We Can’t Fight Climate Change Without Valuing Nature

new study in Nature Sustainability incorporates the damages that climate change does to healthy ecosystems into standard climate-economics models. The key finding in the study by Bernardo Bastien-Olvera and Frances Moore from the University of California at Davis: The models have been underestimating the cost of climate damages to society by a factor of more than five.

Their study concludes that the most cost-effective emissions pathway results in just 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) additional global warming by 2100, consistent with the “aspirational” objective of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

Models that combine climate science and economics, called “integrated assessment models” (IAMs), are critical tools in developing and implementing climate policies and regulations. In 2010, an Obama administration governmental interagency working group used IAMs to establish the social cost of carbon – the first federal estimates of climate damage costs caused by carbon pollution. That number guides federal agencies required to consider the costs and benefits of proposed regulations.

Economic models of climate have long been criticized by those convinced they underestimate the costs of climate damages, in some cases to a degree that climate scientists consider absurd.

Given the importance of the social cost of carbon to federal rulemaking, some critics have complained that the Trump EPA used what they see as creative accounting to slash the government’s estimate of the number. In one of his inauguration day Executive Orders, President Biden established a new Interagency Working Group to re-evaluate the social cost of all greenhouse gases.

IAMs often have long been criticized by those convinced they underestimate the costs of climate damages, in some cases to a degree that climate scientists consider absurd.

Perhaps the most prominent IAM is the Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy (DICE) model, for which its creator, William Nordhaus, was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Judging by DICE, the economically optimal carbon emissions pathway – that is, the pathway considered most cost-effective – would lead to a warming increase of more than 3°C (5.4°F) from pre-industrial temperatures by 2100 (under a 3% discount rate). IPCC has reported that reaching this level of further warming could likely result in severe consequences, including substantial species extinctions and very high risks of food supply instabilities.

In their Nature Sustainability study, the UC Davis researchers find that when natural capital is incorporated into the models, the emissions pathway that yields the best outcome for the global economy is more consistent with the dangerous risks posed by continued global warming described in the published climate science literature.

Accounting for climate change degrading of natural capital

Natural capital includes elements of nature that produce value to people either directly or indirectly. “DICE models economic production as a function of generic capital and labor,” Moore explained via email. “If instead you think natural capital plays some distinct role in economic production, and that climate change will disproportionately affect natural capital, then the economic implications are much larger than if you just roll everything together and allow damage to affect output.”

Bastien-Olvera offered an analogy to explain the incorporation of natural capital into the models: “The standard approach looks at how climate change is damaging ‘the fruit of the tree’ (market goods); we are looking at how climate change is damaging the ‘tree’ itself (natural capital).”

In an adaptation of DICE they call “GreenDICE,” the authors incorporated climate impacts on natural capital via three pathways:

The first pathway accounts for the direct influence of natural capital on market goods. Some industries like timber, agriculture, and fisheries are heavily dependent on natural capital, but all goods produced in the economy rely on these natural resources to some degree.

According to GreenDICE, this pathway alone more than doubles the model’s central estimate of the social cost of carbon in 2020 from $28 per ton in the standard DICE model to $72 per ton, and the new economically optimal pathway would have society limit global warming to 2.2°C (4°F) above pre-industrial temperatures by 2100.

The second pathway incorporates ecosystem services that don’t directly feed into market goods. Examples are the flood protection provided by a healthy mangrove forest, or the recreational benefits provided by natural places.

In the study, this second pathway nearly doubles the social cost of carbon once again, to $133 per ton in 2020, and it lowers the most cost-effective pathway to 1.8°C (3.2°F) by 2100.

Finally, the third pathway includes non-use values, which incorporate the value people place on species or natural places, regardless of any good they produce. The most difficult to quantify, this pathway could be measured, for instance, by asking people how much they would be willing to pay to save one of these species from extinction.

In GreenDICE, non-use values increase the social cost of carbon to $160 per ton of carbon dioxide in 2020 (rising to about $300 in 2050 and $670 per ton in 2100) and limit global warming to about 1.5°C (2.8°F) by 2100 in the new economically optimal emissions pathway.

(Note for economics wonks – the model runs used a 1.5% pure rate of time preference.)

Climate economics findings increasingly reinforce Paris targets

It may come as no surprise that destabilizing Earth’s climate would be a costly proposition, but key IAMs have suggested otherwise. Based on the new Nature Sustainability study, the models have been missing the substantial value of natural capital associated with healthy ecosystems that are being degraded by climate change.

Columbia University economist Noah Kaufman, not involved in the study, noted via email that as long as federal agencies use the social cost of carbon in IAMs for rulemaking cost-benefit analyses, efforts like GreenDICE are important to improving those estimates. According to Kaufman, many papers (including one he authored a decade ago) have tried to improve IAMs by following a similar recipe: “start with DICE => find an important problem => improve the methodology => produce a (usually much higher) social cost of carbon.”

For example, several other papers published in recent years, including one authored by Moore, have suggested that, because they neglect ways that climate change will slow economic growth, IAMs may also be significantly underestimating climate damage costs. Poorer countries – often located in already-hot climates near the equator, with economies relying most heavily on natural capital, and lacking resources to adapt to climate change – are the most vulnerable to its damages, despite their being the least responsible for the carbon pollution causing the climate crisis.

Another recent study in Nature Climate Change updated the climate science and economics assumptions in DICE and similarly concluded that the most cost-effective emissions pathway would limit global warming to less than 2°C (3.6°F) by 2100, without even including the value of natural capital. Asked about that paper, Bastien-Olvera noted, “In my view, the fact that these two studies get to similar policy conclusions using two very different approaches definitely indicates the urgency of cutting emissions.”

Recent economics and climate science research findings consistently support more aggressive carbon emissions efforts consistent with the Paris climate targets.

Wesleyan University economist Gary Yohe, also not involved in the study, agreed that the new Nature Sustainability study “supports growing calls for aggressive near-term mitigation.” Yohe said the paper “provides added support to the notion that climate risks to natural capital are important considerations, especially in calibrating the climate risk impacts of all sorts of regulations like CAFE standards.”

But Yohe said he believes that considering the risks to unique and threatened systems at higher temperatures makes a more persuasive case for climate policy than just attempting to assess their economic impacts. In a recent Nature Climate Change paper, Kaufman and colleagues similarly suggested that policymakers should select a net-zero emissions target informed by the best available science and economics, and then use models to set a carbon price that would achieve those goals. Their study estimated that to reach net-zero carbon pollution by 2050, the U.S. should set a carbon price of about $50 per ton in 2025, rising to $100 per ton by 2030.

However climate damages are evaluated, whether through a more complete economic accounting of adverse impacts or via risk-based assessments of physical threats to ecological and human systems, recent economics and climate science research findings consistently support more aggressive carbon emissions efforts consistent with the Paris climate targets.

Dana Nuccitelli

By

Source: We Can’t Fight Climate Change Without Valuing Nature – The Good Men Project

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Bill Gates Climate

Bill Gates wants you to know two numbers: 51 billion and zero. The former is the number of tons of greenhouse gases typically added to the atmosphere each year as a result of human activities. The latter is the number of tons we need to get to by 2050 in order to avert a climate crisis.

Gates has a plan for how to go from 51 billion to zero, and he’s happy to say it doesn’t come with a price tag in the trillions of dollars. As you might expect from a guy who made his fortune in technology, the billionaire’s suggested solution is tied in large part to innovation.

He spells out his plan in a new book, How To Avoid A Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have And The Breakthroughs We Need, to be released on February 16. Ahead of the book launch, Gates talked to Forbes about why he wrote the book. He also shared details the book doesn’t get into, including how much he’s invested in zero-carbon companies, which ones he’s most excited about, including a new kind of nuclear power plant, and what he’s likely to invest in next. 

