Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently administer over 20 programs and subprograms that are directly or indirectly available to assist producers and landowners who wish to practice conservation on agricultural lands. The number, scope, and overall funding of these programs has grown in recent years. This growth can cause some confusion over which problems and conditions each program addresses, and specific program characteristics and performance. The programs are as follows:
• Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) Program
• Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program
• Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI)
• Conservation Operations (CO); Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA)
• Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
• CRP—Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)
• CRP—Farmable Wetlands Program
• Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
• Emergency Conservation Program (ECP)
• Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program
• Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
• EQIP—Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP)
• EQIP—Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG)
• Farmland Protection Program (FPP)
• Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)
• Healthy Forest Reserve Program (HFRP)
• Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Program
• Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program
• Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations
• Watershed Rehabilitation Program
• Wetland Reserve Program (WRP)
• Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP)
This tabular presentation provides basic information introducing each of the programs. In each case, a brief program description is followed by information on major amendments in the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246); national scope and availability; states with the greatest participation; the backlog of applications or other measures of continuing interest; program funding authority; FY2012 funding; FY2013 Administration budget request; FY2013 funding where available; statutory authority; the authorization expiration date; and a link to the program’s website.
Source: Carbon Balance and Management
A regional-scale sensitivity study has been carried out to investigate the climatic effects of forest cover change in Europe. Applying REMO (regional climate model of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology), the projected temperature and precipitation tendencies have been analysed for summer, based on the results of the A2 IPCC-SRES emission scenario simulation. For the end of the 21st century it has been studied, whether the assumed forest cover increase could reduce the effects of the greenhouse gas concentration change.
Based on the simulation results, biogeophysical effects of the hypothetic potential afforestation may lead to cooler and moister conditions during summer in most parts of the temperate zone. The largest relative effects of forest cover increase can be expected in northern Germany, Poland and Ukraine, which is 15–20% of the climate change signal for temperature and more than 50% for precipitation. In northern Germany and France, potential afforestation may enhance the effects of emission change, resulting in more severe heavy precipitation events. The probability of dry days and warm temperature extremes would decrease.
Large contiguous forest blocks can have distinctive biogeophysical effect on the climate on regional and local scale. In certain regions of the temperate zone, climate change signal due to greenhouse gas emission can be reduced by afforestation due to the dominant evaporative cooling effect during summer. Results of this case study with a hypothetical land cover change can contribute to the assessment of the role of forests in adapting to climate change. Thus they can build an important basis of the future forest policy.
See: Planting Trees May Not Reverse Climate Change, but It Will Help Locally (Science Daily)
Source: World Bank
Today’s developed countries urbanized mostly gradually, their cities expanding over a period of 100 years or more as jobs shifted from farms to factories. The pace allowed for trial and error in growth patterns and policies. Developing countries today don’t have that luxury. They’re facing rapid migration that will tilt some populations from less than 20 percent urban today to more than 60 percent in just 30 years.
City leaders must figure out now how they will provide the affordable homes, transportation, jobs, and basic infrastructure and services necessary to support already ballooning urban populations, do so with the least impact on the environment and prepare for increasing vulnerabilities stemming from climate change.
Getting this rapidly paced urbanization right is the key to resilient and sustainable growth. The challenge goes well beyond planning – governments must find innovative ways to finance infrastructure.
A new World Bank report, Planning, Connecting and Financing-Now: What City Leaders Need to Know, provides a framework for urban growth planning and finance, backed by case studies, to help leaders identify the impediments to urbanization and find the right combinations of policy options that would work politically, technically, and fiscally for their cities and countries. It helps them think through questions such as, What must be done to create jobs and expand basic services? What must be done to improve living conditions in slums and hazard-prone areas? What must be done to manage the city’s physical form?
