What is the private sector doing about climate change?

Climate change mitigationClimate change is not a simple problem and thus requires different stakeholders to develop solutions or ways of tackling the issue. Government alone without the support of the private sector & civil society will not address the climate change issue.

Climate change is actually a problem that is going to affect businesses in all walks of life in both the developed world and the developing world. For instance, according to the Ceres Getting Climate Smart Report; having a temperature rise above 2 degrees Celsius will have significant impacts on people and the planet posing market risks and challenges to businesses.

According to the Ceres report, businesses face a range of market risks from climate change, including physical, value chain, regulatory and reputational. Since the climate is a very interconnected issue that affects the well-being of society, it is imperative to address the issue of climate change. Good climate ensures we have good health; while the food and water system relies on the best climate conditions to be able to thrive.

When it comes to food, for instance, agriculture remains central to the World Economy with more than 50%, mostly found in the developing world; depending on agriculture for survival. Hence, the temperature rise above 2 degrees Celsius poses market risks and opportunities to businesses in all sectors.

Any disturbance in the climate system will definitely cause the whole system to go out of sync and restoring it will perhaps require finances in the amounts of trillions. For instance, the asset management industry—and thus the wider community of investors of all sizes are facing the prospect of significant losses from the effects of climate change. Floods, droughts and severe storms can directly damage assets, but portfolios can also be harmed indirectly, through weaker growth and lower asset returns according to a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The Economist Intelligence Unit, also estimates that the cost of inaction to climate change from the public-sector perspective, the expected value of a future with 6°C of warming represents present value losses worth US$43trn—30% of the entire stock of manageable assets. By way of scale, the current market capitalization of all the world’s stock markets is around US$70trn.

On the other hand, if action is taken, the investments for tackling the climate change problem as estimated by the International Energy Agency (IEA) to fulfilling all the climate pledges would require $13.5 trillion in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies by 2030; while Keeping the temperature increase below 2 degree Celsius would require an additional $3 trillion.

Also, with the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report calling for drastic measures to keep temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, it is obvious that a business as usual scenario approach will not help to change the trajectory of the outcomes if nothing is done about it. Climate change calls for changing our production and consumption patterns or how we do business.

Since carbon dioxide is the main factor contributing to climate change; the IPCC has already identified technological options for helping to decarbonize the atmosphere. Some technological options recommended by the IPCC for reducing net CO2 emissions to the atmosphere include:

  • Energy efficiency and conservation;
  • Switching to less carbon-intensive fuels, for example, natural gas instead of coal;
  • Increasing the use of renewable energy sources or nuclear energy, each of which emits little or no net CO2;
  • Sequestering CO2 by enhancing biological absorption capacity in forests and soils;
  • Capturing and storing CO2 chemically or physically.

climate change mitigation

Private Sector Engagement to Addressing Climate Change

In many cases, addressing climate change is a voluntary action taken by the private sector. It may have an effect on the bottom line depending on the strategies put in place, although in some cases, investing to address climate change may not have a direct benefit, but perhaps an indirect benefit such as building a company’s image or reputation when it comes to sustainability. For instance, a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative will help to improve the image of a company that takes leadership to implement a program that helps to adapt or mitigate climate change.

1. UNFCCC Paris Agreement

At the global level, the private sector is engaged through its member countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement brings about 195 nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so.

The Paris Agreement has a roadmap for developed nations to contribute to the needed $100 billion annually for mitigation and adaptation efforts. It is supposed to be mobilized climate finance before the year 2020, although a majority of the financing in the $100 billion in public finance with a portion, about $24 billion expected or predicted to be mobilized from the private sector in 2020. This climate finance is an integral part of the Paris Agreement because it will help developing countries build low carbon and climate-resilient economies.

According to International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, at the Paris Agreement climate change negotiations, the private sector was more active and visible than ever before with the presence of CEOs from different industries, including but not limited to cement, transportation, energy, and consumer goods manufacturers who announced their own climate commitments in Paris to decrease their carbon footprints, adopt renewable energy, and improve natural resource management.

2. Mission Innovation

Mission Innovation another global initiative where the private sector is engaged to help combat climate change.

The Mission Innovation was announced at the Paris Agreement on November 30th, 2015, and is a global initiative of 23 countries, and the European Union to be implemented to dramatically accelerate global clean energy innovation.

