Indigenous Peoples Link Their Development to Clean Energies


An article by Emilio Godoy for the Inter Press Service (reprinted by permission)

Achuar indigenous communities in Ecuador are turning to the sun to generate electricity for their homes and transport themselves in canoes with solar panels along the rivers of their territory in the Amazon rainforest, just one illustration of how indigenous people are seeking clean energies as a partner for sustainable development.

“We want to generate a community economy based on sustainability,” Domingo Peas, an Achuar leader, told IPS. Peas is also an advisor to the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, which groups 28 indigenous organisations and 11 native groups from that South American country.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Philippines (3rd left), calls for the full participation of indigenous communities in clean energy projects during the forum Our Village in San Francisco, California. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The first project dates back to the last decade, when the Achuar people began to install solar panels in Sharamentsa, a village of 120 people located on the banks of the Pastaza River. Currently they are operating 40 photovoltaic panels, at a cost of 300 dollars per unit, contributed by private donations and foundations.

The villagers use electricity to light up their homes and pump water to a 6,000-litre tank.

“There is a better quality of services for families. Our goal is to create another energy model that is respectful of our people and our territories,” Peas said.

The Achuar took the next step in 2012, when they started the Kara Solar electric canoe motor project. Kara means “dream” in the Achuar language.

The first boat with solar panels on its roof, with a capacity to carry 20 people and built at a cost of 50,000 dollars, began operating in 2017 and is based in the Achuar community of Kapawi.

The second canoe, with a cost of 35,000 dollars, based in Sharamentsa – which means “the place of scarlet macaws” in Achuar – began ferrying people in July.
The investment came partly from private donations and the rest from the IDEAS prize for Energy Innovation, established by the Inter-American Development Bank, which the community received in 2015, endowed with 127,000 dollars.

The Achuar people’s solar-powered transport network connects nine of their communities along 67 km of the Pastaza river – which forms part of the border between Ecuador and Peru – and the Capahuari river. The approximately 21,000 members of the Achuar community live along the banks of these two rivers.
“It was an indigenous idea adapted to the manufacture of canoes. They use them to transport people and products, like peanuts, cinnamon, yucca and plantains (cooking bananas),” in an area where rivers are the highways connecting their settlements, said Peas.

The demand for clean energy in indigenous and local communities and success stories such as the Achuar’s were presented during the Global Climate Action Summit, convened by the government of the U.S. state of California.

The event, held on Sept. 13-14 in San Francisco, was an early celebration of the third anniversary of the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, reached in the French capital in December 2015.

Native delegates also participated in the alternative forum “Our Village: Climate Action by the People,” on Sept. 11-14, presented by the U.S. non-governmental organisations If Not US Then Who and Hip Hop Caucus.

In addition to Ecuador, innovative experiences have also emerged from indigenous communities in countries such as Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Guatemala, Malaysia, Nicaragua, the Philippines, and the United States, according to the forum.

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Question for this article:

Are we making progress in renewable energy?

Indigenous peoples, Are they the true guardians of nature?

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For example, in Bolivia there is an alliance between the local government of Yocalla, in the southern department of Potosí, and the non-governmental organisation Luces Nuevas aimed at providing electricity from renewable sources to poor families.

In Yocalla, a municipality of 10,000 people, mainly members of the Pukina indigenous community, “755 families live in rural areas with limited electricity; the national power grid has not yet reached those places,” project consultant Yara Montenegro told IPS.

Thanks to the programme, which began in March, 30 poor families have received solar panels connected to lithium batteries, produced at the La Palca pilot plant in Potosí, which store the fluid.

Each system costs 400 dollars, of which the families contribute half and the organisation and the government the other half. The families can connect two lamps, charge a cell phone and listen to the radio, replacing the use of firewood, candles and conventional batteries.

The development of clean sources plays a decisive role in achieving one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which make up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Goal seven aims to establish “affordable and non-polluting energy” – a goal that also has an impact on the achievement of at least another 11 SDGs, which the international community set for itself in 2015 for the next 15 years, within the framework of the United Nations.

In addition, the success of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4All), the programme to be implemented during the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All 2014-2024, which aims to guarantee universal access to modern energy services, and to double the global rate of energy efficiency upgrades and the share of renewables in the global energy mix, depends on that progress.

But most of the groups promoting an energy transition do not include native people, points out the May report “Renewable Energy and Indigenous Peoples. Background Paper to the Right Energy Partnership,” prepared by the Indigenous Peoples’ Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG).

That group launched a Right Energy Partnership in July, which seeks to fill that gap.

For Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Kankanaey Igorot people, who is the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, energy represents “a problem and a solution” for indigenous people, she told IPS at the alternative forum in San Francisco.

“The leaders have fought against hydroelectric dams and I have also seen projects in the hands of indigenous peoples,” she said.

Because of this, “the communities have to be at the centre to decide on and design projects that help combat poverty, because they allow electricity without depending on the power grid, and they strengthen the defense of the territory and benefit the people,” she said.

“It’s about guaranteeing rights and defining development processes,” she summed up.

Examples of projects that can be replicated and expanded, as called for by the U.N special rapporteur, are provided by communities such as Sharamentsa in Ecuador and Yocalla in Bolivia.

Sharamentsa operates a 12 kW battery bank that can create a microgrid. “A power supply centre is planned that allows the generation of value-added products, such as plant processing,” Peas said.

In Yocalla, the plan is to equip some 169 families with systems in December and then try to extend it to all of Potosí. But Montenegro pointed out that alliances are needed so that the beneficiaries can pay less. “In 2019 we will analyse the impact, if the families are satisfied with it, if they are comfortable,” she said.

This article was produced with support from the Climate and Land Use Alliance.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Why India’s Solar Water-Drawing ATMs and Irrigation Pumping Systems Offer Replicable Strategies


An article from The Inter Press Service News Agency (reprinted by permission)

At New Delhi’s Savda Ghevra slum settlement, waterborne diseases have become less frequent thanks to solar-powered water ATMs that were installed here as a social enterprise venture three years ago.

“The water is cheap, reliable and fresh-tasting,” Saeeda, a mother of three who lives close to an ATM, tells IPS. Each day, Saeeda collects up to 15 litres of water from the ATM, paying 30 paisa per litre for the water with a rechargeable card. It means she pays 4.5 Rupees (about 6 US cents) for 15 litres of pure drinking water. It is convenient and cheap as bottled drinking water costs about 20 Rupees (about 30 US cents).

