Day: June 14, 2019

Companies Disclosing to CDP Reveal Risks, Opportunities and a Troubling Reality

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

While companies acknowledge they are facing significant financial risks from climate change impacts, cumulative gains from realizing business opportunities are also likely, according to a new report published by CDP. Financial organizations appear to see the most opportunities, as well as the most climate risk, but a more concerning story may sit behind this statistic, warns Nicolette Bartlett, Director of Climate Change for CDP.

With climate change impacts already hitting companies around the world, organizations are facing growing scrutiny. They need to show their stakeholders that they are integrating the risks and opportunities from these potential changes into their business strategies and are focusing on the long-term. The CDP report covers nearly 7,000 companies. It analyzes the risk and opportunities related to climate change companies are facing, based on data reported to CDP in 2018.

Annie’s cereal package uses recycled plastic, but it’s the consumer messaging that wins for innovation

Read the full story form the New Hope Network.

The company’s new effort is intended to encourage participation by consumers in the recycling process.

Climate Change: Opportunities to Reduce Federal Fiscal Exposure

Download the document.

The estimated economic effects of climate change, while imprecise, can convey useful insight about potential damages in the United States. In September 2017, GAO reported that the potential economic effects of climate change could be significant and unevenly distributed across sectors and regions (see figure). This is consistent with the recent findings of the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Fourth National Climate Assessment, which concluded, among other things, that the continued increase in the frequency and extent of high-tide flooding due to sea level rise threatens America’s trillion-dollar coastal infrastructure.

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Information about the potential economic effects of climate change could inform decision makers about significant potential damages in different U.S. sectors or regions. According to prior GAO work, this information could help decision makers identify significant climate risks as an initial step toward managing them.

The federal government faces fiscal exposure from climate change risks in several areas, including:

  • Disaster aid: due to the rising number of natural disasters and increasing reliance on federal assistance. GAO has previously reported that the federal government does not adequately plan for disaster resilience. GAO has also reported that, due to an artifically low indicator for determining a jursidiction’s ability to respond to disasters that was set in 1986, the Federal Emergency Management Agency risks recommending federal assistance for juridisctions that could recover on their own.
  • Federal insurance for property and crops: due, in part, to the vulnerability of insured property and crops to climate change impacts. Federal flood and crop insurance programs were not designed to generate sufficient funds to fully cover all losses and expenses. The flood insurance program, for example, was about $21 billion in debt to the Treasury as of April 2019. Further, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in May 2019 that federal crop insurance would cost the federal government an average of about $8 billion annually from 2019 through 2029.
  • Operation and management of federal property and lands: due to the hundreds of thousands of federal facilities and millions of acres of land that could be affected by a changing climate and more frequent extreme events. For example, in 2018, Hurricane Michael devastated Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, with a preliminary repair estimate of $3 billion.

The federal budget, however, does not generally account for disaster assistance provided by Congress or the long-term impacts of climate change on existing federal infrastructure and programs. GAO has reported that more complete information about fiscal exposure could help policymakers better understand the trade-offs when making spending decisions.

Further, federal investments in resilience to reduce fiscal exposures have been limited. As GAO has reported, enhancing resilience can reduce fiscal exposure by reducing or eliminating long-term risk to people and property from natural hazards. For example, a 2018 interim report by the National Institute of Building Sciences estimated approximate benefits to society in excess of costs for several types of resilience projects. While precise benefits are uncertain, the report estimated that for every dollar invested in designing new buildings to particular design standards, society could accrue benefits amounting to about $11 on average.

The federal government has invested in individual agency efforts that could help build resilience within existing programs or projects. For example, the National Climate Assessment reported that the U.S. military integrates climate risks into its analysis, plans, and programs. In additon, as GAO reported in March 2019, the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 could improve resilience by allowing the President to set aside a portion of certain grants for pre-disaster mitigation. However, the federal government has not undertaken strategic government-wide planning to manage climate risks.

GAO’s March 2019 High-Risk report identified a number of recommendations GAO has made related to fiscal exposure to climate change. The federal government could reduce its fiscal exposure by implementing these recommendations. Among GAO’s key government-wide recommendations are:

  • Entities within the Executive Office of the President (EOP) should work with partners to establish federal strategic climate change priorities that reflect the full range of climate-related federal activities;
  • Entities within EOP should use information on potential economic effects from climate change to help identify significant climate risks and craft appropriate federal responses;
  • Entities within EOP should designate a federal entity to develop and update a set of authoritative climate observations and projections for use in federal decision making, and create a national climate information system with defined roles for federal agencies and certain nonfederal entities; and
  • The Department of Commerce should convene federal agencies to provide the best-available forward-looking climate information to organizations that develop design standards and building codes to enhance infrastructure resilience.

