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Corporations are some of the worst polluters. This California bill keeps them honest

Supporters of a bill reintroduced this year requiring large corporations to disclose their carbon emissions argue it will empower consumers, disrupt greenwashing and help spotlight sustainable companies for others to model.

In summary Supporters of a bill reintroduced this year requiring large corporations to disclose their carbon emissions argue it will empower consumers, disrupt greenwashing and help spotlight sustainable companies for others to model. Guest Commentary written by Brianna McGuire Brianna McGuire is a plant pathologist and climate organizer. She is the secretary of UPTE-CWA 9119 Local 6 and serves on the Berkeley Environment and Climate Commission. She is on the political team of Sunrise’s Bay Area hub. Charles Kieser Charles Kieser is an independent artist and writer based in San Francisco. He is on the communications team of Sunrise’s Bay Area hub. In January, state Sen. Scott Wiener introduced the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act, a first-in-the-nation measure that would require all companies doing business in California with over $1 billion in revenue to report all of their carbon emissions to the public. Transparency matters. This disclosure would make it harder for polluting companies to pretend that they have been benevolent actors, and easier for the public to hold them accountable for their failures.  Senate Bill 253 is a major step to combating corporate greenwashing, which is a major obstacle to tackling the climate crisis. Most greenhouse gas emissions are released by corporations – in fact, 71% of historic emissions can be traced to just 100 corporations.  Not only that, some corporations brazenly gaslight the public about it. Fossil fuel companies deliberately misled the public about the effects of burning fossil fuels and lied about their own (accurate) predictions of rising temperatures, delaying climate action. Nowadays, fossil fuel companies engage in greenwashing when the spotlight is on them, only to walk back their promises to reduce their pollution when they fade from the news. Polluting corporations often reassure the public that they’re reducing emissions without actually doing anything, making it difficult to distinguish the corporations only claiming to improve their practices from the ones actually doing so. Learn more about legislators mentioned in this story D Scott Wiener State Senate, District 11 (San Francisco) Expand for more about this legislator D Scott Wiener State Senate, District 11 (San Francisco) Time in office 2016—present Background Member, Board of Supervisors Contact Email Legislator How he voted 2021-2022 Liberal Conservative District 11 Demographics Voter Registration Dem 62% GOP 7% No party 25% Campaign Contributions Sen. Scott Wiener has taken at least $156,000 from the Party sector since he was elected to the legislature. That represents 14% of his total campaign contributions. Youth social movements such as #JustStopOil and #FridaysforFuture, transit and environmental justice activists, and divestment campaigns show that people want stronger action by institutions and corporations to prevent the worst effects of climate change. Some institutions, like the state of California, have made a $54 billion climate investment over five years, and the Inflation Reduction Act made a down payment on federal climate action for the next decade. Many corporations actively supported the Inflation Reduction Act, even though it paid for climate investments by raising the corporate tax rate. It’s time for all corporations to move towards action and accountability as well. SB 253 would enable transparency at an institutional level, and allow regulators to take notice of the worst polluters while allowing businesses already tracking or reducing their emissions (and there are quite a few!) to highlight their sustainable practices. Emissions reporting under SB 253 would follow an internationally-accepted standardized process, meaning it wouldn’t be difficult or expensive for billion-dollar corporations to implement. Companies that already report all of their emissions through the international Greenhouse Gas Protocol could just copy over their existing reports. SB 253 wouldn’t only be for wonks in Sacramento, either. It makes individual-level climate choices easier. When folks know which corporations are polluting more than others, they can vote with their wallets more easily. Younger workers seek shared values with their employer, so people with job mobility seeking a sustainable place to work can do so. ESG funds will have even greater visibility into the companies that are least dependent on fossil fuel infrastructure, providing greater security to those investing in the growing low-carbon economy.  This legislation will also help strengthen social bonds. Most people have a low and declining sense of trust in business leaders, according to the Pew Research Center. Reversing the tide of misinformation coming from corporations about their emissions and requiring accountability will help rebuild flagging trust in institutions, which is necessary for both climate action and a healthy democracy. There are no downsides to increased corporate accountability, especially where climate change is concerned. Corporations are responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions, and corporate action is absolutely necessary to reduce future emissions and improve the lives of ordinary people. If corporations are not able to hold themselves accountable, then the public will need to do it instead. Some of the world’s largest companies, including fossil fuel producers, are some of the biggest polluters on the planet. SB 253 would require California companies that make at least $1 billion in annual revenue to report their emissions each year. Free-market proponents say the bill would lead to higher costs for consumers and fail to achieve the transparency it seeks.

