Fortune Global Sustainability Forum – Key Takeaways

At the beginning of September, Fortune held the inaugural Fortune Global Sustainability Forum in Yunnan, China. The event highlighted the steps business is taking towards environmental and social (not to mention business) sustainability. In an era where we are constantly inundated with negative stories, it’s refreshing to see leaders at the helm of some of the world’s biggest companies start to turn the dial in a positive way.

 

See more here.

Capturing Carbon to Generate Negative Emissions

Many climate change initiatives focus on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. But there is another way: carbon capture technologies endeavor to either stop carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, or remove carbon dioxide that’s already in the atmosphere. These carbon capture activities generate what are known as “negative emissions”. Captured carbon dioxide can be permanently stored deep underground, or it can be used to make new products such as fuels, concrete or soap. Check out this article to learn more.

Brightspot Climate is Carbon Neutral

Brightspot Climate has published its 2018 greenhouse gas inventory and carbon neutral report. The report provides details of emission sources that contribute to Brightspot’s 2018 inventory totalling 25 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent. While most emissions result from air travel, emissions from local travel and offices are also included. Brightspot chose to offset its emissions in 2018 using emission offset credits registered in the Alberta Offset System. Read our report for further details.

Contact us to find out how your organization can also voluntarily become carbon neutral.

Raging Fires in the Amazon – Climate Context

Wildfires in the Amazon jungle have increased by more than 80% over last year. It’s important to note here that wildfires are not a natural phenomenon in that rainforest – experts have agreed that these fires have largely been caused by landowners setting fire to the land to clear it for agriculture – to create both pasture for livestock and space to plant crops.

From a climate perspective, the widespread destruction of rainforest including the Amazon is highly detrimental. According to this article from The Globe and Mail, “the rainforest is one of the planet’s largest natural carbon sinks, absorbing about one billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. When it burns, that CO2 gets released back into the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to rise even further.”

The key to protecting rainforest from both a conservation and climate perspective is not treatment - it is prevention. In terms of action, we encourage the protection of intact rainforest in the Amazon. Junglekeepers is a great organization on the ground in the Peruvian Amazon working specifically to buy and protect contiguous tracts of rainforest – one of our own Brightspot Climate team members has personally worked with them.

Photo Credit: Mohsin Kazmi

See more here: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-amazon-fires-whats-happening-the-climate-context-and-how-you-can/

A Canadian Example of Emissions Leakage

The term “leakage” likely conjures thoughts of a dripping faucet. In the context of greenhouse gas policy and accounting, “leakage” refers to a policy or practice that causes an emission reduction in one geographical area, but inadvertently causes an increase in emissions in another area. Leakage could also be temporal causing a reduction of emissions today, but increasing emissions in the future.

As Canadian greenhouse gas policy develops, we must be careful to avoid leakage, lest our efforts are for naught. An important potential leakage pathway we must analyze is the import of goods. If greenhouse gas policy in Canada causes a reduction of domestically produced goods and a related increase in imports from jurisdictions that do not have equivalent greenhouse gas policies, we could be simply shifting greenhouse gas emission to another jurisdiction. Imports of oil and gas into Canada are a good example of this scenario. Stewart Muir of the Resource Works Society (www.resourceworks.com) is the author of a though provoking column about this issue: Canada’s dependence on imported fossil fuels reaches a whole new level.

I propose a new term, “reverse leakage”. This would occur when greenhouse gas policy in Canada reduces the carbon intensity of ourexports. More on that idea in a future blog post.

Big mooves by big agribusiness – no bull anymore

A few weeks ago, Cargill, a large US-based agricultural company known for its beef products, announced a GHG reduction target for its North American supply chain, aiming for a 30% reduction in the emissions intensity of its products by 2030 compared to a 2017 baseline – see more here. Cargill is a privately-held company that has been working with the Canadian Roundtable on Sustainable Beef (CRSB). The targets set by Cargill are in alignment with the CRSB, and seem to go even further.

