50 Million Trees Program – Status Update

Boreal ForrestHow millions of Ontario trees escaped Doug Ford’s cuts

DEC 6, 2019 — Following news articles and receiving an update from Forests Ontario, here is the latest update about the program.

The 50 Million Tree Program is fully up-and-running. Forests Ontario is now taking applications from property owners wishing to plant trees. The criteria for the program has changed; in the past, folks needed to have at least 2.5 acres of open land for planting to be eligible, whereas now property owners can apply if they have room to plant a minimum of 500 hundred trees (which can be as little as 0.6 of an acre).

There is no need for the supporters of the petition to understand the importance of trees. The more trees on the ground, more CO2 sequestered from the atmosphere and a slew of other benefits including preventing land erosion, increasing bio diversity and many more.

The 50 Million Tree Program provides professional technical and financial assistance for mid to large-scale tree planting.

If you are interested in applying for the program, visit www.forestsontario.ca/50MTP 

Climate change and a new agricultural system

This week, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a long-awaited report on land, climate change and agriculture.* The report’s findings confirm that the agriculture and food systems on which we now depend are no longer viable. 

Individual consumer choices in the global north, about what to eat, won’t be enough to get rid of a bad system, nor will they be enough to build a just transition to a better one.

Image result for agroecological and regenerative agriculture

Regenerative agriculture can make farmers stewards of the land again. Rock Hills Ranch in South Dakota uses managed grazing techniques to maintain healthy, diverse plant communities in its pastures. Credit: Lars PloughmannCC BY-SA

While much of the media coverage of the new IPCC report on land and agriculture focus on diet, the report needs to be understood as saying this: we (in protein-rich countries, at the very least), must replace our current large-scale industrialized systems of agriculture and food production with those based on agroecological and regenerative practices. Food security and agricultural resilience, in the face of a changing climate, depend on this.

From IATP’s perspective, replacing our current industrialized system requires dismantling the power of large-scale corporate agribusiness to manipulate markets, drive consumer demand, and influence everything from our food safety regulatory system to the rules laid down in international trade agreements.

For agroecological and regenerative systems sector-wide, we must achieve widespread public understanding of the productive, environmental, and economic legitimacy of these systems; invest heavily in them, in the farmers designing them and in the rural communities in which they prosper; and reawaken ourselves to the cultural and societal significance of our agriculture and food systems.

Globally, industrialized agriculture now emits extraordinarily high levels of GHG emissions as a sector. In our 2018 in-depth report, Emissions Impossible, IATP and GRAIN calculated total GHG emissions by a corporation, rather than by country. This gave us new insights into the astonishing lack of accountability for GHG emissions of the world’s largest 35 meat and dairy corporations. Responsible for the design, promotion, perpetuation and performance of large-scale industrialized agricultural systems of meat and dairy production, these corporations must also be accountable for their role in perpetuating, or curbing, climate change, system-wide.

It is imperative not to confuse large-scale industrialized meat and dairy corporations with agroecological and regenerative livestock producers, whose vision and practice is precisely what is needed. Fueling that confusion is the entanglement (at some point in their supply chains), of large, vertically integrated corporations with producers of all kinds and sizes. Vertical integration and corporate concentration in agribusiness is another tough problem to solve. We can start by enforcing what is left of antitrust laws and stopping more mega-mergers.

It is imperative, too, that we think far beyond single-note dietary changes. For example, consumer campaigns focused on the importance of reduced meat consumption should not rest their case with individual consumer choice, but instead, recognize the role of corporate influence in the system, as well as promoting the importance of livestock to regenerative agricultural systems. A simplistic “no meat” message can too easily and swiftly fall into a populist and misdirected movement harmful to farmers worldwide who are, right now, responsibly building our agroecological and regenerative agricultural systems.

