Monthly Archives: November 2021

Four ways to reduce climate pollution from shipping in the Belt and Road Initiative

By Catherine Ittner and Hongming Liu

Despite global efforts to address the climate crisis, the shipping sector is on track to increase its global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions up to 10% by 2050 – unless countries take urgent action.

China’s effort to increase investment and economic collaboration by building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road – otherwise known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – is a great opportunity for countries to cooperate on decarbonizing shipping. The sea routes that make up the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which sail through Southeast Asia to South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, are critical to the success of international trade in the region — but the ships that travel these routes are significant sources of greenhouse gases.

Environmental Defense Fund contributed to a new BRI report, which highlights innovative ideas and low-carbon technologies that can cut shipping pollution and help China and other BRI countries meet their climate goals.

Need to decarbonize

Despite an urgent need to reduce GHG emissions in the shipping industry, many countries do not prioritize climate policies for shipping. Twenty-three countries are part of the Maritime Silk Road – but only five of them have incorporated the shipping industry into their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), the efforts by each country to reduce national emissions.

The BRI International Green Development Coalition “aims to establish a policy dialogue and communication platform, an environmental knowledge and information platform, and a green technology exchange and transfer platform” to help ensure a green and sustainable BRI, including by decarbonizing shipping. EDF, along with Equitable Maritime Consulting, got the chance to contribute research to the BRI International Green Development Coalition’s new report on maritime connectivity and green development.

Policy recommendations

The report lays out four key policy recommendations to advance green shipping:

  1. Monitoring: Establishing a monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) framework for international shipping within BRI. A comprehensive, effective monitoring and evaluation system is critical to ensuring that efforts aimed at reducing GHG pollution achieve results. BRI countries involved in international shipping should jointly implement a framework and data-sharing platform to monitor, report and verify the data related to GHG mitigation programs. Countries could then leverage the data collected to gather support for environmental financing of the most cost-effective green shipping projects.
  1. Research: Setting up technical cooperation and a joint research program for assessing the potentials for zero-carbon alternative fuel production. To decarbonize fast enough, the shipping sector needs low-carbon alternative fuels that are economically viable. A joint research program should undertake a full life-cycle assessment of zero-emission fuels, as well as an analysis of the supply and demand of these fuels, that considers the specific conditions of BRI countries. With the aim to improve the economic viability of zero-emission fuels for BRI countries, further research can serve as a foundation for a long-term and cost-effective decarbonization strategy for maritime transport within BRI.
  1. Ports: Strengthening the research and application of low-carbon port technologies to promote the coordinated development of green port and green shipping. The development of green shipping is impossible without ports. Ports can adopt technology – like onshore power supply and ship-port interface – to reduce GHG emissions. Onshore power supply allows ships to turn off their engines and connect to the electricity grid, with the potential for significant reductions in climate and air pollution. Ship-port interface is a platform for data interconnection and communication that enables ports to improve the efficiency of terminals and reduce the turnaround time of ships at port. BRI countries can accelerate the decarbonization of shipping through the adoption of pollution-cutting port technologies like these.
  1. Incentives and carbon pricing: Develop a green shipping incentive program and explore carbon pricing mechanisms. The BRI can look into new ways to reduce emissions, like rewarding ships that have excellent operational carbon intensity ratings and considering a carbon pricing cooperation mechanism for international shipping. Both tools can promote more efficient and cleaner ships, as well as the use of alternative zero-emission fuels.

Given the urgency of the climate crisis, countries need to use every opportunity to collaborate toward decarbonizing shipping as soon as possible.

The well-designed policy suite outlined in BRI International Green Development Coalition’s new report drew a roadmap for BRI countries to spur innovation, deploy proven and cost-effective low-carbon technologies, and lead a green transition for the shipping industry. China and other BRI countries have an opportunity to model climate cooperation while pursuing economic success for the region, as well as having a ripple effect among the international community for facilitating multi-lateral cooperation.

Posted in Shipping / Comments are closed

Western Climate Initiative ends the year on a high note with record prices

Wind farm in Mojave Desert.

Wind farm in the Mojave Desert. PC: Tom Brewster Photography for the Bureau of Land Management.

The latest results of the Western Climate Initiative’s quarterly auctions were announced today. All current and future vintage allowances sold, and for the second quarter in a row, settled at a record-high allowance price.

These results arrive as new data underscores the success of the program’s design and the strength of the market.

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Posted in California, Carbon Markets, Cities and states / Comments are closed

Cutting pollution, driving investment: US state leaders shared ambitious models for action at COP26

While many of the headlines from COP26 focused on whether newly announced national commitments will be enough to curb catastrophic global warming, our ability to fend off the climate crisis largely depends on what happens outside conference walls — namely, how quickly we translate climate commitments into policy that curbs pollution.