This represents an interesting case in corporate sustainability, as this initiative seems to have been driven in large part by headwinds from the success of alternative and plant-based protein options, such as Beyond Meat, and increasing consumer concern and outcry over the environmental impacts of large-scale agriculture. It’s fascinating to see legislation and regulation play a minimal role in these developments.

Importantly, GHGs aren’t even the full story of Cargill’s announcement – it also mentions forays into more efficient cattle grazing, improved feed production, a reduction in food waste, and innovation to develop value-added products from manure. Competition in business drives change and innovation, and this is certainly no exception. We encourage all forms and sizes of business to drive positive change from an environmental perspective – planetary health is our collective responsibility!

Sustainable Aviation Series - Biofuels in Aviation

From Turbojets Back to The Diesel Engine

Globalization has brought the world together in no small part thanks to the development of the aviation industry. From the first flight just over a hundred years ago, the aviation industry has grown to transport over four billion passengers every year. Aviation has reshaped the way we move, but it has also had a negative effect on the climate. In 2017, the aviation industry accounted for about 2% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, equivalent to 859 million tonnes of carbon emissions.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an agency of the United Nations with a mandate to ensure safe air navigation, is aware of the industry’s rapid growth and its impact on the environment. This led ICAO to commit to carbon neutral growth by the year 2020 through a Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA).

As of July 2019, 81 countries, representing over 75% of international aviation activity, intend to voluntarily participate in CORSIA, which aims to offset 2.6 billion tonnes of GHGs by achieving carbon neutral growth by 2020. In order to achieve this target, CORSIA is focused in three primary methods of reducing emissions: operational improvements, develop new aircraft technology and implement sustainable aviation fuels, also known as biojet fuels.

Source: International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Source: International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Biojet fuels are an attractive solution towards carbon neutrality because they have the potential to reduce lifecycle GHG emissions by up to 80 percent, repurpose waste, and are compatible with aircraft infrastructure (we don’t have to reinvent the airplane to fit massive batteries and electrical systems). However, we cannot help but be sceptical about ICAO’s expected role for biojet fuels to bridge the large gap between current carbon emissions and carbon neutrality.

Grounded

Theoretically, biojet fuels provide an excellent opportunity to reduce GHG emissions but they have not seen major industrial incorporation in the global aviation supply chain.

One of the reasons for the sluggish adoption of biojet fuels in aircraft is the underperformance of these fuels in high-altitude environments where low temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius freeze conventional biofuels.

High energy density is also a requirement for any commercial aviation operation. Current technology only enables first generation biofuels (biofuels derived from food sources such as seeds) to be energy dense enough to commercially compete with fossil fuels. However, these first-generation biofuels are mired in controversy, as their use of land and food crops rise the cost of food products. Meanwhile, second and third generation biofuels (biofuels derived from sources such as biomass and algae) do not currently possess high enough energy density to operate competitively in the aviation industry.

Another factor limiting the adoption of biofuels in the aviation industry is the lack of supply chain infrastructure, driven by excessive upfront capital requirements. Numerous biofuel producers went bankrupt as they experienced technical difficulties raising money to finance the construction of mass biofuel production plants. Such is the tragic example of the biofuel company KiOR, which filed for bankruptcy in November of 2014.

Airlines have financial incentives to reduce their fuel costs but mostly face no penalties for their rising carbon footprints. The comparatively lower cost of conventional fossil jet fuels over biofuels has seemingly knocked biojet fuel out of the game for the time being - conventional fuel can cost up to five times less than biojet fuel. For example, in 2011 an Alaska Airlines flight paid $16 per gallon (USD) for biojet fuel, compared to about $3.15 (USD) per gallon of regular fossil fuel. In an industry where fuel accounts for a quarter of total flight costs, airlines look for every possible method to reduce fuel costs. For this reason, current aircraft flown on biojet fuel remains largely symbolic.

Canada’s Role in Developing Biofuels

Canada has taken its first steps towards aviation carbon neutrality.

