Following the election in April of this year of a left-leaning, five-party coalition government in Finland, the country has pledged to institute a wide-ranging increase in infrastructure and welfare spending and to make the country carbon neutral by 2035. If enacted, the transition would make Finland the first fossil fuel-free country in the world. Social Democratic party leader Antti Rinne set the target on June 3 and broke down how Finland would reach such an ambitious goal. The plan to combat climate change involves a full-scale mobilization of the Finnish economy and an overt rejection of the austerity imposed by the former center-right coalition. Rinne emphasized that efforts will stem directly from internal cutbacks and reorganization of national energy sourcing, rather than from outsourcing carbon dioxide emissions via carbon-capture credits in other countries. The plan is slated to be reviewed in 2025. "Building the world's first fossil-free, sustainable society is going to require much more than nice words on paper,” said Sini Harkki, a Greenpeace Nordic representative, “but we're determined to make it happen." The new government will increase public spending by $1.4 billion per year over their incoming term, made possible by increasing taxes by an estimated $828 million—much of that stemming from fossil fuel levies. The government’s plan to address infrastructure and welfare in combination also aims to raise nationwide employment from 72.4 percent (in April of 2019) to 75 percent. Harkki also commented on the “far from perfect” nature of the plan, which will have major implications on the nation’s forestry and peat industries. However, she cited that with the “broad public support” the government and its program has, steps can be taken to refine government actions and win partisan fights. