Sustainability Reads: March 24- March 30

A Strategy to Cut Methane Emissions
If you read our post “An Intro to Fracking” or just understand how environmentalists feel about methane, you can imagine our excitement about the White House’s announcement this week of an Interagency Methane Strategy. Next steps were laid out in the strategy along with a timeline for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Departments of Energy and Interior. Focus is on a reduction among a number of sectors: landfills, coal mines, agriculture, and the number one emitter: oil and gas. Strategy includes a combination of elevated standards on methane emissions to be released in 2014 and voluntary incentive programs to utilize cost effective technologies. Methane is a greenhouse gas pollutant 22 times more potent than carbon dioxide and reduction is vital. Dan Utech on the White House Blog.

Here’s why B.C.’s carbon tax is super popular -and effective
Although Canada is not considered a leader in addressing climate change, the province of British Columbia offers guidance on how to use a market based mechanism to reduce emissions. With an approach that included transparency and incentives, the region passed a carbon tax on fossil fuels in 2008. Fee applied to every metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions resulting from the burning of gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and coal. Rate was initially set low at $10 per metric ton of CO2 equivalent emissions, and scheduled to increase $5 per year until it reached $30 per metric ton (which it did on July 1, 2012). Another aspect of the tax is the built-in incentives: the revenue goes straight back to taxpayers, and B.C. residents received a one-time payment of $100 — dubbed a “Climate Action Dividend”. There is also a “Climate Action Tax Credit” from the carbon tax, paid to low income persons or families. Success shown through major reductions in fuel usage in B.C., a corresponding decline in greenhouse gas emissions, and the lack of a negative impact on the economy. Two studies show reductions in fossil fuel use per capita between 15-17% since the tax was implemented and public support for tax at about 55-65%. Take a look at full article for more info on the politics behind such a tax and discussion of why many economists even prefer a simple carbon tax to a cap and trade scheme. By Chris Mooney from Climate Desk on

Investors want global stock exchanges to require more disclosure
More than 100 institutional investors support a proposal organized by Ceres for integrating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors into listing rulings for stock exchanges. Proposal recommends three questions for exchanges to ask listed companies: explain their processes for determining which sustainability issues are material, or relevant, to report, explain why they don’t report—on 10 basic sustainability issues, including climate change and supply chains, and where companies’ sustainability disclosures can be found so that investors can easily access such information. Johannesburg and Brazil have already adopted sustainability listing requirements, but many are worried companies will go to another stock exchange if required to report information. However, Ceres proposal will be submitted to the World Federation of Exchanges (WFE) and if adopted clears up that concern. Conversation is developing with anticipated mandatory sustainability requirements by 2016. Stock exchanges and also credit rating firms hold extensive potential to bring corporate social responsibility (CSR) expectations into the main stream. Andrea Vittorio on Bloomberg BNA.

The utter collapse of human civilization will be ‘difficult to avoid,’ NASA funded study says
Although this article appeared last week, we thought it was still useful to include in this week’s Sustainability Reads. New study  paints the picture of a grim future: The exact scenario may vary, but in the coming decades humanity is essentially doomed to some variant of “Elites” consuming too much, “resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society.” That is, unless civilization is ready for one of two “major policy changes”: inequality must be “greatly reduced” or population growth must be “strictly controlled.” Study set to be published in an upcoming edition of Ecological Economics, come courtesy of a U.S. team led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei and funded in part by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

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