Why bioplastics won't solve our plastic problems

Compostable food waste bin caddies are the main sustainable use for bioplastics at present. Almost all bioplastics are ending up in landfill.

ShutterstockLast month, Victoria banned plastic straws, crockery and polystyrene containers, following similar bans in South Australia, Western Australia, New South Wales and the ACT. All states and territories in Australia have now banned lightweight single-use plastic bags. You might wonder why we have to ban these products entirely. Couldn’t we just make them out of bioplastics – plastics usually made of plants? Some studies estimate we could swap up to 85% of fossil-fuel based plastics for bioplastics. Unfortunately, bioplastics aren’t ready for prime time – except for their use in kitchen caddy bins as food waste liners. In Australia, we don’t have widely available pathways to compost or process them at the end of their lives. Nearly always, they end up in landfill. That’s why many states are including bioplastics in their plastics bans. Avoiding single-use plastics entirely, whether traditional fossil fuel-based plastics or bioplastics, is more sustainable. And as our recycling system struggles, less plastic of any kind is simply better. Bioplastics come from plants such as corn - and that comes with environmental impacts. Shutterstock Bio-based, biodegradable and compostable are different Bioplastics is a blanket term covering plastics which are biologically-based or biodegradable (including compostable), or both. Plastics are materials based on polymers – long-repeating chains of large molecules. These molecules don’t have to be oil-based - biologically-based plastics are made from raw materials such as corn, sugarcane, cellulose and algae. Biodegradable plastics are those plastics able to be broken down by microorganisms into elements found in nature. Importantly, biodegradable here doesn’t specify how long or under what conditions plastic will break down. Compostable plastics biodegrade on a known timeframe, when composted. In Australia, they can be certified for commercial or home compostable use. These differences are important. Many of us would see the word “bioplastic” and assume what we’re buying is plant based and breaks down quickly. That’s often not true. Some biodegradable plastics are even made from fossil fuels. Compostable bin caddies are the main sustainable use for bioplastics at present. Shutterstock Are bioplastics broadly more environmentally friendly? To understand this we need to look at the whole lifecycle of the plastic, how it is made, used and what happens to it at end-of-life. Manufacturing bio-based plastics generally has lower environmental impacts and has less greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuel plastics. This isn’t always the case. Producing plastics from plants has an environmental impact from the use of land, water and agricultural chemicals. Increased demand for agricultural land could lead to biodiversity loss and can compete with food production. Read more: If plastic comes from oil and gas, which come originally from plants, why isn’t it biodegradable? Bioplastics often sub in for familiar single use items such as plastic bags, takeaway coffee cups and cutlery. Around 90% of the bioplastics sold in Australia are certified compostable. In most of these applications a reusable alternative would be the most sustainable option. Some applications have beneficial environmental outcomes: compostable bags for kitchen food waste caddies increase the rate of food waste collected, which means less food waste in landfill and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. What about the crucial question of plastic waste and pollution? Sadly, if bioplastics end up in the environment, they can damage the environment in the same way as conventional plastics, such as contaminating soil and water. A turtle can choke just as easily on a bioplastic bag as a conventional plastic bag. That’s because biodegradable plastics still take years or even decades to biodegrade in nature. Ideally, bioplastics should be designed to be either recyclable or compostable. Unfortunately, some bioplastics are neither. These pose problems for our waste management system, as they often end up contaminating recycling or compost bins when the only place for them is the tip. In recent research for WWF Australia, we found widespread greenwashing in the industry, with terms such as “earth friendly” and “plastic-free” adding to the confusion. Regulating the industry and standardising terms would make it easier for us all to choose. Compostable plastics almost all end up in landfill Compostable plastics are designed to be broken down in the compost. Some can be composted at home, but others have to be done commercially. The problem is these plastics aren’t being composted most of the time. Australian Standard compostable plastics are accepted in food organics and garden organics bins in South Australia and some councils in Hobart. But everywhere else, access to these services is limited. Many councils in other states will accept food and green waste – but specifically exclude compostable plastics (some accept council-supplied food waste caddy liners). Read more: Do you toss biodegradable plastic in the compost bin? Here’s why it might not break down This means most compostable plastics used in Australia end up in landfill, where they emit methane as they break down, where it is not always captured. There’s no benefit using bioplastics if they can’t – or won’t – be recycled or composted, especially if they’re replacing a plastic that’s readily recyclable, such as the PET used in soft drink bottles. Bioplastics still take time to degrade in landfill- and emit methane as they do so. Shutterstock Where does it make sense to use bioplastics in Australia? When you reach for a bioplastic product, you’re probably doing it to reduce plastic waste. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. We need viable pathways for recycling and composting. So should we avoid them altogether? If you use compostable bin caddies and compost them at home or your council accepts them, that’s a useful option. But for most other uses, it’s far better to just not use plastic at all. Your reusable coffee cup and shopping bags are the best option. Read more: When biodegradable plastic is not biodegradable Elsa Dominish receives funding from various government and non-government organisations. In 2022-23 this includes WWF-Australia. Nick Florin receives funding from various government and non-government organisations. In 2022-23 this includes the Australian Government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water and the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO). He is also affiliated with the Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence.Rupert Legg receives funding from various government and non-government organisations. In 2022-23 this includes WWF-Australia.Fiona Berry does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