Under the Mission Innovation (MI), participating countries have committed to seek to double their governments’ clean energy research and development (R&D) investments over five years, while encouraging greater levels of private sector investment in transformative clean energy technologies.

MI applies a public-private partnership investment model with partnerships involving the governments, research institutions & investors.

Even though renewable power has grown in investments in the past few years, the intermittent nature of wind & solar energy and the limited capacities to store power still impede the widespread implementation of renewables.

As such, Mission Innovations engaged Breakthrough Energy Coalition – a group of high net worth investors from 10 countries that have made an unprecedented commitment to make risk-tolerant investments in next-generation technologies such as the commercialization and deployment of clean, reliable and affordable energy technologies worldwide.

In this regard, the private sector is essential in bringing new technological breakthroughs into the market. For instance the top five tech companies, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook & Google have pledged billions of dollars to be invested into researching new technologies while working in tandem with Mission Innovation, which is a consortium of 23 countries (including the United States) & European Union (EU).

Participating MI countries commit to work closely with the private sector as it increases its investment in the earlier-stage clean energy companies that emerge from government research and development programs.

Through MI, R&D efforts supported through public funds engage private sector participation that helps to develop climate technological solutions by carrying forward the best ideas for commercialization. Businesses, entrepreneurs & investors turn innovations into the products and companies that change the world.

When it comes to private sector engagement, Mission Innovation (MI) engages the private sector for instance by mobilizing investors to invest in the development of early-stage technology development through engagement with Breakthrough Energy Coalition.

The Breakthrough Energy Coalition has developed a list of scientific priorities to lead the path into a low-carbon future, a roadmap called a “landscape of innovation” that will guide investment decisions by the coalition for the next two decades. In this landscape, five grand challenges that correspond to the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emission are selected and these include:

  • Electricity
  • Manufacturing
  • Transportation
  • Agriculture
  • Buildings

Some few technologies that could draw future investments include solar chemical; artificial photosynthesis that would use sunlight to split water molecules into hydrogen fuel; flow batteries that could potentially last for decades; solar paints that generate electricity from the sun and could one day turn any surface into a solar panel; and wave & tidal energy.

3. Climate Change Networks for Private Sector

Climate change networks established for the private sector has helped to engage and mobilize the private sector community to address issues of concern such as climate change and sustainability. Ceres is a good case study that has established the Ceres’ Commit to Climate Initiative, with the aim of building private-sector leadership on climate action, including supporting climate, energy, and clean transportation policies as well as securing strong corporate commitments that advance the goals of the Paris Agreement.

climate change mitigation

Ceres is a sustainability nonprofit organization working with the most influential investors and companies to build leadership and drive solutions throughout the economy. Ceres has a mission for transforming the economy to build a sustainable future for people and the planet.”

Ceres works with some of the largest and most influential investors and companies to advance its key strategies of Commit to Climate. Some of these private sector companies include Apple, CalPERS, Citi, Google, Mars, Inc., New York State Comptroller’s Office, PG&E, Walmart, Bank of America, Bloomberg, Clif Bar, Coca Cola, eBay, General Motors, JPMorgan Chase, Nike, Wells Fargo, etc

The key strategies of Ceres’ Commit to Climate are:

  • Advance Corporate Commitments on climates, such as meeting science-based targets (SBTs) for GHGs reductions through scaling up of corporate investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric vehicles (EVs)
  • Advocate for climate, clean energy and clean transportation policies at both the state and federal levels, including renewable energy standards, electric vehicles, carbon regulations, etc
  • Move electric power companies to evolve their business models so as to boost the deployment of renewable energy, energy efficiency and EV charging infrastructure.
  • Spur Oil and Gas Companies to stop developing risky new high-carbon fossil fuel reserves and pivot capital investments into clean energy.
  • Amplify success stories of companies and policymakers who are making climate commitments and taking action.

Private sector companies working with Ceres under the Commit to Climate Initiative have seen many Ceres company network members committing to going 100% renewable energy to power their businesses, including Apple, Bank of America, Bloomberg, Citi, Clif Bar, Coca Cola, eBay, General Motors, JPMorgan Chase, Nike, and Wells Fargo.

Other companies like Levi Strauss & Co, Seventh Generation & Best Buy have announced a commitment to reduce GHG emissions by 90% within their direct options or their global supply chains (Levi Strauss & Co). Best Buy has set commitment t to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% by 2020 while Seventh Generation has committed to reducing both direct and indirect GHG emissions inclusive of consumer use by 50% by 2025 and even further by 2030.

