Sunday, March 25, 2018

Greenhouse Gas and Carbon Emission Reduction Goals: The Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) Worldwide


The Paris Climate Accord includes every county in the world minus the US (subject to a future reversal of the withdrawal from the pact), now that Syria and Nicaragua have both signed. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration seems to have little concern for the environment. All commitments made by the Obama Administration for the Paris Climate Accord are null and void now that toxic Trump backed out of the international agreement, which now includes every single nation on the planet (except the US, which has withdrawn). It is now up to individual US states, like New York and California (2 standouts in setting, and achieving climate goals), to lead the way since the federal government is out

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) were initially laid out during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris in December of 2015. Most countries that signed the UNFCCC limitations of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) set their reduction goals based on a target and baseline year, and timeline within a global objective.

The basic global objective of the Paris agreement is to limit global temperature rise to 2°C by the end of the century, for the entire planet 🌍. A more ambitious, and effective, goal is to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C by the end of the century.

Some of the main targets set during the conference included the following:
1. China set one of the most ambitious goals, to have a 60-65% reduction of GHGs by 2030 based on 2005 levels.
2. US states, like CA and NY (the most ambitious of the largest states), along with at least 20 others, are sticking to the stated goal (with varying degrees of ambition depending on the state) of the US in the Paris Climate Accord of a 26-28% GHG  reduction overall by 2025-2050 based on levels that vary from 1990 to 2005 as baseline years. (2025 to 2050 is the target year for the stated GHG% reduction goal depending on the state- see link to interactive map for US states’ individual GHG reduction goals below).  US federal government under Trump is out.
3. Europe (the EU) stated a 40% GHG reduction based on their 1990 levels by 2030.
4. India stated a continual GHG emission reduction based on units of GDP.
5. Australia pleged a 26-28% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030, with a 50-52% per capita reduction as well.
6. Canada has a goal of reducing 130 megatons of GHGs by 2020, of which they are already at 28% as of 2017. An additional goal of being 30% below 2005 emission rates by 2030 was set as well.

Many countries are having difficulties keeping pace with their stated Paris climate goals, at this point: /world-emissions-goals-far-off-course.html

Many US states are still 100% committed to the commitments made in 2015 in Paris. US states that are on the Eastern and Western coasts, where the greatest access to renewable energy resources exists for homes and businesses, have made the biggest GHG reduction commitments. 

The target year as distant as 2050 exists for some of the less ambitious states, however many states are following the more climate-friendly leads set by states like California and New York. Many states setting a goal of over 25% reduction for carbon and GHG emission rates by as early as 2025, compared to 1990 levels. At least 14 US states have stayed on track to meet the Paris climate goals, despite the withdrawl of the country from the agreement. (states-paris-trump-climate-change-alliance-leadership-jerry-brown-cuomo-inslee-nrdc-2050)

Written by Sara McIntosh

Sara McIntosh is a freelance writer and editor who has been working in the web field for approximately 11 years now. With a degree in English, Sara has been writing about many different industries and topics, including sustainability for Greenergy Eco Villages in 2017. Sara has done work in blogs, articles, and copywriting.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Tax Incentives, Rebates and Other State-Sponsored Solar Programs

While long-term savings on monthly energy bills can be expected with the installation and use of solar panels, there are also solar tax credits (or investment tax credits), providing up to 30% of the cost of the installed system (depending on the state) to help with short term savings. One of the greatest things about tax credits are that they are often available for both residential and commercial buildings alike, along with having no cap on the value that can be claimed. 
In addition to programs helping to reduce taxes, there is also potential of a cash rebate from the state, municipality or utility company. This rebate offered is often 10-20% of the system cost, helping to reduce the cost of the initial installation. One of the most common state rebates offered are Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs), in the locations where there is a specific percentage of solar power utilities must generate as required by law. In those states, SRECs are purchased by a utility from the homes with solar power systems have been installed to meet the requirement, while the purchase helps to add hundreds or even thousands of dollars to the household income annually.
Also, there are Performance-Based Incentives (PBIs), which offer a kilowatt per hour payment credit for electricity that local solar systems produce. Offered from some local utilities, the difference between the SREC and the PBI, is that PBIs don't have to be sold through a specific market, where SRECs are usually required by some in-state manufacturers, and the rate of the PBI is determined at installation.