Source: PLoS ONE
Balancing productivity, profitability, and environmental health is a key challenge for agricultural sustainability. Most crop production systems in the United States are characterized by low species and management diversity, high use of fossil energy and agrichemicals, and large negative impacts on the environment. We hypothesized that cropping system diversification would promote ecosystem services that would supplement, and eventually displace, synthetic external inputs used to maintain crop productivity. To test this, we conducted a field study from 2003–2011 in Iowa that included three contrasting systems varying in length of crop sequence and inputs. We compared a conventionally managed 2-yr rotation (maize-soybean) that received fertilizers and herbicides at rates comparable to those used on nearby farms with two more diverse cropping systems: a 3-yr rotation (maize-soybean-small grain + red clover) and a 4-yr rotation (maize-soybean-small grain + alfalfa-alfalfa) managed with lower synthetic N fertilizer and herbicide inputs and periodic applications of cattle manure. Grain yields, mass of harvested products, and profit in the more diverse systems were similar to, or greater than, those in the conventional system, despite reductions of agrichemical inputs. Weeds were suppressed effectively in all systems, but freshwater toxicity of the more diverse systems was two orders of magnitude lower than in the conventional system. Results of our study indicate that more diverse cropping systems can use small amounts of synthetic agrichemical inputs as powerful tools with which to tune, rather than drive, agroecosystem performance, while meeting or exceeding the performance of less diverse systems.
Since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals, the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation has reported on progress towards achieving Target 7c: reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. This report contains the welcome announcement that, as of 2010, the target for drinking water has been met.
Since 1990, more than 2 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources. This achievement is a testament to the commitment of Government leaders, public and private sector entities, communities and individuals who saw the target not as a dream, but as a vital step towards improving health and well-being.
Of course, much work remains to be done. There are still 780 million people without access to an improved drinking water source. And even though 1.8 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, the world remains off track for the sanitation target. It is essential to accelerate progress in the remaining time before the MDG deadline, and I commend those who are participating in the Sustainable Sanitation: Five Year Drive to 2015.
This report outlines the challenges that remain. Some regions, particularly subSaharan Africa, are lagging behind. Many rural dwellers and the poor often miss out on improvements to drinking water and sanitation. And the burden of poor water supply falls most heavily on girls and women. Reducing these disparities must be a priority.
World’s largest companies take action to conserve biodiversity in response to rapid decline of ecosystem services
According to a recent study by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL) and Deloitte France, a majority of companies in the Fortune Global 50 have reported taking action to reduce or eliminate their impacts on biodiversity.
“Conservation of biodiversity is crucial to business success and to society’s well-being,” says Dave Pearson, Global Leader, Deloitte Sustainability, DTTL. “Biodiversity loss can limit ecosystem services such as water filtration, crop pollination, food and timber production, and control of diseases and pests, that are not only essential to communities but also increase operational costs for businesses that are critically dependent on these services. Assessing and mitigating these risks helps businesses secure their future growth.”
The study found that more than 80 percent of companies in the Fortune Global 50 are communicating about their biodiversity and ecosystem management. Among the oil and gas companies in this group, 90 percent (15 out of 17 companies) are providing specific details on their efforts to manage their dependency and impact on the ecosystems.
Additionally, the companies in the study reported on a diverse range of performance metrics to measure biodiversity risks and impacts linked to their activities. Nearly 75 percent of companies (37 out of 50) reported using biodiversity indicators that were closely aligned with the latest sustainability reporting guidelines from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Suggested biodiversity indicators include impacts related to the location and size of land occupied, and products and services utilized for operational purposes.
Source: IBM Center for the Business of Government
In October 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514, which outlines leadership efforts the federal government can make to reduce energy consumption and lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions . Federal agencies are required to develop strategies, implement and report on projects, and continuously improve their processes as a model for the country . The Executive Order significantly increased the visibility of sustainability as a strategic imperative for the federal government and beyond, while potentially saving energy and taxpayer money . Given the somewhat broad and vague definitions of sustainability, some agencies may check the compliance box rather than take advantage of the full array of potentially cost-saving and performance-increasing benefits.
- Examines the sustainability processes of three organizations, two private and one public
- Identifies three recommendations that demonstrate the critical success factors for meeting sustainability compliance
The purpose of this report is to provide practical, timely best practices for public-sector stakeholders and leaders based on independent research from representative organizations . The three case studies were selected because of their long history and continued commitment to sustainable practices and the relevance of their business model for federal agencies as they develop and implement their sustainability plans
After five decades of sustainability debates and policymaking, the world still lacks a comprehensive strategy that recognizes the complexity of the issues. This report, produced by the Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management & International Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, analyzes the main aspects of sustainability — from the environmental challenges facing cultures around the globe to the quest for a sustainable supply of water and food. Green business practices are seen through the lens of the tradeoffs involved and consumers’ attitudes towards the environment. The report also looks at what kinds of governance structures are needed to encourage sustainability worldwide and to improve collaboration among government officials, companies and nonprofit organizations.