A man draws water from a solar-powered water ATM in New Delhi’s Savda Ghevra slum settlement. Thanks to these machines, which allow users to withdraw water with a rechargeable card, waterborne diseases have become less frequent here. Credit: Ranjit Devraj/IPS

Installed by Piramal Sarvajal, as part of the company’s corporate social responsibility, the decentralised drinking water project for urban slums now provides access to clean water to some 10,000 families in six slum clusters, Amit Mishra, the project’s operations manager, tells IPS.

Mishra says that each water ATM, though locally operated through a franchise system and powered using solar panels, is centrally controlled through cloud technology that integrates 1,100 touch points in 16 states. The result is reduced costs that allow round-the-clock provision of pure drinking water to underserved communities.
Sarvajal Piramal is not the only group that has set up solar-powered water ATMs in New Delhi or other parts of Delhi. Solar-powered water ATMs are part of a plan to use solar power to supply water for India’s vast 1.3 billion people, not only for drinking, but also for agricultural use.

“This is the kind of decentralised, neighbourhood solutions that the Global Green Growth Initiative (GGGI) is interested in,” the Netherlands-based group’s deputy director and water sector lead, Peter Vos, tells IPS. “However, solutions of this type may not be ideal in all situations, since the networks may require a lot of maintenance and can be costly.”

GGGI, says Vos, is interested in promoting policies that allow efficient use of limited water resources sustainably and at reasonable cost. “We do this by embedding ourselves in key ministries concerned with renewable energy, rural development as well as water and sanitation.”

Currently, GGGI has an approved budget of USD 1.37 million dollars for knowledge sharing, transfer of green technologies and capacity building in order to meet global commitments towards implementation of India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris agreement. “Facilitating the flow of domestic and international climate finance and investment would be a key contribution to support India’s NDC implementation,” Vos says.

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Questions related to this article:

Is the right to water a basic human right?

Are we making progress in renewable energy?

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India’s setting up of the International Solar Alliance, an alliance that facilitates cooperation among sun-rich countries, provides GGGI an opportunity to disseminate renewable energy best practices with 18 GGGI member countries and seven partner countries—India and China are partner countries and prospective members.

As a predominantly agricultural country, with the world’s largest irrigated area serviced by some 26 million groundwater pumps mostly run on diesel or electricity, GGGI is keenly interested in India’s plans to switch to the use of solar power for irrigation.

Electric pumps are considered unreliable and diesel is costly. To keep them running, India spends about USD 6 million in annual subsidies that create their own distortions. Farmers tend to waste electricity as well as water thanks to the subsidies, Vos explains.

Under India’s National Solar Mission programme, farmers are now supported with capital cost subsidies for solar pump systems. A credit-linked subsidy scheme invites local institutions across the country to provide loans to reduce the subsidy burden on the government and make the system affordable for farmers.

According to a GGGI study released in 2017, the ‘context-specific delivery models’ used in the solar pump programme have resulted in noteworthy initial successes in terms of economic and social benefits, emission reductions, reduced reliance on subsides, increased agricultural output, development of new businesses, job-creation and improved incomes and livelihoods in rural areas.

India’s models offer replicable strategies to support solar irrigation pumping systems in other countries where GGGI has a presence, says Vos. In fact, the Indian government has plans to export solar pumping systems and expertise to countries interested in greener alternatives for irrigation.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), irrigation is becoming an important part of global agricultural production, consuming about 70 percent of global freshwater resources and reliable irrigation. However, using solar-powered systems can increase crop yields four-fold and can be key to national objectives like achieving food security.

Over the last 25 years India’s ministry of new and renewable energy, a GGGI partner, has developed specialised programmes for both drinking water as well as irrigation systems using solar water pumping systems of which there are now an estimated 15,000 units.

The progress has not been entirely without a hitch and, so far, the solar water-pumping market has remained relatively small primarily due to high up-front capital costs and low awareness among farmers as well as users of drinking water provided through ATMs.

A study of the Savda Ghevra slum showed that it took 18 months before the first ATM could be provided to Piramal Sarvajal. And then only 37 percent of the residents were using the ATMs as a primary or secondary source of potable water.

The study found that the ATMs were more than covering operating costs and generating revenue for Piramal Sarvajal, and could reach a wider population with government or other support, especially in the rural areas. The monies generated by Piramal Sarvajal are used to pay salaries and to maintain the machines.

According to the government’s own figures, presented in parliament in 2017; out of 167.8 million households in rural India only 2.9 million or 16 percent have access to safe drinking water. GGGI with its  considerable experience and expertise around the world is well-placed to step in, says Vos.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Peoples Climate Movement Launches Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice September 8th


A press release from

On September 8th, four days before the start of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, California, and two months before the U.S. midterm elections, people from across the country and around the world will take to the streets to demand bold action on climate change. Globally the mobilization is called “Rise for Climate,” where advocates plan to send a clear message to governments through distributed actions in towns, institutions, cities to push forward real climate action. 

 At GCAS, mayors, governors, and CEOs from the US and beyond are expected to announce plans to make further emissions cuts a part of global efforts to combat climate change. Communities are calling on these leaders to ramp up their ambitions.

The Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice September 8th mobilization builds upon a year of strategic movement building in a set of states that will energize local, state, and national efforts and lay the foundation for a long-lasting, sustainable climate movement.

Last year, as the Trump Administration rolled back climate and health policies, along with many others, more than 200,000 people marched in the streets of Washington D.C. in resistance. At the same time, we saw hundreds of local and global elected officials make verbal commitments to climate action. This year, the Peoples Climate Movement aims to transform the energy of resistance into action by calling on leaders and elected officials to invest in real solutions to the climate crisis that prioritize the most impacted and vulnerable of our communities, like a massive, just transition to a 100% renewable economy that ensures safe and healthy communities, the right to organize for all workers, and millions of family-sustaining jobs.

Speaking towards the global day of action, Estrella Sainburg, Circle Organizer, GreenFaith said, “September 8th marks a global day of action because simply put, stopping the climate crisis is going to take all of us. Across the world, communities will rise up to demand that elected officials raise the bar and step up their commitments. “Real climate action” doesn’t mean hollow words. It means a fast, fair, and just transition away from fossil fuels to a 100% renewable energy economy, that protects the most vulnerable communities already impacted by climate change and creates good paying jobs and opportunities for all. These are some of the real solutions that our communities need and deserve. We will use the Global Climate Action Summit as a key moment to put ourselves on the right path of action and implementation. This is the moral obligation at hand for our leaders and we are calling on them to step up to the plate.”

