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Global Commitments to Renewables, Climate Solutions Swell Following Election, COP22

This year, the U.S. election fell in the midst of the United Nations climate negotiations (COP22). While the results have led to some unease and uncertainty, they certainly haven’t halted commitments and funding for renewable energy and other climate change solutions.

This year, the U.S. election fell in the midst of the United Nations climate negotiations (COP22). While the results have led to some unease and uncertainty, they certainly haven’t halted commitments and funding for renewable energy and other climate change solutions.

Numerous announcements have been made in this vein over the past two weeks, from both governments and companies such as General Motors, Dalmia Cement, Swiss Re and Helvetia. Meanwhile, both the USDA and Ray C. Anderson Foundation have stepped up to the plate to provide funding for innovative climate solutions and research.

New Corporate Commitments

Today, General Motors (GM) made its largest renewable energy procurement to date. In support of its commitment to make all of its 350 facilities in 59 countries completely powered by renewable energy by 2050, the auto manufacturer has purchased wind power equivalent to the electricity needs of 16 of its facilities in the U.S., including business offices in Fort Worth and Austin, Texas, a major assembly and stamping complex in Arlington, Texas, and 13 parts warehouses east of the Mississippi River.

GM made the agreement with Renewable Energy Systems (RES), and the power will be produced at Cactus Flats, a 150-megawatt wind farm being developed by in Concho County, Texas. When the contract begins in the first half of 2018, 6 percent of GM’s global energy use will be powered by renewable energy. In addition to an anticipated 114 megawatts of wind power, GM hosts 24 solar installations around the world.

Meanwhile, India’s Dalmia Cement and Swiss insurer Helvetia joined The Climate Group and CDP’s RE100 initiative with a commitment to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity, taking the total number of members to 83 and their total demand for renewable electricity to over 100 TWh – more than enough to power Morocco three times over.

Insurance company Swiss Re, a founding partner of RE100 in 2014, committed to doubling its energy productivity through EP100, another effort of The Climate Group, in partnership with the Global Alliance for Energy Productivity. Dalmia Cement joined EP100 at Climate Week NYC in September. Swiss Re and Dalmia Cement are the first companies to sign up for both initiatives.

“Improving energy productivity is key in our company's efforts to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality,” Vincent Eckert, the Head of Internal Environmental Management at Swiss Re, said. “We have joined EP100 to demonstrate that a strong commitment to a sustainable energy future is good for business.”

“Right now, we’re seeing greater corporate action on climate than ever before, thanks to the leadership of the world's most influential companies. No matter the sector or where your operations lie, if you're a major company that understands the importance of renewable power and energy productivity, it makes sense to join RE100 and EP100. ‘Using better energy better’ brings cost savings, lowers emissions, and enhances corporate reputations,” added Damian Ryan, the Acting CEO of The Climate Group.

“But to deliver net-zero emissions economies and keep global warming well below two degrees, we’ve got to go further still,” Ryan added. “Businesses have enormous influencing power over their suppliers, customers, and peers - they need to look vertically along their supply chains and encourage others to act. And governments at all levels must implement supportive policies - most urgently carbon pricing.”

Under2 Coalition Grows to 165 Member Jurisdictions

Following a signing ceremony at COP22, the Under2 Coalition welcomed 29 new members to its pact of cities, states and countries committed to limiting the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius. The new signatories of the Under2 MOU bring the total to 165 jurisdictions representing more than one billion people and $25.7 trillion in combined GDP – more than one third of the global economy. Coalition members pledge to limit greenhouse gas emissions to 2 tons per capita or 80-95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

The new signatories include the Australian Capital Territory in Australia; South Sumatra, East Kalimantan and West Kalimantan in Indonesia; Michoacán and Tabasco in Mexico; Abruzzo in Italy; and the Alliance of Peaking Pioneer Cities in China which represents 23 cities, including Beijing and existing member Zhenjiang. The MOU was formed in 2015 by the states of California and Baden-Württemberg, Germany to mobilize bold climate action among likeminded governments around the globe.

California and the World Bank, in partnership with the Under2 Coalition and the Alliance of Peaking Pioneer Cities, have just announced an agreement to promote sustainable, low-carbon development strategies delivered through various initiatives, including the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities, with a focus on carbon inventory methodology, decarbonization pathways to 2050, and capacity building for sustainability strategies in Chinese cities.