Best Global Green Brands 2012
Though “green” was once the province of empty promises, the world’s most valuable green brands have earned their place in our report, which examines how leading brands perform in the arena of sustainability and how their environmentally conscious efforts are perceived by the public. These two critical halves—performance and perception—make up the whole of a green company: one that operates sustainably and has built a positive image that can be leveraged to strengthen brand value.
The best green brands are vital, relevant, powerful and pioneering. They are profitable, ethical, and ecologically responsible. They have a proven record of performance, strive to operate with transparency and they practice what they preach when it comes to sustainability. The best green brands show us what is possible.
After evaluating the world’s top brands on the basis of their performance as well as the public’s perception of their green credentials, Interbrand and Deloitte have carefully ranked—and wholeheartedly applaud—the 50 Best Global Green Brands that are featured in this report. These strong, highly innovative brands are paving the way to a new era of stability, prosperity and confidence—and they embody our greatest hopes for the future.
New Publication – The Economics of Space Sustainability
Source: Secure World Foundation
Economics plays an important role in space sustainability and is often a missing or misunderstood part of the discussion. SWF Technical Advisor Brian Weeden has published a new article in The Space Review that examines space sustainability, including space debris, from an economics perspective. Mr. Weeden discusses the difference between public, private, and common goods and the traditional perspective of space debris as pollution that can be dealt with through microeconomic incentive mechanisms such as taxes or cap-and-trade schemese. Mr. Weeden explains why these generalizations and conclusions are not likely to provide a useful solution of space debris, especially for space debris in low Earth orbit.
As an alternative, Mr. Weeden outlines the application of more recent developments in economics, including information and game theory, and their link to current intiatives such as the code of conduct and SSA Sharing. Finally, Mr. Weeden discuses ongoing SWF research into the application of sustainable governance of common-pool resources to space and what lessons it may have for the long-term sustainable use of space.
Rio+20: The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, June 2012 (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
The United Nations (U.N.) Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or “Rio+20”) convenes June 20-22, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This conference marks the 20 th anniversary of the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio in 1992. Governments participating in the 1992 meeting politically endorsed the objective of “sustainable development” as achieving economic, environmental, and social development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Rio+20 begins from the premise and findings that the objectives of the 1992 Rio conference have not been achieved. The U.N.’s fifth Global Environmental Outlook, published in June 2012, found significant progress toward only four of 90 internationally-agreed goals associated with sustainable development. It found back-tracking on eight goals. Stakeholders widely agree that changes in policies and institutions are desirable to improve implementation, but do not agree on means. It seems unlikely that Rio+20 will produce any agreements that would require congressional action or be legally binding. Some proceedings, however, may engender congressional interest in concepts proposed for simultaneously achieving economic, social, and environmental objectives. Rio+20 could influence views and actions internationally on development paths and practices, thereby affecting regional and global economies, demand for development aid, transnational environmental issues, and conflict incidence and resolution. Therefore, Congress may take interest in the conference. In addition, proceedings may reference the non-binding, 1992 Agenda 21, produced at UNCED in 1992; media coverage could raise questions from constituents that Members may wish to address.
The Rio+20 organizers indicate that “[g]overnments are expected to adopt clear and focused practical measures for implementing sustainable development, based on the many examples of success we have seen over the last 20 years.” However, with strongly divergent views among the expected 115 Heads of State and up to 50,000 participants, Rio+20 may be more like a trade show than political negotiations. Indeed, some observers suggest that the conference may yield many deals among private participants. It is not expected to produce a treaty or any other binding commitments of national governments. Some observers wonder whether a meaningful communique can be successfully negotiated. High-level participants will be prompted to address issues that include
- the definition of “green economy,” and whether a definition gives adequate emphasis to social aspects (e.g., “fairness”) of sustainable development;
- whether “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) should replace or supplement the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed by the U.N, General Assembly in 2000 and expected to end in 2015, as well as how SDGs might be negotiated, and what priorities might be set among them;
- how to reform international environmental institutions, particularly whether the United Nations Environmental Program should be strengthened;
- what actions, if any, might lead to improved implementation of existing sustainable development goals, given slow progress so far;
- whether governments may commit to greater financial and technological assistance to low-income countries to assist their sustainable development.