Plant-based diets that continue to rely on agricultural inputs that are themselves high emitters of GHGs (such as fertilizer), pollutants and toxic chemicals are of no use. Nor are plant-based diets dependent on GMOs. Nor are plant-based diets that depend on the continued exploitation of farm labor, farmers forced to sell their commodities for less than the cost of production, and inequity in their ability to purchase and hold farmland. There is the possibility that the choice to eat less meat, (or none at all), could be erroneously seen by those who make it, as an act that naturally leads to agriculture that is good for the land, for farmers, for ecosystems, for consumers. Just not so.

The shift from agrarian societies to industrial, to digital, has come at a high cost when it comes to the general public’s knowledge of agriculture. The value of that loss cannot be over-estimated when it comes to consumer campaigns and the role they can and must play in promoting the system changes we need for a just transition to sustainable agriculture, sector-wide.

The wildly expanding market for organic food tells us that consumers can and do understand the importance of what they eat as individuals, yet it remains unclear how and if this market growth signals a much-needed change in societal values when it comes to the land and the people who farm it. We certainly are not seeing a change in values reflected in the apparent market growth for fake meat, for example. We do not need more unregulated start-up fake meat labs designed to exploit our addiction to fast food. We already know that the societal cost of fast food is much too high a price to pay for private profits gained. What we do need is a consumer u-turn of sorts, away from one-note dietary panaceas, and toward recognizing and insisting on the extraordinary and unimaginably crucial diversity of the ecological and biological systems necessary for the food that sustains life.

Consumers will not understand how agricultural systems work (and what we must do to maintain them), without being taught. Agribusiness will not cede power without the strong insistence of the public and political will. Farmers will not change their practices with no support to do so and little role in defining what a just transition to sustainable and resilient agriculture and food systems should look like.

All of these changes require the responsibility of people committed to our civic role in governance, mindful of the stakes, confident in our role’s legitimacy in a democracy, and tenacious in our determination to get it right. SOURCE

 

The World Is Getting Windier And Renewables Will Benefit

Wind Power

Renewable energy just got some major investment tailwinds–quite literally. In fact, the biggest breakthrough in wind power generation right now isn’t technological–it’s natural, and it costs nothing.

For three decades, from about 1980 until 2010, wind speeds around the world were slowing down. Now, researchers say that the world is going to keep getting windier for the next 10 years.

According to a new study by Princeton University, this reversal has come about due to changing ocean-atmosphere dynamics–or shifting ocean circulation patterns–that have seen wind energy potential increase by approximately 17% between 2010 and 2017.

In turn, the capacity of wind power in the United States has grown by around 2.5%, just on windier times alone. Furthermore, the study says, “In the longer term, the use of ocean-atmosphere oscillations to anticipate future wind speeds could allow optimization of turbines for expected speeds during their productive life spans.”

This trend, which is expected to continue for another decade, could translate into a nearly 40% increase in the amount of wind power generated between 2010 and 2024.

While about half of our increased wind energy is attributable to technological advancement, the rest is all Mother Nature.

Mapping the Wind Market

The U.S. wind market has just reached 100 GW of capacity. That puts it second only to China.

Wind will be the fastest-growing energy source in the United States in 2020, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). In fact, the EIA forecasts that total power produced from wind will have grown 6% this year and another 14% next year, both onshore and offshore.

And Texas, the country’s oil and gas giant, leads the pack in wind power generation, with more than 3GW of wind power capacity added to the state’s energy resources since 2018 alone. By the end of next year, another 7 GW will have been added.

Countrywide, the EIA expects operators to bring another 8.5 GW of capacity online by the end of this year, and another 14.3 GW by the end of 2020. That means Texas is accounting for half of the country’s new capacity all by itself–another record for the Lone Star state.

Wood Mackenzie predicts that the U.S. market will see some 27 GW of capacity coming online from the fourth quarter of this year into 2020.

And when Mother Nature isn’t intervening, progress is tied closely to changes in tax incentives in the form of the production tax credit (PTC), which gives operators a tax credit per kilowatt hour of renewable electricity generated in the first 10 years of a facility’s operations.