Switchingtosolarpv.com is a website resource for promoting sustainability, systems thinking to solve problems, going green concepts and going solar online tools. Businesses interested in determining their carbon footprint and how to reduce it by going solar can use this solar panel cost calculator to determine their benefits of going solar. Learn more about five (5) interesting things about going solar for your business.

What is carbon capture technology?

climate change mitigation

What is carbon capture technology? It is the direct capture of carbon from the atmosphere using a chemical process. Right now, Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the greenhouse gas (GHG) that greatly contributes to climate change.  At the moment, the world is still pumping out nearly 33 billion tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases every year, even as more renewable energy sources like wind and solar power come online.

Fossil fuel use is the primary source of CO2. CO2 can also be emitted from direct human-induced impacts on forestry and other land use, such as through deforestation, land clearing for agriculture, and degradation of soils.

Carbon dioxide emissions have a dominant influence in the atmospheric CO2 concentration during the 21st century and hence global average temperatures and sea levels are projected to rise as explained by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

As such, about 189 nations have joined the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with the aim of stabilizing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.

Under the UNFCCC Paris agreement, about 195 nations agreed to respond to the threats of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise in this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels while pursuing even a more ambitious target to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Some of the technological options recommended by the IPCC for reducing net CO2 emissions to the atmosphere include:

  1. Energy efficiency and conservation;
  2. Switching to less carbon-intensive fuels, for example, natural gas instead of coal;
  3. Increasing the use of renewable energy sources or nuclear energy, each of which emits little or no net CO2;
  4. Sequestering CO2 by enhancing biological absorption capacity in forests and soils;
  5. Capturing and storing CO2 chemically or physically.

All the above options, except option number five (5) are being implemented widely and the science and economics for reducing CO2 using these options are technically and economically feasible as the technologies applied in these sectors are commercially or readily available. However, capturing and storing CO2 chemically or physically is one area that is still new and IPCC in their new report suggests that effective carbon capture sequestration (CCS) techniques are unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development.

As such, here we attempt to define and capture CCS by reviewing various materials on the internet as well as check a few companies that are trying to commercialize the CCS technology.

Carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase. 

If CSS is proven as a technology that can be used or massively deployed to reduce the increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, it can be used with the other technologies to reverse the recent trends in global CO2. The IPCC notes that if the recent trends in global CO2 emissions continue, the world will not be on a path towards the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations. For instance, between 1995 and 2001, the average global CO2 emissions grew at a rate of 1.4% per year while the new IPCC report points out that, through the year 2017, the concentration of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere had already warmed the world by one (1) degrees Celsius.

The new report notes that if the global temperatures rise more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels; climate risks to society such as extreme weather, rising sea levels, and diminishing Arctic ice will increase dramatically.

What is Carbon Capture Technology?

What is carbon capture technology? Essentially, CCS is a technology that can be used to capture up to 90% of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes, preventing the carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. CCS consists of three parts namely:

  • Capturing the carbon dioxide
  • Transporting the carbon dioxide
  • Storing the carbon dioxide emissions, underground in depleted oil & gas fields or deep saline aquifer formations

100% renewables are possible, although as long as fossil fuels and carbon-intensive industries play dominant roles in the economy, carbon capture and storage (CCS) will remain a critical greenhouse gas reduction solution. That is, with coal and other fossil fuels remaining dominant in the fuel mix, there is no climate-friendly scenario in the long run without CCS according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

IEA notes that CCS is not a “silver bullet” by itself, but a necessary part of a coherent portfolio of energy solutions that can reinforce one another including but not limited to deployment of various clean energy technologies, including renewable energy, nuclear energy, cleaner transport technologies, and energy efficiency. IEA also points out that as we develop and deploy CCS, we should also strive to minimize the amounts of CO2 resulting from fossil fuel use by building and operating the most efficient power stations and industrial facilities.

CCS is seen as the only large-scale mitigation option available to make deep reductions in the emissions from energy-intensive sectors such as cement, iron and steel, chemicals and refining. According to IEA, today these emissions represent over one-fifth (1/5) of total global CO2 emissions, and the amount of CO2 they produce is likely to grow over the coming decades. IEA notes that energy efficiency improvements in these sectors coupled with CCS technology in these industrial applications are needed urgently to help tackle climate change.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is hence a vital tool in the global fight against climate change when applied both in the power sector and industrial sector.

