through a busy subway station. d3sign / Getty Images

By Ruby Russell

We are used to hearing politicians and policy wonks talk about economic growth, celebrating when it goes up, and selling their pet projects and policies as key to boosting growth.

The problem is, as the economy expands, so does our consumption of resources. Waste, emissions and other pollution go up, too. Which is why many are asking — can we really keep infinitely expanding our economies on a planet of finite resources?

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Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.

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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden pauses as he speaks during The Des Moines Register Iowa Presidential Candidate Forum at Drake University on July 15, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

By Jo Harper

The Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden proposes net-zero CO2 emissions in the United States by 2050. It's an ambitious target, but 30 years is a long time in politics and there is a key tension between the party's moderate nominee with links to corporate funders, such as the asset manager BlackRock, and progressives whose votes he needs to win. This is nowhere better seen perhaps than on environmental issues, where campaigns to green corporate America have tended to fizzle out.

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Protesters representing various socio-economic groups rally against climate change on September 20, 2020 in New York City. John Lamparski / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Kenny Stancil

Amid the Global Week of Action for Debt Cancellation and one month ahead of the Finance in Common Summit, climate justice advocates on Monday urged public banks around the world to treat government responses to the coronavirus crisis as opportunities to coordinate just recoveries from the ongoing public health and economic calamities and to simultaneously facilitate just transitions from dirty to clean energy, thereby beginning to "build the world we want."

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As the climate crisis has become ever-harder to ignore, more people are questioning whether infinite economic growth is possible on a planet of finite resources. inkelv1122 / Flickr / CC by 2.0

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.

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An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on November 15, 2018 in Paradise, California. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

By Timothy Rooks

The many wildfires roaring through America's West Coast don't just look scary, they are bad for people's health, bad for public and private lands, and bad for the economy.

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Recycled paper at the Northern Adelaide Waste Management Authority's recycling site piles up in Edinburgh, Australia, on April 17, 2019. Brenton Edwards / AFP / Getty Images

By Alex Thornton

The Australian government has announced a A$190 million (US$130 million) investment in the nation's first Recycling Modernization Fund, with the aim of transforming the country's waste and recycling industry. The hope is that as many as 10,000 jobs can be created in what is being called a "once in a generation" opportunity to remodel the way Australia deals with its waste.

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Half of the extracted resources used were sand, clay, gravel and cement, seen above, for building, along with the other minerals that produce fertilizer. Cavan Images / Cavan / Getty Images

The world is using up more and more resources and global recycling is falling. That's the grim takeaway from a new report by the Circle Economy think tank, which found that the world used up more than 110 billion tons, or 100.6 billion metric tons, of natural resources, as Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

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Low water levels in Cape Town's Theewaterskloof dam could be a preview of climate-related droughts to come. Zaian / CC BY-SA 4.0

When politicians refuse to take action on climate change, they often use the economy as an excuse. President Donald Trump, for example, justified his decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement in economic terms.

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TckTckTck

The International Energy Agency (IEA) released today a major new report warning that nothing short of an energy sector revolution is required to protect the world from runaway climate change and a global temperature rise beyond two degrees Celsius.

The temperature refers to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Global Land-Ocean Temperature Index in degrees Celsius, base period: 1951-1980. The resulting temperature change is lower than the one compared with pre-industrial levels. Sources: Temperature data are from NASA (2013) carbon concentration on data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Earth System Research Laboratory.

In what is the IEA’s most urgent call for climate action yet, the World Energy Outlook Special Report 2013: Redrawing the Energy Climate Map advocates a “reorientation of an energy system currently dominated by fossil fuels,” and proposes near-term action to clean up the power sector and halt the increase of global emissions by 2020.

It also calls for “transformational” change in energy generation worldwide in the longer term.

IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said:

Climate change has quite frankly slipped to the back burner of policy priorities. But the problem is not going away—quite the opposite.

This WEO [World Energy Outlook] Special Report is a timely reminder that climate change must remain a permanent and prominent item on the policy agenda. It seeks to outline the intensive action which we need to start implementing today, without waiting to 2020 or later for a global agreement to take effect.

Compared to 2011, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2012 have increased by 1.4 percent.

A new global agreement aimed at meeting this target will not emerge before 2015 and is not likely to be implemented before 2020.

Meanwhile, the world is drifting further towards dangerous levels of average temperature rise and runaway climate change; the IEA projects an increase of 3.6 to 5.3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Scientists warn this level of warming could threaten civilization as we know it.

In its "4-for-2 degrees Celsius" scenario, the report proposes four near-term “pragmatic and achievable” measures to put the world on track to limiting warming to safer levels and could reduce emissions by eight percent on levels otherwise expected by 2020 without harming economic growth.

Targeted energy efficiency measures in buildings, industry and transport would account for nearly half of these savings by 2020 while limiting the construction and use of the least-efficient coal-fired power plants could deliver another 20 percent of these savings—while helping to curb local air pollution.