That expired at the end of 2012, initially, but was retroactively renewed in 2013. But we’re nearing the phaseout of this tax credit. Any new facilities that begin construction after the end of 2020 cannot claim the PTC. That means that until then there could be a bit of a run on wind power facility construction to get in before the phaseout.

From an investment standpoint, one could expect a slowdown to hit the wind market in the middle of next year if lobbyists fail to get the PTC extended. But that tailwinds on that are fickle, so anything can happen between now and then.

Wood Mackenzie also forecasts some 85GW of new U.S. wind capacity by 2028. Related: Scientific Breakthrough: MIT Solves Two Huge Energy Problems

Globally, according to the bi-annual report on the future of the wind industry by Greenpeace International and the Global Wind Energy Council, wind power could supply up to 12% of global electricity by 2020, while at the same time creating 1.4 million new jobs. By 2030, wind could provide more than 20% of global electricity supply.

Offshore, is an entirely different story than onshore. The first U.S. offshore wind farm came online in 2016, but it’s a global phenomenon that’s spreading rapidly. For now, the UK is the world’s largest offshore wind market, accounting for 36% of installed capacity. Germany gets second place, followed by China, Denmark and the Netherlands.

And investor confidence is growing at a fast clip.

Look no further than New Jersey for the next big offshore wind investments. Last week, the governor of New Jersey signed an executive order upping the targeted capacity from 3,500 megawatts by 2030 to 7,500 megawatts by 2035, saying: “There is no other renewable energy resource that provides us with either the electric-generation or economic-growth potential of offshore wind.”

New Jersey is riding these tailwinds, but one cautionary note: We don’t know what the climate will have in store for wind power a decade from now. Zhenzhong Zeng, the lead author of the Princeton study, noted that those conveniently shifting oceanic patterns that are making the world windier might not last forever.

Question at COP25: What Role Should Carbon Markets Play in Meeting Paris Goals?

Environmental justice advocates and indigenous groups argue that emissions trading leaves the poor bearing the brunt of pollution.

Homes in El Segundo, California, sit blocks from the Chevron refinery. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
“You’re privatizing forests in our Mother Lands so you’ll be able to pollute more in our communities,” said Tere Almaguer, an environmental justice organizer whose group works with communities near California refineries that feel that they bear the brunt of poor air quality from fossil fuel emissions. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Climate justice advocates at the UN climate summit this week are focusing their frustration over global climate inaction into one highly technical debate: What role should carbon markets play in meeting the promise of the Paris climate accord?

Carbon markets started as a way to offer polluters more flexibility as they try to meet their countries’ emissions reduction targets and, in theory, lower the cost. But past international emissions trading systems have failed to reduce emissions significantly, and representatives of vulnerable and indigenous groups argue that their communities end up bearing the brunt of pollution under such systems, as industries seek to make emissions reductions where it is easiest and cheapest.

Writing the rules for future carbon market mechanisms to fulfill the Paris commitments is at the top of the agenda for the delegates of nearly 200 nations gathered in Spain through Dec. 13 at the 25th Conference of the Parties (COP25). But the task has proven so difficult that it remains the last unresolved portion of the Paris treaty rulebook.

The controversy around this part of the Paris climate agreement, known as Article 6, is even more striking given the long history of international discussions over carbon markets, which nations have looked to as part of the climate solution ever since adopting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. But to opponents in the environmental justice and indigenous people’s communities, that long experience has engendered mistrust.

“Over and over again, carbon markets have proven that they are not effective in reducing emissions,” said Tere Almaguer, environmental justice organizer for PODER in San Francisco. Her group focuses on organizing Latino communities—including those who live near California refineries and feel that they bear the brunt of poor air quality from fossil fuel emissions.

