global warming

Promoting Resource Efficiency By Focusing On Supply Chains

By Mathy Stanislaus

I recently attended a G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency workshop in Yokohama, Japan on Promoting International Cooperation for Improving Global Resource Efficiency and on the Kobe 3Rs (reduce, reuse & recycle). In Yokohama, I described our current activities promoting Sustainable Materials Management (SMM), which analyzes the entire life cycle of products and services to identify the best ways to use materials while minimizing environmental impacts (e.g., use of energy, water and land). That means looking at use of resources from the point of materials extraction, through production, all the way to the end of a product’s life and beyond to reuse and recycling.

From left to right: Kazuhisa Matsuda, Japan; Benedetta Dell'Anno, Italy; Mathy Stanislaus; Gwenole Cozigou, European Commission.

From left to right: Kazuhisa Matsuda, Japan; Benedetta Dell’Anno, Italy; Mathy Stanislaus; Gwenole Cozigou, European Commission.

By advancing systems-based approaches such as SMM, we can reduce often-overlooked sources of significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, such as those from the supply chain of the manufacturing sector. The Paris Climate Agreement, for example, set a global goal to limit global warming to less than 2o Celsius by reducing GHG emissions. More than 40 percent of these emissions are attributable to materials management, and the G7 Alliance offers an important new mechanism to help meet the goal.

We are working collaboratively with the G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency (G7 members from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with representation from the European Union) and the private and public sector to foster a circular economy, one in which materials are used for as long as possible and materials and products are recovered at the end of their life. Our work is important because, as the G7 Alliance found last year, “for every one percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP), raw material use has risen by 0.4 percent . . . much of raw material input in industrial economies is returned to the environment as waste with[in] one year. . . Unsustainable consumption of natural resources and concomitant environmental degradation translates to increased business risks through higher material costs, as well as supply uncertainties and disruptions.”

The U.S is hosting a G7 Alliance for Resource Efficiency workshop in Washington, D.C. on March 22-23, 2016. At this forum participants from across the globe will explore how to use life-cycle concepts to advance resource efficiency and focus on significant upstream impacts in supply chains, specifically the auto sector. Why focus on the auto sector? That sector is an important part of our industrial and service economies and is significant to the gross domestic product of several G7 countries. It is also a global economic driver with supply chains reaching across the world. Additionally, automobile manufacturers and their suppliers are innovatively using life-cycle concepts to identify and address significant impacts and resource use.

Sessions will address a wide range of topics designed to benefit all participants – overcoming SMM barriers, the use of innovative materials and eco-design, information tools to foster life-cycle thinking, industry “hotspot” identification, supply chain transparency, incentives for change, and more. Participants will identify best practices that are transferrable to other sectors. Follow the conversation with the #G7CircularEconomy hashtag.

Building on the results of the workshop, we plan to host subsequent workshops to support the global transition to sustainable materials management. We know that there will be challenges ahead, but I am proud we are working with our fellow G7 countries in taking actions that will be beneficial to others for years to come.

Continue the discussion by following @EPAland’s conversation on #G7CircularEconomy.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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In 2016, We’re Hitting the Ground Running

By Gina McCarthy

Heading into 2016, EPA is building on a monumental year for climate action—and we’re not slowing down in the year ahead. Last August, President Obama announced the final Clean Power Plan, EPA’s historic rule to cut carbon pollution from power plants, our nation’s largest driver of climate change. Then in Paris last month, nearly 200 countries came together for the first time ever to announce a universal agreement to act on climate.

So we’re hitting the ground running. Under the Paris Agreement, countries pledge to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius at most, and pursue efforts to keep it below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Science tells us these levels will help prevent some of the most devastating impacts of climate change, including more frequent and extreme droughts, storms, fires, and floods, as well as catastrophic sea level rise. This agreement applies to all countries, sets meaningful accountability and reporting requirements, and brings countries back to the table every five years to grow their commitments as markets change and technologies improve. It also provides financing mechanisms so developing economies can move forward using clean energy.

This year, we’ll build on these successes to ensure lasting climate action that protects Americans’ health, economic opportunity, and national security. EPA staff will provide their technical leadership to ensure consistent, transparent greenhouse gas reporting and inventory requirements under the Paris Agreement. Our domestic expertise in air quality monitoring and greenhouse gas inventories will help countries make sure they’re meeting their greenhouse gas reduction goals. Similarly, we’ll use our expertise to identify and evaluate substitutes in the U.S. to reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), another potent climate pollutant. This work domestically will help us lead global efforts to finalize a requirement in 2016 for countries to reduce production and use of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.

