Wrong-way emissions and the unreliability of ESG data; plus talking AirCarbon with Mark Herrema

By David Callaway, Callaway Climate Insights

One of my bosses at Dow Jones back in the day used to joke that every five years or so the company would come up with a three-year plan. At a media company riding the daily river of news, that made a sort of weird sense to everybody. In China, they take their planning a lot more seriously.

As the world awaits China’s 14th five-year plan, sometime next spring, experts are reading the tea leaves of planning proposals to glean clues about what role China’s new climate commitment will play in it. Early signs are not encouraging.

According to China Dialogue, a non-profit based in London and Beijing, the goal of raising China’s GDP per capital to first-world status by 2035 trumps most everything else. It will likely require an increase in emissions before they begin to slide in 2035 — 15 years from now — and hit the promise of carbon neutrality by 2060.

The report says:

The vision in the proposals for carbon emissions and ecological conservation should be understood in this context, of China’s economic trajectory. They stipulate that by 2035 “China’s carbon emissions will gradually decline in a state of stabilization after peaking, and there will be fundamental ecological and environmental improvements.”

We will hear more in the New Year, but nobody really believed that China would solve its reliance on coal overnight, and still keep economic competitiveness. Still, against the backdrop of news this week that the rest of the world is still going the wrong direction on emissions, it’s a bad sign.

A Production Gap report released by the UN Environment Program and a handful of NGOs said that while the world needs to cut emissions by 6% a year for the next 10 years, current projections are it will add 2% each year. Another report suggested that at current levels we could hit the Paris Accord threshold of 1.5% temperature above the pre-industrial era by 2024.

Let’s hope we’re not still wearing masks then. It’s going to be hot.

More insights below. . . .

ZEUS: Catching up on AirCarbon with Newlight’s Mark Herrema

. . . . Take two science geeks and a passion for fixing climate change and plastics pollution, experiment for 17 years turning a natural mechanism into a scalable manufacturing business, and you have AirCarbon, the brainchild of two entrepreneurs at Newlight Technologies who are making a splash in carbon removal circles, writes David Callaway. CEO Mark Herrema tells how he and partner Kenton Kimmel developed a process to take carbon from the air and turn it into plastic and leather replacements for products such as cutlery, purses, and eyeglasses. On top of their environmental benefits, the products look cool, too.

AirCarbon is made from microorganisms in the sea, which use greenhouse gas emissions and air to make a substance called PHB. Over 10 years of experimenting, while working as valets and fitness instructors at the nearby Monarch Beach Resort, Herrema and Kimmel figured out a way to melt the PHB into a material which can be used to replace plastic and leather. . . .

Read the full ZEUS column

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it: Scope 3 and the unreliability of emissions data

. . . . The confusing, and lack of thorough and consistent, emissions data from companies render it almost impossible for emissions providers and investors to determine which companies have the biggest problems or are as clean as they claim, writes Mark Hulbert. Citing a new study titled, “Green Data or Greenwashing?,” which began circulating in academic circles at the beginning of November, Hulbert writes that wild discrepancies between reporting on Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions in particular, reveals a need for an institutionalized, single standard for corporate reporting.

To illustrate the investment implication of their findings, the researchers imagined an investor wanting to avoid the 500 worst emitters from a universe of 10,000 stocks. This hypothetical situation is quite realistic, by the way, since 5% of companies are responsible for 80% of GHG emissions.

Given the imprecision of the GHG emission estimates, the researchers calculate that this hypothetical investor would have to exclude a lot more than 500 companies in order to avoid the bulk of those worst emitters. And I mean a lot more: This hypothetical investor would need to exclude 1,250 companies from consideration in order to avoid at least 95% of those worst emitters.

That’s a high price to pay. . . .

Read the full story

Making a thriller without a trace — of waste

. . . . Black Bear, a new thriller movie set on a lake comes out today in 14 theaters (that are open) nationwide. Starring Aubrey Plaza and written and directed by Lawrence Michael Levine, the movie received good reviews ahead of release and at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. But what few mentioned was that it was made in entirely sustainable fashion.

Julie Christeas and Jonathan Blitstein, the partnership behind independent film company Tandem Pictures, ran the entire five-week shoot in update New York with sustainable practices. From re-usable water bottles for the cast and crew to solar power and rechargeable batteries on the set, to donating costumes and props to the local church, the 45 people on the shoot left the lakeside even cleaner than they found it, Christeas said.

“We have to look at the work that we do and it is really quite wasteful,” Christeas said of filmmaking. “We find we can cut down on that waste if we think about it. And the savings you can get are enormous.”

Blitstein said there is a larger effort going on in Hollywood to be sustainable. He pointed to The Amazing SpiderMan 2, which reportedly saved $400,000 in production costs by using sustainable practices.

For Christeas, who has run Tandem for more than 10 years, sustainability and a focus on women, underrepresented minorities and LGBTQ in storytelling, casting, and script choice, are a priority. Also, working with people at the university level, where climate solutions and sustainability are gaining in prominence.

At the end of the day, you still have to make a good movie. Let me know what you all think of Black Bear when you see it. The trailer rocks! . . .

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