She says the state’s carbon cap-and-trade system allows the oil companies to invest in far-flung carbon mitigation projects rather than cutting emissions at home, leaving the communities to continue suffering the consequences. Referring to industry investments in forest preservation projects in the developing world to earn credit for cutting emissions, Almaguer said: “You’re privatizing forests in our Mother Lands so you’ll be able to pollute more in our communities.” MORE

The Next Stage Of The Solar Boom Is Already Underway

solar boom

“Every five days, the sun provides the Earth with as much energy as all proven supplies of oil, coal, and natural gas,” reports Singularity Hub in a powerful summation of the potential power of solar energy. “If humanity could capture just one 6,000th of Earth’s available solar energy, we’d be able to meet 100 percent of our energy needs.”

The attempt to harness one of the most abundant clean energy resources–sunlight–has been a long and historied endeavor, starting all the way back in the Industrial Revolution when French scientist Alexandre Edmond Becquerellar first discovered that a solar cell had the ability to convert sunlight into electricity through the photovoltaic effect in 1839. While it took a long time before we had the technology to make a commercial solar cell, in the United States, solar power has received government support for nearly 50 years. So why hasn’t solar power–clean, renewable, and overabundant–taken over our energy landscape?

For a long time, solar power was simply too expensive–it just couldn’t compete with the cheap cost and relative ease of fossil fuels, around which the entire energy industry was already built, with negligible exceptions. But now, solar power is cheaper than ever, with this year’s average price per watt of solar energy clocking in at just $3. In fact, solar (and wind power) are now cheaper than coal in most countries in the world. And the really great news is that they’re going to keep getting even cheaper.

This is in large part thanks to the fact that we are in the midst of a solar tech revolution. “Today,” reports Singularity Hub, “we are riding a tremendous wave of advancements in both solar panel efficiency and novel methods of expanding surface area coverage.”

At the forefront of this movement is a startup called Heliogen, which is backed by clean energy enthusiast, technocrat, and – as luck would have it – billionaire Bill Gates that is pushing solar power efficiency to new heights with the implementation of Artificial Intelligence. “Heliogen has created a system that will concentrate solar energy at temperatures as high as 1832 degrees Fahrenheit (1000 degrees Celsius) and replace the use of fossil fuels in industrial tasks such as producing cement and steel,” reports the International Business Times. This is achieved with the use of an AI-based computer system which is able to “align a set of large mirrors that will reflect solar energy on a single target. The accuracy of this system is what makes it possible to generate not just huge amounts of solar energy, but even control the output to make it comparable with the immediate power boost that happens with burning fossil fuels.”

This incredible concentration and efficiency falls in line with the current trend in solar energy, which is how to address one of the sector’s biggest obstacles: land area use. “Traditionally, solar energy-generating plants have been deployed on swathes of out-of-eyesight farmland, or on the roofs of self-powered homes and commercial properties. Yet critics point to land area use as the single greatest barrier to widespread solar adoption,” writes Singularity Hub. “Over the next decade, however, solar panels will be installed almost ubiquitously across urban and semi-urban areas, embedded in our infrastructure, transparent surfaces, and potentially even transit vessels.”

The Bill Gates-backed Heliogen model is still in its early stages of development and the groundbreaking AI technology still has a long way to go before it comes to market, but it is not the only revolution in solar energy currently underway. In fact, the sector is absolutely bursting with innovation as scientists and investors respond to the urgent need to cut carbon emissions and offset our dependence on fossil fuels with alternative energy like solar.

Just this month, a team of scientists at MIT unveiled that they have developed a new protective coating for advanced solar cells with huge possible implications. While a protective covering might not be the sexiest tech innovation, it is a hugely important one, making our existing solar technology more efficient and more resilient. As reported by Phys.org, “MIT researchers have improved on a transparent, conductive coating material, producing a tenfold gain in its electrical conductivity. When incorporated into a type of high-efficiency solar cell, the material increased the cell’s efficiency and stability.”