Additional solar power system incentives include; accelerated depreciations, subsidized loans and tax exemptions. Accelerated depreciation allows businesses to write of the solar energy system while the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) increases tax return on solar power investment for up to 5 years. A great benefit of the MACRS when this is available, is up to an additional 30% reduction in system cost, when the MACRS is calculated. Subsidized loans help finance the solar panel system at a low interest rate from the state, a non-government organization or the utility company, for a limited time when state or other rebates are first presented. Then, tax exemptions are simply applied as property value increases with the installation of the solar power system. Additionally, it often means that the purchase of the solar system is exempt from state sales tax.

With all of these incredible savings, rebates and growth, there is much to benefit financially with the installation of solar power systems, in addition to the benefits of solar energy to the environment. 

 Written by Sara McIntosh
Sara McIntosh is a freelance writer and editor who has been working in the web field for approximately 11 years now. With a degree in English, Sara has been writing about many different industries and topics, including sustainability for Greenergy Eco Villages in 2017. Sara has done work in blogs, articles, and copywriting. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Countries and Cities Advancing Toward Ban of Fossil Fuel Cars...Steps Toward Carbon Neutrality

Over the past couple of decades, we have seen the development of hybrid and electric cars, and the ability of the automotive industry to start working toward the minimization of fossil-fuel burning. While there are many technological developments worldwide in hybrid and electric cars, many countries and cities are planning their future goals for a complete ban of fossil fuel cars in new car sales, and eventually perhaps, on their streets entirely.

Currently, most electric cars sold globally are sold in: China, the U.S., Japan, Canada, Norway, UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden. While there are not currently any requirements as to the purchase of hybrid or electric cars in these countries, there are many cities that have created goals for the requirement of zero emissions autos throughout their streets in the future...

Countries that have already stated ambitions of future bans of fossil fuel cars include China, India, France, Britain, Norway and Germany. Initially, most of these ambitious countries have determined goals by which all auto sales in these countries will be required to be electric vehicles or hybrids,the earliest of which is Norway requiring all autos sold by 2025 to be zero emission vehicles. 
Other countries also share the goal of dramatically increasing electric vehicles on their city streets. In that light, two other countries with a goal of mandating electric auto sales, in this case required by 2040, include France and Britain, with the additional British goal that by 2050 all cars on the national streets will be required to have zero emissions. There are at least eight other countries that have stated potential targets of gaining electric cars and zero emissions, while the goal is not yet solid; Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Korea and Spain. 

Additionally, a global  movement is gaining momentum toward required zero emissions and carbon neutrality in the generation of electricity in certain countries. Over the past decade, there have been four nations openly in the race for carbon neutrality, a net zero carbon footprint or zero carbon emissions: Iceland, New Zealand, Norway and Costa Rica. With electric cars to help with those steps, the additional nations that will be requiring zero emissions nationwide will add to the worldwide growth of carbon neutrality. In addition to the changes in transportation, there will be updates to energy production and industrial processes to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions for improvement of the national and global environment. 
Cities with the ambition of moving toward zero emissions, have set goals to go completely fossil fuel free in their vehicles. Oslo, Norway and Madrid, Spain have stated an initial goal of fossil fuel free vehicles for new cars by 2019, with Paris and London stating a goal of 2020. Copenhagen and Athens have presented a goal of 2025, then Hamburg with a goal of 2035.
Additional cities that have presented similar goals include: Chengdu City, Brussels, Mexico City, Vancouver and New York City. While the specific dates may not have been set as of yet, urban planners have worked inside these cities to help work toward construction and planning of bike paths and pedestrian traffic that will limit the large amount of car roads previously there. 
We’ll see what all these cities may have to present for their growth in the step toward carbon neutrality in the coming years. It's great to know that so many global cities are planning for renewable energy as the main source for municipalities and vehicles. The ability to keep the world running in a more carbon neutral manner will add to the need for improvements in sustainable technologies.
For further information, please see: cities-going-car-free