Examples of CCS application today

climate change mitigation

Carbon Engineering is one of the companies that has explored the use of CCS technology, what it calls direct air capture in which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere through a chemical process, then combined with hydrogen and oxygen to create fuel. At least seven companies worldwide are working on such an idea.

Swiss-based Climeworks has already built a commercial-scale plant. However, it costs Climeworks about $600 US a tonne to remove carbon from the atmosphere, but Carbon Engineering says it can do the job for between $94 US and $232 a tonne since it uses technology and components that are well understood and commercially available.

Through the use of commercially available technology, Carbon Engineering’s plant in Squamish, B.C says it should be easy to scale up and currently pulls about one tonne of carbon a day from the air to produce two barrels of fuel. Carbon Engineering’s fuel costs about 25 percent more than gasoline made from oil. Since it is not made from crude oil, Carbon Engineering (CE) claim that their Air to Fuel technology provides a tool to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the transportation sector by recycling atmospheric CO2 into liquid fuel and displacing crude oil.

According to CE, it gives an ability to harness low-carbon electricity such as solar PV, and material inputs of water and air, to generate fuels that are drop-in compatible with today’s infrastructure and engines. CE adds that their technology forms an important complement to electric vehicles in the quest to deliver carbon-neutral 21stcentury transportation, as it captures it, “While short-haul transportation is amenable to electrification, long haul transport, as well as marine and air travel, require the high energy density of liquid fuels (liquid fuels like diesel have an energy density 30x greater than today’s best batteries).”

In conclusion, in my opinion, I think a mix of renewables, coupled with CCS technology and low-carbon fuels are needed for a more sustainable and carbon-neutral future. There is no one technology that can provide all the technological solutions needed to move towards sustainability and carbon neutrality. Also, a mix of policy and regulatory instruments are needed. The government will apply different push and pull incentive strategies to help deploy or commercialize CCS technology for wider adoption than it is today.

Climate change and the new IPCC 2018 report.

climate change

Climate change is a hot topic among different groups of society and has been highly debated in both business and political circles. However, in the scientific literature, there is a strong consensus that global surface temperatures have increased in recent decades and that trend is caused by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases. For instance, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) shows a graph that captures data collected by different research organizations including NASA that shows global temperatures in an upward trend in the past few decades.

According to NASA data, 2016 was the warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. The 10 warmest years in the 138-year record all have occurred since 2000, with the four warmest years being the four most recent years.

climate change

(Source: NASA)

 According to NASA, multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97% or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities while at the same time most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide endorse this position. Among these scientific bodies including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, American Chemical Society, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, etc

Science & Data & Policy Decisions.

The private sector, government, and non-governmental organizations all have one thing in common, that is they rely on data and information to make informed decisions. As such, it is with anticipation that the best science will inform the ways that decision-makers frame issues, consider solutions, decide on programs, and implement outcomes.

In this regard, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it is a scientific and intergovernmental body under the auspices of the United Nations set up at the request of member governments, to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts. The IPCC produces reports that support the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is the main international treaty on climate change.

The IPCC has published several reports on climate change and today (October 8th, 2018), it released one of its most important ClimateChange reports as it calls it, that requires unprecedented changes in society, which will have huge benefits in reversing the trends of climate warming.

This current IPCC report is a follow-up to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. The Paris agreement was reached at COP21 in Paris on December 12th, 2015 were Parties to the UNFCCC forged the agreement to combat climate change and accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. The Paris agreement is adopted by about 195 nations.

One of the main objectives of the Paris Agreement is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The new IPCC report calls for “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.

According to the new IPCC report, through the year 2017, the concentration of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere had already warmed the world by one (1) degrees Celsius and it notes that if the average global temperatures rise more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels; climate risks to society will increase. These risks include, but not limited to extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, etc

Also, the summary for policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius approved by governments that were released on October, 8th, 2018 noted that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society, the IPCC said in a new assessment. With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, limiting global warming to 1.5oC compared to 2oC could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society.

The new report suggests that Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.

A shift in energy systems, transport, etc needed to help not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius: Removal of CO2 from the air is not sustainable. 