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Question for this article:

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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Paul Getsos, National Director, Peoples Climate Movement said, “PCM’s work to lift up Climate, Jobs, and Justice now, prior to GCAS, and in November is not only critical in this political moment, but supports our overall goal of building out a climate movement that is long lasting and sustainable. We are creating the space for our partners to amplify, and be led by, the often overlooked voices of their constituents. Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice September 8th is a mobilization of these voices across the country and around the world, building power to bring about a new, clean energy economy.”

Branden Snyder, Executive Director, Good Jobs Now! said, “The role of Good Jobs Now in Detroit is to raise the issue of environmental racism, educate on the impact Climate Change is having in our city and connect it to the everyday economic justice issues that Detroiters know very well to this fight. The effects of oil and gas pollution are disproportionately afflicting African-Americans, particularly with higher cancer and respiratory issues affecting Detroiters who live near incinerators and refineries. We see environmental racism in the rising heating cost and the damage that occurs after heavy rains because of our old and “grey” infrastructural system. Our work with the PCM is to build a people powered movement to fight against it.”

Miya Yoshitani, Executive Director, Asian Pacific Environmental Network said,  Leaders around the world should be looking at solutions through the lens of people that have been most impacted and who will be most impacted by climate change. This means going beyond increasing temperatures, droughts, and rising sea levels; and recognizing that climate change is a threat multiplier for working families everywhere. For families facing housing insecurity and rising food and energy costs, people who need jobs where you don’t have to trade your health for a living wage. Our communities are at the forefront of creating solutions to the climate crisis. And elected officials should follow their lead.”

Lenore Friedlaender, Assistant to the President of SEIU Local 32BJ said, “Working people are being devastated by climate change.  Extreme weather, rising sea levels, chronic diseases like asthma that are made worse by pollution, the lack of clean drinking water in our schools and communities all take a toll on working class, people of color and poor communities.  Climate change at a time of increasing economic inequality is a toxic combination for the majority of americans. We have the opportunity to create good jobs in wind, solar and the renewable energy sector that move us to a healthier future and a more just society. The time to act is now.”

Reverend Leo Woodberry, Pastor of Kingdom Living Temple and Executive Director of New Alpha Community Development Corporation said, “Only when we put Justice First, Can we ensure that we have a just transition that addresses Climate Change, Jobs with a living wage, and to improve the lives of the least among us.”

For more information please go to:

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

How Corporations ‘Bypassed the Politics’ to Lead on Clean Energy in 2017


An article by Julia Pyper for Green Tech Media (reprinted as non-commercial use)

From mega wind purchases to rooftop solar arrays to electric truck orders, companies of all sizes are stepping up to act on climate.

When President Trump announced plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord attention quickly turned to corporate America. Would business leaders forge ahead in the fight against climate change in the absence of federal backing?

In 2017, at least, the answer is yes. 

As of December 12, when heads of state joined to commemorate the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement, 327 major corporations, worth a cumulative $6.5 trillion, had committed to matching their emission reduction plans with the Paris goals through the Science Based Targets initiative. Another 864 companies have stated their intention to adopt a science-based target within two years. 

These companies hail from some 50 countries and 70 sectors, including finance, chemicals, food processing, technology hardware and more. Companies headquartered in the U.S. make up 20 percent of the group and have made the greatest number of climate commitments to date, despite uncertainty surrounding the American government’s participation in the Paris accord.

In addition, some 1,700 U.S. businesses from every state and of varying sizes — from Walmart to Wild Joe’s Coffee Spot in Bozeman, Montana — have signed the “We Are Still In” declaration. The initiative, which also includes cities, statehouses and college campuses, was intended to demonstrate America’s enduring commitment to delivering on the promise of the Paris Agreement.

Apple, for instance, issued a $1 billion green bond in June, shortly after Trump announced his exit from the climate deal, which CEO Tim Cook tried to convince the president not to quit. This is the tech giant’s second green bond, following a $1.5 billion offering that came in response to the Paris Agreement last year. Proceeds from the green bond sales will be used to finance renewable energy and energy efficiency projects at Apple facilities.

In another significant development this year, Walmart launched Project Gigaton, which asks its suppliers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 1 gigaton by 2030. That amounts to the equivalent of taking more than 211 million passenger vehicles off of U.S. roads for an entire year.

Walmart is “bypassing the politics” to focus on driving down emissions internally and in its supply chain, said the company’s Chief Sustainability Officer Kathleen McLaughlin, speaking at the New York Times’ ClimateTECH conference in late November. There is a business case for supporting sustainable agriculture, combating deforestation, reducing waste and purchasing renewables, she said. Cost savings is one, but there’s also the potential for business-model innovation, improved product quality and increased sales revenue.

“In light of the withdrawal from the Paris accord…I wouldn’t say the political winds are favorable to the climate agenda right now,” McLaughlin said. “But we’re trying to make it practical and favorable just from a common-sense point of view.”

Walmart signed the We Are Still in pledge, she added, because “we think we need to show the rest of the world that there is still a critical mass of American companies of states and cities working on this, to drive [climate action] forward.” 

New recruits to the 100 percent group

As part of their climate action plans, 119 companies have committed to sourcing renewable energy for 100 percent of their operations through the RE100 initiative. That’s up from 56 members a year and a half ago.

Schneider Electric is the latest company to commit to 100 percent renewable electricity through RE100, with a 2030 target date. The European multinational also pledged to double its energy productivity by 2030, from a 2005 baseline, through an initiative called EP100

 “When it comes to the climate, I’m neither an optimist nor a pessimist — I’m an activist,” said Schneider Electric Chairman and CEO Jean-Pascal Tricoire, in a statement. “Prosperity and energy are intertwined.”

Other recent additions to the RE100 list include Estée Lauder, Kellogg, DBS Bank and Clif Bar. Citi Group also made the 100 percent renewables pledge in September, on top of the company’s vow to finance $100 billion in clean energy, infrastructure and technology projects. 

Meanwhile, French utility EDF Group recently committed to transitioning to electric vehicles by 2030 through EV100, a new initiative that seeks to make electric transport “the new normal.” All three initiatives — RE100, EP100 and EV100 — are led by the international nonprofit organization The Climate Group.

The increasing cost-competitiveness of lithium-ion batteries has made electric trucks, and shorter-haul vehicles in particular, an attractive investment for many companies. UPS, for instance, currently owns 120 electric trucks in the U.S. and more than 140 of them abroad. In New York City alone, UPS is planning to convert up to 1,500 tucks to EVs by 2022.