MIT-led teams win National Science Foundation grants to research sustainable materials

The teams will work toward sustainable microchips and topological materials as well as socioresilient materials design.

Three MIT-led teams are among 16 nationwide to receive funding awards to address sustainable materials for global challenges through the National Science Foundation’s Convergence Accelerator program. Launched in 2019, the program targets solutions to especially compelling societal or scientific challenges at an accelerated pace, by incorporating a multidisciplinary research approach. “Solutions for today’s national-scale societal challenges are hard to solve within a single discipline. Instead, these challenges require convergence to merge ideas, approaches, and technologies from a wide range of diverse sectors, disciplines, and experts,” the NSF explains in its description of the Convergence Accelerator program. Phase 1 of the award involves planning to expand initial concepts, identify new team members, participate in an NSF development curriculum, and create an early prototype. Sustainable microchips One of the funded projects, “Building a Sustainable, Innovative Ecosystem for Microchip Manufacturing,” will be led by Anuradha Murthy Agarwal, a principal research scientist at the MIT Materials Research Laboratory. The aim of this project is to help transition the manufacturing of microchips to more sustainable processes that, for example, can reduce e-waste landfills by allowing repair of chips, or enable users to swap out a rogue chip in a motherboard rather than tossing out the entire laptop or cellphone. “Our goal is to help transition microchip manufacturing towards a sustainable industry,” says Agarwal. “We aim to do that by partnering with industry in a multimodal approach that prototypes technology designs to minimize energy consumption and waste generation, retrains the semiconductor workforce, and creates a roadmap for a new industrial ecology to mitigate materials-critical limitations and supply-chain constraints.” Agarwal’s co-principal investigators are Samuel Serna, an MIT visiting professor and assistant professor of physics at Bridgewater State University, and two MIT faculty affiliated with the Materials Research Laboratory: Juejun Hu, the John Elliott Professor of Materials Science and Engineering; and Lionel Kimerling, the Thomas Lord Professor of Materials Science and Engineering. The training component of the project will also create curricula for multiple audiences. “At Bridgewater State University, we will create a new undergraduate course on microchip manufacturing sustainability, and eventually adapt it for audiences from K-12, as well as incumbent employees,” says Serna. Sajan Saini and Erik Verlage of the MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE), and Randolph Kirchain from the MIT Materials Systems Laboratory, who have led MIT initiatives in virtual reality digital education, materials criticality, and roadmapping, are key contributors. The project also includes DMSE graduate students Drew Weninger and Luigi Ranno, and undergraduate Samuel Bechtold from Bridgewater State University’s Department of Physics. Sustainable topological materials Under the direction of Mingda Li, the Class of 1947 Career Development Professor and an Associate Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, the “Sustainable Topological Energy Materials (STEM) for Energy-efficient Applications” project will accelerate research in sustainable topological quantum materials. Topological materials are ones that retain a particular property through all external disturbances. Such materials could potentially be a boon for quantum computing, which has so far been plagued by instability, and would usher in a post-silicon era for microelectronics. Even better, says Li, topological materials can do their job without dissipating energy even at room temperatures. Topological materials can find a variety of applications in quantum computing, energy harvesting, and microelectronics. Despite their promise, and a few thousands of potential candidates, discovering and mass production of these materials has been challenging. Topology itself is not a measurable characteristic so researchers have to first develop ways to find hints of it. Synthesis of materials and related process optimization can take months, if not years, Li adds. Machine