Why GAO Did This Study

Since 2005, federal funding for disaster assistance is at least $450 billion, including approximately $19.1 billion in supplemental appropriations signed into law on June 6, 2019. In 2018 alone, there were 14 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events across the United States, with a total cost of at least $91 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The U.S. Global Change Research Program projects that disaster costs will likely increase as certain extreme weather events become more frequent and intense due to climate change.

The costs of recent weather disasters have illustrated the need for planning for climate change risks and investing in resilience. Resilience is the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events, according to the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Investing in resilience can reduce the need for far more costly steps in the decades to come.

Since February 2013, GAO has included Limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks on its list of federal program areas at high risk of vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement or most in need of transformation. GAO updates this list every 2 years. In March 2019, GAO reported that the federal government had not made measurable progress since 2017 to reduce fiscal exposure to climate change.

This testimony—based on reports GAO issued from October 2009 to March 2019—discusses (1) what is known about the potential economic effects of climate change in the United States and the extent to which this information could help federal decision makers manage climate risks across the federal government, (2) the potential impacts of climate change on the federal budget, (3) the extent to which the federal government has invested in resilience, and (4) how the federal government could reduce fiscal exposure to the effects of climate change.

GAO has made 62 recommendations related to the Limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks high-risk area. As of December 2018, 25 of those recommendations remained open.

Chicago’s Stormwater Inundation Presents Green Infrastructure Opportunities for Business

Read the full story in the National Law Review.

As Chicago and surrounding areas continue to suffer from problems associated with aging water lines, increased flooding, and stormwater pollution, the construction, finance, and real estate industries, among others, could see these and other cost-saving benefits by considering green infrastructure improvements as part of their business models and approaches to stormwater infrastructure development.

Scientists around the world are working to turn agricultural waste into food, packaging, and more

Read the full story at Ensia.

By upcycling biomass, innovators aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the economic viability of farming

How citizen sleuths cracked the Wolverine tannery pollution case

Read the full story at MLive.

For nearly a decade, a tenacious a group of concerned citizens led by [Lynn] McIntosh bucked the local current by watchdogging the environmental actions of Wolverine World Wide, a global footwear and apparel company headquartered in Rockford. Their efforts drew sneers, suspicion and other intimidation tactics in a company town proud of its homegrown corporate giant.

PFAS Regulatory Update

Read the full post at JD Supra.

As in previous postings, we discuss recent state regulatory initiatives aimed at addressing groundwater and drinking water contamination by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (“PFAS”). PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals that have been used widely in consumer and industrial products since the 1940s. Major applications have included coatings for paper and cardboard packaging products, carpets, textiles with water and oil repellency, non-stick surfaces, and firefighting foams. Due to their chemical structure, PFAS stay in the environment for a long time and do not degrade easily. PFAS have been detected in air, surface water, groundwater, drinking water, and soil.[1]They even have been found in grocery store items, such as meat, fish, dairy, and prepared chocolate-cake.[2] The widespread use and persistence of PFAS in the environment, together with growing evidence that low-level exposure may lead to adverse health effects, has increased concerns about safe levels of human exposure to PFAS.[3] In response, many more state and, to a lesser extent, federal initiatives have been undertaken to regulate PFAS. As discussed below, recently the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (the “MassDEP”) has proposed to regulate PFAS within the framework of the Commonwealth’s Massachusetts Contingency Plan.

Upcycling: A Big Food problem with a startup solution?

Read the full story in Food Dive.

Food waste is worth $46.7 billion and is expected to grow 5% during the next decade, providing companies with a lucrative way to make money and cater to consumers who value sustainability.

Here are six ways we have slashed US energy use by a fifth

Read the full post from ACEEE.

Major energy efficiency policies slashed US energy use by about 20% in 2017, saving a whopping 25 quads of energy —the amount used in California, Texas, and Florida combined.

Two US policies now at risk accounted for the majority of these savings. Vehicle fuel economy standards and appliance efficiency standards saved 14.3 quadrillion Btus, about 60% of the total savings and about 14% of all US energy use. Unfortunately, the Trump administration is proposing to roll them back (see here and here).

Savings from six key efficiency policies increased more than 15% since 2014, when we last compiled our estimates. Savings in 2017 (listed in the table below) give a sense of the scale of efficiency’s impacts. Note that the estimate for each policy uses a different methodology, so the savings may not be fully comparable.

Report: Retailers ‘failing’ at plastic reduction

Read the full story in Grocery Dive.

A new report from Greenpeace finds that grocery retailers are failing when it comes to reducing their reliance on single-use plastics and efforts to address plastic pollution.

The report assessed 20 retailers with a significant national or regional presence. Although none received a passing score, those that scored best include Aldi, Kroger, Albertsons, Trader Joe’s and Sprouts Farmers Market.

According to Greenpeace, highly vertically integrated retailers that emphasize private label, such as Aldi, Trader Joe’s and Costco, have a greater opportunity to make immediate and significant reductions to their plastic footprints.

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