To support its electrification goals UPS recently placed advance orders for the newly introduced Tesla Semi. PepsiCo, Walmart and several others have also preordered the Tesla truck, which is scheduled for delivery in 2019.

It took Walmart a decade to double the fuel efficiency of its trucking fleet in an attempt to reduce fossil fuel use and cut costs, but the company still uses an enormous amount of fuel, said McLaughlin. The company is excited to pilot the Tesla Semi and other electrified platforms because “we envision a world where our fleet is run completely on renewable energy and we think this is an exciting step that allows us to experiment with that,” she said.

With electric trucks either on the market or expected from manufacturers such as BYD, Daimler, Volvo, Tevva Motors, Chanje and several others, corporate customers will soon have lots of options to buy electric. The rise of electric trucks coupled with exponential growth in the number of passenger EV models has made a campaign like EDF Group’s commitment to EV100 achievable.

The biggest corporate deals of 2017

EDF hasn’t only been active on cleantech internally. Like many other energy companies, EDF has also played a growing role in serving others in the corporate sector this year.

In late November, EDF Renewable Energy, a subsidiary of EDF Group, announced a deal to supply Google with 200 megawatts of wind energy generated from the new Glaciers Edge Wind Project  in Iowa. Glaciers Edge is the third deal EDF RE has done with Google, and it is expected to come on-line in December 2019. Once complete, the wind farm will help Google reach its goal of purchasing enough renewable energy to match its consumption for global operations.

Google also signed agreements in recent weeks for wind-generated electricity from Avangrid’s Coyote Ridge  and Tatanka Ridge wind farms in South Dakota, both of which are 98 megawatts, as well as 140 megawatts from the 300-megawatt Red Dirt site in Oklahoma. The cumulative 536 megawatts Google purchased from U.S. wind farms in November puts the company’s total renewable energy procurement to date above 3 gigawatts.

These wind deals are just the latest in a long list of corporate renewable energy procurements this year. While 2017 won’t be record-breaking, it will be the second-best year for corporate renewable deals, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewables Center.

“Sustainable companies, led by tech giants and other leading Fortune 100s, are moving forward on their clean energy commitments,” Jacob Susman, head of origination for EDF RE, wrote in an email. This comes despite uncertainty around federal tax implications and the potential for new solar tariffs. According to Susman, “this is a testament to the value, risk mitigation, and societal and environmental benefits they perceive from adding renewables to their portfolios.”

Notable deals include Anheuser-Busch’s virtual power-purchase agreement with Enel Green Power for 152.5 megawatts of the 298-megawatt Thunder Ranch wind farm in Billings, Oklahoma. The renewable energy produced under the PPA is equivalent to meeting 50 percent of Anheuser-Busch’s total electricity needs in one year, which is enough renewable electricity to produce more than 20 billion 12-ounce servings of beer annually. The Anheuser-Busch agreement marks a significant step toward delivering on parent company AB InBev’s global commitment to secure 100 percent of purchased electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

JPMorgan Chase, which recently committed to facilitating at least $200 billion in clean financing over the next eight years, signed a 20-year PPA with NRG for a 100-megawatt wind project this year as part of the bank’s commitment to cover all of its power needs with renewables by 2020. While JPMorgan does not disclose how much power that amounts to, it will have to cover the real estate footprint of more 5,500 properties in 60 countries. To reach that goal, the company is also evaluating on-site solar options on up to 1,400 bank-owned retail buildings and 40 commercial buildings worldwide.

At the same time, America’s biggest bank is cutting energy use at its 4,500 U.S. branches through the use of new energy management and digital technologies. Chase is partnering with GE’s Current to install sensors, software and lighting controls that will help bank branches reduce electric and gas consumption by 15 percent. The company also continues to offset 100 percent of emissions generated by employee air travel on an annual basis. Collectively, these actions put JPMorgan Chase on track to reach its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Kimberly-Clark also made some big commitments to clean energy in 2017, with the corporation’s first major renewables agreement to buy 245 megawatts and 1 million megawatt-hours of electricity from two new wind projects in Texas and Oklahoma. In October, Amazon made a splash with its largest wind farm announced to date.

The next frontier of corporate purchasing: Smaller buyers

Industry giants with household names are currently leading the way with renewable energy purchases, but the corporate clean energy market is starting to diversify and appeal to smaller players.

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Question for this article:

Are we making progress in renewable energy?

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“The next frontier of corporate purchasing is for corporate buyers with smaller appetites to increase their renewables contracting in a meaningful way,” said EDF’s Susman.
Expanding markets to these smaller players has proved to be a challenge, however.

In an interview earlier this year, Patrick Flynn, director of sustainability at Salesforce, pointed out that in the commercial renewables sector “growth is driven by a handful of large, experienced corporations” and the top priority should be to “lower barriers to entry” for other companies.

While many companies are choosing to bypass federal politics to act on their climate agenda, policy innovation at the state and local level continues to be critical for the commercial renewables sector. That’s true for companies of all sizes, but it’s especially so for smaller businesses that are more price-sensitive.

In regulated markets, utility green tariff programs are an emerging option for corporate customers. As of September, 17 green tariffs in 13 states have been proposed or approved since NV Energy put forward the first green tariff in 2013, according to the World Resources Institute.

Green tariffs come in different forms and flavors. Puget Sound Energy, for instance, launched the first subscriber-style green tariff to be used by retailers and small governments in April. While most existing green tariffs are designed to enable a single, new and very large customer to contract for an entire renewable energy project, PSE’s Green Direct program allows existing customers to contract for a more modest portion of a big clean energy project, which could enable smaller corporate players to participate.

In North Carolina, a July law reintroduced a Green Source Rider Program that allows corporations, the military, and the University of North Carolina to purchase renewables. The same law, HB 589, also legalized third-party leasing of renewable energy systems, which could be a viable option for the business community.

If companies don’t get the policy arrangement they want, regulated utilities risk losing corporate customers. Pressure from large corporate buyers is spurring utilities in the heart of coal country to find renewable energy solutions — despite President Trump’s calls for a coal renaissance. In Nevada, casinos such MGM and Wynn Resorts are leaving the grid to buy clean energy from outside suppliers, and now the state is considering deregulation.

Other parts of the country, a different set of policy solutions has cropped up. San Francisco Public Utility Commission’s CleanPowerSF program, for instance, helped Salesforce to source 100 percent renewable energy for its two office towers in San Francisco in August.