This COP saw the largest-ever, bipartisan U.S. subnational delegation, including six governors and dozens of state lawmakers, who were there to discuss progress on slashing greenhouse gas emissions. It was a strikingly different context from the last three COPs when U.S. leadership on climate was absent at the federal level, and state leaders stepped up to send a message to the world that U.S. states, cities and corporations were still committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. However, state officials did not come to Glasgow to pass the baton back to the Biden administration; all were there to demonstrate how they are putting in place policies that can help the U.S. meet its ambitious new National Determined Contribution (NDC).

One key policy that is already delivering quantifiable results at the state level is cap-and-invest, which puts a limit on climate pollution while driving significant investments in climate mitigation and resilience. The Western Climate Initiative (WCI) and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) are already keeping emissions in participating jurisdictions within a steadily declining budget, and Washington state’s new Climate Commitment Act provides the onramp to get a program up-and-running by 2023.

At a COP26 event hosted by Environmental Defense Fund, International Emissions Trading Association (IETA), and National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL), state and environmental leaders discussed how these leading programs can help states meet their targets, promote equity, drive progress on our national target and offer valuable lessons learned.

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Oregon is finalizing a key pillar of its climate strategy. Will DEQ deliver the climate ambition that Oregonians are demanding?

This post is authored by Kjellen Belcher, Senior Analyst for U.S. Climate at EDF.

Oregon wildfire.

Photo credit: US Bureau of Land Management.

This past summer, the Pacific Northwest endured record-breaking high temperatures, with Portland reaching 116 degrees F. Hundreds of Oregonians are still reeling from the wildfires of 2020 —  one of the most destructive seasons on record for Oregon. And a new study just revealed that Mt. Hood, an iconic Oregon landmark, will have low to no snowpack within the next 35 to 60 years, impacting Oregon’s water supply, winter sports season and other treasured natural resource industries.

Climate change is impacting every part of Oregon, and every action we take (or don’t take) will either solidify a very grim climate future or stop the ever-accelerating impacts of climate change and the immeasurable human suffering that goes with it.

But Oregon regulators have the power to take immediate action to address the climate crisis.

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Posted in Cities and states, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, News / Comments are closed

Shifting toward clean energy can lower costs for Pennsylvanians

Thermostat for heating

As fall leaves are rapidly disappearing and temperatures drop, families across Pennsylvania are starting to turn up home thermostats to keep warm. Ensuring affordable, reliable energy is available should be an absolutely critical priority for policymakers. This winter, however, is expected to bring higher than usual energy prices that could hit U.S. households in colder regions like the Northeast and upper Midwest especially hard. And it reveals how American families and businesses bear the brunt of wild price fluctuations in fossil fuels and deserve more stable, cleaner sources of energy. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), households that primarily use natural gas for space heating will spend an average of 30% more on heating this winter than last year. This is especially concerning for a state like Pennsylvania where over half of households use natural gas to heat their homes, and much of Pennsylvania’s electricity is powered by natural gas-fired power plants, meaning even those who don’t use natural gas fuel directly for heating may still be affected by rising prices.

With families, communities and businesses worried about costs for heat and electricity, many are capitalizing on this fear to spread disinformation about the causes. So, what exactly is driving these spikes? And how can we avoid this situation in the future? 

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Posted in Cities and states / Comments are closed

UN aviation agency sets a new standard for sustainable flight by adopting critical fuels criteria

This blog post was authored by Pedro Piris-Cabezas, Director of Sustainable International Transport & Lead Senior Economist at Environmental Defense Fund

As the world convened for COP 26, the United Nation’s civil aviation body announced a major milestone in the transition to sustainable flight by adopting an expanded set of sustainability criteria for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), available here. 

SAF — jet fuel made from renewable feedstock instead of fossil fuels — provides a distinct opportunity to put aviation on a pathway to net-zero climate impact by 2050. But, to achieve that level of success, the SAF that airlines will use to be eligible for ICAO’s emissions reduction program, the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), must meet a high standard of environmental integrity, and be accurately tracked and accounted for. Indeed, not all alternative fuels are equal. Some make environmental problems worse. Deploying SAF without a robust accounting and sustainability framework could negate the entire climate benefits and even increase emissions several-fold compared to fossil jet fuels.  

After years of hesitation, ICAO Council Members finally seized the opportunity to set these forward-looking sustainability safeguards, ensuring that SAF eligible under CORSIA lives up to its sustainability potential, and provides certainty for SAF producers as they make investments in the sustainability of their supply chains and operations.  

