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2020 Deforestation Goals May Not Be Reached, Suggests Forest 500 Analysis

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Deforestation by Crustmania via flickr

The Global Canopy Programme’s Forest 500 Initiative’s third annual set of results has declared that more action is needed from the government and financial institutions to help companies reach deforestation-free supply chains

The Global Canopy Programme’s ‘Forest 500’ released its 2016 results analysing the deforestation policies of the most influential tropical forest powerbrokers, including companies, financial institutions, and countries. Collectively, these powerbrokers hold the key to decoupling the production of palm oil, soya, cattle products, and timber products from deforestation. This would be a major achievement given that commercial agricultural production accounts for over two thirds of tropical deforestation globally.

This year’s annual assessment reveals that, at the current rate of progress, ambitious 2020 and 2030 deforestation goals, such as those laid out by the Consumer Goods Forum and signatories to the New York Declaration on Forests, are unlikely to be achieved. While 11% of companies have established new deforestation policies or improved existing ones, leading to an increase in their Forest 500 score, 57% of companies in the Forest 500 have either weak policies or no policies at all. Further, over the last three years, there was only an increase of 5% in the number of companies with policies for all commodities to which they are exposed.

Ellen Behrens, VP Corporate Responsibility at Orkla ASA – a consumer goods company said, “We have a collective responsibility to act. The Forest 500 reveals that in order to preserve rainforests and fight climate change, it’s important that more companies establish no-deforestation policies with clear time-bound targets.”

Furthermore, entire sectors lack robust deforestation policies: in particular, impacts associated with cattle supply chains, a key driver of tropical deforestation, remain largely unaddressed; only 26% of companies operating in this supply chain have a policy to address environmental impacts from the production, trade, or sourcing of cattle products (beef & leather). Policies also fail to holistically address impacts in these supply chains. Of the 11 companies with cross-commodity gross zero deforestation policies 57% had policies limited to a specific geography or only a portion of a company’s supply chain.

“Despite growing momentum in the number of commitments across key supply chain actors, the Forest 500 reveals that many of these commitments lack the teeth to make meaningful change in the sustainability of commodity production,” states Sarah Lake, Head of the Supply Chains programme at GCP. “While they appear ambitious on face value, company policies need to close loopholes that simply relocate environmental and social impacts to new geographies, or sequester them into less sustainable supply chains.”

The report also reveals that demand for commodity products driving deforestation in the tropics remains unaddressed by major importing countries, while tropical forest countries are increasingly committing to address commodity driven deforestation within their borders. Four out of 25 selected countries exporting forest risk commodities have now established national commitments to prevent the loss of priority forest types such as high conservation value forests, primary, and intact forests, including two in the last year. Yet some of the largest importers such as China and India, as well as the EU and US, have yet to put in place strong demand-side commitments to tackle deforestation embedded in domestic consumption of the range of forest risk commodities. The only Forest 500 importing countries found to formally support nationwide sustainable commodity use or import initiatives are Germany and the Netherlands. Although importing countries may fund sustainability initiatives in producing regions, their import demand remains unaddressed.

The report also finds that strong policies from a small number of leading financial institutions are yet to be matched by their peers, clients and investee companies: 3% of financial institutions assessed have committed to remove deforestation associated with all four Forest 500 commodities from their portfolios, while a quarter have a lending or investment policy for some, but not all, commodities. Yet, even among those financial institutions with deforestation policies, many continue to finance clients and investees without aligned policies indicating a lack of policy implementation. The 2016 assessment finds that 75% of lenders with deforestation policies have made loans – totalling over $64 billion – to producers, processors, or traders that do not have aligned policies.

“Financial institutions lending or investing to companies operating in these supply chains have a significant role to play in achieving deforestation-free supply chains,” states Tom Bregman, Project Manager of the Forest 500. “If they engage with companies in their portfolios on the issue and shift financing away from companies persistently causing deforestation this would send a strong market signal and encourage more companies to take action.”

The 2016 results also show that:

● 3 companies made particularly encouraging progress: Colgate-Palmolive (US), Marks and Spencer (UK), and Orkla group (Norway) strengthened their deforestation policies and now score the maximum 5 out of 5 points available.
● The 2016 assessment results show that the majority of countries (18 out of 25) and subnational jurisdictions (7 out of 10) selected in the Forest 500 were found to have policies to tackle forest loss – for example, to reduce the rate of deforestation, expand the area of forest under protection, or prevent deforestation in a particular biome.
● Deutsche Bank (Germany) joins HSBC (UK) and BNP Paribas (France) in scoring the maximum 5 points, owing to an improved policy that lays out the expectation for clients to make their own zero net deforestation commitments and protect land with high ecological, cultural, or social value.

CDP, an international, not-for-profit organisation today also released a new study “Revenue at risk: Why addressing deforestation is critical to business success”, produced on behalf of 365 investors representing US$22 trillion in assets. The report concluded that on average, nearly a quarter (24%) of company revenues depend upon four deforestation-linked commodities: cattle products, palm oil, soy and timber products. CDP estimates up to US$906 billion of annual sales could be at risk. The report by CDP reveals just how vulnerable companies are to deforestation risks associated with producing and sourcing these commodities.

To see the Forest 500 platform and read more about the results including the analysis of the groups please visit Web: www.forest500.org Twitter:
www.twitter.com/forest500.

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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Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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