In deregulated markets, where most clean energy deals have been done to date, corporate buyers have more flexibility in their renewable energy purchasing options. But even here policy remains central. In all states, renewable energy targets, net metering policies, utility rate schedules, permitting processes, government incentives and other policy elements affect how easy or hard it is for companies of various sizes to purchase renewable energy.

Hospitals get active on renewable energy policy

In a testament to the role policy plays, healthcare providers in Ohio recently sent a letter to state lawmakers calling on them to stand behind the state’s clean energy standards and correct restrictive wind siting requirements. The letter asks for a “comprehensive approach to Ohio’s energy policy” that would “value innovative technologies that institute energy efficiency and demand response as a resource and expand the deployment of advanced energy technologies that curb energy costs to consumers.”

After several years of policy uncertainty, Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency mandates were officially reinstated late last year. This year, the issue cropped up again. In March, the Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill to make the mandates voluntary. The legislation has since been taken up by the Senate, and Senate President Larry Obhof has said he’ll advance the bill in January. 

Meanwhile, there’s an ongoing debate in Ohio around the need to subsidize coal and nuclear plants.

“What both the advanced energy industry and healthcare providers would like to see from lawmakers is a move to put innovative technologies on a level playing field with some of the other incumbent technologies in the state, basically allowing competition to thrive,” said Ray Fakhoury, state policy associate at Advanced Energy Economy, which helped to facilitate the Ohio energy policy letter.

Large companies like Kaiser Permanente and Partners HealthCare have made sizable investments in renewables in recent years, but healthcare providers have generally taken a cautious approach to renewables. There’s hesitancy to make the upfront investment when healthcare needs are so high and some concern around disrupting hospital operations during installation. But the sector is starting to see a shift.
Because hospitals are the second most energy-intensive facility type in the U.S., renewables present a significant cost savings opportunity for the sector. Hospitals also need power around-the-clock and stand to benefit from clean energy microgrids in the event of an outage. Recent disasters such as the Boston bombing attack and Hurricane Harvey have underscored the need for uninterrupted electrical service at hospitals, according to a recent report sponsored by Ameresco.

“We’re now seeing hospitals get involved [in renewables] in a more active way, because pushing for access to a diverse portfolio of resources is something they’re interested in and Ohio is a state they’re looking to,” said Fakhoury.
Signers of the letter include the Cleveland Clinic, the Ohio Hospital Association Energy and Sustainability Program, and the CEOs of Mercy Health, Mount Carmel Health System, and Tri-Health. Energy business leaders signing the letter include executives from First Solar, Apex Clean Energy and Siemens.

Small commercial solar remains tricky

Of all companies, purchasing solar is the biggest challenge among the smallest players. Small and medium-sized businesses have traditionally been a “no man’s land” for solar installers.

Between 2012 and 2016, commercial solar installations were virtually flat due to project financing challenges, lengthy development timelines and heavy reliance on incentives.
According to GTM Research, commercial solar hit its highest year of installations in 2016 as the market experienced demand pull-in in response to two impending regulatory deadlines on solar-friendly rate structures came in California and the qualification period for obtaining the full SREC value in Massachusetts. These factors continued to drive deployments in 2017, but growth is expected to drop in 2018 and only grow incrementally over the next five years.

Legal fees and complex contract negotiations create substantial transaction costs for commercial project developers and owners. Customer acquisition is time-consuming and highly localized. And attractive financing is only available to a subset of the market. Small and medium-sized businesses don’t enjoy the investment-grade credit that the Fortune 100 companies do.

There’s still high interest in this market segment, however. Entities such as NextEra, NRG, AES and Duke’s REC Solar are active in the commercial solar space and competing to provide comprehensive low-carbon energy packages for customers.

Commercial solar asset owners are also taking more control of their projects from the outset, rather than acquiring projects at a later date. Taking more control can eliminate speed bumps like having to repeat due diligence on project financing, according to GTM Research solar analyst Michelle Davis, author of the Commercial Solar Asset Ownership  report. This trend could increase commercial solar installation volumes and concentrate the market beyond 2017.

Going global

While there’s still a huge opportunity to tap into the commercial renewables market in the U.S., most of the larger, mature buyers are now starting to direct their attention elsewhere.

According to the Business Renewables Center, North America accounted for more than 75 percent of global corporate PPAs through August 2017. But markets in South America, Europe and Asia have the potential for significant growth.

A recent report by the Rocky Mountain Institute found that new opportunities for companies to use cleaner power in China could increase the country’s wind and solar capacity by 40 percent over 2016 levels by 2020. China is already the global leader on renewable energy deployment, but it currently offers few scalable options for companies to use 100 percent renewables.

But things are starting to change.

China is undergoing its most significant electricity reform in a generation, according to the report. As a result, the number of options for corporate buyers is increasing. In March 2017, for instance, the government established ground rules for community solar, opening a new mechanism to procure local power for companies without sufficient rooftop access. RMI identified eight other new and existing pathways to expand corporate renewable energy procurements in China.

In some cases, policies and market dynamics in countries outside of the U.S. are better than those that exist within the U.S. 

Walmart, for instance, has a goal to reach 100 percent renewables across its global network, and currently sits around 25 percent renewable today. But in the U.S., that number is actually closer to 12 percent, due to “the regulatory environment, pricing environment, infrastructure, technology and so forth,” said McLaughlin.

Because large corporations have such large international footprints, they can’t afford not to lead on climate action or they could miss out on a business opportunity.

“We’re a global company, we operate all around the world, and so wherever we can, we like to have that certainty that there’s a level playing field wherever we operate,” said Todd Brady, director of global public affairs and sustainability at Intel, on a panel at ClimateTECH. “I think that makes a strong business case for staying in the Paris Agreement.”

The World Resources Institute identified three things company leaders can do push global climate action further in 2018: show up and speak up at high-level events, align their corporate climate goals with countries’ climate goals, and meet with ministers to help break down silos within and between governments, leading to a more cohesive policy framework.

At the COP23 climate conference in November, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ had a message for businesses: “I am asking you to misbehave.” He called for companies around the world to disrupt “business-as-usual” and urge governments to ramp up their climate action plans. Hundreds of businesses, in the U.S. and abroad, have accepted the secretary’s challenge. Now, the world will be watching for them to follow through.