In 2012, Air Canada operated two flights with biojet fuel. Three years later in 2015, Canada began the Bio-jet Supply Chain Initiative (CBSCI), a three-year collaborative project to enable a biojet fuel supply chain in Canada which aims to introduce 400,000 litres of biojet fuel into the shared fuel system at Montreal airport. The CBSCI project is well under way. In Earth day of 2018, Toronto’s Pearson airport joined the CBSCI by blending biojet fuel directly into its existing airport fuel supply system, this batch of fuel resulted in a reduction of 160 tonnes of CO2e. Current infrastructure does not exist in Canada to blend jet fuel with biofuel to create a biojet fuel blend, and consequently, this fuel had to be blended in California and transported by train to Toronto. This was performed to demonstrate the operational feasibility of biojet fuels in Canada’s jet fuel supply system.

Research is currently underway to develop denser and commercially viable biojet fuels. The Forest Products Biotechnology Bioenergy group at UBC, with the support of Boeing, Bombardier, Air Canada and WestJet, is looking into the GHG reduction potential of various technologies and feedstocks to produce biofuel. Their research program is also evaluating the GHG emission potential of a possible BC based commercial biojet facility.

The province of Alberta has developed a carbon offset Quantification Protocol for Biofuels to incentivize the generation of biofuels, in line with Canada’s agreement to collaborate on the CORSIA initiative, which requires airlines to offset carbon emissions through offset credits.

The carbon offsets are generated by biofuel producers. These projects are then verified by an eligible verification body to ensure they meet the requirements of the Biofuels protocol. Once verified, these credits could be purchased by airlines to help neutralize their carbon emissions. Through this cycle, airlines can purchase offsets to meet CORSIA 2020 carbon neutrality requirements while they help develop the biojet fuels that will power the future of aviation.

The Take-Off for Biojet Fuel

There is much work to be done for biojet fuel to take off as a potential solution to decrease carbon emissions from the aviation industry.

First of all, supply chains must be upgraded to allow efficient distribution of biojet fuel from manufacturer to aircraft. More research to develop biofuels with higher energy density and a low freezing point needs to be accelerated and implemented. Finally, the environmental costs of fossil fuels must be accounted when evaluating fuel alternatives in the aviation industry.

This article was the first in a series of aviation sustainability article. It served as an introduction to CORSIA and the role of biojet fuels in the battle against climate change. The following article will cover the role of Operational Improvements that the aviation industry is undertaking to reduce GHG emissions.

A Clear Focus – Brightspot Climate’s Mission, Vision, and Values

At our Annual General Meeting this past May, the team at Brightspot Climate spent some time discussing and developing the three core pillars underscoring any organization: our mission, vision, and values. The goal in developing and refining these aspects is to provide broad direction for our own team, as well as to provide a little more context on our company for all our stakeholders. Any organization should be nimble and adaptable, and we expect these to evolve over time as our company grows. Below is the outcome of our discussions.

Mission

We believe in protecting our world for all species and for future generations. We focus on delivering innovative and practical solutions to environmental challenges. Our team connects the dots between business, government, and ordinary people to achieve shared sustainability goals.

Vision

To lead the creation of a prosperous and sustainable future for our planet and for future generations.

Values

  • Integrity

  • Courage

  • Innovation

  • Passion

  • Sustainability

We welcome any discussions that will help us push forward on our mission and achieve our vision through leading with our values!

Staying afloat – low carbon challenges for maritime transportation

Early this week, BC Transit announced its intention to move its bus fleet to a fully electric bus fleet by 2040. This was driven in part by an infusion of funding from the federal and BC governments – see more here. These kinds of commitments are relatively easy when the location of services and ownership, as well as the point of regulation are clear. When it comes to maritime shipping, however, there are a whole set of challenges difficult to address.

 As an example, Maersk – the world’s largest container shipping company – has made a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050. This article delves into the challenges it faces, including the long lifecycle of large ships, the lack of existing reasonably cost-effective zero-carbon technology for ships, and the potential for regulation to ramp up in the space. The International Maritime Organization or IMO recently brought in regulations to cap emissions from several air pollutants, and carbon-targeting regulations are on the horizon. This ‘perfect storm’ will hopefully lead to further innovation in the space, accelerating decarbonization in the shipping sector.