learning can accelerate the discovery and vetting stage. Given that a best-in-class topological quantum material has the potential to disrupt the semiconductor and computing industries, Li and team are paying special attention to the environmental sustainability of prospective materials. For example, some potential candidates include gold, lead, or cadmium, whose scarcity or toxicity does not lend itself to mass production and have been disqualified. Co-principal investigators on the project include Liang Fu, associate professor of physics at MIT; Tomas Palacios, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and director of the Microsystems Technology Laboratories; Susanne Stemmer of the University of California at Santa Barbara, and Qiong Ma of Boston College. The $750,000 one-year Phase 1 grant will focus on three priorities: building a topological materials database; identifying the most environmentally sustainable candidates for energy-efficient topological applications; and building the foundation for a Center for Sustainable Topological Energy Materials at MIT that will encourage industry-academia collaborations. At a time when the size of silicon-based electronic circuit boards is reaching its lower limit, the promise of topological materials whose conductivity increases with decreasing size, is especially attractive, Li says. In addition, topological materials can harvest wasted heat: Imagine using your body heat to power your phone. “There are different types of application scenarios, and we can go much beyond the capabilities of existing materials,” Li says, “the possibilities of topological materials are endlessly exciting.” Socioresilient materials design Researchers in the MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE) have been awarded a $750,000 in a cross-disciplinary project that aims to fundamentally redirect materials research and development toward more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable and resilient materials. This “socioresilient materials design” will serve as the foundation for a new research and development framework that takes into account technical, environmental, and social factors from the beginning of the materials design and development process. Christine Ortiz, the Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Ellan Spero PhD ’14, an instructor in DMSE, are leading this research effort, which includes Cornell University, the University of Swansea, Citrine Informatics, Station1, and 14 other organizations in academia, industry, venture capital, the social sector, government, and philanthropy. The team’s project, “Mind Over Matter: Socioresilient Materials Design,” emphasizes that circular design approaches, which aim to minimize waste and maximize the reuse, repair, and recycling of materials, are often insufficient to address negative repercussions for the planet and for human health and safety. Too often society understands the unintended negative consequences long after the materials that make up our homes and cities and systems have been in production and use for many years. Examples include disparate and negative public health impacts due to industrial scale manufacturing of materials, water and air contamination with harmful materials, and increased risk of fire in lower-income housing buildings due to flawed materials usage and design. Adverse climate events including drought, flood, extreme temperatures, and hurricanes have accelerated materials degradation, for example in critical infrastructure, leading to amplified environmental damage and social injustice. While classical materials design and selection approaches are insufficient to address these challenges, the new research project aims to do just that. “The imagination and technical expertise that goes into materials design is too often separated from the environmental and social realities of extraction, manufacturing, and end-of-life for materials,” says Ortiz.  Drawing on materials science and engineering, chemistry, and computer science, the project will develop a framework for materials design and development. It will incorporate powerful computational capabilities — artificial intelligence and machine learning with physics-based materials models — plus rigorous methodologies from the social sciences and the humanities to understand what impacts any new material put into production could have on society.

