Day: August 3, 2021

Sustainability enters the dairy supply chain spotlight

Read the full story at Dairy Foods.

Dairy processors can appeal to the large base of eco-conscious consumers by emphasizing sustainability throughout their supply chains, but compliance can be complex.

Seaspan issues $750 million Blue Transition Bond to improve climate impact of ships

Read the full story at ESG Today.

Containership owner and operator Seaspan, a subsidiary of asset manager Atlas, announced today the closing of its Blue Transition Bond offering, issuing $750 million senior unsecured notes, significantly ahead of the initial $500 million offering size.  

Are you greenwashing, wishing or walking?

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

Goals, targets and commitments are worthless without accountability and enforcement — and that goes for countries as well as companies.

Episode 25: The ebb and flow of cannabis waste

Via Waste360.

The U.S. cannabis industry is expected to add $92 billion to the country’s economy in 2021, according to MJBizDaily. As the industry continues its upward momentum, producers of cannabis products that range from mints to gummies to dissolvable powders are seeking ways to reduce plastic packaging while remaining compliant. In this episode of Stef Talks Trash, Brooks Allman, founder of cannabis brand ebb, discusses the state of waste management in the cannabis industry and the challenges that come with sustainably-minded packaging.

U.S. can cut emissions by helping transform industrial clusters

Read the full post at ACEEE.

As the Biden administration seeks to cut climate-warming emissions from industry, it needs to provide support for an approach that is showing promise in the United States and abroad: clusters of industrial companies.

These clusters—concentrations of companies providing specialized goods or services—offer a unique and powerful approach to developing and deploying low-carbon infrastructure. They can promote both competition and cooperation that spur companies to operate more productively in sourcing materials, accessing utilities (e.g., water, power), and advancing technology. Research Triangle Park, for example, is a cluster in North Carolina where the leveraged learning of co-located companies and three nearby universities has led to rapid advancements in biotech and pharmaceuticals expertise and capabilities.  

Clusters of companies are also starting to collaborate on the path to step-change reductions in greenhouse gases (GHGs), which is important because industry accounts for more than one-fourth of U.S. GHGs. To spur the growth of these clusters and capture their full potential, government must play a role.

To that end, ACEEE is proposing (thanks to input from more than 60 organizations across industry, labor, and NGOs) a new Department of Energy program to advance industrial clusters and create jobs. In our Innovation and Competitiveness at Industrial Clusters proposal, DOE would use a competitive bidding process to strengthen clusters that have strategic plans to pursue low-carbon technology, improve supply chain agility, increase efficiency and resilience, train workers, and reduce environmental impacts in surrounding communities.

Will Russia’s forests be an asset or an obstacle in climate fight?

Read the full story at e360.

New research indicating Russia’s vast forests store more carbon than previously estimated would seem like good news. But scientists are concerned Russia will count this carbon uptake as an offset in its climate commitments, which would allow its emissions to continue unchecked.

Who owns the beach? It depends on state law and tide lines

If you want to stroll the shoreline, know your rights. Normanack/Flickr, CC BY

by Thomas Ankersen (University of Florida)

As Americans flock to beaches this summer, their toes are sinking into some of the most hotly contested real estate in the United States.

It wasn’t always this way. Through the mid-20th century, when the U.S. population was smaller and the coast was still something of a frontier in many states, laissez-faire and absentee coastal landowners tolerated people crossing their beachfront property. Now, however, the coast has filled up. Property owners are much more inclined to seek to exclude an ever-growing population of beachgoers seeking access to less and less beach.

On most U.S. shorelines, the public has a time-honored right to “lateral” access. This means that people can move down the beach along the wet sand between high and low tide – a zone that usually is publicly owned. Waterfront property owners’ control typically stops at the high tide line or, in a very few cases, the low tide line.

But as climate change raises sea levels, property owners are trying to harden their shorelines with sea walls and other types of armoring, squeezing the sandy beach and the public into a shrinking and diminished space.

As director of the Conservation Clinic at the University of Florida College of Law and the Florida Sea Grant Legal Program, and as someone who grew up with sand between my toes, I have studied beach law and policy for most of my career. In my view, the collision between rising seas and coastal development – known as “coastal squeeze” – now represents an existential threat to beaches, and to the public’s ability to reach them.

California state law mandates public access to beaches, but wealthy property owners have been able to restrict access to this beach near Santa Barbara.

The beach as a public trust

Beachfront property law has evolved from ideas that date back to ancient Rome. Romans regarded the beach as “public dominion,” captured in an oft-cited quote from Roman law: “By the law of nature these things are common to all mankind; the air, running water, the sea and consequently the shores of the sea.”

Judges in medieval England evolved this idea into the legal theory known as the “public trust doctrine” – the idea that certain resources should be preserved for all to use. The U.S. inherited this concept.

Most states place the boundary between public and private property at the mean high tide line, an average tide over an astronomical epoch of 19 years. This means that at some point in the daily tidal cycle there is usually a public beach to walk along, albeit a wet and sometimes narrow one. In states such as Maine that set the boundary at mean low tide, you have to be willing to wade.

Sign directs beachgoers to walk along the water's edge.
A sign marks the demarcation between public beach and private property in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. AP Photo/Brendan Farrington

Everybody in!

Early beach access laws in coastal states were largely designed to ensure that workaday activities such as fishing and gathering seaweed for fertilizer could occur, regardless of who owned the beach frontage. Increasingly, however, public recreation became the main use of beaches, and state laws evolved to recognize this shift.

For example, in 1984 the New Jersey Supreme Court extended the reach of the Public Trust Doctrine beyond the tide line to include recreational use of the dry sandy beach. In a pioneering move, Texas codified its common law in 1959 by enacting the Open Beaches Act, which provides that the sandy beach up to the line of vegetation is subject to an easement in favor of the public.

Moreover, Texas allows this easement to “roll” as the shoreline migrates inland, which is increasingly likely in an era of rising seas. Recent litigation and amendments to the act have somewhat modified its application, but the basic principle of public rights in privately owned dry sand beach still applies.

Most states that give the public dry sand access on otherwise private property do so under a legal principle known as customary use rights. These rights evolved in feudal England to grant landless villagers access to the lord of the manor’s lands for civic activities that had been conducted since “time immemorial,” such as ritual maypole dancing.

Oregon’s Supreme Court led the way in judicially applying customary use rights to beaches in 1969, declaring all the state’s dry sand beaches open to the public. Florida followed suit in 1974, but its Supreme Court decision has since been interpreted to apply on a parcel-by-parcel basis.

Like Texas, North Carolina, Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands all have enacted legislation that recognizes customary use of the sandy beach, and courts have upheld the laws. [View an interactive map that shows how states apply the Public Trust doctrine]

Sand wars in Florida

Florida has more sandy beaches than any other state, a year-round climate to enjoy them, and a seemingly unbounded appetite for growth, all of which makes beach access a chronic flashpoint.

Along Florida’s Panhandle, pitched battles have erupted since 2016, with beachfront property owners and private resorts asserting their private property rights over the dry sandy beach and calling sheriffs to evict locals. When beachgoers responded by asserting their customary use rights, Walton County – no liberal bastion – backed them up, passing the local equivalent of a customary use law.

Florida’s Legislature stepped in and took away the local right to pass customary use laws, except according to a complicated legal process that only a few local governments have initiated. Critics argue that the law has made it harder for communities to establish lateral public access to beaches and has done little to resolve the ongoing disputes.

What about just adding sand?

Erosion is both an enemy and a potential savior of beach access. As rising seas erode beaches, pressure to harden shorelines grows. But armoring shorelines may actually increase erosion by interfering with the natural sand supply. Adding more sea walls thus makes it increasingly likely that in many developed areas the dry sand beach will all but disappear. And what once was the public wet sand beach – the area between mean high and low tide – will become two horizontal lines on a vertical sea wall.

House fronted by sea wall extending into the ocean.
The sea wall around this Florida Panhandle beach house blocks public movement along the shore. Thomas Ankersen, CC BY-ND

One alternative is adding more sand. Congress authorizes and funds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore beaches with sand pumped from offshore or trucked from ancient inland dunes. States must typically match these funds, and beachfront property owners occasionally collectively pitch in.

But federal regulations require communities that receive these funds to ensure there is adequate access to nourished beaches from the street, including parking. And new beaches built from submerged shorelines must be maintained for public access until rising seas submerge them again.

This requirement, along with more arcane property rights issues, led landowners in Florida’s Walton County to fight a beach nourishment project that would have protected their property from erosion. They took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost.

Beach nourishment, too, is a temporary solution. Good-quality, readily accessible offshore sand supplies are already depleted in some areas. And accelerating sea level rise may outpace readily available sand at some point in the future. Squeezed between condos and coral reefs, South Florida beaches are especially at risk, leading to some desperate proposals – including the idea of grinding up glass to create beach sand.

Thomas Ankersen, Legal Skills Professor and Director, Conservation Clinic, University of Florida College of Law, University of Florida

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

FCA: Proposed ESG investment funds not meeting sustainability claims

Read the full story at ESG Today.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the conduct regulator for financial services firms and financial markets in the UK, announced today the publication of a letter to authorised fund managers indicating that applications for ESG-focused funds are frequently not meeting expectations, often making assertions about the sustainability aspects of funds not backed up by actual strategy or composition.

U.S. climate ads by conservatives, for conservatives, shift views

Read the full story at Reuters.

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, a conservative Republican from South Carolina, admits he was “ignorant” on climate change when he first got to Congress about three decades ago.

“I didn’t know anything about it except that Al Gore was for (action on) it and that was the end of the inquiry for me,” he recalled.

But today Inglis waxes poetic about how trips to Antarctica and the Great Barrier Reef, as a member of the House Science Committee, helped upend his views and spur him to try to win over like-minded potential converts to action on climate change.

The next big financial crisis could be triggered by climate change – but central banks can prevent it

Both climate change and policies to prevent it can rattle the economy. Citizen of the Planet/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

by Garth Heutel, Givi Melkadze, and Stefano Carattini (Georgia State University)

In 2008, as big banks began failing across Wall Street and the housing and stock markets crashed, the nation saw how crucial financial regulation is for economic stability – and how quickly the consequences can cascade through the economy when regulators are asleep at the wheel.

Today, there’s another looming economic risk: climate change. Once again, how much it harms economies will depend a lot on how financial regulators and central banks react.

Climate change’s impact on economies isn’t always obvious. Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of England, identified a series of climate change-related risks in 2015 that could shake the financial system. The rising costs of extreme weather, lawsuits against companies that have contributed to climate change and the falling value of fossil fuel assets could all have an impact.

Nobel Prize-winning U.S. economist Joseph Stiglitz agrees. In a recent interview, he argued that the impact of a sharp rise in carbon prices – which governments charge companies for emitting climate-warming greenhouse gases – could trigger another financial crisis, this time starting with the fossil fuel industry, its suppliers and the banks that finance them, which could spill over into the broader economy.

Our research as environmental economists and macroeconomists confirms that both the effects of climate change and some of the policies necessary to stop it could have important implications for financial stability, if preemptive measures are not undertaken. Public policies addressing, after years of delay, the fossil fuel emissions that are driving climate change could devalue energy companies and cause investments held by banks and pension funds to tank, as would abrupt changes in consumer habits.

The good news is that regulators have the ability to address these risks and clear the way to safely implement ambitious climate policy.

Climate-stress-testing banks

First, regulators can require banks to publicly disclose their risks from climate change and stress-test their ability to manage change.

The Biden administration recently introduced an executive order on climate-related financial risk, with the goal of encouraging U.S. companies to evaluate and publicly disclose their exposure to climate change and to future climate policies.