India strides towards clean energy leadership


An article by L. Michael Buchsbaum in Energy Transition: the Global Energiewende

It looked as if India’s plan to power up the country using coal would be a disaster for the environment. But renewables changed the game: they currently make up 20% of the energy mix and are growing fast. L. Michael Buchsbaum explains.

New solar and wind in India are now 20% cheaper to build than coal (Photo by Raj, edited,CC BY 2.0)

Illustrative of India’s economic miracle, just this spring, its last village without access to electricity was finally connected to the energy grid. But to fuel this growth, beginning in 2010 India rapidly initiated development of almost 1,000 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fired energy. With the fifth largest domestic coal reserves worldwide, and Australian and Chinese mines eager to supply immediate demand, India’s economic miracle seemed like game over for the health of planet Earth.

But nearly simultaneous to their swift coal build up, India also began developing green energy. Though only 20% of the current energy mix, roughly 70 GW of renewable capacity has been installed and at least another 40 GW is under construction according to the latest government data.

With around 11,788 megawatts (MW) more being added between April 2017 and March 2018, India is now positioned 4th globally in wind, and 6thin solar. Additionally, last year the renewable energy sector created 47,000 new jobs while sustaining almost 400,000 more positions, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

The sheer pace of India’s adoption of renewables has reduced aggregate installation and production costs by 50% over the last two years according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), flipping earlier economic projections and torpedoing plans for hundreds of megawatts of new coal power. Though coal still supplied 80% of the economy last year, new wind and solar is now 20% cheaper than existing coal-fired generation’s average wholesale power price. Moreover, rising domestic production costs, the doubling of imported coal prices and a crippling delivery shortage continues to plague the industry. Currently new renewable energy is less expensive to build than it costs to run most of the existing coal fired power in the nation—let alone construct new plants.

Case in point: in June the state owned utility, NTPC, the largest owner and developer of coal plants in India, cancelled its planned 4 GW Pudimadaka “Ultra Mega” Power Plant project in the state of Andhra Pradesh. No longer economical, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), since the 2010 build out announcement, India’s coal plant pipeline has shrunk by 547 GW.

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Question for this article:

Are we making progress in renewable energy?

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To put that into perspective, that figure amounts to almost three times Germany’s total installed capacity. And while 80 GW of new coal-fired capacity is still technically “progressing” through myriad approval processes, IEEFA estimates that no more than 10-20 GW might actually see the light of day. “That means more than 84% of India’s 2010 coal pipeline will have been cancelled when all is said and done,” said Tim Buckley, IEEFA’s Director of Energy Finance Studies, Australasia.

Moreover, under the nation’s 2018 National Energy Plan (NEP), India’s Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has recently proposed closing nearly 50 GW of inefficient and heavily polluting coal capacity by 2027. Retrofitting those that remain open to achieve new compliance standards will cost millions more, forcing operators to reconsider future investments as renewables elbow them out.

So how will India keep both the existing lights on and enable millions more citizens to power up? The new NEP calls for an incredible 275 GW of total renewable energy capacity by 2027. In June the trajectory for the build-out was increased to no less than 227 GW by 2022. At these rates, clean energy is projected by BNEF to constitute 75% of total capacity by 2050, essentially inverting the status quo.

Illustrative of this leap forward, on June 21, India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) R.K. Singh announced a 100GW solar tender, with an emphasis on battery storage and domestic solar manufacturing. This announcement follows on the heels of plans for 8-10GW of annual onshore wind installations, plus an ambitious 30GW of offshore wind by 2030. Under the Paris Climate agreement, India had already committed to produce 40% of its installed electricity capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. Singh has since vowed to have over 55% installed by then.

While an enormous task, a large portion of the support and financing for this is coming from Japan’s richest man, SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son, who has reportedly told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he will underwrite most of the 100GW of new solar with a US$60-100 billion investment.

But can this and the overall 275 GW target realistically be met on time? While not sure if the giant solar tender “makes a lot of sense”, IEEF director Buckley, offered instead that the plan is indeed a “brilliant statement of intent.” Certainly, by setting the aspirational goal, India has attracted investors and further spurred the development of their domestic manufacturing industry. Tulsi Tanti, chairman and managing director of the Suzlon Group, one of the nation’s leading wind energy suppliers, expects that there will be at least two million workers employed in the wind energy manufacturing industries by 2022. Suzlon currently commands a 35% share of the market since over 8,500 of their turbines with a cumulative generation capacity of 11,919 MW power it. “In the next financial year, a minimum of 1 GW more [of wind energy] installation will happen every month,” Tanti said as the nation ramps towards 50-60MW of total wind capacity.

While coal will continue to constitute India’s baseload energy backbone for the next few decades as a hedge against intermittency, its role will diminish as the grid becomes better integrated, more decentralized and additional battery power comes on line. “We have missed the first and second industrial revolutions,” Minister Singh said recently. “We caught up with the digital revolution, but we need to lead this revolution towards clean energy and renewable energy.”

Faces Of Africa – Defenders of the Forest [Madagascar]


An article from CGTN

Madagascar is one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots. The vast majority of its species of fauna and flora are endemic to the island. Much of Madagascar’s wildlife is under threat, particularly humid forest. The severe poverty that afflicts the island communities is causing serious damage to its environment. Turning these practices around will mean finding ways for locals to benefit from the natural environment. This is where Mitsinjo Association comes in. The organization is composed of the local conservationists who are dedicated towards the conservation of the island’s heritage.


It all started when tourists would go into Andasibe village and requested to see the forest. Later in 1999, Mitsinjo was formed by local villagers. “We started as guides only, protecting the forest, trying to plant trees,” told Justin Claude – Mitsinjo Amphibian conservation director. When Justin joined Mitsinjo, he was only seventeen years old. He was the youngest founder in the group. The group embarked on planting trees and conserving the animals that were in danger of extinction. Each member is assigned a particular zone depending on their expertise. One of the members Youssouf Martin is in charge of tree nurseries while Justin is in charge of the Amphibians.

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Question for this article:

When you cultivate plants, do you cultivate peace?

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“Before, I was a guide and afterwards they asked me to help them do reforestation here. Because I was born here in this village I can do this work because I have much knowledge about the rainforest. This project is a program to plant more native trees. We’re restoring 25 hectares per year so we must grow 30, 000 seedlings with the 60 different species of the native tree,” told Youssouf – Mitsinjo tree nursery specialist.

