Tag Archive for: Carbon

Embodied Carbon in the Construction and Building Operations Industry

When we look at all the new construction in the next 20 years, we see the critical role embodied carbon plays. The world urgently needs to address carbon emissions from buildings and construction, constituting almost 40% of global carbon emissions. Of those total emissions, building operations are responsible for 28% annually, while building materials and construction (typically referred to as embodied carbon) are responsible for an additional 12% annually.

The construction industry is the world’s largest single industry. Oxford Economics estimates the global construction market at $10.7 trillion in 2020. The market is expected to grow by $4.5 trillion between 2020 and 2030 to reach $15.2 trillion.

Embodied Carbon Software

Unlike operational carbon emissions, which can be reduced over time with building energy upgrades and the use of renewable and nuclear energy, embodied carbon emissions are locked in place upon completion of construction. The owners and construction industry must handle embodied carbon now if we hope to achieve climate change goals by target dates. Embodied carbon typically precedes Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions and should be added to those for any new construction.

Achieving zero embodied emissions will require adopting the principles of reusing, reducing, and sequestering, including retrofitting existing buildings, using recycled materials, and designing for deconstruction. Reducing means material optimization and the specification of low to zero carbon materials. Sequester means including the design of carbon sequestering sites and the use of carbon sequestering materials.

Just three materials – concrete, steel, and aluminum – are responsible for 23% of total global emissions (most of the materials used in the built environment). Concrete is the second most-consumed substance on Earth after water. Overall, humanity produces more than 10 billion tons, about 4 billion cubic meters of concrete and cement per year, or about 1.3 tons for every person on the planet, more than any other material, including oil and coal. The consumption of concrete exceeds that of all other construction materials combined. Making modern cement and concrete has a heavy environmental penalty, being responsible for 5% or so of global carbon emissions. And yet, most of those emissions are not accounted for during regular carbon reporting protocols. Steel and aluminum are not much different.

All companies that want to be credible with their carbon reporting need software tools for embodied carbon tracking and management. For this reason, Locus has developed a SaaS application to manage and report embodied carbon data in real-time during construction projects. The Locus Embodied Carbon app, part of the ESG toolset, advances environmentally friendly infrastructure design and increases the ability to track and reduce emissions before being built in the new structure forever.

Locus’s Embodied Carbon management software automates carbon emissions management throughout the design and construction processes. It is one of the most ambitious real-time carbon management software programs in the US. Locus Embodied Carbon app helps site owners, construction companies, and the supply chain reduce embodied carbon from on-site construction activities and reduce air pollution from construction activities.

Embodied Carbon Software

Locus Embodied Carbon application combines the advantages of Locus Platform’s multitenant SaaS with its powerful configuration tools and APIs that, for example, stream carbon data from construction equipment to online software. The construction industry now has precisely the ESG software solution they need to fit their business processes for the low carbon construction program management to incorporate other EHS compliance and Sustainability data on the same unified platform in the future.

Carbon Offsets Have a Huge New Problem—Wildfires

As if the world of calculating forest and natural assets to be used as carbon offsets for big businesses isn’t complicated enough, now there’s a huge new, unexpected issue. Wildfires are threatening the underlying nature itself.

Oregon Wildfire

A pyrocumulus cloud from Oregon’s Bootleg Fire can be seen for miles as it burns in the Freemont-Winema National Forest. As of Thursday night, the fire had burned more than 400,000 acres, including forest that had been preserved to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere. Photo: National Interagency Fire Center.

The wildfires in the American West this past summer, including one big fire in Southern Oregon, the Bootleg Fire, torched a large percentage of land set aside for carbon offsets. Another fire in Washington State threatened an Indian reservation carbon offset project. Companies who produce greenhouse gases pay nature and forest reserves to maintain and build themselves out to help trees pull carbon from the atmosphere. The offset allows the companies to claim they are carbon neutral. The more they pollute the more they pay. A growing financial market for offsets in Europe, the UK and now China is based on the premise these assets can be correctly measured and managed.

That premise routinely comes under fire, as one forest is different from another, some trees in the same forest suck carbon at a different rate then others and, of course, there’s no way to tell how a forest used as an offset today will look 100 years from now. Now the natural land is coming under fire literally. In order to counteract CO₂’s climate-warming properties, a carbon offset project needs to promise to sequester carbon permanently. That’s because CO₂ can linger in the atmosphere for up to 1,000 years. If the carbon that is avoided or removed ends up getting released, then the program is flawed. The impact of the fires is already generating calls from advocates who argue carbon output needs to be reduced at its source, not offset with money and accounting gimmicks. Those are legitimate arguments but as we are nowhere near approaching a global scenario like that, offsets are our best shot to make polluting more expensive and ultimately reduce it.

The problem is that the offset market is developing so fast that all the parties in it — buyers, sellers, brokers — are profiting, and so are thinking of new ways to grow it. Already, ideas about securitization of carbon offset assets, where they would be packaged into tradable derivatives, like mortgages or interest rate products, are catching on.

This feeds into more participants in the carbon market, and as a result, higher prices, and then more participants on that. On the European Trading System for carbon prices, the value of futures contracts for UK carbon topped $100 (£ 72.4 pounds) in late September amid the country’s petrol delivery crisis. But none of this compares to what could happen if global leaders can advance the idea of an international carbon price and emissions trading mechanism at the United Nations’ COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow in November.

The carbon market, one way or another, is certain to develop in coming years, and with it, the potential for abuses. Those can be fought by new regulations and better policing of markets. But at present, there is nothing to stop the natural threat of fires or other disasters on the underlying offset assets. In the investing world, we call these developments Black Swans. Something completely unexpected that comes along and upends markets. Kind of like China’s sudden attack on its tech industry this past summer, and its impact on Chinese stocks worldwide. It is another sad and ironic tragedy of climate change that global warming itself is destroying the very tools we have to fight it.

[sc_image width=”150″ height=”150″ src=”24014″ style=”11″ position=”centered” disable_lightbox=”1″ alt=”David Callaway, Callaway Climate Insights”]

About the Author—David Callaway, Callaway Climate Insights

David Callaway is founder and Editor-in-Chief of Callaway Climate Insights. He is former president of the World Editors Forum and editor of USA Today.

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EPA plans to regulate carbon emissions from aircraft

The US Environmental Protection Agency on Monday announced plans to limit carbon emissions from aircraft.

The EPA issued a final scientific assessment that concluded that carbon emissions from aircraft endanger public health and welfare, a legal prerequisite the agency must take before regulating those emissions.

EPA officials said last year when first proposing the aircraft scientific assessment that any regulation would be implemented in coordination with the International Civil Aviation Organization, a branch of the United Nations, which is drafting a global standard for airline carbon emissions.

Emissions from aircraft represent about 2% of total global carbon emissions, and the U.S. is the largest contributor to global aviation greenhouse gasses, according to federal data. The EPA said aircraft are the third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. transportation sector, accounting for about 3% of such emissions in the country.

EPA has already set effective GHG standards for cars and trucks. EPA anticipates moving forward on standards that would be at least as stringent as ICAO’s standards.

Military and small piston-engine planes often used for recreational purposes would be exempt from the new regulation. Excluding these two categories, the EPA’s scientific finding applies to 89% of all U.S. aircraft carbon emissions.

Airlines for America, the trade association representing U.S. airlines and air cargo carriers, said it commends the EPA’s action because it is working within the coming international framework.

In 2009 the International Air Transport Association, a global trade group, agreed to achieve carbon-neutral growth by 2020, meaning any future growth in air travel wouldn’t produce a net increase in carbon emissions.

Then, from 2020 through 2050, the industry aims to reduce its 2005 emission levels by half, largely through the use of sustainable fuels. The effort to use sustainable fuels has already started, and manufacturers and airlines support of alternative fuels is high.

Carbon management.

EPA to regulate aircraft emissions.

To that end, the US biofuels leader, Amyris, Inc. and oil company Total have partnered to develop an alternative aviation jet fuel made with a sustainably-sourced hydrocarbon using Amyris’s proprietary synthetic biology platform. In 2014, Amyris received industry acceptance and regulatory approval for renewable jet fuel in key U.S., European and Brazilian markets. The New York Times writes that Amyris renewable jet fuel “holds the elusive promise of better energy security, reduced carbon emissions, and lower fuel costs. Amyris’ jet fuel can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80 percent compared with petroleum fuels, when compared unmixed to petroleum fuels on a one-to-one basis, according to Amyris. Renewable fuels like Amyris farnesane ‘would help reduce the carbon footprint of commercial aviation,’ the Federal Aviation Administration said.”

Amyris announced that, on May 29, 2016, Cathay Pacific commenced a two-year program of flights from Toulouse to Hong Kong using Amyris renewable jet fuel.  The initial 12-hour flight was the longest flight using a renewable jet fuel to date, further underpinning the ‘drop-in’ characteristics of Amyris Biojet fuels. Cathay took delivery of a new Airbus A350-900 that flew from the Airbus facility in Toulouse, France, to Hong Kong using a 10% biofuel jet blend provided by Amyris with the commercial and industrial support of Total S.A. The combination of the new airplane’s improvements in fuel efficiency (about 25% better than current aircraft) and the fuel’s properties resulted in an estimated 30% reduction in CO2 emissions according to Cathay when compared to comparable flights in recent-generation aircraft using fossil fuels.

The Unclear Future of Carbon Capture

With the recent policy standards called for by President Obama, focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions has moved to the forefront of the sustainability initiative. Much of this concern circles the hazardous effects of carbon dioxide emissions on the atmosphere, and the longest standing contributors to its release: the smokestacks that are still problematic even in the most modern of coal plants.

Many scientists agree that the hope of deferring effects of climate change relies largely on our ability to capture, and lock away this carbon. This process, if implemented correctly, would greatly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere by removing much of it from the emissions released. It would then require formulating a secure method of permanent storage for this collected carbon.

Interestingly enough, we know how to carry out these carbon-capturing procedures, and we have for nearly a century, yet little movement has been made toward actually practicing these methods. The reason behind this lack of momentum, simply put, is cost.

The cost to implement carbon capture and storage is high enough that many companies would not consider it without a requirement made by the federal government. The process would require retrofitting old plants, alongside the energy required for the actual procedure- a large enough sum of energy that it downgrades the efficiency of the plant, making it an undesirable action business-wise sans any federal regulation.

If we find a way to improve the cost-effectiveness, storage concerns still plague the campaign for implementation. We know that injecting liquids underground has been linked to earthquakes, and there is still the possibility of the carbon dioxide tainting drinking water, or even escaping into the atmosphere- a reality that would negate the entire process. These concerns have called for pause on the entire movement.

Even while Obama is pushing to limit the emissions of U.S. power plants, there is little expectation of decreasing the amount of power we harness from coal in the near future. Our dependence on this source of energy, combined with the opposition against Obama’s policy aspirations, make that fact clear.

Though coal may be the largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, other sources of energy are also subjected to scrutiny, including natural gas collected through fracking practices. According to geologist Stuart Haszeldine at the University of Edinburgh, “if you want to carry on using those fossil hydrocarbons that means cleaning up their emissions,” and capturing this carbon he states, “is the single best way of doing that.”

While the future of this process is still unclear, it is furthering the initiative toward sustainability. Climate change is becoming a stark reality, with implications we don’t even fully understand yet, and many are calling for progress in any way possible.

Corporate America is Leaning Toward Environmental Responsibility

Since the beginning of the movement toward climate activism, many changes affecting big corporations have been triggered by legislation and science. Environmental scientists continually uncover new complications caused by climate change, and while President Obama continues to call for regulatory changes—namely to cut carbon emissions—Congress has put these efforts on hold by working to overturn many of his requests to implement tougher restrictions.

This standstill may lead one to believe that efforts toward reaching a more environmentally-friendly future are stalled, yet that is not the case. In fact, corporate America is beginning to get ahead of these debates by reducing their emissions with or without the passing of Obama’s regulatory measures.

According to a study conducted by Calvert Investment, Ceres, David Gardiner & Associates, and the World Wildlife Fund, 43 percent of Fortune 500 companies have independently set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, become more energy efficient, or secure greener energy to fuel their business- and many of these businesses report saving large sums of money due to their efforts.

Former governor of New Jersey and former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Christine Todd Whitman stated, “These companies make it their mission to reduce their carbon footprint because it is making good business sense.”

However, what about the other 57 percent of the Fortune 500? For many, they are trapped by subsidies which are making fossil-fuel power sources cheaper, allowing them to focus on other needs within the corporation.

There is no denying that a decision by U.S. and state policymakers would push even more companies to more sustainable measures; however, the power of the public and shareholders should not go unnoticed. Many companies are creating benchmarks per the request of these shareholders who push the companies to lessen their environmental impact.

Even if environmental legislation remains unspecified, it is clear that big corporations are beginning to move toward environmental responsibility regardless.  Though tougher restrictions on emissions may push more corporations toward solutions faster, the trend has already begun, and continues to spread. Corporate America is blazing the trail, proving that being environmentally responsible and fiscally sound can happen simultaneously.

China and U.S. Sign Climate Change Deals

This past Tuesday, the United States and China signed eight partnership pacts in an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions. These pacts involve multiple companies and research bodies and bring the world’s two largest carbon emitters into closer agreement on climate policy.

One memoranda of understanding (MOUs) calls for the sharing of information on clean coal power generation technology between Huaneng Clean Energy Research Institute in China and the Summit Power Group based in Washington. Huaneng is expected to share information with Summit as they begin to initiate a similar project in Texas in the near future. In turn, Summit will share information and technology for recovering oil from captured carbon.

According to Laura Miller, who currently manages Texas Clean Energy Project, “We will be sharing expertise, years of development experience and non-proprietary technology on both projects, all while making giant steps forward for the world’s environment.”

While some pacts were signed by both nations, negotiators on each side recognize the need for more communication between the two in order to come to an agreement in areas of technological cooperation, as well as domestic and international policies, among others. In a recent interview, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that the two sides remained committed to continuing the “close dialogue” of negotiations on climate change.

China and the U.S. coming to agreement would majorly impact climate change policy across the globe. Both nations also confirm the need for policy decisions implementing aid for developing countries in controlling their emissions in order to create a significant global impact.

These ongoing discussions and changes in climate policy place an emphasis on the need for accurate emissions data collection and reporting. The implementation of new policy and regulations could also lead to an increased demand for emissions data processing and analysis, to which cloud-based, big data management technologies are now available to supply.

2014 State of the Union Address: Obama on Energy

On the night of Tuesday, January 28 the President of the United States took to the podium to deliver the 2014 State of the Union Address. Among the many topics that President Obama covered, one of them was energy.

The president gave praise to his all-of-the-above energy strategy he introduced a few years ago, and stated that America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades. “One of the reasons why is natural gas- if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change,” he said.

President Obama stressed the importance of this resource being extracted safely, and stated the clear benefits it brings when this occurs. This translates to the old saying “trust but verify”. With today’s real-time monitoring and information management technologies this can easily be accomplished without increasing the extraction cost. He vowed to keep working with the industry to continue job growth while also ensuring the protection of our air, water, and communities. Obama also added in a touch of sustainable promise- “And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.”

The president then made a clear statement about his intentions. “But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did,” he said.

After All, EPA to Regulate Climate Change via The Clean Air Act

The Environmental Protection Agency is set to make final new air-pollution standards for coal-fired power plants by mid-December, sparking disagreement among power companies about how quickly aging coal plants need to be pushed offline.

The EPA wants to give coal-fired plants three years to comply with the new standards—either by shutting down or going through expensive retrofits—with the possibility of a one-year extension.

