Using science to see which countries are following through on Paris climate change goals

Read the full story in the Los Angeles Times.

If the United States and its fellow Paris Agreement signatories are to meet global climate targets, they’re going to have to make serious commitments that attack the problem on multiple fronts, including reducing coal use, raising renewable energy, accelerating carbon-capture technologies and electrifying more of our automotive fleet, a new analysis shows.

A study last week in Nature Climate Change has developed a measurement tool that can be used to assess each nation’s performance, helping to keep them accountable while also pinpointing the economic and policy changes they can make to meet the those climate targets.

Policy and Program Impact Estimator: A Materials Recovery Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Calculator for Communities

EPA developed a calculator that expands the Waste Reduction Model (WARM) framework to include a community’s existing waste stream and policy and program options. This Excel spreadsheet calculator is designed to help municipalities, counties, and tribes estimate reductions in life cycle GHGs from implementing new or expanded solid waste policies and programs in their communities.

Using EPA’s WARM version 14 emissions factors, the calculator generates projected results for annual and accumulative tons of waste diverted and GHGs reduced over a 10-year planning timeframe. The results can inform comparisons of the estimated GHG impact from implementing different policies and programs, consistent with user-entered assumptions.

Materials addressed by the calculator include metal, glass, plastic, paper, wood, food waste, yard trimmings, and various construction and demolition debris materials. The calculator may also serve to familiarize users with what type of local solid waste data is needed to estimate GHG reductions from recycling and composting programs.

Do We Have the Right Performance Indicators for the Circular Economy?: Insight into the Swiss Waste Management System

Haupt, M., Vadenbo, C. and Hellweg, S. (2016), Do We Have the Right Performance Indicators for the Circular Economy?: Insight into the Swiss Waste Management System. Journal of Industrial Ecology. doi:10.1111/jiec.12506 [Open access article]

Abstract: A material flow analysis of the 2012 Swiss waste management system is presented, highlighting the material content available from waste. Half of municipal solid waste (MSW) is materially recycled and the other half thermally treated with energy recovery. A key component of an industrial ecosystem is increasing the resource efficiency through circulating materials. Recycling rates (RRs), an indicator for the circulating behavior of materials, are often used as measure for the degree of circularity of an economy. This study provides an in-depth analysis of the recycling of paper, cardboard, aluminum, tinplate, glass, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) from MSW in Switzerland by splitting the RRs into closed- and open-loop collection rate (CR) and RRs. Whereas CR refers to collected material that enters the recycling process, RRs measure the available secondary resources produced from recycling processes. For PET, the closed-loop CR of 45% and the open-loop CR of 40% compare to an RR of 31% and 37%, respectively (including exports and recycling of polyethylene and metals from collection). Official collection rates for paper and cardboard are very high (97%), whereas CR of 74% and 89% and RR of 59% and 81% for paper and cardboard, respectively, were found in the present study (including export). For a majority of the separately collected materials investigated, the rates that are determined are substantially lower than those that are officially communicated. Furthermore, given that official rates often do not provide information on the availability of secondary materials, the improvement potential for increased resource recovery is hidden.

What You Need to Know About the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

Corporate reporters rejoice: in a move aimed at making it easier for companies to report on their sustainability initiatives and progress, the Global Reporting Initiative today launched the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards.

Is using less water the secret to cutting our greenhouse gas emissions?

Read the full story in The Guardian.

California, which uses 20% of its electricity in supplying water, just passed a law to collect emissions data from water utilities.

Why sustainability metrics fail to measure achievement, and how to fix them

Read the full post at GreenBiz.

Most major corporations have adopted public reporting to communicate their performance in moving to sustainable management of their business. These reports reveal the companies’ total impact in terms of resource consumption and waste generation as well as normalized versions that attempt to convey corporate improvement in using resources and reducing wastes.

Companies strive to reduce their overall environmental footprint regardless of their overall growth, but the normalized version of the metrics are used to portray their actual efficiency. A growing company might increase its total water consumption but still claim improved efficiency by showing a reduction in water consumption per unit output. The claims based on this type of metric (overall average intensity) generally have been accepted at face value.

Closer examination, however, reveals that overall average intensity seldom, if ever, provides an accurate measure of corporate improvement in efficiency.

Why Measuring Waste GHG Emissions Matters

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

Accounting for greenhouse gas emissions from waste isn’t as straightforward as, say, measuring those from corporate fleets. But as stakeholders increasingly demand companies reduce their carbon footprint — and firms seek zero-waste accreditation — tracking and disclosing waste GHG emissions is key.

To help companies track more accurate data on GHG emissions from their trash, waste management startup Rubicon Global has teamed up with data company Trucost.