Madagascar is thought to have more than three hundred species of frogs, ninety nine percent of which are endemic. These are one of the most critically endangered creatures on the Island. Hence in 2010, Justin started the amphibian conservation project. The project is the first one of its kind in Madagascar. In 2013, Justin went for training on amphibian conservation in the United States of America. Coming back to Madagascar, he established a breeding facility for the frogs. The facility remains under his supervision.

Besides the wildlife being under threat of endangerment, the environment faces serious threats too. Clearance of forests primarily for firewood and charcoal is rampant in Madagascar. Hence the group carries out sensitization forums with the locals to stress on the importance of conserving the forests.

This is where education comes in. Mitsinjo engages in a variety of education and capacity building programs for the communities they support, including schools. “Mitsinjo needed a head for environmental education, which also has a link to teaching. I accepted, because I was born here. The environment and love of nature are important to me too. We work with schools all over the region of Andasibe (their village). Over the holidays we create clubs for children who don’t have the money to travel”, said Irene Ramanantenasoa – Mitsinjo environmental education officer. This group of Andasibe local conservationists is working tirelessly to ensure that the glory of its forests is restored and conserved.

Coal Divestment Reaches Japan


An article from Treehugger

Nippon Life Insurance will become first major Japanese institutional investor to ditch coal.

News reported by Reuters that Nippon Life Insurance is going to stop financing coal-fired power plants  should be welcome news for all of us who care about the fate of the planet.

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Question for this article:

Divestment: is it an effective tool to promote sustainable development?

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True, it might not be news quite on the magnitude of Ireland divesting from all fossil fuels. But for fossil fuel divestment to work we need it to spread and deepen — meaning more institutions, in more locations, divesting from an increasingly comprehensive list of fossil fuel-related interests. And—as The Church of England has taught us —we most urgently need to start with the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

As Japan’s largest life insurer, with assets of $667 billion, this is a significant announcement in and of itself. But the Reuters report also states that Japan as a whole is currently one of the biggest financiers of coal technology in the world. Given that Nippon Life Insurance is apparently the first institutional investor in Japan to make such a move, activists will surely be hoping that it has ripple effects across the country’s financial scene.

As I’ve argued before, the real test for divestment will be when folks divest not because of ethical pressures, but because continuing to pour money into the technologies of the past no longer makes financial sense. But every move like this brings that moment closer to fruition.

Emerald Isle Goes Green: Ireland just voted to divest from fossil fuel companies


An article by Casey O’Brien for the Sierra Club ©2018 Sierra Club. All Rights Reserved – reproduced from a Sierra Club website with permission of the Sierra Club

The global fossil fuel divestment movement just got a huge push from an unexpected place—Ireland. On July 12, Ireland became the first country to vote to shed its financial holdings in oil, gas, and coal corporations. The measure calling for the country to sell off its estimated $370 million in fossil fuel investments “as soon as is practicable” passed the lower house of the Parliament of Ireland with support from all parties. The vote marks a major milestone in the effort to move capital away from the largest carbon polluters.  

People celebrate July 12 after the passage of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill in Ireland. (Mark Stedman). Photo from National Catholic Reporter

“This is the next step in a progression . . . of what people considered impossible and unprecedented, but it makes perfect sense that that’s what’s happening,” said Andrew Behar, CEO of the socially responsible investment firm As You Sow. 

Ireland’s move is the latest surge in the rising tide of the divestment movement, which now includes universities across the United States, dozens of Catholic institutions, and New York City, which earlier this year announced it is investigating selling off its fossil fuel holdings. Go Fossil Free, a group that advocates for fossil fuel divestment, estimates that $6.15 trillion worth of fossil fuel assets have been sold off since the movement started in 2010. “First we had student movements, then we had mission-driven organizations—faith based and philanthropy—and now we have entire countries,” said Clara Vondrich, global director of Divest Invest, which provides institutions with guidance on how to move their money away from fossil fuel corporations.  

The move surprised some people, as Ireland has something of a reputation for being slow to act on climate, in comparison to other European nations. Bill McKibben, co-founder of, tweeted that the news of the vote “staggered him.” The Climate Action Network recently declared Ireland the second-worst country in the EU for climate change management. The only other country to consider such a move is much-wealthier Norway, which has proposed divesting its $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund but hasn’t done so yet. 

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Question for this article:

Divestment: is it an effective tool to promote sustainable development?

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Ireland’s vote is particularly important because it reflects a major shift in the divestment movement, Vondrich explained. Originally, fossil fuel divestment was entirely driven by moral concerns—institutions pulled their money out of oil, gas, and coal companies because they didn’t want to be contributing to the destruction of a stable climate. Now, divestment is increasingly seen as a smart financial move for investors; Ireland’s divestment is as much a fiduciary decision as it is a chance to demonstrate its principles. “The divestment movement now stands on a strong three-legged stool of moral, fiduciary, and financial arguments,” Vondrich said.   

A recent report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) illustrates Vondrich’s point. The report states, “The financial case for fossil fuel divestment is strong. Over the past three and five years, respectively, global stock indexes without fossil fuel holdings have outperformed otherwise identical indexes that include fossil fuel companies. Fossil fuel companies once led the economy and world stock markets. They now lag.”    

Energy stocks were the second-worst performing sector in 2017, states IEEFA’s report, outpaced by health, technology, and other industries even as the price of oil stabilized from a low of $28 a barrel in 2016 to $75 today. Fossil fuel companies’ relatively weak performance is crucial, given that some investment institutions are required, by their charters, to prioritize profit performance and fiduciary responsibility above all other concerns. Ireland’s vote, Vondrich said, solidifies the argument that divestment is the financially savvy choice for investment managers.  

While Ireland’s vote only affects a relatively small amount of money (as national investment funds go), Behar and Vondrich agree that it carries significant symbolic value. “What started on a handful of college campuses is now the policy of nations,” Vondrich said. “Ireland’s pledge to divest takes the movement to the next level, where activists and heads of state work hand-in-hand to save the world.”  

Behar said, “This is a political statement. The fund is relatively small . . . but I think that having it decided in that venue is really important. It’s sort of like when California decided that they wanted CalPERS, the pension fund, to divest. That was a vote in the California legislature.” Behar continued, “I would equate it to when the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation made [their divestment] announcement at the 2014 climate summit in New York. That was a major moment, when the heirs of the Exxon fortune said, ‘We’re going to sell our Exxon [stocks].’” 

Vondrich said the strategy going forward is to continue to push for divestment decisions as well as divest-invest pledges in which divested funds are reinvested in enterprises committed to sustainability and clean energy. Ultimately, the goal is to demonstrate that buying shares of fossil fuel corporations is not a wise investment. 