Sources: IEA databases and analysis; Boden et al. (2013).

The report estimated renewable energy generation would increase from around 20 percent to 27 percent over the same period to fill the void created.

Halving methane releases from flaring in the oil and gas industry could provide another 18 percent of the savings and implementing a partial phase of out fossil fuel consumption subsidies would account for 12 percent, according to the report.

The IEA also makes the economic case for avoiding a looming 2017 lock-in for long-term warming above 2ºC. While delaying climate action across the entire energy system till 2020 would save $1.5 trillion, the report estimates that an additional $5 trillion will be needed in low-carbon investment after this date.

Fossil fuel power plants have long life cycles and are therefore exposed to serious risks in a carbon-constrained world, facing early and costly retirement or retrofitting, or even becoming “stranded assets.”

In a report last year, the IEA warned that—to stay below two degrees Celsius—about two-thirds of proven global fossil fuel reserves have to stay in the ground. Yet companies spend vast amounts not only digging up known fossil fuel reserves but by looking for and developing new fossil fuel reserves.

A recent report from the Carbon Tracker Initiative found that the financial industry invested $674 billion in such projects last year alone, and warned that $6 trillion could be pumped into a "carbon bubble" over the next decade.

In response to this dire outlook for carbon-intensive utilities, the IEA promotes a strong global carbon market and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies as possible ways to avoid problems and to create a role for fossil fuels in the future energy mix of a carbon-constrained world.

However, in the same report the IEA also warns that the use of CCS “remains distant” as the technology has yet to be deployed at scale, and it could still be many years before the power sector could rely on it, if full-scale deployment ever becomes a reality.

Greenpeace also warns that power plants fitted with the technology require 11-40 percent more fuel and thus boost dependence on fossil fuels even further.

While generally welcoming the IEA’s call to action, environmental groups have upped the stakes.

Samantha Smith, leader of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Global Climate & Energy Initiative said:

This is a welcome intervention by the IEA, particularly the focus on energy efficiency standards for lighting, cars and appliances as well as cutting methane losses in oil and gas production. Unfortunately, the other policies are incomplete, not ambitious enough or regionally biased. With the world on track for catastrophic levels of global warming, as the IEA says, these stop-gap proposals simply don’t go far enough.

Building on IEA arguments they argue that the IEA should set a target to cut emissions from coal power 20 percent by 2020—targeting all power stations.

TWh = terawatt-hours. Sources: BNEF (2013) Frankfurt School UNEP Collaborating Centre and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (2012) and IEA data and analysis.

They also call for deeper cuts in fossil fuel subsidies, phasing out both consumption subsidies and production subsidies—those providing incentive for exploring for new reserves—in both developed and developing countries.

According to the IEA, $523 billion was spent globally in 2011—up 30 percent from 2010 and huge in comparison to the $88 billion spent on subsidising clean renewables.

WWF says governments should instead use taxpayer money to boost renewables and fight energy poverty.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.

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Natural Resources Defense Council

A century after the seeds for the development of the incandescent bulb were planted in Ohio and GE began operations in Nela Park, a new report shines a spotlight on the state’s burgeoning advanced lighting industry that is leading global energy efficiency innovations. With more than 4 billion screw-based bulbs being transitioned to new technologies in the United States alone, Ohio’s economy stands to gain significantly from the companies leading the change. The state already boasts 1500 manufacturing jobs from the industry with potential for many more to come. The new report Better Bulbs, Better Jobs, released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council, highlights the potential with case studies of large and small job producers across the state.

“If you weren’t watching, it might be a surprise to learn that Ohio is a world leader in developing energy efficient lighting,” said Dylan Sullivan, staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and a co-author of the report. “There is huge potential for this industry, but we need to retain Ohio’s smart policies to secure future growth. Rolling back the policies that strengthen the market for these innovative products means rolling back jobs just starting to come online all over the state.”

The report outlines federal and state policies that are helping to create a market for advanced lighting technologies and includes seven case studies of Ohio companies driving the industry. TCP Lighting in Aurora (near Cleveland) has been central to the development of CFL bulbs, and is now poised to open a manufacturing facility in Ohio. Cincinnati’s LSI LED created the fixtures used to light New York’s landmark George Washington Bridge. Smaller companies like J&M Electrical Supply and J’s Lighting Services, both in Cambridge, are helping manufacturing businesses reduce costs and stay in Ohio by making the transition to more efficient lighting.

In Ohio, the state’s existing energy efficiency standard has been hugely impactful. The technologies put in place in 2009 and 2010 as a result of the efficiency standards will save customers over $350 million over their lifetime. And the transition to advanced lighting offers huge benefits outside of Ohio too. The nationwide transition to more efficient lighting means:

• Electric bill savings of more than $12.5 billion per year
• Energy savings equivalent to 30 large power plants
• Reduced pollution, including a 60 percent reduction in mercury emissions from power plants and prevention of approximately 100 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution per year

For more information and to read the full report, click here.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org.