Biden Vetoes Anti-ESG Bill, Accomplishing the Barest of Minimums for Climate Change

On Monday, Biden issued his first veto since taking office, shutting down a narrowly-passed Republican bill that would have stopped the administration from simply encouraging money managers to consider climate change when making investment decisions for their clients.Biden’s Department of Labor issued a rule towards money managers, stating they could weigh climate change and other environmental, social and governance factors, or ESG, as they handled retirement investment portfolios. Biden’s rule overturned a rule made under Trump that limited the ability of managers to consider such factors; Biden’s rule, while encouraging managers to consider ESG, still mandates that managers operate in the best interest of clients. So the rule at its core was just a suggestion—a directive that the government welcomes even the appearance of capital being directed towards more ethical destinations so long as the fiduciary obligations to investors are met.Republicans, buttressed by their cause to include everything that remotely seems related to racial, social, or environmental justice in their broader war on “wokeness,” have since attached ESG to their broader onslaught on what they oxymoronically refer to as “woke capitalism.” The House voted 216-204 to roll back the rule, and then Democrats Joe Manchin and Jon Tester subsequently joined Senate Republicans to pass the adjoined Senate resolution to overturn the rule.Biden’s veto comes on the same day that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its report issuing a warning about the world being on the final brink of a point-of-no-return in locking in too high of a global temperature increase. One of the myriad solutions IPCC noted was a redirection of capital from fossil fuels to climate mitigation and environmental protection. At the same time, it’s worth noting that “sustainable investing” is not even close to what’s needed to address climate catastrophe. The practice, at best, redirects funds that would’ve gone to fossil fuel firms and the like, potentially paving the way for consequential innovation that might help green the economy. It is perhaps more realistic to refer to the practice as a marketing tool—a flimsy label companies can use to green-wash their practices. So while the Republican onslaught against ESG could be seen as conservatives not even wanting the bare minimum in taking on climate change, their actions can also be viewed as a means of hyper-fixating on a relatively inconsequential solution to climate change in order to distract from the deeper debates over climate mitigation, as well as the tougher policy choices that need to be made.

On Monday, Biden issued his first veto since taking office, shutting down a narrowly-passed Republican bill that would have stopped the administration from simply encouraging money managers to consider climate change when making investment decisions for their clients.Biden’s Department of Labor issued a rule towards money managers, stating they could weigh climate change and other environmental, social and governance factors, or ESG, as they handled retirement investment portfolios. Biden’s rule overturned a rule made under Trump that limited the ability of managers to consider such factors; Biden’s rule, while encouraging managers to consider ESG, still mandates that managers operate in the best interest of clients. So the rule at its core was just a suggestion—a directive that the government welcomes even the appearance of capital being directed towards more ethical destinations so long as the fiduciary obligations to investors are met.Republicans, buttressed by their cause to include everything that remotely seems related to racial, social, or environmental justice in their broader war on “wokeness,” have since attached ESG to their broader onslaught on what they oxymoronically refer to as “woke capitalism.” The House voted 216-204 to roll back the rule, and then Democrats Joe Manchin and Jon Tester subsequently joined Senate Republicans to pass the adjoined Senate resolution to overturn the rule.Biden’s veto comes on the same day that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its report issuing a warning about the world being on the final brink of a point-of-no-return in locking in too high of a global temperature increase. One of the myriad solutions IPCC noted was a redirection of capital from fossil fuels to climate mitigation and environmental protection. At the same time, it’s worth noting that “sustainable investing” is not even close to what’s needed to address climate catastrophe. The practice, at best, redirects funds that would’ve gone to fossil fuel firms and the like, potentially paving the way for consequential innovation that might help green the economy. It is perhaps more realistic to refer to the practice as a marketing tool—a flimsy label companies can use to green-wash their practices. So while the Republican onslaught against ESG could be seen as conservatives not even wanting the bare minimum in taking on climate change, their actions can also be viewed as a means of hyper-fixating on a relatively inconsequential solution to climate change in order to distract from the deeper debates over climate mitigation, as well as the tougher policy choices that need to be made.