This is an especially important breakthrough due to the fact that the material currently used in the solar sector to coat the solar cells has a lot of shortcomings. “The material most widely used today for such purposes is known as ITO, for indium titanium oxide, but that material is quite brittle and can crack after a period of use.” The new and improved coating developed by MIT is a high-performing, flexible organic polymer known as PEDOT, which is “deposited in an ultrathin layer just a few nanometers thick, using a process called oxidative chemical vapor deposition (oCVD). This process results in a layer where the structure of the tiny crystals that form the polymer are all perfectly aligned horizontally, giving the material its high conductivity.”

Even with the incredible advances currently being made in the solar energy sector, there is still much more room for improvement. As Singularity Hub reports, “while the efficiency of current run-of-the-mill solar panels still hovers around 16-18 percent, traditional silicon solar panels have only reached half of their theoretical efficiency potential. And new materials science breakthroughs are now on track to double this theoretical constraint, promising cheap, efficient, and abundant solar energy.”

Every advance in the efficiency and ease of solar power production carries major real-world implications, getting us closer to being able to meet the emission cutting goals set by the Paris climate accord. In order to avoid the climate tipping point towards catastrophic climate change, most of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves will have to remain in the ground. This means that the need to develop a clean energy sector that is able to compete economically and logistically with oil and gas is imperative and urgent. However, as OilPrice reported earlier this year,  and investment is “The No.1 Bottleneck For Clean Energy Tech.” The only thing standing between us and a solar-powered world is a few more Bill Gates or a whole lot more civil, political, and private sector support. SOURCE

Whatever happened to the promise of hydrogen-powered cars?

Hydrogen-powered vehicles: An idea whose time has come?


(Tobias Schwarz/Getty Images)

Electric and hybrid vehicles are gaining traction in the car market. But what about hydrogen-powered cars? They produce zero emissions and don’t need charging — you just drive up to a station and refill your tank like you would with a gasoline-powered vehicle. They’ve been promised for years — so where are they?

Nicole Mortillaro did an email interview with Brant Peppley, a professor in the department of chemical engineering at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., as well as a former Canada Research Chair in Fuel Cells and former director of the Queen’s-RMC Fuel Cell Research Centre. Peppley shed some light on — and busted some myths about — these potential cars of the future.

How does a hydrogen fuel cell work in cars?

A fuel cell [FC] car is an electric vehicle where the electricity is generated by the conversion of hydrogen and oxygen (from air) directly to electricity with a byproduct of pure water. The difference is that instead of having to change lithium ions from one state to another in order to recharge the battery pack in a battery electrical vehicle, you simply refill the hydrogen tank with pressurized hydrogen — a process that takes about three minutes for a passenger car with a range in excess of 480 kilometres on a full tank.

Is this clean energy?

Depends on the source of the hydrogen. Most hydrogen used in the chemical industry today is produced by reacting natural gas with steam. This hydrogen results in CO2 emissions. The other way of making hydrogen is by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using an electricity-powered electrolyzer. When that electricity is produced from excess renewable energy such as wind, solar or hydroelectric or from excess nuclear energy (that is often available in Ontario), FC cars are zero-carbon. By the way, when battery-powered vehicles are charged using coal power, they are not zero-carbon.

If this is so clean, why hasn’t it caught on yet?

There are approximately 10,000 FC passenger vehicles being driven by regular consumers in the world today.

The reason they are not more commonly seen in Canada (other than Vancouver) is the lack of hydrogen refuelling stations. (Editor’s note: There are also some in Quebec.) The only place you can buy or lease a fuel cell vehicle is where the refuelling infrastructure is available. California has a network of refuelling stations, as do Japan, Norway, Germany and the other countries in specific regions. The Hydrogen Council, a global consortium of 60 member companies including many of the major car manufacturers, has made a substantial financial commitment to have hydrogen refuelling infrastructure available worldwide by 2030.

Are hydrogen-powered cars any more dangerous than gasoline-fuelled cars?

No! In fact, there are many reasons to consider hydrogen-powered cars less dangerous than gasoline-fuelled vehicles, and battery-powered vehicles for that matter. Hydrogen dissipates extremely quickly…. If an FC vehicle is in a collision, the hydrogen is quickly vented and dissipates into thin air, so to speak, leaving a completely inert vehicle. On the other hand, when a gasoline-fuelled vehicle is in a collision, the gas tank filled with liquid fuel is extremely dangerous, and if it ignites can be extremely lethal.