“China’s low carbon city program has expanded to 100 cities and provinces. More than 30 of them have pledged to peak their emissions much earlier than the national target of peaking by 2030,” said Jiang Zhaoli, Deputy Director General of the Climate Change Department of China’s National Development Reform Commission.

“This is an exciting new platform that will enable us to build from California’s experience in driving down emissions and to extend it to cities in China and beyond,” said World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Laura Tuck. “We need partnerships like this if we are going to deliver on the ambitions of Paris.”

Applications Open for $25M in Conservation Innovation Grants

In early November, the USDA opened applications for conservation innovation grants; the department will invest up to $25 million in cutting-edge projects that spark the development and adoption of innovative conservation technologies and approaches in areas like conservation finance, data analytics, and precision conservation to benefit producers on private agricultural and forest lands.

Conservation Innovation Grants have played a critical role in developing and implementing creative new methods to conserve the nation’s private agricultural lands and strengthening rural communities,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Today's announcement builds on our support of technologies and approaches that help producers increase resiliency to extreme weather such as drought and floods.”

The grants are authorized and funded under the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). and final grant funding is subject to fiscal year 2017 funding actions. Proposals are due by January 9, 2017, and individuals, tribes, state and local units of government, and NGOs are eligible to submit proposals. The 2017 focus areas for projects include:

  • Innovative approaches that benefit historically underserved and veteran farmers and ranchers, beginning farmers and ranchers and those with limited resources;
  • Natural resources data analytics tools—such as software and mobile apps—that increase producer knowledge of conservation benefits and alternatives;
  • Precision conservation tools that uncover opportunities for better input management (for example, nutrient management addressing source, timing, rate and placement), or address in-field vulnerabilities;
  • Conservation finance approaches that demonstrate the potential for new investment strategies to accelerate and expand private lands conservation;
  • Demonstration, evaluation and quantification of the effects of water management and soil health practices to minimize off-site impacts of natural resource challenges, such as excess sediment and nutrient runoff;
  • Pay-for-success models that stimulate conservation adoption and achievement of measurable outcomes.

$500,000 Awarded for Research on How to Reverse Global Warming

On Monday, the Ray C. Anderson Foundation awarded a $500,000 challenge grant to Project Drawdown, a research initiative focused on how an when we can reverse global warming.

“At certain crucial moments, Foundations can be presented with the opportunity to help bring into existence something that our world desperately needs,” said John A. Lanier, the Executive Director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation and a member of the Project Drawdown Board of Directors. “Our grant to Project Drawdown is one such moment. Their work is a beacon of optimism that we can indeed bring our climate back into balance.”

‘Drawdown’ is the point in time when the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere begin to decline on a year-to-year basis. By mapping and modeling one hundred substantive, scalable solutions, Project Drawdown is showing that it is possible for us to reach that point.

To support its work, the Ray C. Anderson Foundation awarded a $100,000 grant to Project Drawdown in 2015 for the first phase of research on 70 technological, ecological and social solutions to climate change. The Foundation committed a further $500,000 in April, with a challenge to Project Drawdown to raise an additional $250,000 by the end of 2016. Project Drawdown accomplished this goal in September, triggering the first of two $250,000 grants. These funds are for Phase II and delivery, which includes conducting a three-stage peer review process, and compiling the research into two primary communication tools – an internationally published Drawdown book and Drawdown Interactive, a dynamic digital platform and open source database. The remainder of the pledge will be satisfied in January 2017, just a few months before publication of the book.

“The success of the global climate change movement depends on having a rigorous, detailed, and compelling path forward. We are filling a void by doing the math on the atmospheric and financial impacts of state-of-the-shelf solutions,” said Paul Hawken, globally recognized environmentalist and the Executive Director of Project Drawdown. “To date, humanity has been more adept at imagining the end of civilization than its transformation, and more inclined to throw up our hands in despair or to dream of silver-bullet technologies, however unlikely.”

“At its core, Drawdown is a clear and detailed case of what is possible,” Hawken added. “We are counting what counts. By collectively drawing down carbon, we lift up all of life.”