As such, allowing global temperatures to temporarily exceed or ‘overshoot’ 1.5oC would mean a greater reliance on techniques that remove CO2 from the air to return global temperature to below 1.5oC by 2100. The report points out, the effectiveness of such techniques is unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development.

The IPCC maps out four pathways to achieve 1.5oC, with different combinations of land use and technological change. Reforestation is essential to all of them as are shifts to electric transport systems and greater adoption of carbon capture technology.

Also, the scientists suggest that keeping global temperatures to 1.5oC has enormous benefits coupled with a shift in energy systems and transport that are needed to achieve it and can be done within the laws of physics and chemistry.

However, IPCC scientists suggest that the final last thing needed to help resolve this global issue is political will. The report will be presented to governments at the UN climate change conference in Poland at the end of this year (2018).









Carbon offsetting and going solar

carbon footprint

What is carbon offsetting?

Carbon offsetting is a term that is trending in today’s world faced with the need to reduce or counterbalance greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) that are causing climate change. The term is widely used in United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) led climate change mitigation programs such as the clean development mechanism (CDM) which allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to earn certified emission reduction (CER) credits each equivalent to one tonne of CO2. These CERs are then traded or sold, and used by industrialized countries to meet part of their emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

The CDM mechanism introduces flexibility in how industrialized countries meet their emission reduction limits targets. CDM represents the compliance market of carbon trading as it is created and regulated by mandatory international carbon reduction regime under the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol.

Voluntary carbon markets

However, on the other hand, voluntary carbon markets function outside of the compliance market. They enable businesses, governments, NGOs, and individuals to offset their emissions by purchasing offsets known as VERs (Verified or Voluntary Emission Reductions). These carbon markets are small because their actions are on a voluntary basis (voluntary buyers i.e. corporations, institutions & individuals) and unlike the compliance markets where demand is created by a regulatory instrument. VERs tend to be cheaper than those credits sold in the compliance market (e.g. CERs).

The carbon offset is a financial instrument that enables an individual or organization to emit a given amount of GHG emissions, but counter-balances those emissions by investing in measures that remove the equivalent volume of GHG emissions from the atmosphere. Carbon offsetting is based on the premise that GHG emissions have the same net effect regardless of where they’re released.

What are potential projects for carbon offsetting?

Renewable energy projects are the most popular projects for carbon offsetting as they help to reduce or mitigate carbon emissions. Also, based on the premise that GHG emissions have the same net effect regardless of where they’re released; you can be engaged in carbon offsetting through working in clean energy projects in any part of the world. Good potential carbon offsetting projects include switching to green energy (solar PV, wind, biogas etc), adopting energy efficiency and conservation measures, switching to sustainable transportation (Electric vehicle (EV), public transportation, hybrid, and sustainable bio fuels), adopting recycling programs ( composting & recycling) and adoption of eco products (e.g. switching from an old appliance to a new efficient appliance). All of these projects are good candidates for carbon offsetting projects depending on the amount of carbon to mitigated or reduced.

Carbon offsetting with going solar.

Going solar projects are good options for organizations or individuals that are interested in carbon offsetting. These projects could be off-grid or on-grid depending on the amount of carbon emissions you intend to install. GHG emissions can be determined by conducting a GHG emission audit, or by using a carbon calculator.

Also, there are various online tools in the worldwide web that can help you track your actions or choices to determine what impact they will have in carbon offsetting. A good example is yousustain.com. This website provide users with an action calculator to show you the impact of our choices in different categories such as switching to green energy (solar PV, wind, biogas etc), adopting energy efficiency and conservation measures, switching to sustainable transportation (Electric vehicle (EV), public transportation, hybrid, and sustainable bio fuels) etc.

When it comes to going solar, good solar pv projects are great in reducing carbon emissions while reducing dependence on fossil fuels. However, when it comes to carbon trading projects, only emissions reductions that are real, additional (wouldn’t have happened without the carbon market), measurable and verified will qualify as high quality off-set credits.

Using a solar panel cost calculator from the EnergySage or Pick My Solar can help you determine your solar potential, solar costs, financing and other aspects of going solar, including how much carbon you can offset with your solar power system. Solar panels are good for reducing your carbon footprint because they don’t emit any emissions when being operated. Hence, depending on whether you are switching from a fossil based energy or you want to make great environmental impact with going solar. Learn more about solar and sustainability by checking the article: Is solar good for sustainability?

If you are looking for a carbon calculator, you can access it here: