Biden Tax Credit Could Boost America’s Budding E-Bike Industry

In a new development for urban transportation policy, the United States may soon offer tax credits for e-bikes, “the world’s best-selling and fastest-growing form of electric vehicle” that is “a dynamic people-mover more efficient than any Tesla or Nissan Leaf,” Bloomberg Green reports.

Tucked among the more than 2,000 pages of the federal government’s Build Back Better spending bill is a tax credit of up to $900 for e-bikes, Bloomberg writes. E-bikes are a relatively new industry that developed over the past decade while U.S. budgets were busy allocating nearly US$10 billion in tax credits for electric vehicle subsidies.

But the tax credit in section 36E of the bill’s current draft subsidizes 30% of the cost of each qualified e-bike, up to $3,000. There are several limitations on using the tax credit, such as a limit on the number of e-bikes one individual can claim credits for, and a sliding-scale phaseout that reduces the credit amount as household income increases. The credit is not available for bikes that cost more than $4,000.

But despite those limits, “the fact that there’s an e-bike incentive in a federal climate catch-all bill is remarkable considering that a few years ago a lot of folks didn’t know what e-bikes were,” said Christopher Cherry, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Some retailers, like Steve Boyd of Tern Bicycles, say the price limit is too low and may “steer some customers away from the best bike for their needs.” Most of Tern’s cycles would have been eligible for the credit under a previous draft of the bill, but the new, low threshold excludes all but one model, reports Bloomberg.

But the lower cap is a perfect fit for retailers with less expensive products. Many of the e-bikes sold by Rad Power Bikes, whose prices range from $1,000 to $2,000, will be eligible for the credit. However, the start-up’s CEO Mike Radenbaugh acknowledged that Rad Power is an outlier, and many retailers probably won’t see a huge benefit.

“We think e-bikes should ultimately see a much bigger set of supports,” he said, “but we’re really excited to see us at least heading in the right direction.”

There is limited research available to determine the best credit pricing strategy to encourage the most consumers to buy e-bikes at the least cost to government. Though Congress is left to guess about the best level of incentive, so far it “seems to be taking the approach that it’s better to prevent a well-to-do weekend warrior from using the credit to buy a joyride than it is to help a potential cargo bike customer get over their sticker shock,” writes Bloomberg.

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Architects Chosen For New East Hampton Senior Center

Canada’s energy regulator criticized for not modelling a net-zero future

The federal agency tasked with projecting Canada’s supply and demand of energy for the next few decades is drawing criticism for what’s missing in its latest annual report: A roadmap for the sector to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Global Task Force Mobilizes to Halt Commodities-Driven Deforestation

A group of countries led by the United Kingdom and Indonesia say they are launching a new partnership aiming to protect tropical rainforests, meet growing demand for commodities like palm, soy, and timber—widely criticized for their devastating impact on forests—and preserve the livelihoods of growers, Indigenous farmers, and local communities.

The two countries launched the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Dialogue and presented their roadmap to participants at the COP 26 climate summit last month.

“The science is clear: there is no path to 1.5°C that does not include forests, land, livelihood, and nature,” said Morgan Gillespy, food and land use coalition director at the World Resources Institute. She was one of several speakers at an event to “unpack” the FACT Roadmap, a joint statement by governments, commodity traders, and other stakeholders. Endorsed by more than two dozen countries including Canada, the roadmap is a commitment to collaboratively halt commodity-driven deforestation and manage critical ecosystems by addressing agricultural supply chains and international trade.. Elements of the plan include:

• Better incentives, understanding, and recognition, and eventually larger market shares, for sustainably produced commodities;

• Financial support and training for smallholder agricultural producers who risk being excluded if they’re unable to meet standards;

• Enable “traceability and transparency” to ensure consumer and investor confidence, improve accountability, and help producers gain access to markets for sustainable commodities;

• Research and innovation to boost productivity as an alternative to deforestation.

Speakers at the COP 26 event cited a number of commodities associated with deforestation, including cattle, cocoa, palm, coffee, timber, rubber, soy, and cotton.

“Nature is the best carbon storage,” said former U.K. prime minister Theresa May, with land use accounting for a quarter of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

Several speakers stressed that forest protection is not just about climate: it’s about nature and biodiversity, and vulnerable ecosystems like peat marshes and salt marshes also need to be preserved.

Fabiola Muñoz, co-chair of the multistakeholder Tropical Forest Alliance, cited the need for governments to work with Indigenous peoples who have knowledge of the forest and have often lived in them for centuries. (Although several session speakers referenced the need to work with Indigenous peoples, they are conspicuously absent from the FACT Roadmap joint statement.)

Speaking to the roadmap’s focus on incentives for sustainability practices, Indigenous cocoa producer Joseph Itongwa said there must be a willingness to pay small producers for forest conservation, and for growing products like climate-smart cocoa.

Producers are “not reaping the rewards of good stewardship,” added Liberia’s Minister of Agriculture, Jeanine Milly Cooper. The value of ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration, must be financially recognized, she said.

Another threat to Indigenous farmers and local communities from the commodities industry is “land grabbing,” said popular singer Ellie Goulding. She cited a report from one farmer who said that “bulldozers levelled three villages,” leaving people without homes or livelihood. Goulding challenged participants to take immediate action: “We’ve heard this all before,” she said, “people in gatherings like this say the right things, but don’t do enough.” 

Five major U.K. supermarkets are trying to do their part, said WWF’s Tanya Steel, describing a signed commitment to source forest-friendly commodities, with the potential to halve the impact of the average shopping basket by 2030. Simon Roberts, CEO of U.K. grocery chain Sainsbury’s, said his firm’s products will be “deforestation-free by 2025.”

Similarly, PepsiCo is now part of a 20-member Forest Positive Coalition of leading retailers and manufacturers—including Loblaws and Egg Farmers of Canada—that aims to be “forest positive” by 2030. Jenny McCulloch, chief sustainability officer for McDonald’s, touted her firm’s 2015 commitment to end deforestation resulting from the products it sells. She said McDonald’s, which feeds 1% of the world’s population daily, is now 99% deforestation-free, and vows to eliminate deforestation across all product lines by 2030.

But a marginal adjustment to business as usual in the supply chain is not enough, said university student Lana Weidgenant of Zero Hour, speaking for youth who are “disappointed and feel betrayed” by the lack of accountability and action. Weidgenant called for the dietary changes outlined in the statement Act for Food, Act for Change.

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Dietary Change Can Cut Emissions, Reduce Food Costs, Two Studies Show

Men account for 40% more greenhouse gas emissions from food than women, likely because their diets are often heavier in meat and alcohol, and “optional” fare like coffee, alcohol, and sweets account for a quarter of food-based emissions, according to a new study in the journal Plos One.

The study broke down the diets of 212 British people and found that animal products were responsible for almost half of the average diet’s greenhouse gas emissions: 31% from meat and 14% from dairy. Drink produced 15% of emissions, and 8% came from cakes, biscuits and confectionery, reports the Guardian.

That makes modifying diets one way to help get greenhouse gas emissions under control, said the science team, led by PhD nutritionist Holly Rippin of the University of Leeds. “There are broad-brush concepts like reducing our meat intake, particularly red meat, but our work also shows that big gains can be made from small changes, like cutting out sweets.”

A separate study published in the Lancet Planetary Health found vegan and vegetarian diets in western countries are roughly a third cheaper than meat-heavy ones, The Guardian says. That finding contrasts with the common perception that plant-based diets are the “preserve of a privileged middle class.”

Comparing “seven sustainable diets to the current typical diet in 150 countries using food prices from the World Bank,” researchers from the University of Oxford found that “in high-income countries, vegan diets were the most affordable, cutting food costs by 21 to 34% compared to average diets, depending on specific food choices,” the news story states.

Vegetarian diets were a close second, with a 27 to 31% reduction in cost, adds the Guardian.

“We think the fact that vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian diets can save you a lot of money is going to surprise people,” said Oxford University researcher Marco Springmann. “When scientists like me advocate for healthy and environmentally-friendly eating, it’s often said that we’re sitting in our ivory towers promoting something that is financially out of reach for most people. This study shows that it’s quite the opposite. These diets could be better for your bank balance as well as your health and the health of the planet.”

East Hampton Airport Traffic Soars Again

Heavy Rain and Snow Hit California

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Zero-Emission Shipping Corridors Could Speed Green Technology Deployment

A declaration launched last month during the COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow called for action to shift the global shipping industry from fossil to zero-emission fuels.

The Clydebank Declaration for Green Shipping Corridors aims to speed up the establishment of zero-emission maritime routes to support the development and deployment of green technologies. It sets an initial target of six green shipping corridors by mid-decade and “many more corridors in operation by 2030.”

The list of 18 declaration signatories included Japan, United States, the United Kingdom, a number of Scandinavian and European countries, Australia, and Canada.

“The Declaration is the starting pistol to industry, to invest, research, and develop these technologies with confidence,” said session host and U.K. Shipping Minister Robert Courts.

Although shipping is already a relatively green way to move goods and resources around the world, it is nevertheless a giant industry that accounts for almost 3% of global emissions. That impact is set to grow substantially in the coming decades.

“If shipping were a country, it would be the sixth-largest emitter in the world,” said Danish Transport Minister Benny Engelbrecht.

Green shipping corridors are seen as a way to focus and mobilize collaboration among industry, government, and other stakeholders, including zero emission fuel suppliers.

A new report from the Getting to Zero Coalition, released to coincide with COP 26 event, identified the first two prime candidates for green shipping corridors: the Japan-Australia iron ore routes, and the Asia-European Union container routes. According to coalition representatives Johanna Christensen of the Global Maritime Forum and Faustine Delasalle of the Mission Possible Platform, the routes were selected based on factors such as established stakeholder support, cost, and fuel availability.

Christensen said the establishment of green shipping corridors will help to create a “virtuous circle” of demand and supply of green fuels and technologies. Zero-emission fuels are expected to power at least 5% and as much as 10% of the fleet by 2030.

While green fuels are expected to cost much more than current supplies, she said shippers and customers have indicated they’re ready to share some of the premium, which could have a modest impact on the price of end products when they reach market. Governments are expected to participate in cost-sharing.

United States Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg expressed his government’s support for the Clydebank Declaration, adding that President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill will help further the shift to green shipping. The U.S. was among the countries pressing the International Maritime Organization to adopt an official goal of 100% zero-emissions shipping by 2050. But Buttigieg noted that youth are “candidly skeptical” of the legitimacy of political action on climate change and need to see evidence of real commitment.

Danish shipping giant Maersk, a frontrunner in the shift to zero-emissions fuels, believes net zero by 2050 is “imperative,” said vice president Morten Bo Christiansen. Maersk will have one small fossil-free vessel by 2023, and expects to have eight large container ships in services by 2024 or 2025. The company has chosen to power its new fleet with green methanol, and has contracted for power-to-methanol production using electricity from a solar farm in Kassø, Southern Denmark.

With the cost of green fuels coming in three to four times higher than fossil, Christiansen called for a US$150-per-tonne carbon tax to level the playing field.

Danish Minister Engelbrecht said governments need to support green shipping, but shouldn’t try to pick a winner among fuel variants, including methanol, hydrogen, and ammonia. “The market will decide,” he said.

Alex Hewitt, chair of CWP Global, said his firm was participating in a 20-gigawatt renewable energy hub in Australia that will produce green hydrogen, which is most easily shipped in the form of ammonia.

Fiji, another Clydebank Declaration signatory, plans to extend the zero-emissions model to its tourism industry, including cruise ships, said climate minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Green tuna is another goal, he told participants.

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Digital Technologies Can Help Solve Climate Crisis

While digital technologies have huge potential to unlock climate solutions, reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the source must always be the top priority, according to panelists at a side meeting during the COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow last month.

The speakers cited contributions like data capture and monitoring, benchmarking, real time energy management, artificial intelligence, and early warning for weather events like severe flooding that can all help address the climate emergency. But beyond incremental improvements to the status quo, they said, real climate progress calls for transformative innovations in meeting basic needs for food, transportation, and heat.

The information and communication technology sector (ICT) is itself a rapidly growing source of emissions and must join in the transition to net zero, the panel added. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), co-sponsor of the event, has developed an “implied road map” to reduce global ICT sector emissions 45% by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050. Standards include responsibility for end-of-life management of technological equipment on the path to a circular economy.

“Digital technology is [one part of] the answer,” said ITU Deputy Secretary General Malcolm Johnson, adding that ICT can help reduce global emissions 15-20%. He said digital solutions can reduce traffic congestion, shift public transit to where it is most needed, and improve the energy performance of buildings. 

The ITU and the United Nations are hosting United for Smart Sustainable Cities, a collaborative initiative that sets key performance indicators for participating municipalities. Several speakers emphasized cities’ importance as centres of consumption where half the world’s population now lives, a total that is expected to hit two-thirds or more by 2050.

Massamba Choy of the UN climate secretariat’s Global Innovation Hub said “cities need to go beyond net zero,” with transformative changes that go beyond improvements to existing products and services. That would include reimagining transportation in terms of “mobility as a service,” a concept that includes teleconferencing as an alternative to workplace commuting.

But innovation must fill the gap between the net zero target and what’s currently achievable, Choy said. Digital solutions are necessary but not sufficient: supporting policies, finance, business models, and leadership are all required.

Jordi Peris Blanes of the Mayor’s Office in Valencia, Spain, stressed the need to integrate climate solutions with the goals of inclusion, equity, and social justice.

Valencia is an enthusiastic participant in a European Commission initiative to achieve 100 climate neutral cities by 2030, Blanes said. The communities are meant to be “experimentation and innovation hubs for all cities.” Valencia’s initial focus is on public space, walking, and biking.

Luca Lo Re, a climate policy analyst at the International Energy Agency, outlined ways to accelerate “digitally enabled urban energy transitions.” He noted that urban air conditioning demand is growing as the atmosphere warms, and more efficient solutions aren’t always more expensive.

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‘Everything is burning and your house is gone’

We spent 10 days talking to survivors of this summer’s wildfires. Here’s what we learned.