19 February 2010

Environmental externalities cost trillions, and other company, industry and government news. Plus the "Not So Green" department

Top Stories

World's top firms cause $2.2tn of environmental damage, report estimates.reliability high.
"The cost of pollution and other damage to the natural environment caused by the world's biggest companies would wipe out more than one-third of their profits if they were held financially accountable, a major unpublished study for the United Nations has found." The study, due out later this year, will attempt to calculate the value of environmental damage externalities of business operations. "The UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment initiative and the United Nations Environment Programme jointly ordered a report into the activities of the 3,000 biggest public companies in the world". Story in The Guardian. [So by using the environment as a toilet, these big companies are imposing two trillion dollars of costs on others. It will be interesting to see how that figure was arrived at. Greenhouse gas emissions were the largest component. Businesses will eventually face having to absorb some of those costs. How much would you spend to avoid having $2.2 trillion added to your costs, rather than continuing to shift those costs to others? Lobbying budgets reveal part of the answer.]

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

EU biofuels significantly harming food production in developing countries.reliability high.
"EU companies have taken millions of acres of land out of food production in Africa, central America and Asia to grow biofuels for transport, according to development campaigners. The consequences of European biofuel targets, said the report by ActionAid, could be up to 100 million more hungry people, increased food prices and landlessness. . . . The report attributes the massive growth in biofuel production to generous subsidies. It estimates that the EU biofuel industry has already received €4.4bn (£3.82bn) in incentives, subsidies and tax relief and that this could triple to over €13.7bn if the EU meets its 2020 target. . . . 'Biofuels are driving a global human tragedy. Local food prices have already risen massively. As biofuel production gains pace, this can only accelerate,' said report author Tim Rice." More in The Guardian. PDF of ActionAid report here.

Walmart Creates Online Hub for Best Practices in Green Business.reliability high.
"Walmart Canada recently launched a website it hopes will eventually become the go-to resource for green business best practices in the country. Case studies from companies such as Nestle Water, Stonyfield Farms, Tetra Pak, SC Johnson and Kimblerly-Clark can be found at ShareGreen.ca, which invites visitors to share their own success stories for energy, waste and material management, green products and solution, and green employee engagement." More at GreenBiz. Access ShareGreen site.

Sustainability Practices: Employees Are Generally Disappointed.reliability high.
Another take on the Brighter Planet survey results. "Although 86% of respondents said their organization promotes employee sustainability in some arena, only 16% said their employer collects data related to employee sustainability and just 14% said their employer had an official employee sustainability engagement policy." Other highlights. More at Sustainable Business. Access the report here.

New Association to Support, Promote Green Building Products.reliability high.
"The Green Roundtable/NEXUS has launched the Green Product Association (GPA) to advance the sustainability of building products and help manufacturers promote their products. The GPA's main aim is to bring sustainability to all of the products used in buildings and make those products' performance criteria and metrics transparent and available to anyone. Founding members of the GPA include Xerox, CBC Flooring, Jandris & Sons and Bostik, and UL Environment has teamed up with the GPA to bring in its trusted third-party product certification services." See GreenBiz. Access association here.

Government and Regulation

Pacts Signed to Help River and Salmon.reliability high.
"formal agreements were signed to remove four dams and revise how water is shared in the Klamath River basin in southern Oregon and Northern California. The dams, which have provided hydroelectric power and water for farm irrigation for decades, have caused severe depletions in salmon populations in the 250-mile river, hurting Indian tribes in the area and helping force shutdowns of some West Coast commercial fishing. . . . Describing the long standoff over the Klamath as 'an intractable water war,' Mr. Salazar said in a conference call with reporters that the agreements 'can become a template' for other water and environmental disputes. He said he was optimistic Congress would act this year. . . . The expected cost of dam removal and basin restoration is about $1.5 billion." From The New York Times. [And not a shot fired. We won't always be so lucky.]

Canada looks to China to exploit oil sands rejected by US.reliability high.
"Canada, faced with growing political pressure over the extraction of oil from its highly polluting tar sands, has begun courting China and other Asian countries to exploit the resource. The move comes as American firms are turning away from tar sands because of its heavy carbon footprint and damage to the landscape." Read the Guardian story. [Where do you count the emissions? Does China have to absorb them into its accounts (as a developing country it has refused to commit to emission reductions anyway) or should they count against Canada, which makes insignificant emission-reduction commitments and then just ignores them and who cares because, after all, it's just Canada. Canada joins Iran and Sudan as supplier of last resort? And will the Dalai Lama be visiting Mr. Harper?]

Proposal calls for emissions study with new government-approved projects.reliability high.
"The Obama administration proposed rules Thursday that could affect construction of coal-fired power plants and other government-approved projects that produce large amounts of greenhouse gases. The guidelines for the first time set uniform standards on how federal agencies consider the causes and effects of climate change during their environmental analyses. They would require study of the greenhouse gas emissions of any project expected to emit at least 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year . . . The types of projects that could be affected include large-scale landfills, coal-fired power plants and coal mines that give off methane. The guidelines instruct federal agencies to 'consider opportunities to reduce [greenhouse gas] emissions caused by proposed federal actions' and 'use the NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] process to reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts.'" See story in The Los Angeles Times.

Not So Green Department

Vehicle Tests on Emissions Were Faked.reliability high.
Dozens of auto repair shops and service stations in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County faked the results of emissions tests, giving nearly 21,000 cars and light trucks passing grades, state environmental officials said Thursday. . . . Investigators for the Department of Motor Vehicles flagged 20,773 cases of fraudulent inspections from March 2008 to September 2009 at 27 sites in the Bronx, 4 in Manhattan, 4 in Suffolk County, 3 in Nassau County and 1 each in Westchester County and Brooklyn. The stations face potential fines of $375 to $15,000 for the first offense and up to $22,500 for each ensuing offense. Read more in The New York Times. [We are shocked, Shocked! that there is corruption in the system.]

Japan Calls Hummer H3 Fuel-Efficient.reliability high.
"anyone in Japan who buys the Hummer H3 model — with its 5.3-liter, 300-horsepower engine — can receive a 250,000 yen ($2,779) subsidy under the country’s recently eased fuel-efficiency standards for imported cars. The change stems in part from criticism, particularly from Detroit automakers, that recent tax breaks and subsidies intended to spur sales of fuel-efficient cars in Japan unfairly excluded foreign brands." See New York Times story. [Sigh . . . ]

[Crossposted from HaraBara.com courtesy of HaraBara, Inc. Copyright © 2010 HaraBara, Inc.]