 Written by Sara McIntosh Sara McIntosh is a freelance writer and editor who has been working in the web field for approximately 11 years now. With a degree in English, Sara has been writing about many different industries and topics, including sustainability for Greenergy Eco Villages in 2017.  Sara has done work in blogs, articles, and copywriting. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Sustainable Agriculture and Carbon Farming - Man's Carbon Footprint Needs a Great Deal of Work

In most traditional farming of the past, a significant amount of carbon and nutrients are removed from soil without being replaced. Major contributing factors to the depletion of healthy soil are over-tilling the land and monoculture (or growing one type of plant on a farm). From processes like these, there is the removal of nutrients from soil, leading to poor fertilization from year to year, as well as the increase of an environment ripe with bugs and vermin. Basically, the farmer slowly loses control of the farm as a whole when the quality of the soil is not managed over time.

Sustainable agriculture works to make sure that farming is done in ways that protect ecosystem quality. It is important for the farmer implementing sustainable agriculture techniques to understand the relationship between all organisms and the environment, along with the importance of maintaining nutrients within soil, water and air, and the environment as a whole.

Some examples of sustainable agriculture include those on farms that work to satisfy human food and fiber needs. There are others that enhance environmental quality and agricultural economy through improvement of natural resources. 
Sustainable agriculture makes efficient use of non-renewable resources, as the loss of these are one of the leading issues in depleting nutrient levels in soil and other needed areas for the farmland. All of this works together for the improvement of the economic value of farm operations and quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.

In focusing on possible improvements of the farmer's carbon footprint in implementing sustainable agriculture, there are the points of balancing sun, air, soil, water and nutrients, all needing replenishment in one way or another. While sun and water often remain in the standard value of their region, some issues with poor irrigation and other water values that can always reduce quality of agriculture. Then there is also the need for soil nutrition to help maintain long-term quality growth. 
Carbon, nitrogen and oter nutrients can be added with recycling crop or livestock manure for natural fertilization, through the growth of legume and forage crops for nitrogen added to soil. Another example of sustainable farming is the independent production of nitrogen through the Haber process that uses hydrogen from natural gas or possibly electricity.  
Also important is the ability to manage long-term crop rotations while still working to help improve the farmer's carbon footprint and the quality of life in their land. Natural fertilizer processes help with the soil, while there is also the importance of maintaining use of natural water resources and management of the level of non-renewable energy resources used on the farm to help maintain proper levels of phosphate and nitrogen in the land. 
With the added efficiency on the farm, certain crops, plant and animal waste, tree and plant croppings, etc..can also be used as sources for biomass/ biofuel. It's all about nature management and planning for quality land and growth.

Written by Sara McIntosh 
Sara McIntosh is a freelance writer and editor who has been working in the web field for approximately 11 years now. With a degree in English, Sara has been writing about many different industries and topics, including sustainability for Greenergy Eco Villages in 2017.  Sara has done work in blogs, articles, and copywriting.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

France Implements Policy to Tackle Food Waste

Globally, among industrialized countries, food waste is a serious problem. Food waste is defined as any food substance, liquid or solid, cooked or uncooked, that is thrown away or discarded. The Food Waste Alliance (FWA) estimates that over 60 million tons of food waste in the US was generated in 2010. 40 million of that total ended up in landfills. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates 30-40% of the food supply is never consumed. 

Food waste is the single largest component going to landfills making it the third largest producer of methane gas. The food waste problem is not only an environmental problem but it’s also an economic problem. Wholesome, edible food that could be consumed by families suffering from food insecurity is going to landfills. Soil, water, and labor used to harvest, process and transport nutritious food is being re-directed from benefitting our society to creating environmental biohazards.

While the USDA and numerous consumer and environmental groups within the US have highlighted the problem in this country, France has chosen to implement policy through laws to handle food waste. In 2016, France banned supermarkets from throwing away unsold food. Stores over 4,305 square feet had until July 2016 to sign agreements with charities, or face fines of up to €75,000. 

While France’s law provides a means of assisting charities feeding the needy, the food waste problem is more nuanced than mandating supermarkets donate their unsold food items. Yard waste, animal biosolids, and food processing byproducts from animals and vegetables are also included in the food waste category. These byproducts are not easily reused and turned into edible food consumable to humans or animals. There are technological solutions currently available to turn non-consumable food waste into fertilizer products.