Goal number one of the book, says Gates, is to clearly lay out which sectors of the economy are producing the 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases the world typically adds to the atmosphere each year. “The actual numeric framework, which is the most basic thing for any problem you want to tackle…that’s really been missing,” Gates says in a video interview from a conference room in his offices in Seattle. (See table for the percentage breakdown.)  The goal we as a planet need to aim for: zero emissions by 2050. Gates is optimistic that as hard as it sounds, we can get there.


How It Adds Up Globally: 51 Billion Tons

Emissions dropped about 5% in 2020 due to the pandemic, Gates estimates. But in a normal year the world adds 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, Gates writes in his book.

                            

Gates admits, both in his book and when we spoke, that he is an imperfect messenger on climate change. “The very idea that one person is saying they know what we should do —appropriately, there is some pushback,” he says. In his book, he writes, “The world is not exactly lacking in rich men with big ideas about what other people should do, or who think technology can fix any problem.” He admits to owning big houses and flying in private jets, though he tells me that he buys carbon offsets for $400 a ton for the private jet flights he takes. “I can’t deny being a rich guy with an opinion. I do believe, though, that it is an informed opinion, and I am always trying to learn more,” he writes.

Gates presciently warned in a 2015 talk about the dangers of a global pandemic and what we’d need to do to prepare for it. Similarly, this is not his first public prescription for the climate. In 2010 he gave a TED talk calling for the need to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050. He’s continued to consult experts in the field and delve into the latest in climate science and policy. In 2015 he got involved in the Paris Climate Summit, calling France’s then president, Francois Hollande, and encouraging him to get countries to agree to raise their R&D budgets for clean tech innovation. Twenty countries signed on. Says Gates, “Although we did not see all those countries double their R&D budgets, we did see some increase. That’s sort of when the field started to focus on can we get this innovation to take place.”

To help put a framework around progress and the cost of new carbon-free innovations, Gates and his team came up with a term called “Green Premium” and introduced it in his blog, Gates Notes, in September last year. As he explains it, the Green Premium spells out the difference in cost between a product or process that doesn’t emit carbon with one that does. Green Premiums have fallen in the passenger car sector to the point where more people are buying electric cars (though Gates points out that just 2% of global auto sales are electric vehicles). In the industrial sector, however, Green Premiums are much higher. Says Gates, “The hardest problems to solve are in areas like steel and concrete and even transportation things like aviation fuel.” The problems he’s referring to: coming up with processes to make these products that don’t emit greenhouse gases. The research is in its early stages, and that’s where government R&D can play a role, Gates suggests.

What’s It All Going To Cost? 

In December, Gates suggested in his blog that the U.S. create a National Institutes of Energy Innovation to help the country take the lead in climate change innovation. The idea is to model it after the National Institutes of Health, the backbone of U.S. medical research, which has an annual budget of about $37 billion. Gates says current U.S. government R&D spending on energy innovation is about $7 billion annually; that would need to be quintupled to match government spending on the NIH.

Another suggestion from Gates: shift the tax credits now available for solar and wind to more nascent areas like offshore wind, energy storage and new types of steel. “If you do that, and maybe double or triple the amount you spend on those tax benefits, then I do think that will be just a monumental contribution from the Biden administration,” he explains.

Whatever tech innovation comes out of the U.S. or elsewhere has to be affordable enough for countries like India to adopt it, Gates points out. Right now, the U.S. accounts for 14% of the world’s emissions. If just the U.S. gets to zero carbon emissions, we won’t be solving the problem globally.

Where Gates Is Investing

Gates, whose $124 billion fortune stems from an estimated 1% stake in Microsoft and a variety of other investments, says in the book he’s put “more than $1 billion” into companies working toward zero emissions. How much more? Altogether, he tells Forbes it’s about $2 billion. He describes himself as perhaps the biggest funder of direct air capture technologies—methods to capture carbon from the air. Two of the more well-known companies he’s been an investor in are producing plant-based meats: Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. Some of his investing he categorizes as philanthropic, like the money he’s put toward an open source climate model that aims to show how electricity generation will work in long periods of tough weather when wind and solar would be shut down.