Overall corporate disclosures of water-related risks have increased since 2009, but most reporting remains weak and inconsistent according to Clearing the Waters: A Review of Corporate Water Risk Disclosure in SEC Filings, a new report issued today by Ceres.
Since 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission has required companies to disclose financially material risks from climate change to their investors. These risks include “significant physical effects of climate change, such as effects on the severity of weather (for example, floods or hurricanes), sea levels, the arability of farmland, and water availability and quality.”
In light of this guidance, Clearing the Waters analyzes changes in water risk disclosure by more than 80 companies between 2009 and 2011, finding that though reporting has risen, it is lacking especially in regard to data on financial impacts, quantitative water metrics and potential supply chain risks. The report covers water use in eight water intensive sectors: beverage, chemicals, electric power, food, homebuilding, mining, oil & gas and semiconductors.
Greening the Supply Chain: Best Practices and Future Trends
Source: Knowledge@Wharton (University of Pennsylvania)
The more corporations around the globe focus on sustainability, the more they realize that their greatest challenges and opportunities often lie outside their own offices and manufacturing plants. To make a truly significant lifecycle leap, large companies have to work on greening their supply chains.
Recognizing this, Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) devoted its 2012 annual conference to “Greening the Supply Chain: Best Business Practices and Future Trends.” Attended by noted academics and professionals, the conference covered a broad range of topics.
This special report, a collaboration between IGEL and Knowledge@Wharton, zeroes in on four of the most pressing issues in the field, using information from the conference, as well as additional interviews and research.
Progress and Challenges in Urban Climate Adaptation Planning: Results of a Global Survey (PDF)
Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Cities around the world are increasingly aware of the need to prepare for greater variability in temperature, precipitation, and natural disasters expected to take place as a result of global climate change. In recent years, numerous reports and manuals have been written and networks formed to offer guidance and facilitate the exchange of ideas and information. However, since systematic studies have not been conducted, the information and methods being disseminated often are based on the efforts of a limited number of cities and wisdom drawn from experience in other domains. To gain insight into the status of adaptation planning globally, approaches cities around the world are taking, and challenges they are encountering, a survey was sent to communities that are members of ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. A total of 468 cities (44%) completed the 40-question survey, with the majority of respondents being from the U.S since this is where ICLEI has the largest membership.
Africa can choose…a sustainable future
Source: World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
The “Africa Ecological Footprint Report : Green Infrastructure for Africa’s Ecological Security” takes stock of the health of Africa’s ecosystems, as well as trends in resources use patterns. It also lays out recommendations on implementing green development pathways for Africa .
The report highlights a steep decline in biodiversity in Africa: 40% in 40 years. This decline reflects a degradation of the natural systems upon which Africa’s current and future prosperity depends.
In addition, rapid population growth and increasing prosperity are changing consumption patterns, with the result that Africa’s ecological footprint—the area needed to generate the resources consumed by a given group or activity – has been growing steadily. Africa’s total ecological footprint is set to double by 2040.
Continuing on a business-as-usual scenario means jeapordizing the natural systems on which lives and economies depend. Yet Africa is in an advantageous position to act. This report showcases successful initiatives across Africa as solutions to be up-scaled in areas such as renewable energy, integrated water resource management, ecotourism, and forest conservation.
Raising native plants in nurseries: basic concepts
Source: U.S. Forest Service
Growing native plants can be fun, challenging, and rewarding. This booklet, particularly the first chapter that introduces important concepts, is for the novice who wants to start growing native plants as a hobby; however, it can also be helpful to someone with a bit more experience who is wondering about starting a nursery. The second chapter provides basic information about collecting, processing, storing, and treating seeds. Chapter three focuses on using seeds to grow plants in the field or in containers using simple but effective techniques. For those native plants that reproduce poorly from seeds, the fourth chapter describes how to start native plants from cuttings. The final chapter provides valuable information on how to successfully move native plants from the nursery and establish them in their final planting location. Several appendices expand on what has been presented in the chapters, with more details and specific information about growing a variety of native plants.