Both countries acknowledge there is a significant problem with food waste but France is the only one to implement policy to begin tackling the problem. One could argue that their prescriptive approach is limited and overly simplistic, but at least from a governmental approach, this is a good first step. 

When you visit the USDA site on Food Waste, they readily acknowledge the problem. They discuss the economic and environmental loss due to food waste and yet there is no legislative mandate to directly solve the problem. As part of its mission, USDA launched a food loss and waste reduction goal of 50% by 2030. In 2013, USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined together to launch the U.S. Food Waste Challenge to bring together charitable organizations and work with them to assess and disseminate information about best practices to reduce, recover, and recycle food loss and waste.

While the USDA mission is laudable, it is voluntary and there is no specific public policy to work with food suppliers, supermarkets, restaurants or food banks to specifically redirect consumable food to those who need it most. Also, there’s no public policy addressing non-consumable food products, despite the technology, available in either country. France gets a C+ for beginning to tackle the food waste problem. They lack policy initiatives to deal with other components in the food production cycle. 

The US eeks out a passing grade of D because they have acknowledged there is a problem at the federal level. There’s considerable room for improvement if the USDA and EPA can enact some legislation and/or incentives which would encourage all key components in the food production cycle to participate in reduce, recover, and recycle food loss and waste prevention measures. 

France’s new law is a “feel good” approach that on its face seems like a no-brainer. Considering the political climate in this country it's doubtful that even a no-brainer approach like France’s would ever be able to become law in this country.

For more information on France’s progressive policies regarding food waste and France’s actions on using otherwise wasted food for good purposes:


By Bunnee Shelton for Green City Times. I'm an environmental enthusiast; Social Justice Advocate for the vulnerable – who are often People of Color, specifically Women of Color. @BunneeShelton (Twitter)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Environmental consciousness in Albuquerque

I’m not sure how most people become environmentally conscious but my evolution as an environmental enthusiast was forged from several factors. My introduction to environmental consciousness started shortly after moving to Albuquerque, NM in the mid-90’s.

Living in the High Desert with scarce rainfall tends to focus one’s attention on environmental issues very quickly. No appreciable rainfall occurred from December until June of the following year. 6 months of NO rain. Having lived most of my life on the East Coast, I had experienced many grey, wet days. 

Some years it seemed like wet, inclement weather occurred for weeks on end. New Mexico was a shock to the system. Florida may be called the Sunshine state but I doubt they experience as many days (approximately 300) of sunshine in the desert Southwest. Many a weekend on the East Coast is ruined when rainy weather appears. 

Just the opposite occurs in sunny New Mexico. I still remember how giddy everyone got after that first rainfall that signalled the start of monsoon season. Yes, there is a monsoon season. It’s nothing like what happens in parts of Asia but you have to live there and experience it to understand why it is an appropriate term.
Albuquerque averages just under 10” of rain annually and about 10” of snow annually.

The dearth of rainfall obviously comes with a host of issues. The number one issue involves the replenishment of local aquifers which supply drinking water for local inhabitants. I won’t get into the tortuous history of water skirmishes but let’s just say, it’s an issue that every New Mexican (whether you have long-standing roots to the area or are a newcomer) is constantly aware of both consciously and unconsciously. 

While Mother Nature is stingy with rainfall in New Mexico, she is very generous with solar and wind capacity. People there, starting with Indigenous folks, have always used passive solar to heat their homes and wind to pump water for both human and animal consumption. The landscape is dotted with many different applications of solar and wind power. 

One of the myths I was led to believe about living in the Southwest was that the dry air provided relief from allergies and respiratory illnesses. 

Starting in the late 19th century, tuberculosis patients were often sent to NM and AZ for “cures” to relieve them of their illness or symptoms. 

