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Inside Paul Hawken’s audacious plan to \'drawdown\' climate changeJoel Makower9:11amFeatured Image: Catch Paul Hawken in person next week at VERGE SF 2014, Oct. 27 to 30.Today, at the Greenbuild conference in New Orleans, entrepreneur and author Paul Hawken will publicly unveil a project, more than a year in the works, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere.You read that right: to reduce, not just stabilize, atmospheric CO2 and other gases, in order to reverse rising global temperatures.Project Drawdown, as it is named, will produce a book in 2016, detailing the costs and benefits of scores of climate solutions, from light bulb technology to livestock techniques to literacy for teenage girls. For each, Hawken and his team will “do the numbers,” providing detailed, science-based data and econometric models showing how each plays out, based on current technology and how it will likely evolve over the project’s 30-year horizon.“The book is not a plan,” Hawken explained to me recently. “It is not a proposal. It is a reflection back to the world what we are doing and know how to do right this second.”A meaningful dentThe project grew out of Hawken’s frustration with actionable, scalable solutions that would make a meaningful dent in the atmosphere’s growing accumulation of greenhouse gases. The solutions that had been proffered over the years were all seemingly out of reach — ungodly amounts of solar and wind energy that would be required, for example, or the mass adoption of futuristic, unproven technologies.“It made me feel like this is intractable, that it requires such Promethean work by such mammoth institutions, with policy changes that are more than structural,” he recalled. “It made me feel like it wasn’t possible to address climate change, rather than giving me hope.”When the activist Bill McKibben wrote the seminal article, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” in Rolling Stone in 2012, Hawken asked, “Why aren’t we doing the math on the solutions? Somebody should come up with a list and see what it requires so you get to drawdown.”The idea of “drawdown” — actually reducing greenhouse gas concentrations so that global temperatures drop — hasn’t been part of the conversation, at least among the United Nations crowd, climate activists or cleantech companies. Most focus on the seemingly pragmatic goal of stabilizing greenhouse gases at some level, expressed in parts per million, or ppm, that would be tolerable — or at least not catastrophic, from economic, environmental and social perspectives.Hawken thought differently. “There’s no such thing as stabilization at 450 or 550 ppm,” he said. “That’s not stabilized. That’s volatile. I felt that the goal should be drawdown, which is a year-to-year reduction of carbon from the upper atmosphere, period.”Last year, Hawken began teaching at the Presidio Graduate School, alongside climate activist and entrepreneur Amanda Joy Ravenhill. “One day we were just riffing, and we started talking about drawdown and said, ‘Let’s do it. No one else is doing it,’” Hawken recounted. Today, Ravenhill is Project Drawdown’s executive director and, with Hawken, the book’s co-editor. The two have recruited more than 80 advisors, partners, scientists, government agencies and participating universities, along with more than 200 graduate students.Doing the numbersHawken and Ravenhill will need that army to pull off their audacious vision. The challenge, as Hawken describes it, isn’t in describing the solutions but in doing the numbers — the carbon savings and financial accounting, of course, but also how each solution plays out by country or region, based on available energy resources, climate, economy and other factors — and how each is likely to morph over the next 30 years.And not just the positives. “We had to be very, very careful that we had the subtraction sign,” factoring in ways greenhouse gas emissions can increase in the atmosphere along the way, offsetting any reductions. For example, he said, ”We can talk about reforestation as being one of the hundred solutions, which it certainly is, but we have to make sure we subtract out the rate of fires in the world to reflect what’s burning down.”Moreover, he says, technologies can’t be measured in isolation; they need to be viewed as parts of the systems in which they operate. “We can talk about LED bulbs, but we also have to talk about solutions like dynamic skins or smart glass, which actually reduce light load by 40 or 50 percent. Each of these solutions has a history and measurements and metrics and numbers, so we are not pulling rabbits out of a hat.”And then there’s the problem of double-counting, where individual benefits — energy reductions or financial savings, for example — are counted twice, or even three or four times in a single calculation, inflating a technology’s benefits or understating its costs. That’s been a frequent problem with some clean technology advocatep�
Now that companies have demonstrated they can talk the talk, it\'s time to walk the walk in a meaningful way.
Water availability will determine China’s future energy mix, says Li Junfeng, director of the National Centre for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation.
ISEAL associate member Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has issued its first impacts report, which describes achievements in the key areas of people, planet and profit. The report highlights the growth of certified palm oil, which is now at 18% of global production, and looks at some of the improvements that certification is driving for palm oil growers and the environment. Read the report on the RSPO website hereThe report comes out as more and more companies are making sustainable sourcing commitments linked to RSPO and pledging to improve their palm oil supply chains. Indeed, the buzz about sustainable palm oil seems to be growing louder and many are seeing a potential tipping point for the sector, with demand now growing faster than supply as reported by the RSPO in August.RSPO Secretary General, Darrel Webber, explains in his welcome message that the report marks a shift to a \"critical phase of acquiring and assessing impact as a result of all the discourse, collaboration, strategy, vision and execution demonstrated within the sector in the last ten years since the formation of the RSPO.\" Webber underscores the significance of continued commitments by the private sector, civil society and governments to the RSPO despite all of the challenges being confronted in the drive to make sustainable palm oil the norm. But he says that more action needs to be taken, and urgently, including cooperation at all levels and a focus on evidence-based outcomes. He also notes that RSPO is an organisation focused on continuous improvement.According to the report, as of June 2014, more than 11.1 million tonnes of sustainable palm oil, accounting for 18% of global palm oil, was produced in nine countries and this represented over 3 million hectares of oil palm plantations.On the environmental side of things, the report notes that most large RSPO members have phased out their use of the controversial Paraquat pesticide due to its high toxicity level and potential danger to human and environmental health. The report also looks at some of the innovations that the organisation has spurred to improve understanding of environmental impacts and monitor performance. These include the PalmGHG calculator, being trialled with a number of RSPO members and with an eventual deadline for all to disclose their GHG emissions, and the \'Eyes on the Haze\' programme, which uses digital maps to track whether RSPO certified areas are free from fires.On the social and economic fronts, the organisation notes the increased outreach to smallholders, with 3,037 individual smallholders in three different countries having been certified. The report points to early case studies showing that certification has led to improved yields and revenues for some smallholders. The report also states that RSPO has taken and is planning on taking stronger action on human rights and land disputes. It will invest in training for auditors to understand issues of bonded labour and also revise its complaints system to meet the UN Ruggie Principles of Business and Human Rights. To better tackle land disputes, the Dispute Settlement Facility (DSF) was developed in 2013.The report also highlights the progress that RSPO has made to more systematically monitor its impacts as part of its efforts to adopt the ISEAL Impacts Code. In 2013, the RSPO restructured to create an Impacts Unit that is responsible for monitoring certification impacts and collecting learnings and best practices for further system improvement.A commitment to continuous improvement is an important aspect of being an ISEAL member and ISEAL supports RSPO in its continued efforts to be transparent and improve the impacts of palm oil certification.To read the RSPO impacts report click here New record sales of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil bridge the gap between supply and demand Palm oil flooding into India but sustainability not following suit, according to latest report
The world\'s largest consumer packaged goods company is expanding some of its commitments and dialing back on another.
This week, the eco-labeling group Green Seal celebrates 25 years of trying to transform the marketplace. It’s been a long road, with lots of twists and turns, and more than a few detours.