Costa Rica’s Reforestation Victory: Contemplating Sustainable Preservation

Costa Rica is often referred to as the poster child for environmental conservation. The country has achieved a remarkable feat of reversing deforestation that had once threatened its rich biodiversity. With nearly 52% of its landmass covered in forests, the country has become a model for reforestation efforts globally. However, as the world grapples with […] The post Costa Rica’s Reforestation Victory: Contemplating Sustainable Preservation appeared first on The Tico Times | Costa Rica News | Travel | Real Estate.

Costa Rica is often referred to as the poster child for environmental conservation. The country has achieved a remarkable feat of reversing deforestation that had once threatened its rich biodiversity. With nearly 52% of its landmass covered in forests, the country has become a model for reforestation efforts globally. However, as the world grapples with the implications of climate change, Costa Rica is faced with the challenge of sustaining its success in reforestation. Building on Successful Policies Costa Rica’s success in reforestation can be attributed to its comprehensive policy framework that emphasizes sustainable development. The country has implemented policies such as the Forestry Law of 1996, which places strict regulations on the use of forest resources, making it illegal to cut down primary forests, among other measures. Additionally, Costa Rica has implemented programs such as Payment for Environmental Services, which incentivizes landowners to preserve forests and engage in sustainable farming practices. These policies have been crucial in reversing deforestation and promoting reforestation. However, to sustain this success, Costa Rica is continuously building on these policies by strengthening their implementation, especially in rural areas where deforestation rates are still high. Working with local communities, policymakers and conservationists, Costa Rica is promoting sustainable land use practices, monitoring and enforcing environmental regulations, and ensuring that the benefits of reforestation are equitably shared among all stakeholders. Leveraging Technology and Innovation Costa Rica is also turning to technology and innovation to help sustain its reforestation success. The country has launched initiatives that utilize remote sensing technology to track forest cover changes and inform policy decisions. For instance, the National Forest Inventory is a program that uses satellite imagery to map forest cover and monitor changes over time. Costa Rica has also implemented a reforestation program that utilizes drones and artificial intelligence to identify areas suitable for planting and monitor the growth of trees. These cutting-edge technologies are not only improving the efficiency of reforestation efforts but also creating opportunities for new technologies to emerge and support sustainable development. Furthermore, these efforts are promoting greater participation and involvement from local communities and are building a more diverse network of stakeholders in reforestation initiatives. By leveraging technology and innovation, Costa Rica is demonstrating how science and research can be harnessed to promote sustainable land use practices, while also demonstrating that technological advancements can be made with environmental preservation as a priority. Final Thoughts Costa Rica’s reforestation success is a remarkable achievement, but sustaining it requires continued efforts and innovation. By building on successful policies and leveraging technology, the country can ensure that its forests continue to thrive and provide crucial ecosystem services for future generations. As the world faces the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation, Costa Rica’s example serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for other countries seeking to achieve sustainable development. The post Costa Rica’s Reforestation Victory: Contemplating Sustainable Preservation appeared first on The Tico Times | Costa Rica News | Travel | Real Estate.

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