I suppose the dry, hot air once was thought to be a cure-all but as immigrants are prone to do in new lands, they brought non-native plants and trees which grow abundantly today. I had a five-month honeymoon from allergy symptoms until the growing season kicked in fully. Not only did my allergies resume but they came back with a vengeance. Eventually, my allergies got so bad that I developed asthma (allergy of the lungs) and a sensitivity to a number of environmental allergens (both natural and man-made). I could no longer use strong chemical cleaners with noxious odors. I developed rashes and hives to personal care products with lots of chemicals and perfumes. 

At one point, a doctor I visited informed me that my reactions were indications of an auto-immune disorder. I refused to accept the diagnosis and started experimenting with natural and organic personal care products. After some fits and starts, I found natural or organic personal care and household cleaning products that were non-irritating but also efficacious.

After my own personal odyssey into “green” products and the birth of my daughter in 2002, I became committed to living more environmentally conscious. In 2004, we began the process of building a custom home.

I studied water capture; use of gray water for natural irrigation; using sustainable products and non-VOC paints, thinners, flooring, etc. I even studied for a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. 

Eventually, in 2009, my sister and I started an environmentally conscious lifestyle company that focused on selling sustainable and recyclable products for the home. Due to the proliferation of green products being sold in more traditional stores, we shuttered the business and online store in late 2014. While my dream to expand our all eco products company to brick and mortar locations never came to fruition, I am still committed to living a sustainable lifestyle. 

Environmental issues (i.e. DAPL, Flint, MI water crisis, etc.) that affect disaffected and marginalized groups, in particular, are dearest to my heart. I will be writing on a myriad of environmental topics that I hope will offer a different perspective and creative solutions for change in an increasingly difficult political environment.

By Bunnee Shelton for Green City Times. I'm an environmental enthusiast; Social Justice Advocate for the vulnerable – who are often People of Color, specifically Women of Color. @BunneeShelton (Twitter)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Advantages of Distributed Solar Power, Large-Scale Solar Photovoltaics, and Solar Thermal

As the generation of electricity via fossil fuels becomes less reliable and more expensive, many countries are exploring renewable energy options to guarantee their supply. Solar power generation in its various forms is a very attractive prospect, particularly in areas that enjoy long hours of sunshine. However, it can be difficult to decide which form is the most suitable. To that end, here are some of the benefits of Distributed Solar Power, Large-Scale Solar Photovoltaics, and Solar Thermal.

Distributed Solar Power

While photovoltaics and thermal describe the method of converting sunlight into other types of energy, distributed solar power refers to the location of that process; in this case, as close to the point of consumption as possible.
Its advantages are, firstly, that it avoids the energy loss traditionally experienced in the transmission and distribution of electricity, as these steps are no longer necessary. This also saves money. Any heat created during generation can be utilised to decrease wastage.
The decentralization of production allows for fluctuations in demand, especially where storage systems are in place. It provides individual households and business flexibility and independence from the main grid, potentially avoiding blackouts and other problems.
Although there is an initial cost, it pays for itself over time in the savings made from decreased reliance on a power company.

Large-Scale Solar Photovoltaics

Photovoltaics, or solar panels, are a common choice for solar power. This is due to their increasing efficiency and reducing installation cost – given the economy of scale, large-scale solar photovoltaics - also known as solar farms -  are approximately half the cost of residential solar. Innovations in technology, and large-scale production in countries such as China, means that it is more cost-effective than ever, with prices of the energy produced nearing that of the wholesale prices charged by fossil fuel power plants.
Solar farms produce jobs in a variety of areas, from maintenance to operations, and they can be placed on land that is unsuitable for most development. This land, which includes closed landfills, is often close to towns and cities, cutting down on transmission infrastructure and its cost.

Solar Thermal

Solar thermal can refer to a wide range of applications of heating, and even cooling. When just considering energy generation, the most efficient method is Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). CSP plants are smaller – they use less land and have a lower environmental impact and expense. The heat storage is also more efficient, storing more energy per unit of fluid, which allows for production of electricity outside of hours of direct sunlight, therefore creating a more reliable system that can generate power 24 hours a day.
Finally, solar thermal plants can re-purpose existing equipment already made in large-scale industry, such as turbines, which lowers the cost of installation.

Each form of solar power has its advantages, whether it is cost, flexibility, or efficiency. When selecting one, the best choice is the one that gains the desired outcome.