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Can Corporations Lead When Governments Don’t?

Alan Miller's picture

The past week saw the final demise of proposals for U.S. legislation to address climate change, and a sense of gloom pervades discussion about prospects for a similar effort by the new Congress next year. Among major corporations, however, one can still find many examples of impressive environmental initiatives and investments. The same week, for example, General Motors (GM) announced two costly steps predicated on consumer demand or regulatory pressure for environmental performance. The more highly publicized news was that GM would begin accepting orders for its long awaited hybrid electric car, the Volt. The Company attracted less fanfare for another product with more immediate environmental benefits, the introduction of a new climate friendly refrigerant for auto air conditioning – replacing a chemical with a global warming potential (GWP) of 1400 with one that has a GWP of 4, a 99.7% improvement over current emissions. (It is worth noting that auto air conditioning has become so popular that its one of the only features available as an add-on to the Nano in India).


 In June, General Electric announced that the performance of its “eco-imagination” initiative, a commitment to develop and market a growing range of green products, was meeting revenue targets and outperforming revenue growth in the company as a whole. Consequently, the company plans to double its investment in the initiative over the next five years.

Bangladesh sets a world record – 5 million CFLs in a day, one bulb at a time!

Ashok Sarkar's picture

If you were in Bangladesh in June, you would have found teachers in schools, preachers in mosques, and ads in newspapers, television, loudspeakers and pamphlets, encouraging people to bring in their incandescent bulbs to exchange with new Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) – and encouraged they were! On Saturday, June 19th 2010, at over 1,400 rural and urban distribution centers spread across 27 districts, manned by teachers, utility workers and other volunteers, Bangladeshis collectively took home about five million high quality CFL bulbs, in the first round of distribution.


CFL bulbThey broke a record set by the British in January of 2008, for the most number of CFL bulbs distributed in a single day―some 4.5 million. In June, the Government and people of Bangladesh were inspired to do even better … and they did!


I was there to witness and watch this remarkable moment. What struck me as most impressive was that the entire process had the air of a popular election campaign. The mood throughout the country was festive, and people were happy to switch to CFLs and to help do what they could to improve the delicate electric power situation in Bangladesh.

Hope for Honduras energy sector

Elsia Paz's picture

Photo: WindmillsI come from a country that generates 70% of its electricity by burning imported diesel─creating a serious imbalance in Honduras’ economy. There is no reason why we cannot emulate our neighbor Costa Rica that generates 90% of its energy needs using hydroelectricity. As President of Honduran Renewable Energy Association for Small Scale Projects (AHPPER), representing 66 Honduran companies dedicated to the development of small scale renewable projects, I believe that barriers which local entrepreneurs must overcome are the lack of funds for pre-investment activities, equity consolidation and institutional delays.


Notes from Guyana: People, forests and vuvuzelas

Carolina Hoyos's picture

Photo: Forested hillsThis week we are in Guyana, talking about people, forests and carbon finance. The 6th meeting of the Participants Committee of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) is taking place in Georgetown, Guyana, bringing government representatives, international organizations, indigenous peoples representatives and private sector to the northern coast of South America. The Facility is a partnership of countries with tropical and sub-tropical forests with the World Bank as a trustee for the Readiness Fund and the Carbon Fund. The meeting is discussing innovative ways to prepare countries for programs that will provide them with payments for emission reductions through, for example, avoided deforestation.


In the air, a new generation of tools for GHG accounting

Marcelino Madrigal's picture

Photo: Transmission towersLast week, I helped put together and participated in a workshop hosted by the World Bank on GHG accounting and analysis. To me, it was a very valuable opportunity to take stock of the progress the World Bank and other institutions are making on GHG analysis, focusing on new tools and methodologies in specific sectors – namely transport, energy and urban.

While determining the impact of project related GHG emissions is not new, understanding which approaches to take given the variety of projects, sectors and countries we work in is becoming increasingly important. As there are costs associated with implementing GHG accounting across large variety of sectors, a good dose of pragmatism is required to ensure that scarce resources are devoted to activities where emissions reductions can have a potentially higher long-term impact on the global challenge of low carbon growth.  This of course is no small feat.


Climate Change Technology Investment Index: A new dashboard for low carbon growth path

Muthukumara Mani's picture

 In my previous blog, I had highlighted a general lack of urgency in focusing on technology development, diffusion and transfer to deal with climate change. 

Many of the public policies needed to achieve low carbon growth in countries over the medium term are already in place, including feed-in tariff regimes, mandatory renewable energy targets and tax incentives. But more such policies may be necessary or existing policy distortions removed if one were to envision massive scale-up in such investments. It becomes both important and interesting to track progress globally as the policies and strategies shift and evolve toward promoting sustainable and low carbon growth paths.



More than $30 billion in fast track climate finance: Do the numbers add up?

Athena Ballesteros's picture

Photo: Parched earthThe Copenhagen Accord commits developed countries to collectively “provide new and additional resources, including forestry and investments through international institutions, approaching US$ 30 billion for the period 2010 – 2012”. This fast-start finance is critical to building trust among countries in the global climate regime and to lay the groundwork for the post-2012 climate finance architecture. In the six months  since the December 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference, a number of developed countries have publicly announced their individual pledges to help meet this target. The World Resources Institute (WRI) tracks and monitors these so-called fast-start pledges.

According to our research, pledges put forward so far total US$ 31.32 billion. However, many questions remain regarding the nature of the pledged funds. Some of the funds have yet to go through national budget appropriations processes.

Carbon markets, still in the game

Pablo Benitez's picture

I’m writing to you from what is probably the most exciting place to be in the carbon world this week―Carbon Expo in Cologne Germany―the global trade fair and knowledge-sharing platform on current and future carbon investments. There are thousands of people here from all over the world and the story in the corridors is...well...carbon. It is a meeting place for large and small companies operating in the CO2 market, as well as government representatives and climate experts interested in the latest CO2 projects and climate developments. Carbon Expo is proving to be a showcase for introducing projects to investors and carbon buyers, with sessions on everything from the ‘How-to” of Low Carbon Growth to matchmaking and deal facilitation.

The Carbon Market Outlook

On Wednesday, the World Bank released its annual State and Trends of the Carbon Market report here at Carbon Expo. It had a very interesting story to tell.

Carbon footprints: What you buy matters, but where you live is more important!

Dan Hoornweg's picture

Lots of people, companies, cities, and nations have started to calculate their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, since you can only change what you can measure. These measurements are starting to highlight some very interesting trends and show how complex the global results of our lifestyle are.

Will climate finance mean a new path for the World Bank?

Athena Ballesteros's picture

In Copenhagen, donor countries pledged to raise US$30 billion in “fast start funds” and an additional US$100 billion a year by 2020 to invest in reducing emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. Though the commitments are clear, the delivery is uncertain. By the June UNFCCC meetings in Bonn, countries will need to start drafting a set of decisions on the financial architecture to manage and distribute these climate funds.


Photo: Woman in China counting moneyBy embarking on several climate change initiatives, including an assessment of progress in implementing the Strategic Framework on Development and Climate Change (SFDCC) and the revision of its Energy Strategy, the World Bank has positioned itself to play a role in the management of new climate funds.  The Bank already hosts several climate related trust funds, including the Climate Investment Funds. It is the trustee of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and its largest implementing agency. The question is whether the Bank should be entrusted with an even larger role in the future of climate finance. If it is going to gain the political support necessary to make this happen, the World Bank must systematically address issues of environmental and social sustainability in its mainstream investments.