We will finalize a proposal to improve fuel economy and cut carbon pollution from heavy-duty vehicles, which could avoid a billion metric tons of carbon pollution and save 75 billion gallons of fuel by 2027. We’ll also finalize rules to limit methane leaks from oil and gas operations—which could avoid up to 400,000 metric tons of a climate pollutant 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide by 2025. Meanwhile, we’re doubling the distance our cars go on a gallon of gas by 2025.

In 2016, EPA will defend and implement the Clean Power Plan by working closely with states and stakeholders to help them create strong plans to reduce their carbon pollution. We wrote this plan with unprecedented stakeholder input, including hundreds of meetings across the country and 4.3 million public comments. The result is a rule that’s ambitious but achievable, and falls squarely within the four corners of the Clean Air Act, a statute we have been successfully implementing for 45 years. We’re confident the Clean Power Plan will stand the test of time—the Supreme Court has ruled three times that EPA has not only the authority but the obligation to limit harmful carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act.

Just as importantly, the Paris Agreement and the Clean Power Plan are helping mobilize private capital all over the world toward low-carbon investments. The U.S. has sent a clear signal that a low-carbon future is inevitable, and that the market will reward those who develop low-carbon technologies and make their assets resistant to climate impacts. That’s why 154 of the largest U.S. companies, representing 11 million jobs and more than seven trillion dollars in market capitalization, have signed the White House American Business Act on Climate Pledge. Companies like Walmart, AT&T, Facebook, and Coca-Cola recognize that climate impacts threaten their operations, while investing in a low-carbon future is an unprecedented business opportunity.

Americans know climate action is critical—they’re seeing its impacts with their own eyes. Hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, and storms are growing more frequent and extreme. Streets in cities like Miami now flood on sunny days due to sea level rise. Climate change is a moral issue, a health issue, and a jobs issue—and that’s why the strong majority of Americans want the federal government to do something about it, and support the strong outcome in Paris.

We’ve got a lot more work to do, and we’re not slowing down. Over the past year, we’ve seen remarkable climate achievements that once seemed impossible—and that’s thanks to President Obama’s leadership. His climate legacy is already impressive, but we will build on it in 2016 by continuing to protect health and opportunity for all Americans. At EPA, we’ve got our sleeves rolled up.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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The Administration Takes a Big Step in Addressing Climate-Damaging HFCs

Crossposted from the White House Blog

By Brian Deese and Dan Utech

Today, the United States took decisive action on climate change by curbing the use of the potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These factory-produced chemicals, which are primarily used in air conditioning and refrigeration, can pack up to 10,000 times the global warming punch of carbon dioxide. Absent ambitious action to limit their use, emissions of HFCs in the United States are expected to nearly triple by 2030.

That’s why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today finalized a rule under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program that will prohibit the use of certain HFCs where safer and more climate-friendly alternatives are available. Simultaneously, the agency also listed as acceptable additional climate-friendly alternatives, expanding the options for businesses to use chemicals that are less harmful to the global climate.

EPA’s final rule will help us make a significant and meaningful cut in our greenhouse gas emissions—up to the equivalent of 64 million metric tons of carbon dioxide of avoided emissions in 2025.

Leading businesses are already stepping up to replace HFCs with safer and more climate-friendly alternatives, and these measures from EPA will go hand-in-hand with these private-sector efforts. The United States is at the cutting edge not only when it comes to developing the next generation of safe and cost-effective alternatives to HFCs, but also in terms of incorporating these alternatives into American cars, air conditioners, refrigerators, foams, and other products.

Innovative American companies are leading the charge to ensure Americans will have climate-friendly insulation in our homes, HFC-free air-conditioners in our cars, and more sustainable supermarkets and corner stores. For example, last September, the White House hosted an event at which 22 private-sector companies and organizations stepped forward with commitments to reduce emissions from HFCs. Those commitments will reduce cumulative global consumption of these greenhouse gases by the equivalent of 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide through 2025, equivalent to 1.5% of the world’s 2010 greenhouse gas emissions and the same as taking nearly 15 million cars off the road for 10 years.

The momentum we are making both through the final rule EPA announced today and also through these private-sector commitments advances global climate action. In April, the United States joined with Canada and Mexico to propose an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to tackle HFCs globally. Last month, G-7 Leaders committed to continue efforts to phase down HFCs and to negotiate a Montreal Protocol amendment this year, and the African Group, India, island countries, and the European Union all support an amendment. We have also made HFCs a key element of our bilateral climate discussions, and our bilateral announcements with China, India, and Brazil all recognize the need to advance progress on managing HFCs in the Montreal Protocol. Scientists predict that such strong international action would help shave off up to half a degree of warming by the end of the century, substantially furthering our goal to limit global temperature rise.

Today’s announcement takes a big step toward a more sustainable future and demonstrates to other countries that we are making serious efforts at home to complement the global solutions that we are advocating for internationally.

Here are some early examples of what companies and organizations have to say about EPA’s action today:

“We are delighted to see these final SNAP regulations. The action offers clarity to the industry and very positive, long term impact for the environment.”

– Steven Trulaske, Owner, True Manufacturing

“Honeywell applauds the EPA on their landmark action to restrict the use of high-global-warming HFCs, which are among the most potent greenhouse gases in use today. EPA’s action will accelerate the adoption of solutions with far less impact on the atmosphere while also spurring private sector innovation and creating jobs.”

– Ken Gayer, Vice President and General Manager of Honeywell’s Fluorine Products business, Honeywell

“AHAM applauds the EPA decision in its final SNAP rule to adjust certain compliance deadlines, which demonstrates the Administration’s flexibility and desire to work with the appliance industry to make the most impactful environmental gains. It also reflects the voluntary steps that home appliance manufacturers are taking to end the use of HFCs as foam-blowing agents. The home appliance industry is committed to delivering the most energy efficient and environmentally responsible products to American homes.”

– Joseph M. McGuire, President, Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers

“Chemours continues to support the President’s Climate Action Plan and EPA’s commitment and action using existing EPA authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in applications that have readily available lower global warming potential options. We believe it is critical that we reduce high global warming potential emissions in a manner that ensures that we are still able to deliver the critical societal services that HFCs provide today.”

– Diego Boeri, Global Business Director, Chemours Fluorochemicals

“Ingersoll Rand applauds the U.S. efforts to prioritize a transition away from high global warming potential refrigerants and it further reinforces the significance of our climate commitment to significantly increase energy efficiency and reduce the climate impact of our products and operations.”

– Paul Camuti, Chief Technology Officer, Ingersoll Rand

“We appreciate EPA’s partnership with manufacturers during this rulemaking process and EPA’s willingness to work with the Department of Energy to acknowledge the impacts of each other’s regulations and reduce burdens on U.S. companies.”

– David Szczupak, Executive Vice President, Global Product Organization, Whirlpool Corporation

Brian Deese is a senior advisor to the President. Dan Utech is the Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Little People, Big Dreams

By Tom Murray

I recently attended the pre-kindergarten graduation ceremony for my five-year old granddaughter. It was something to behold as she and a dozen or so of her friends assembled together in blue caps and gowns to receive their diplomas and the well wishes of their teachers as they move on to kindergarten. Too cute! As Moms and Dads smiled and recorded every moment of the event on their I-phones, I found myself pondering. (It is okay for grandfathers to ponder at these events. The kids think we are asleep or day dreaming and that is okay. For parents it is called inattentiveness and the little ones frown on that.) Anyway, as I looked at these little people swimming in their gowns with their mortar boards sliding down the sides of their heads, I found myself reflecting back on what we have done to make this planet a better place for these young people. Working as long as I have at EPA, I am allowed to ponder things like that.

As I watched each youngster walk over to receive a diploma, I wondered what their little minds must be thinking when they hear their parents talking about global warming, habitat loss or the global threat of disease. As they grow older and with information traveling faster than ever before, will they become so overloaded with unfiltered environmental information that they will become apathetic, seeking solace instead in video games and simple pleasures. How will they react?

I am a representative of a generation that grew up in the fifties and sixties when we were struggling with egg shell thinning, Love Canal, Times Beach and rivers catching fire due to heavy industrial pollution. We faced those problems head-on and never looked back as we continue today to wrestle with some very stubborn environmental problems. Will these children have the same drive, the same perseverance?

After the last child was announced, I glanced through the memory book that each child was given. You remember them. They have a picture of each student with a sentence describing his or her prominent personality trait. At the end of each, we find an oft asked question of young people, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Among the responses were the usual suspects: teachers, firefighters, rock stars (that from my granddaughter). But there was one that caught my eye. “I want to take care of Mother Earth”, the note said. I smiled at this one and thought, “We’ll keep the porch light on for you, little one.”

About the author: Tom Murray joined EPA way back in 1971 and has never lost the passion for pollution prevention and helping manufacturers become more sustainable.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Attention On line Young Environmentalists

By Wendy Dew

Climate change is a problem that is affecting people and the environment. In the U.S., our energy-related activities account for over 85 percent of our human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, mostly in the form of carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. If greenhouse gases continue to increase, climate models predict that the average temperature at the Earth’s surface could increase from 3.2 to 7.2ºF above 1990 levels by the end of this century.