In the United Kingdom, large companies already have to disclose their carbon footprints, and the U.K. is pushing to have all major economies follow its lead.

The European Commission also proposed new rules for companies to report on climate and sustainability in their investment decisions across a broad swath of industries in its new Sustainable Finance Strategy released on July 6, 2021. This strategy builds on a previous plan for sustainable growth from 2018.

Jerome Powell and Mark Carney talk at a conference at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with mountains behind them.
Mark Carney (right), former head of the Bank of England, has been warning about the economic risks of climate change for several years. The U.S. Federal Reserve, chaired by Jerome Powell (left), has recently begun discussing it as well. AP Photo/Amber Baesler

Carbon disclosure represents a crucial ingredient for “climate stress tests,” evaluations that gauge how well-prepared banks are for potential shocks from climate change or from climate policy. For example, a recent study by the Bank of England determined that banks were unprepared for a carbon price of US$150 per ton, which it determined would be necessary by the end of the decade to meet the international Paris climate agreement’s goals.

The European Central Bank is conducting stress tests to assess the resilience of its economy to climate risks. In the United States, the Federal Reserve recently established the Financial Stability Climate Committee with similar objectives in mind.

Monetary and financial policy solutions

Central banks and academics have also proposed several ways to address climate change through monetary policy and financial regulation.

One of these methods is “green quantitative easing,” which, like quantitative easing used during the recovery from the 2008 recession, involves the central bank buying financial assets to inject money into the economy. In this case, it would buy only assets that are “green,” or environmentally responsible. Green quantitative easing could potentially encourage investment in climate-friendly projects and technologies such as renewable energy, though researchers have suggested that the effects might be short-lived.

A second policy proposal is to modify existing regulations to recognize the risks that climate change poses to banks. Banks are usually subject to minimum capital requirements to ensure banking sector stability and mitigate the risk of financial crises. This means that banks must hold some minimum amount of liquid capital in order to lend.

Incorporating environmental factors in these requirements could improve banks’ resilience to climate-related financial risks. For instance, a “brown-penalizing factor” would require higher capital requirements on loans extended to carbon-intensive industries, discouraging banks from lending to such industries.

A refinery and wet road during a severe rain storm.
Reducing fossil fuel use to slow climate change will affect oil industry assets, like refineries, pipelines and shipping, as well as the industry’s suppliers. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Broadly, these existing proposals have in common the goal of reducing economy-wide carbon emissions and simultaneously reducing the financial system’s exposure to carbon-intensive sectors.

The Bank of Japan announced a new climate strategy on July 16, 2021, that includes offering no-interest loans to banks lending to environmentally friendly projects, supporting green bonds and encouraging banks to disclosure their climate risk.

The Federal Reserve has begun to study these policies, and it has created a panel focused on developing a climate stress test.

Lessons from economists

Often, policymaking trails scientific and economic debates and advancements. With financial regulation of climate risks, however, it is arguably the other way around. Central banks and governments are proposing new policy tools that have not been studied for very long.

A few research papers released within the last year provide a number of important insights that can help guide central banks and regulators.

They do not all reach the same conclusions, but a general consensus seems to be that financial regulation can help address large-scale economic risks that abruptly introducing a climate policy might create. One paper found that if the climate policy is implemented gradually, the economic risks can be small and financial regulation can manage them.

Financial regulation can also help accelerate the transition to a cleaner economy, research shows. One example is subsidizing lending to climate-friendly industries while taxing lending to polluting industries. But financial regulation alone will not be enough to effectively address climate change.

Central banks will have roles to play as countries try to manage climate change going forward. In particular, prudent financial regulation can help prevent barriers to the kind of aggressive policies that will be necessary to slow climate change and protect the environments our economies were built for.

Garth Heutel, Associate Professor of Economics, Georgia State University; Givi Melkadze, Assistant Professor of Economics, Georgia State University; and Stefano Carattini, Assistant Professor in Economics, Georgia State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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