His biggest bet has been on TerraPower, a nuclear power company with a reactor that uses depleted uranium as its fuel. Gates founded the company with a few others more than a decade ago. In 2017, TerraPower formed a joint venture with a Chinese company and was planning to produce its first reactor in China. That deal was scuttled by the U.S. government, which in late 2019 blocked U.S. cooperation with China on civilian nuclear power. Now the plan is to build a demonstration plant somewhere in the U.S. In October the U.S. Department of Energy awarded $80 million to TerraPower toward construction of the plant; the agreement is that half of the funding will come from the private sector. Gates says, “That’s coming largely from me.”

His hope is that the demonstration plant will be built within five to seven years. “If things go well, that means that maybe in 10 years, commercial plant builders would take that design and build it ideally in the hundreds—which is what you need to have an impact on climate change.”

Gates has also invested in zero-carbon companies through Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a group he assembled that launched in December 2016. “It was a lot easier to raise the money than I expected,” he says. “I made about 22 calls and got about 20 yeses for the first billion.” Investors include billionaires such as Jeff Bezos, Vinod Khosla, John Arnold and John Doerr; Gates says he’s the largest investor. So far Breakthrough Energy Ventures has invested in 40 companies; One, QuantumScape, which is developing lithium metal batteries for electric vehicles and has no revenues yet, went public through a SPAC last November. Though many of the companies are still early stage, Gates describes some as “really wild,” including QuidNet, which is working to store electricity by pumping water into pressured underground wells; when energy is needed, the water is released and goes through a turbine, creating electricity.

Breakthrough Energy Ventures raised another $1 billion fund in January, with most of the same initial investors and some newcomers. (Gates didn’t disclose names.) He says he’s the largest investor in the latest fund, too. The new fund will look to invest in more of the industrial processes like low-carbon cement and steel production as well as technologies to capture carbon from the air, Gates says.

Over the next five years, Gates says “I’ll put in at least $2 billion” toward zero-carbon technologies. But while a total of $4 billion is a lot of money, for someone worth more than $120 billion, it’s a small sliver of his overall investments. Says Gates, “It’s more limited by what is out there that can have a high impact.”

genesis-3-1

One of Gates’ other investments that’s been in the news recently seems to fly in the face of his zero-carbon focus. In early February, Gates’ investment arm, Cascade, partnered with Blackstone Group and private equity firm Global Infrastructure Partners in a $4.7 billion deal to buy Signature Aviation, the world’s largest operator of private jet bases. Private jet travel has been booming during the pandemic, but such travel emits a heck of a lot of greenhouse gases. How does he square the deal with the premise of his book? A spokesperson for Gates did not reply to the question.

Will Gates’ book influence policy makers and move the needle toward innovation in zero-carbon technologies? It helps that combating climate change is already one of the Biden administration’s top four priorities. Given that the book is addressing weighty material, it’s relatively easy to read, sprinkled with Gates’ personal observations  and even a photo of him with his son Rory on a visit to a geothermal power plant in Iceland. (Gates says he and Rory liked to visit power plants for fun.) He mentions that he drives an electric car the Porsche Taycan Turbo, which he describes to Forbes as “ridiculously nice and ridiculously expensive” — that sells for $150,000 or more. (He’s such a fan that he got one of the first demo models, he adds.)

If nothing else, Gates wants to get people talking. “My hope is that we can shift the conversation by sharing the facts with the people in our lives— our family members, friends, and leaders. And not just the facts that tell us why we need to act, but also those that show us the actions that will do the most good,” he writes.