While adults tend to debate everything to the extreme, younger generations are taking the lead. Chloe Maxmin, now 18, formed the Climate Action Club at her high school to help residents of her rural town fight global warming. In two years, Chloe and club members established a “No Idling” policy on campus, installed smart strips and vending misers in school computer labs and on vending machines, and recycled 4,000 batteries and 20 pounds of cartridges in her hometown. The club recently won a $5,000 community impact award, which they are using to purchase solar panels for the school.

Most notably, Chloe’s club launched Maine’s largest student-led reusable bag campaign, which has kept 700,000 bags out of local landfills. The group raised $4,300 from fourteen businesses, purchased 1,900 reusable bags featuring sponsors’ names and logos, and then sold out of the bags soon after they began selling them. The project is ongoing and self-sustaining, with each year’s profits used to fund the next year’s batch of bags. The state’s largest supermarket chain recently came onboard to sell the bags. Additionally, Maine has launched a state-wide reusable bag campaign, using the Climate Action Club’s project as a model.

Chloe also started and maintains an online network of young environmentalists called First Here, Then Everywhere, which has spread to eight countries. Her mission: “ My personal mission it to make global warming the defining mission of my generation. My generation enters adulthood at a crucial point in the history of humanity. We are the first to see the devastating effects of climate change. The responsibility to mitigate global warming, change human behavior, and save our world will fall to us. “

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 14 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Let’s Air Condition the Outside, Why Don’t We?

grundahlIt’s that time of the year again when the weather gets hot and I get very frustrated as I walk the streets here in center city Philadelphia. Many stores have their doors wide open, air conditioning the outside, wasting energy. Last summer I thought to myself, maybe they just don’t understand how what they are doing wastes resources, produces air pollution and exacerbates global warming. So, I tried one-on-one education, first talking to the greeters, then talking to managers. They were nice but they blew me off.

I didn’t “get it” until one of the managers said, “When we open our doors we get more foot traffic and our sales go up.  We know because we track daily sales and experimented.“ It was an “Ah-hah!” moment. Keeping the doors open means more money. Even if the managers understood the environmental impact of what they were doing, their sales revenue was more important. The managers weren’t getting evaluated on how much energy they used, but by how many sales they made. Particularly in this recession when every sale counts, what right do any of us have to ask a business to keep its doors closed and sell less?

But now there’s the oil catastrophe in the Gulf. With scenes of the destruction constantly before us, I expect everyone to understand now, even if they didn’t before, about the many connections there are between how we live our lives and the health of the environment. So will other people now also be bothered by the open doors? Or, am I being too idealistic? And, what should retailers do?

Retailers who want to learn more about “going green” can visit EPA’s Retail Industry Portal.

About the Author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. She currently manages the web for the Environmental Assessment and Innovation Division. Before getting involved with the web, she worked as an environmental scientist. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: Science To Support Decision Making In A Changing Climate

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

During my 22 year career at EPA, it’s been exciting to work on the environmental issue which has been called the “capstone issue for our generation”: climate change. Climate change affects every individual in every community around the world. The team I am a part of at EPA is working closely with communities around the country to shed light on how climate change affects the things they care about, and to find ways to respond and adapt to its impacts.

There’s nothing more rewarding than meeting the people who are benefitting from the science we’re doing. It’s one thing to work in a laboratory or office and explore strategies and develop tools to help local communities respond to climate change. It’s another thing to actually meet the people whose lives you are touching.

image of a house falling onto a beach near the water's edgeI first had that chance in 2007 when I traveled to Alaska and met people from several Native Alaskan villages such as Shishmaref, Newtok, and Kivalina. I listened to heart-wrenching stories about how they must soon evacuate their coastal villages because homes and infrastructure are being destroyed by rising sea levels, storm surges, and the melting of the permafrost upon which they sit. I was faced with the stark realities of a changing climate, not with some “plausible projection” from one of our climate impacts models.

When I first started working on climate change, people imagined it to be something that wouldn’t happen for another 50 to 100 years. We quickly came to understand that the climate is already changing. It’s changing more and more rapidly as a result of human activities. When we burn fossil fuels to power our automobiles and run our factories and heat our homes, we emit greenhouse gas pollution which contributes to global warming. And we’re already seeing the impacts of global warming on peoples’ lives.

My own appreciation for the critical importance of the work we’re doing in our Global Change Research Program at EPA rose dramatically during that visit to Alaska. We’re empowering people to protect their communities and the things they value by providing the scientific information that enables them to anticipate the effects of a changing climate, developing alternative strategies for them to adapt to change, and providing tools that can help them incorporate considerations of climate change into their day-to-day decisions. We are making a difference in people’s lives.

About the author: Dr. Joel Scheraga is the National Program Director for EPA’s Global Change Research Program in the Office of Research and Development. He has been with EPA since 1987. He is also the EPA Principal Representative to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which coordinates and integrates scientific research on climate and global change supported by the U.S. Government.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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