Not only is this decision a major milestone for ICAO, it is also the first time a UN body has defined a clear standard for what constitutes sustainability for a mitigation action. ICAO has also operationalized it with a full-fledged monitoring, reporting and third-party verification system including a high level of assurance, which makes CORSIA the most comprehensive SAF Framework adopted to date.  

ICAO’s decision also sends a clear signal to countries embarking in SAF policy: support for SAF must include robust environmental safeguards. This is critical because ICAO’s SAF framework can enable the production of truly climate beneficial SAF but only if paired with effective national policies that generate the needed economic incentives. 

The Council’s adoption of the SAF sustainability criteria is a turning point in the aviation sector’s journey to decarbonize—but it is far from its final destination. Now, countries, airlines, and fuel producers must take action to jump-start high-integrity SAF by shaping their national SAF policies accordingly.  

EDF, as a member of the International Coalition for Sustainable Aviation (ICSA), the group of environmental NGOs with observer status at ICAO, took a leadership role in this important development. EDF created the space for this negotiation to take place in ICAO’s Committee for Aviation Environmental Protection and was granted the privilege to co-chair the technical negotiations on SAF sustainability matters together with the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This privileged position gave us the capacity to thoughtfully design the negotiations and create the necessary coalitions to ensure, against all odds, the sequential adoption of the sustainability criteria and framework along ICAO’s political decision-making process.  

What’s the role of the SAF sustainability criteria?  

The role of sustainability criteria is to safeguard against direct and indirect negative effects on ecosystems and communities that are not captured or are underestimated by the lifecycle assessment approach, and to promote sustainable development.  

To be eligible under ICAO’s CORSIA, SAF needs to meet the following overarching goals across its supply chain:  

  1. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil jet fuel on a lifecycle basis. The criteria ensures that SAF provides meaningful emissions reductions, counted across the full lifecycle of the fuel from feedstock to flight, and including key indirect environmental effects such as indirect land use change. The 10% minimum emissions reduction required by ICAO might appear disappointing at first sight, but it should be noted that –in its current shape— it is only intended as a safeguard to ensure that any emission reduction claim in CORSIA is backed up with real emissions reductions that go beyond the uncertainties associated to the lifecycle assessment methodology. Independently, only SAF that delivers large emissions reductions makes sense economically and environmentally speaking, which means that SAF with large land use change emissions is tacitly disqualified as a viable production pathway. That’s the magic of assessing SAF on a lifecycle basis including indirect land use change emissions. 
  2. Protect ecosystems and natural resources. The robust set of sustainability criteria also includes environmental safeguards against negative environmental effects that are not captured by the lifecycle emissions assessment—defending water quality, soil health, air qualitybiodiversity and conservation values.  
  3. Present no risks to human rights, food security, or local economies. Ensuring that SAF feedstock production does not present social risks, ICAO prioritized the inclusion of human and labor rights, land use rights and water use rights for local and indigenous communities.  
  4. Promote the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As a United Nations body, the ICAO championed these sustainability criteria aiming for SAF to contribute to the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including eliminating poverty and promoting food security.   

What’s in the SAF sustainability criteria?  

The criteria cover 12 themes that encompass the three pillars of sustainability: social, environmental, economic. Provisions pertain to emissions reductions, carbon hotspots, water, soil, air, conservation, waste and chemicals, human and labor rights, land use rights and land use, water use rights, local and social development, and food security. For each theme, a principle a set of criteria are outlined. The criteria capture the binding provisions.  

To be eligible under ICAO’s CORSIA to generate emissions reductions for compliance purposes, SAF must meet the following criteria: 

Theme Principle Criteria 
1.  Greenhouse Gases (GHG) Principle: CORSIA SAF should generate lower carbon emissions on a life cycle basis. Criterion 1.1: CORSIA SAF will achieve net greenhouse gas emissions reductions of at least 10% compared to the baseline life cycle emissions values for aviation fuel on a life cycle basis. 

 

2. Carbon stock 

  

Principle: CORSIA SAF should not be made from biomass obtained from land with high carbon stock. Criterion 2.1: CORSIA SAF will not be made from biomass obtained from land converted after 1 January 2008 that was primary forests, wetlands, or peat lands and/or contributors to degradation of the carbon stock in primary forests, wetlands, or peat lands as these lands all have high carbon stocks. 

 

Criterion 2.2: In the event of land use conversion after 1 January 2008, as defined based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) land categories, direct land use charge (DLUC) emissions will be calculated. If DLUC greenhouse gas emissions exceed the default induced land use change (ILUC) value, the DLUC value will replace the default ILUC value. 