A bigger measure of his success will be whether the Biden administration adopts any of his policy proposals. Says Gates, “I do think that with those increases [in spending], we’ll be doing exactly what we need to do, not just for us, but for the entire world.”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

I’m a San Francisco-based Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on the world’s richest people. I oversee the massive reporting effort that goes into Forbes’ annual World’s Billionaires list and The Forbes 400 Richest Americans list. The former gets me to use my rusty Spanish and Portuguese. In 2014, I won an Overseas Press Club award for an article I wrote about Saudi Arabian billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal; I also won a Gerald Loeb Award with co-author Rafael Marques de Morais for an article we wrote about Isabel dos Santos, the eldest daughter of Angola’s former president. Over more than two decades, reporting for Forbes has taken me to 17 countries on four continents, from the streets of Manila to palaces in Saudi Arabia and Mexico’s presidential residence. Follow me on Twitter @KerryDolan My email: kdolan[at]forbes[dot] com Tips and story ideas welcome

Source: How To Solve Climate Change: Bill Gates Wants You To Know Two Numbers

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Bill Gates outlines his vision for a global green revolution. He tells Zanny Minton Beddoes, our editor-in-chief, how renewable energy is merely the first step in combatting climate change. 00:00 – How to fund a green economy 00:38 – Lessons from the pandemic 01:52 – Behaviour change v innovation in technology 03:36 – Most promising renewable technologies 04:31 – Private sector investment in green technology 06:30 – How essential are carbon prices? 07:50 – Net-zero emissions targets for businesses 09:39 – America’s role in climate-change action 12:40 – What are the odds for success of green innovation? Sign up to The Economist’s fortnightly climate-change newsletter: https://econ.st/3midEwG Find our most recent climate-change coverage: https://econ.st/37epi7u The World In 2021: the world could turn a corner on climate change: https://econ.st/37hdgKp
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The Arctic Is Burning Like Never Before & That’s Bad News For Climate Change

Wildfires blazed along the Arctic Circle this summer, incinerating tundra, blanketing Siberian cities in smoke and capping the second extraordinary fire season in a row. By the time the fire season waned at the end of last month, the blazes had emitted a record 244 megatonnes of carbon dioxide — that’s 35% more than last year, which also set records. One culprit, scientists say, could be peatlands that are burning as the top of the world melts.

Peatlands are carbon-rich soils that accumulate as waterlogged plants slowly decay, sometimes over thousands of years. They are the most carbon-dense ecosystems on Earth; a typical northern peatland packs in roughly ten times as much carbon as a boreal forest. When peat burns, it releases its ancient carbon to the atmosphere, adding to the heat-trapping gases that cause climate change.Dramatic sea-ice melt caps tough Arctic summer

Nearly half the world’s peatland-stored carbon lies between 60 and 70 degrees north, along the Arctic Circle. The problem with this is that historically frozen carbon-rich soils are expected to thaw as the planet warms, making them even more vulnerable to wildfires and more likely to release large amounts of carbon. It’s a feedback loop: as peatlands release more carbon, global warming increases, which thaws more peat and causes more wildfires (see ‘Peatlands burning’). A study published last month1 shows that northern peatlands could eventually shift from being a net sink for carbon to a net source of carbon, further accelerating climate change.

The unprecedented Arctic wildfires of 2019 and 2020 show that transformational shifts are already under way, says Thomas Smith, an environmental geographer at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “Alarming is the right term.”

Zombie fires

The fire season in the Arctic kicked off unusually early this year: as early as May, there were fires blazing north of the tree line in Siberia, which normally wouldn’t happen until around July. One reason is that temperatures in winter and spring were warmer than usual, priming the landscape to burn. It’s also possible that peat fires had been smouldering beneath the ice and snow all winter and then emerged, zombie-like, in the spring as the snow melted. Scientists have shown that this kind of low-temperature, flameless combustion can burn in peat and other organic matter, such as coal, for months or even years.

Because of the early start, individual Arctic wildfires have been burning for longer than usual, and “they’re starting much farther north than they used to — in landscapes that we thought were fire-resistant rather than fire-prone”, says Jessica McCarty, a geographer at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Sources: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service/European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts; Hugelius, G. et al. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 117, 20438–20446 (2020)

Researchers are now assessing just how bad this Arctic fire season was. The Russian Wildfires Remote Monitoring System catalogued 18,591 separate fires in Russia’s two easternmost districts, with a total of nearly 14 million hectares burnt, says Evgeny Shvetsov, a fire specialist at the Sukachev Institute of Forest, which is part of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Krasnoyarsk. Most of the burning happened in permafrost zones, where the ground is normally frozen year-round.