Likewise, when a battery-powered vehicle is in a collision, the lithium batteries that are on board still contain the equivalent of several sticks of dynamite worth of energy that can result in electrocution or explosions. It can be extremely dangerous for first responders to use the “jaws of life” on electrical vehicles due to the hazard of accidentally cutting a 300-volt cable. SOURCE

COP25 to Be the Launchpad for Significantly more Climate Ambition

Bonn/ Madrid, 29 November 2019 – As the global climate emergency intensifies and greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow, governments will gather in Madrid for the UN Climate Change Conference COP25 (2 to 13 December 2019) to take the next crucial steps in the UN climate change process.

The conference will take place under the Presidency of the Government of Chile and will be held with logistical support from the Government of Spain.

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change said: “This year, we have seen accelerating climate change impacts, including increased droughts, storms and heat waves, with dire consequences for poverty eradication, human health, migration and inequality.

“The world’s small window of opportunity to address climate change is closing rapidly. We must urgently deploy all the tools of multilateral cooperation to make COP25 the launchpad for more climate ambition to put the world on a transformational path towards low carbon and resilience,” she said.

A key objective of COP25 is to raise overall ambition also by completing several key aspects with respect to the full operationalization of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Last year at COP24 in Poland, the bulk of the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement were agreed, with the exception of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

Article 6 is to provide guidelines for how international climate markets will work, as a key component of the world’s economic toolbox for addressing climate change.

Other focus areas at COP25 will include adaptation, loss and damage, transparency, finance, capacity-building, Indigenous issues, oceans, forestry, gender and more.

Notably, the provision of finance and technology is crucial for developing countries to green their economies and build resilience.

“While we have seen some progress with respect to climate-related financing for developing countries, we will continue to urge developed nations to fulfil their pledge of mobilizing $100 billion annually by 2020,” Ms. Espinosa said. “We also must see overall global finance flows reflect the deep transformation throughout society that we need: away from carbon-heavy investment and towards more sustainable and resilient growth. Drops in the bucket are not enough: we need a sea change.”

COP25 to  Set the Stage for Enhanced NDCs

In 2020, nations are to submit new or updated national climate action plans, referred to as Nationally-Determined Contributions, or “NDCs”.

According to the UN Environment Programme’s 2019 Emission Gap Report published this week, unless global greenhouse gas emissions fall by 7.6 per cent each year between 2020 and 2030, the world will miss the opportunity to get on track towards the 1.5°C temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.

This means collective ambition would need to increase more than fivefold over current levels to deliver the cuts needed over the next decade for the 1.5°C goal.

“Current NDCs remain inadequate,” said Executive Secretary Espinosa. “If we stay on our current trajectory, it’s estimated that  global temperatures could more than double by the end of this century. This will have enormous negative consequences for humanity and threaten our existence on this planet. We need an immediate and urgent change in trajectory.

It’s achievable, but to stabilize global temperature rise by 1.5 Celsius by the end of this century, we need to reduce emissions 45 per cent by 2030 and achieve climate neutrality by 2050. It’s an extremely difficult challenge, but meeting it is absolutely necessary to the health, safety and security of everyone on this planet—both in the short- and long-term.”

With regard to raising ambition, COP25 will be informed by the outcomes of the Climate Summit in New York in September and Climate Weeks in Africa, Asia and Latin America co-organized by UN Climate Change this year.

“At these key events, we saw an enormous groundswell of action, with many contributions from governments and  non-Party stakeholders, including regions, cities, businesses and investors. Their contributions are crucial to drive the transformation we need, said Executive Secretary Espinosa.

At the New York Climate Summit, Chile launched a Climate Ambition Alliance that brings together nations upscaling action by 2020, as well as those working towards achieving net zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

MORE

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