The maintenance of baseload power is likely to be appropriate in many locations, meaning some coal fired and natural gas fired plants will not be de-commissioned. However, the likelihood of investors preferring the lower costs of green energy will mean that they will replace most sources.

The new rules will make some coal powered plants to shut down as it will not be economical to retrofit them. They will most likely be replaced by the new plants powered by natural gas. Renewables will pick some slack, but that is negligible in the big scheme of things. Unfortunately, US nuclear industry is still not ready to come back. We will probably wait another 10 years, and at that time probably buy nukes from Chinese who will perfect new technology and get experience building AP1000 reactors (AP1000® pressurized water reactor or PWR. It is the only Generation III+ reactor to receive Design Certification from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)) long before we put one on the drawing board permitting process.

But in summary, EPA is moving to regulate climate change via The Clean Air Act, and because of the coal power plants shut down we may very well meet the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill–aka the American Clean Energy and Security Act, ACES, H.R. 2454. The bill would put a cap on emissions of greenhouse gases, and would require high-emitting industries to reduce their output to specific targets between now and the middle of the century. The bill covers 85 percent of the overall economy, including electricity producers, oil refineries, natural gas suppliers, and energy-intensive industries like iron, steel, cement, and paper manufacturers. Emission cuts would start in 2012 and EPA is right on track.

The goals for U.S. emission reductions, below 2005 levels are 3 percent cut by 2012; 17 percent cut by 2020; 42 percent cut by 2030; more than 80 percent cut by 2050. We may achieve 2020 goals with retrofitting and shutdowns of coal powered plants and slowing economy. We will not meet other goals without injecting nuclear power.

Tag Archive for: Carbon

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey selects Locus Technologies

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey selects Locus Technologies for Construction Projects’ Embodied Carbon Calculations

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., 28 January 2021 — Locus Technologies (Locus), is pleased to announce that The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (Port Authority) has selected Locus Platform, a multi-tenant SaaS for EHS, to streamline embodied carbon calculations for construction projects as part of its ongoing environmental stewardship and sustainable and resilient development. The Port Authority has been using the Waste Management application on the Locus Platform since 2019. A key factor for Port Authority was the out-of-the-box configurability of the Locus Platform.

The Port Authority announced last September the implementation of a Clean Construction Program, which will reduce carbon emissions throughout the design and construction processes. It is one of the most ambitious programs of its kind among U.S. transportation agencies.

The Port Authority performs large-scale infrastructure projects that include airport redevelopments and critical routine maintenance at bridges and tunnels. The Clean Construction Program will reduce embodied carbon from on-site construction activities and materials’ manufacturing and transportation. It will also promote the circular economy by reusing materials to increase their lifespans and reduce air pollution from construction across all facilities.

The Clean Construction Program diverts a minimum of 75% of concrete, asphalt, and steel construction waste from landfills. The Program advances environmentally friendly infrastructure design, increasing the Port Authority’s commitment to reducing emissions and leading the transportation sector towards a low-carbon and more sustainable future.

The Clean Construction program is a critical element of the Port Authority’s sustainability plan by aggressively reducing greenhouse gas emissions outlined in the agency’s first-in-sector commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. The Port Authority has committed to reducing emissions by 35 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050.

The Locus Sustainability Application will enable the Port Authority of NY & NJ to have a better understanding of the environmental impact of our construction programs,” said Dorian Bailey, Sr. Environmental Project Manager at Port Authority.

“The construction sector is one of the largest in the world economy, with about $10 trillion spent on construction-related goods and services every year. The construction and transportation sectors, when combined, generate the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions.  We are happy that the Port Authority selected Locus Platform for the Port Authority’s ambitious goal of leading the construction industry to reduce construction projects’ carbon emissions. Construction Projects Embodied Carbon application combines the advantages of off-the-shelf software with Locus Platform’s powerful configuration tools. The Port Authority will get precisely the software solution they need to fit their business processes for the Clean Construction Program with the ability to incorporate other EHS and Sustainability data on the same unified platform in the future. We are excited to have this excellent organization select Locus,” said Neno Duplan, CEO of Locus.

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