Greening Corrections Technology Guidebook (PDF)
Source: National Institute of Justice
Greening Corrections Technology Guidebook was developed for the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) based on a recommendation from its Institutional Corrections Technology Working Group (TWG).The TWG, which consists of leaders from correctional agencies across the country, has recognized the growing importance of greening initiatives.
This guidebook provides correctional administrators with a brief, yet comprehensive and informative, view of sustainability-oriented green technologies. It reviews green technologies’ evolving role in correctional institutions and presents issues to consider when acquiring and implementing green technologies to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of resource use. It also addresses the opportunities and challenges involved in selecting and implementing green technologies in correctional settings.
The guidebook has seven chapters that provide information and insight into specific types of green tech- nologies.The authors selected these seven topical areas because they include most — although not all — of the green technologies in use in corrections in 2011. Subsections on future trends indicate possible additions and enhancements to the field.
Each chapter contains lists of specific technologies, including well-established and more traditional exam- ples, as well as emerging technologies that have proven effective in saving money and increasing the efficiency of resource use while protecting public safety and staff security.
In the first major assessment of progress on a unique Ceres Roadmap to corporate sustainability released two years ago, Ceres and global research and analysis firm Sustainalytics today released The Road to 2020: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability.
The findings – based on an assessment of how 600 U.S. companies are responding to environmental and social challenges such as climate change, water scarcity and supply chain conditions – show individual examples of leadership but significant need for overall improvement.
“While there are encouraging pockets of sustainability leadership in the U.S. business community, far too many companies are only taking small, incremental steps,” said Ceres president Mindy Lubber, in announcing the report at the opening of the Ceres annual conference today in Boston. “Sustainability has yet to gain traction at anywhere near the scale and speed required given the global threats we face.”
The G-20 and International Economic Cooperation: Background and Implications for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
The G-20 is an international forum for discussing and coordinating economic policies among major advanced and emerging economies. Congress may want to exercise oversight over the Administration’s participation in the G-20 process, including the policy commitments that Administration is making in the G-20 and the policies it is encouraging other G-20 countries to pursue.
The G-20 rose to prominence during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, when it played an arguably influential role in coordinating international responses to the crisis. The G-20 is now considered the “premier” forum for international economic coordination, a position previously held by a smaller group of advanced economies (the Group of 7, or G-7, which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States).
G-20 leaders have annual meetings (“summits”), and meetings among lower-level officials occur more frequently. Meetings primarily focus on international economic and financial issues, although related topics are also discussed, including development, food security, and the environment, among others. Previous summits have, for example, focused on financial regulatory reform, global imbalances, funding for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), voting power of emerging economies in international financial institutions, and fossil fuel subsidies.
The 2012 Summit
The next G-20 summit is scheduled to be held in Los Cabos, Mexico in June 2012, and will be the first hosted by a Latin American government. The Mexican government has indicated that the summit will focus on the following.
- Economic stabilization and structural reforms as foundations for growth and employment.
- Strengthening the financial system and fostering financial inclusion to promote economic growth.
- Improving the international financial architecture in an interconnected world.
- Enhancing food security and addressing commodity price volatility.
- Promoting sustainable development, green growth, and the fight against climate change.
Effectiveness of the G-20
Some analysts say that while the G-20 was instrumental in coordinating the response to the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, its effectiveness has diminished as the urgency of the crisis has waned. They argue that the G-20 has failed to provide adequate international leadership in key policy areas, including responses to the Eurozone crisis and forging a conclusion to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations. They also maintain that the G-20 as a group is too heterogeneous to achieve real coordination and its agenda is too ambitious. Others argue that the G-20 serves as an important institution in the international economy. They argue that the G-20 is a critical forum for discussing major policy initiatives across major countries and encouraging greater cooperation, even if agreement on policies is not always reached. They also argue that it serves as a useful institution as a steering committee for other international organizations, such as the IMF, and that having the G-20 policy-making infrastructure in place is important for timely international responses to future crises.