 

 3. Water Principle: Production of CORSIA SAF should maintain or enhance water quality and availability. Criterion 3.1: Operational practices will be implemented to maintain or enhance water quality. 

 

Criterion 3.2: Operational practices will be implemented to use water efficiently and to avoid the depletion of surface or groundwater resources beyond replenishment capacities. 

 

 4. Soil Principle: Production of CORSIA SAF should maintain or enhance soil health. Criterion 4.1: Agricultural and forestry best management practices for feedstock production or residue collection will be implemented to maintain or enhance soil health, such as physical, chemical and biological conditions. 

 

5. Air  Principle: Production of CORSIA SAF should minimize negative effects on air quality. Criterion 5.1: Air pollution emissions will be limited. 

 

 

6. Conservation Principle: Production of CORSIA SAF should maintain or enhance biodiversity, conservation value and ecosystem services. Criterion 6.1: CORSIA SAF will not be made from biomass obtained from areas that, due to their biodiversity, conservation value, or ecosystems services, are protected by the State having jurisdiction over that area, unless evidence is provided that shows the activity does not interfere with the protection purposes. 

 

Criterion 6.2: Low invasive-risk feedstock will be selected for cultivation and appropriate controls will be adopted with the intention of preventing the uncontrolled spear of cultivated non-native species and modified microorganisms. 

 

Criterion 6.3: Operational practices will be implemented to avoid adverse effects on areas that, due to their biodiversity, conservation value, or ecosystem services, are protected by the State having jurisdiction over that area. 

 

7. Waste and Chemicals Principle: Production of CORSIA SAF should promote responsible management of waste and use of chemicals. Criterion 7.1: Operational practices will be implemented to ensure that waste arising from production processes as well as chemicals used are stored, handled and disposed of responsibly. 

 

Criterion 7.2: Responsible and science-based operational practices will be implemented to limit or reduce pesticide use. 

 

8. Human and labour rights Principle: Production of CORSIA SAF should respect human and labour rights. Criterion 8.1: CORSIA SAF production will respect human and labour rights. 

 

9. Land use rights and land use Principle: Production of CORSIA SAF should respect land rights and land use rights including indigenous and/or customary rights. Criterion 9.1: CORSIA SAF production will respect existing land rights and land use rights including indigenous people’s rights, both formal and informal. 

 

10. Water use rights Principle: Production of CORSIA SAF should respect prior formal or customary water use rights. Criterion 10.1: CORSIA SAF production will respect the existing water use rights of local and indigenous communities. 

 

11. Local and social development Principle: Production of CORSIA SAF should contribute to social and economic development in regions of poverty. Criterion 11.1: CORSIA SAF production will strive to, in regions of poverty, improve the socioeconomic conditions of the communities affected by the operations. 

 

12. Food security Principle: Production of CORSIA SAF fuel should promote food security in food insecure regions. Criterion 1: CORSIA SAF production will, in food insecure regions, strive to enhance the local food security of directly affected stakeholders. 

 

Figure:  ICAO Document CORSIA Sustainability Criteria for CORSIA Eligible Fuels. Chapter 2. CORSIA sustainability criteria applicable for batches of CORSIA SAF produced by a certified fuel producer on or after 1 January 2024. 

How are SAF sustainability criteria implemented?  

The ICAO sustainability framework works as an umbrella standard that relies on ICAO-approved independent Sustainability Certification Schemes (SCS) for its implementation.  These organizations define the sustainability certification requirements including the indicators and metrics to evaluate compliance with the criteria, set the requirements for certification bodies, auditors and accreditation bodies, and monitor the effectiveness of the assurance system. To become ICAO-approved SCS must undergo a thorough evaluation process and meet a comprehensive set of requirements in line with ICAO’s eligibility framework 

In conclusion, the newly adopted sustainability criteria take a robust and equitable approach, placing environmental and social safeguards on the production of SAF across its entire supply chain. It also provides a harmonized approach to ensure that airlines across the world strive for these same values of climate ambition, environmental integrity, human rights, and social equity.  

This new set of sustainability criteria and the broader sustainability frameworkare designed to ensure the future of flight allows travelers to see new horizons, connect with other cultures, visit faraway loved ones and collaborate internationally – while doing less harm to our climate, and respecting our environment, and local and indigenous communities. As more countries, airlines, and fuel producers adopt and adhere to this robust criteria, the faster we can reach our destination of a net-zero emissions flight by 2050.  

Posted in Aviation, International, Policy, United Nations / Read 1 Response