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#COP21: Leading Businesses Join Fairtrade And Gold Standard In Fight Against Climate Change

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Some of Europe’s biggest businesses are among the first companies to commit to buying the innovative Fairtrade Carbon Credits which were launched during the UN climate change talks in Paris today.

Logistics company Deutsche Post DHL Group and international retailer Marks & Spencer are among a raft of businesses to partner with Fairtrade in a new initiative to support farmers and vulnerable rural communities in their fight against climate change. Others who have committed to join the scheme include a renewable energy supplier and two leading coffee roasters.

Fairtrade Carbon Credits, which are regulated through the Fairtrade Climate Standard, have been developed in partnership with the Gold Standard, an internationally recognized organization with expertise in climate security and sustainable development. They enable vulnerable communities in developing countries to reduce emissions while also strengthening themselves against the effects of climate change.

A minimum price ensures costs are covered, and producers receive a Fairtrade Premium for each credit sold, money which they can then invest in adapting to the effects of climate change on their farms and communities. For businesses, Fairtrade Carbon Credits can help them take responsibility for any unavoidable emissions once they’ve done everything to minimise their carbon footprint.

“Increasingly, consumers and shareholders are demanding that businesses reduce their carbon footprint and compensate for unavoidable emissions.” said Fairtrade International CEO Martin Hill. “At the same time, small-scale farmers and workers are among the most affected by climate change even though they have contributed the least to causing it. Extreme weather conditions, increasing plant diseases such as coffee rust, and lower yields are just some of the problems they face.”

“The fact that major international companies like Deutsche Post DHL Group and Marks & Spencer have committed right from the outset shows there’s a real demand for Fairtrade Carbon Credits,” said Hill.

“This new scheme gives business added assurance that their investment in climate security directly supports those who need it most, while also contributing additional sustainable development impacts—from improved health to increased local income—that can be transformational for vulnerable communities,” said Marion Verles, CEO of Gold Standard.

“The Fairtrade Climate Standard enables cooperatives like ours to combat the effects of climate change,” said Dessalegn Jena, General Manager of Oromia Coffee Farmers’ Union, which is one of the first cooperatives to pilot the Fairtrade Climate Standard, with the support of FairClimateFund. “If climate change continues at the rate it is currently going, we will struggle to grow coffee in Ethiopia. By selling Fairtrade Carbon Credits, farmers will be able to build their resilience.”

Deutsche Post DHL Group will apply the new Fairtrade Climate Standard to its own project in Lesotho. With its partner atmosfair, the logistics company distributed efficient cooking stoves to local communities, reducing emissions and improving health and quality of life. “Driving climate protection has been top of our agenda for years: Already a decade ago we developed a climate neutral service including social benefits. Hence it was very clear for us that we would commit to Fairtrade certification, too. The new Fairtrade Climate Standard emphasizes that it does matter what you buy and will make it easier for our customers and ourselves to contribute to a better planet,” said Katharina Tomoff, responsible for the GoGreen program of Deutsche Post DHL Group.

Marks & Spencer is committing to purchase Fairtrade Carbon Credits that will fund new clean, efficient cook stoves for M&S coffee producers in Ethiopia. Carmel McQuaid, Head of Sustainable Business at Marks & Spencer said: “This is a scheme that will deliver real benefits to businesses and communities. It will make a difference to M&S, helping us maintain our carbon neutral commitment, a difference to our suppliers as all the credits will be spent with M&S suppliers in Ethiopia and it will make a difference in communities by providing a safer, cleaner and healthier way to cook. That’s why we’re investing in Fairtrade Carbon Credits and we’re proud to be one of Fairtrade’s first partners.”

Among other early adopters of the Fairtrade Carbon Credits are Dutch renewable energy company Eneco, who aims to offer climate neutral products to its customers; Belgian coffee roasters Beyers, who are going to make their Fairtrade certified coffee climate neutral, and the Java Coffee Company who have committed to Fairtrade climate neutral coffee for the European institutions in 2016; and German honey producers Breitsamer who have committed to buying credits in 2016 to compensate for their 2015 CO² emissions.

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Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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