To estimate the record carbon dioxide emissions, scientists with the European Commission’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service used satellites to study the wildfires’ locations and intensity, and then calculated how much fuel each had probably burnt. Yet even that is likely to be an underestimate, says Mark Parrington, an atmospheric scientist at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, UK, who was involved in the analysis. Fires that burn in peatland can be too low-intensity for satellite sensors to capture.

The problem with peat

How much this year’s Arctic fires will affect global climate over the long term depends on what they burnt. That’s because peatlands, unlike boreal forest, do not regrow quickly after a fire, so the carbon released is permanently lost to the atmosphere.

Smith has calculated that about half of the Arctic wildfires in May and June were on peatlands — and that in many cases, the fires went on for days, suggesting that they were fuelled by thick layers of peat or other soil rich in organic matter.How peat could protect the planet

And the August study1 found that there are nearly four million square kilometres of peatlands in northern latitudes. More of that than previously thought is frozen and shallow — and therefore vulnerable to thawing and drying out, says Gustaf Hugelius, a permafrost scientist at Stockholm University who led the investigation. He and his colleagues also found that although peatlands have been helping to cool the climate for thousands of years, by storing carbon as they accumulate, they will probably become a net source of carbon being released into the atmosphere — which could happen by the end of the century.

Fire risk in Siberia is predicted to increase as the climate warms2, but by many measures, the shift has already arrived, says Amber Soja, an environmental scientist who studies Arctic fires at the US National Institute of Aerospace in Hampton, Virginia. “What you would expect is already happening,” she says. “And in some cases faster than we would have expected.”

By: Alexandra Witze

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National Geographic

Here at the bottom of the world, a place all but free of human settlement, humanity is scrambling one of the ocean’s richest wildernesses. Fossil-fuel burning thousands of miles away is heating up the western peninsula faster than almost anywhere else. (Only the Arctic compares.) Hear National Geographic photographer Cristina Mittermeier share her love and fears for this beautiful place. ➡

Subscribe: http://bit.ly/NatGeoSubscribe#NationalGeographic#Antarctica#ClimateChange​ About National Geographic: National Geographic is the world’s premium destination for science, exploration, and adventure. Through their world-class scientists, photographers, journalists, and filmmakers, Nat Geo gets you closer to the stories that matter and past the edge of what’s possible.

Get More National Geographic: Official Site: http://bit.ly/NatGeoOfficialSite​ Facebook: http://bit.ly/FBNatGeo​ Twitter: http://bit.ly/NatGeoTwitter​ Instagram: http://bit.ly/NatGeoInsta​ Read the full article “The Big Meltdown” featured in National Geographic magazine’s November issue. https://on.natgeo.com/2J7VGvS​ See Antarctica Like Never Before | National Geographic https://youtu.be/Q_mCHs79B6c​ National Geographic https://www.youtube.com/natgeo

Deloitte BrandVoice: Reducing Environmental Impact Is Now A Business Imperative

Nearly every day, another research finding, news story or environmental-related disaster piles more evidence on the reality that our planet is in crisis. Climate-driven drought is making dangerous wildfires more common, wreaking havoc on farmers around the world, and threatening hundreds of species with extinction.

Experts have warned that lack of action could result in alarming hunger levels around the world, mass migration challenges, the collapse of global financial markets and other social and economic disasters. Against this backdrop, business leaders are reexamining their organizations’ purposes and priorities.

In August 2019, the Business Roundtable, a group that includes CEOs from leading U.S. companies, committed to modernizing the purpose of a corporation. Challenging the age-old rule that a business exists to maximize profits for owners or shareholders, the executives agreed that companies must also protect the environment “by embracing sustainable practices” and consider stakeholders like customers, suppliers and broader society. That sentiment was echoed in “The Universal Purpose of a Company in the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” published by the World Economic Forum in December 2019.

Deloitte Global’s third-annual Readiness Report, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution: At the Intersection of Readiness and Responsibility,” shows that not only is the environment on executives’ minds, but also that climate change and environmental sustainability have become integral to how they’re managing their businesses. Surveying more than 2,000 global executives, Deloitte Global found that almost 90 percent agreed to some degree that the impacts of climate change will negatively affect their organizations. Nearly six in 10 claimed to have internal sustainability initiatives in place, from reducing travel to eliminating plastics, and more.

“With an increasing number of catastrophic, climate-related events affecting populations and geographies, we’re seeing business leaders increasing their focus and attention on climate and environmental sustainability,” said Deloitte Global board chair Sharon Thorne. “Executives are beginning to acknowledge the business imperative of climate change. And they are beginning to act as they feel mounting pressure from stakeholders and threats to their own businesses.”

Millennials Demand Action

Executives also understand that today’s consumers—especially millennials and Gen Zs—are looking for more than transactional relationships with companies. Whether they’re buying candy bars or jeans, consumers increasingly demand that businesses do their part to reduce their environmental impact. According to the 2019 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey, more than one in four millennials and Gen Zs believe businesses should try to help mitigate the effects of human-caused climate change and protect and improve the environment. Yet only 12 percent believe corporations are working to address things like climate change.

Students have taken to the streets and staged strikes for climate action, and pressure groups and scientists are advocating for mass civil disobedience to force politicians to prioritize climate change. But other actions are more widespread and far less overt. For instance, the survey showed large numbers of young consumers have started or stopped relationships with businesses based on their perceptions of companies’ commitments to society and the planet. Almost 40 percent of those asked said they would stop buying from a company whose products or services negatively impact the environment. Companies that fail to respond to these feelings and motivations will eventually feel the impact on their bottom lines.

“Young people care intensely about the world they’re inheriting and are motivated to stand up for the causes in which they believe,” wrote Deloitte Global chief people and purpose officer Michele Parmelee. “Their passion is obvious and their resolve is strong. But they’d be the first to tell you that they need help to create change. That’s where business can make a difference.”

Business Is Starting To Respond

Research indicates that consumer demand is, indeed, pushing businesses to alter their operations. In another Deloitte Insights survey, for instance, nearly two-thirds of companies said their customers have been demanding they switch to renewable sources of electricity. Nearly half said they’re working on doing just that.

Executives interviewed for Deloitte Global’s Readiness Report shared some of the actions their organizations are taking. Adobe, for example, has set a goal to run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. It is expanding its global headquarters in San Jose, and the new building will be all-electric, meaning it can be powered by clean, renewable energy. Likewise, at the Kawasaki Smart Community Center, Toshiba Group’s business base, Toshiba has installed 35,000 sensors to control lighting, air conditioning and elevator operations based on the movement of people, helping Toshiba reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent.

More and more, the pursuit of similar actions to reduce environmental impact and benefit society will be necessary for businesses to survive, let alone thrive. Consumers are demanding that the companies they patronize do more to be good corporate citizens. They’re speaking with their voices and their wallets, and they’re not inclined to take “no” for an answer.

Fortunately, profit incentives—as well as executives’ increasing fears about climate change’s potential negative effect on business operations—are giving companies plenty of reasons to join with citizens and act on climate change.

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. Deloitte provides audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax and related services to public and private clients spanning multiple industries. Deloitte serves four out of five Fortune Global 500® companies through a globally connected network of member firms in more than 150 countries bringing world-class capabilities, insights, and high-quality service to address clients’ most complex business challenges.

Source: Deloitte BrandVoice: Reducing Environmental Impact Is Now A Business Imperative

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What Coronavirus Means for the Possibility of a Carbon-Free Economy

In the days following Barack Obama’s election as president, incoming chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel made a bold declaration about how the administration would respond to the urgent financial crisis. “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” he said, citing a range of challenges, from climate to health care, that might be addressed as part of a response to the Great Recession.

Politicians and policymakers are just beginning to understand how much pain the coronavirus pandemic will inflict, and it goes without saying that policy experts of all stripes universally agree that protecting human life should be the first priority. Even still, leaders are already jockeying about how to keep the crisis from “going to waste.” One area that many are targeting is climate change.

The key climate question raised by this response to coronavirus is whether the trillions of dollars countries will spend to stimulate their economies will help reduce emissions or drive them up. Policy experts say governments may prefer to invest in fossil-fuel-intensive industries because it feels like a safe option in the middle of a pandemic, but doubling down on fossil fuels risks worsening one crisis to deal with another.

“Everybody’s going to be putting safety first right now,” says Matthew McKinnon, an advisor to a group of countries especially vulnerable to climate change. “And whether or not safety first aligns with climate first is going to vary from place to place.”

“Historic opportunity”

The transition away from fossil fuels is happening, with or without coronavirus, but there are a lot of reasons why governments might want to use this moment to double down on measures to address climate change.

Analysis from the International Energy Agency (IEA) describes the moment as a “historic opportunity” for officials to advance clean energy. As governments flood the economy with cash, deep investment in renewable projects would put people to work in the short term and, in the longer term, create decarbonized energy systems better able to compete in the 21st century. “We should not allow today’s crisis to compromise our efforts to tackle the world’s inescapable challenge,” wrote IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol in a web post.

Still, getting government officials to prioritize climate may prove difficult in the face of several headwinds. For one, oil prices have declined precipitously in recent weeks as coronavirus has driven demand for crude lower and Saudi Arabia and Russia ramped up production as part of a fierce price war. Cheap fossil fuels leave governments less likely to look to renewables.

On the other hand, low oil prices offer a great opportunity to eliminate the billions of dollars in government subsidies that support oil and gas, the IEA says, as consumers are less likely to feel the effects.

The big players

The economic response to the coronavirus will play out over months and perhaps years, but we nonetheless see the topic of a “green stimulus” already popping up in capitals across the globe.

Officials in China have promised a massive stimulus to restart the country’s economy, and observers expect that they will largely focus on infrastructure. Some of those projects may be carbon-intensive, but others could ultimately reduce emissions. Expanding electric vehicle infrastructure and transitioning from coal-powered heating to gas-powered heating are among the areas where the country could spend billions, says David Sandalow, an expert on China’s energy and climate policy who serves as a fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

Top officials at the European Commission, the European Union’s executive body, have remained steadfast about the European Green Deal, the program intended to eliminate the bloc’s carbon footprint by 2050, even as some member states have complained about its cost in the face of coronavirus. But that program, which has a price tag that tops $1 trillion, actually creates a “green stimulus” of its own, providing billions to places in Europe that are struggling economically. Many key climate advocates have argued that a Green Deal will serve as the framework for an economic recovery.

Across the Atlantic, Washington D.C. may seem like the least likely place to look for stimulus measures focused on addressing climate change, but the conversation is simmering beneath the headlines. Renewable energy groups with support on both sides of the aisle are asking for relief, given the hit they’ve taken from falling power demand. A group of Senators is pushing to pair any bailout of the airline industry with policies to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint. And progressive lawmakers are pointing to the economic downturn, which has far-reaching implications across society, as an ideal opportunity to implement a Green New Deal.

Of course, any legislation called a Green New Deal will be difficult to pass in this Congress, or realistically any future Congress. But many of the components could easily fit as part of a bigger stimulus package. “If you agree on the size and Democrats and Republicans give each other something,” says Reed Hundt, president of the Coalition for Green Capital, who served on the Obama transition team, “you’ll get it done.”

That’s a lesson from the 2009 stimulus bill that passed under Obama. That measure contained some $90 billion to fund clean energy, supporting some 100,000 projects, while catalyzing the private sector, to spend over $100 billion in addition, according to the Obama White House.

Those figures fall short of what the U.S. will likely need to spend to transition its economy away from fossil fuels, and indeed both Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have called called for trillions in their climate plans. Still, the framework of using economic stimulus to address climate change may be even more relevant now that it was ten years ago.

By Justin Worland March 24, 2020

Source: What Coronavirus Means for the Possibility of a Carbon-Free Economy

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