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Blockchain and the Environment

Unless you have been living under a rock the past few years, you have probably heard of bitcoin, a type of cryptocurrency that has generated headlines for its price rises (and falls) over the past five years. So, what has cryptocurrency, and the blockchain in general, got to do with climate action? First, let’s start with the basics.

What is cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is a digital currency which allows two people to transfer money to each other without it going through a central authority (such as a bank). It is secured by cryptography (hence the name), which makes it almost impossible to counterfeit. Where once cryptocurrency was a niche subject, it has exploded into the mainstream in recent years. This mirrors the price of the most famous cryptocurrency, bitcoin, which cost less than $100 in 2013, but is now selling for more than $50,000 each.

So, what is the blockchain?

The blockchain is essentially a digital ledger of transactions that is distributed across the entire network of computer systems that make up that blockchain. The ‘block’ refers to the individual record of each transaction, while the ‘chain’ refers to the fact that those records are linked in one chain. Each time a transaction occurs, a record of that transaction is added to every participants’ ledger. This allows for transparency, efficiency and security.

Are there any climate action benefits to the blockchain?

Great question. There are multiple ways the blockchain can help with climate action, mainly due to the fact it is decentralised and so fosters greater transparency. As Alexandre Gellert Paris, Associate Programme Officer at UNFCCC says: “As countries, regions, cities and businesses work to rapidly implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement, they need to make use of all innovative and cutting-edge technologies available. Blockchain could contribute to greater stakeholder involvement, transparency and engagement and help bring trust and further innovative solutions in the fight against climate change, leading to enhanced climate actions.” These include:

Improved carbon emission trading

The blockchain can be used to improve the carbon asset transactions system. Energy Blockchain Lab and IBM created a blockchain platform to trade carbon assets in China, which “allows high-emission organisations to monitor their carbon footprints and meet quotas by buying carbon credits from low emitters.”

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MIT: Carbon removal hype is becoming a dangerous distraction

conceptual image showing a smoke stack blowing smoke into a large butterfly netSELMAN DESIGN
July 8, 2021

In February, oil giant Shell trumpeted a scenario in which the world pulls global warming back to 1.5 ˚C by 2100, even as natural gas, oil, and coal continue to generate huge shares of the world’s energy.

Among other things, Shell’s pathway involves rapidly installing carbon capture systems on power plants, scaling up nascent machines that can suck carbon dioxide directly out of the air, and planting enough trees to cover land nearly the size of Brazil in the hopes of absorbing billions of tons of the greenhouse gas.

This plan might be transparently self-serving, but Shell’s outsize ambitions for carbon removal are far from anomalous. A growing number of companies are setting up programs to create or trade carbon offsets, using tree planting, soil management, and other means to purportedly balance out emissions elsewhere. Meanwhile, numerous corporations and nations are announcing “net zero” emissions plans that rely upon these programs, and rapidly proliferating carbon-removal startups are highlighting what some consider overly rosy projections in their investor pitch decks.

The noise, news and hype are feeding a perception that carbon removal will be cheap, simple, scalable, and reliable—none of which we can count on.

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NYT: Maine Will Make Companies Pay for Recycling. Here’s How It Works.

The law aims to take the cost burden of recycling away from taxpayers. One environmental advocate said the change could be “transformative.”

A collection facility in Bend, Ore. The state is expected to adopt a recycling law similar to Maine’s within weeks. 
Credit…Leon Werdinger/Alamy

Recycling, that feel-good moment when people put their paper and plastic in special bins, was a headache for municipal governments even in good times. And, only a small amount was actually getting recycled.

Then, five years ago, China stopped buying most of America’s recycling, and dozens of cities across the United States suspended or weakened their recycling programs.

Now, Maine has implemented a new law that could transform the way packaging is recycled by requiring manufacturers, rather than taxpayers, to cover the cost. Nearly a dozen states have been considering similar regulations and Oregon is about to sign its own version in coming weeks.

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Maine becomes first state to shift costs of recycling from taxpayers to companies

Gov. Janet Mills (D), seen last month at an event in Augusta, Maine, signed a bill Tuesday requiring companies that create consumer packaging to pay for the costs of recycling it.
Gov. Janet Mills (D), seen last month at an event in Augusta, Maine, signed a bill Tuesday requiring companies that create consumer packaging to pay for the costs of recycling it. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

Maine became the first state in the nation to require companies that create consumer packaging to pay for the costs of recycling it when Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed a bill Tuesday establishing an “extended producer responsibility” program.

The legislation on EPR for packaging will charge large packaging producers for collecting and recycling cardboard boxes, plastic containers and other packaging materials, as well as for disposing of nonrecyclable packaging. The income generated will be used to support recycling efforts in local communities that have long relied on taxpayer dollars.

Massachusetts’ ambitious climate law has taken effect. Now comes the hard part.

The law seeks to establish a net-zero greenhouse gas emission limit by 2050, among other goals.

Three of Deepwater Wind’s turbines stand in the water off Block Island, R.I. Massachusetts’ new climate law requires the creation of an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File

Charlie Baker signs sweeping climate change bill

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts has turned a critical corner in its response to climate change.

A sweeping law signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker with muted pandemic fanfare back in March officially took effect late last week, 90 days after the bill signing.

Supporters say it’s now time to get down to the nitty-gritty of making sure the state meets the lofty goals of the law — like creating a net-zero greenhouse gas emission limit by 2050.

The law triggers an initial series of changes throughout 2021 and 2022, according to Democratic Sen. Mike Barrett, co-chair of the Committee on Telecommunication, Utilities and Energy.

Some of those initial steps may seem modest, even bureaucratic, but supporters say they’re critical to helping the state transition to a renewable energy future.

One step calls for the state Department of Public Utilities to consider six factors as it decides electric power and natural gas rates, reviews electric and gas company contracts, and makes policy.

While reliability and affordability remain crucial, the law adds four new criteria: safety, security from cyberattacks and physical sabotage, equity, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

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Tax credits for wind and solar projects are broken. Congress can fix that.

 

Sheldon Kimber is the CEO of Intersect Power.


Costs for solar and wind energy are the lowest they’ve ever been in the United States, and there’s been a dramatic surge in renewable projects in development. While that’s great news, there’s an enormous backlog of solar and wind projects across the country that are stalled out because of the inefficient way that Washington provides tax credits to our industry. We desperately need a legislative solution.

The costs of wind and solar projects are all upfront, so renewable energy companies have never owed enough taxes to take advantage of the tax credits they’ve been given by the federal government to incentivize wind and solar development. To make use of these credits, companies like mine have to partner with banks to exchange our tax credits for financing. Banks get to reduce their tax liability, and renewable energy companies get to build solar and wind farms. This may sound like a win-win, but it’s not.

When my team calls a bank to get financing, they’re usually told that the bank has already committed to the few customers with whom it has long-standing relationships. In order to convert tax credits into financing, banks need a small army of tax attorneys and energy specialists, and most have very little incentive to respond to all the renewable energy companies that come calling.

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Forbes: Moscow Discovers Climate Change Can Be Good Business

Dec 4, 2020

Kenneth Rapoza

Kenneth Rapoza

Snowy weather in MoscowRussians play in the snow on November 21, 2020.  MIKHAIL JAPARIDZE/TASS

“Green is good” has replaced that old 1980s Wall Street mantra: “Greed is good.”

Even the oil rich Russians have discovered it. They’re not alone.

City planners, start-up entrepreneurs and big business are all discovering that concern over climate change is leading to entire new industries. Or fresh demand for old ones – like solar panels that became a thing in the 1970s; new battery powered car companies like Lordstown Motors, and really old school stuff like bicycles and electric powered scooters that are part of the so-called Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) movement.

Moscow is home to some of Russia’s biggest ESG investors. Who knew?

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Environmental group hoists banner over iconic Citgo sign

By Jeremy C. Fox and Parker Purifoy Globe Correspondent, Updated August 10, 2020, 10:13 p.m.

Climate Justice Banner hangs over Citgo Sign

A group called Extinction Rebellion covered the iconic Citgo sign in Kenmore Square with a giant sign that read “Climate Justice NOW.”

JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF

An environmental group unfurled a large banner reading “Climate Justice Now” across the iconic Citgo sign in Kenmore Square as the Red Sox began playing the Tampa Bay Rays in Fenway Park on Monday night.

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IBM thinks blockchains can help reduce carbon emissions

The world is moving toward a “token-driven economy” in which all kinds of assets, from stocks and bonds to real estate and fine art, will be represented by crypto-tokens on blockchains—and this will unlock massive amounts of value. At least that’s what IBM, which hopes to build software platforms for trading these tokens, is betting. And one of the first things it plans to help digitize has a bonus feature: it benefits the environment.

Companies, governments, and others use what are called carbon offset credits to compensate for the carbon dioxide they emit. The credits are purchased or traded, and the investment goes toward reducing emissions some other way, such as renewable energy production or carbon sequestration. But there are various kinds, and some tend to lose value over time. Unfortunately, purchasing “high quality” carbon credits is a complex, cumbersome process that has to be done in over-the-counter transactions, which slows down the market for them, says Jim Procanik, executive director of the Veridium Foundation. Blockchain technology, he says, is a “perfect background for creating a more liquid and transparent marketplace.”

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Polar Vortex: How the Jet Stream and Climate Change Bring on Cold Snaps

It might seem counterintuitive, but global warming plays a role in blasts of bitter cold weather. The reason: It influences the jet stream. Here’s how.

The jet stream wind speeds over North America. Credit: NASA

The polar jet stream can be several miles deep and more than 100 miles wide, with the strongest winds typically 5 to 10 miles above the ground. In this NASA visualization, the fastest winds are in red; slower winds are in blue. Credit: NASA

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