“The fossil fuel industry is really in the long term, nonviable. So you want to get out as early as possible,” Behar said. “Our goal is removing the social license for these companies to exist.” 

North America: Greentrees Sequesters Another 1 Million+ Tons of Carbon via Reforestation; Wins Award


An article from Revitalization: the Journal of Urban, Rural and Enviornmental Resilience

GreenTrees® claims to be the largest reforestation program in North America, with over 120,000 acres of trees restored via its 500 landowner partners. These plantings produceg over 1,000,000 tons annually on The American Carbon Registry.

GreenTrees recently completed its latest verification for 1,273,866 metric tons on the American Carbon Registry (ACR). This marks the second consecutive issuance of over one million tons.

Photo credit: GreenTrees.

ACR has had fifteen issuances over a million forestry tons for both compliance and voluntary markets. This includes IFM, Avoided Conversion and Afforestation/Reforestation project types. Of the fifteen issuances, GreenTrees has two of them. Only three of the fifteen issuances are from afforestation/reforestation projects, with the remaining one from an international project.

The GreenTrees River System approach is setting the standard for how reforestation can achieve scale and impact and does it with small and medium-sized landowners. Reforestation provides a continuous loop of scaled impact while bending the climate curve.

On behalf of landowners—whose properties range from 7 to 1700+ acres–the company quantifies their positive impact being made in cleaning up the air, building equity in the landscape, filtering the water and enhancing wildlife habitat.

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Question for this article:

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

When you cultivate plants, do you cultivate peace?

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Ultimately, reforestation is about repairing past and growing future with nature’s own solar-powered carbon sequestration technology: trees.

On April 5, 2018, GreenTrees was awarded The American Carbon Registry’s Innovation Award. The American Carbon Registry (ACR) is a nonprofit enterprise of Winrock International.

GreenTrees received ACR’s Innovation award in recognition of exceptional implementation of the world’s largest reforestation project both in terms of volume of high-quality verified emissions reductions issued and number of participating landowners and acres. The GreenTrees project is a one-million-acre conservation initiative that aims to plant over 500 million new trees for ecosystem repair and climate impact in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, North America’s largest rainforest and waterfowl migratory corridor.

By partnering with close to 500 landowners on over 120,000 acres to date to reforest their degraded lands, GreenTrees has enhanced wildlife habitat, improved water and soil quality and delivered local economic development benefits in addition to generating over 2.5 million tonnes of verified carbon offsets for partners including Norfolk Southern, Duke Energy, United Airlines, Arbor Day Foundation, Blue Mountain Brewery and Skyway Air Taxi, among others.

“We highly value this award and thank the American Carbon Registry for its keen understanding of research and market-based programs, our corporate clients and carbon buyers for endorsing our work, our conservation community friends for their wonderful counsel over the years, and our landowners as partners. Their stake as equity brokers with us is the chief factor creating the prairie fire of steadily expanding healthy forest ecosystems, which is the leading reforestation co-benefit for our time,” said Jerry Van Voorhis, president and chief executive officer of GreenTrees.

“We believe that ecosystem change in forestry alone will help bend the climate curve back most, replenish our earth, and let the tools of capitalism work for the greater good of the planet,” he concluded.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Continent’s free trade deal a game-changer for Africa


An article from Independent Online (© Independent On-line 2018, All rights reserved, Reprinted with no commercial purpose)

South Africa has joined more than 50 African states in signing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTFA) agreement, which is aimed at facilitating a single market for goods and services on the continent.

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the agreement during the official opening of the 31st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government in Nouakchott, capital of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.

President Cyril Ramaphosa signs the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement in Nouakchott

The Presidency said the Africa Continental Free Trade Area and Peace and Security was introduced by the former chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, at the AU Summit held in Sandton in June 2015.

“It included issues related to the Union’s self-financing, the streamlining of the organisation’s summits and working methods. These efforts precipitated the current discussions on the African Union’s Institutional Reforms.

“The July 2016 Assembly of the African Union in Kigali subsequently mandated President Paul Kagame of Rwanda to prepare a study on the institutional reform of the African Union, with a view of putting in place a system of governance capable of addressing the challenges facing the Union,’’ said the Presidency.

In his speech on institutional reforms of the African Union yesterday, Kagame said: “The Continental Free Trade Agreement, championed by President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, is among the most historic achievements of the African Union.

“Forty-four countries signed in Kigali, while four more are signing in Nouakchott. It is going to become a reality before much longer.

“This drive emerges from the same logic that led to the institutional reform. In a deeper sense, an African Union capable of delivering a functional free-trade area is actually the end point of the reform.

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Question related to this article:

Can the African Union help bring a culture of peace to Africa?

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“Our partners welcomed the Continental Free Trade Area, in part because they doubted it would ever be implemented. Our track record provided ample evidence for that.

“As that perception increasingly proves to be outdated, interests will be recalculated. This is where the reform’s emphasis of speaking with one voice as a continent will emerge as perhaps the most important provision of all.”

The agreement has been welcomed in the country, with experts saying that it will benefit the continent and enhance intra-african trade.

Chairman of the South African chapter of the BRICS Business Council Dr Iqbal Survé said the agreement would open opportunities for African entrepreneurs.

“I think this is a good move for the country. Intra-African trade at the moment sits at approximately 10%, whereas intra-European and Intra-North American trade sits at 30% to 40% within those continents.

“I think we should increase intra-African trade to 30% over the next decade. It will be good for the continent, its countries, job creation and its development,” said Survé.

He said the agreement would reduce tariffs and benefit entrepreneurs, including medium to small businesses, “because they’re the ones who often find tariffs difficult to overcome because it is very costly. It will be an opportunity for entrepreneurs from African countries to start working together with each other in a trade tariff free environment”.

“By accepting that the best way to go forward is to have an intercontinental agreement, I think that is the strongest point being achieved. It will take many years to translate this new policy into effective continental trade.

“The most important thing now is that we have reached an agreement between the majority of African countries to achieve this,” said Survé.

The agreement will cover a market of 1.2 billion people and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.5 trillion, across all 55 member states of the African Union. It will be the world’s largest free-trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.

The Cape Chamber of Commerce has also welcomed the agreement, saying that it would promote trade with African countries.

Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce, said: “The African move came at a time when there was an increasing risk of a full-scale trade war, largely triggered by US President Donald Trump imposing heavy duties on imported products.”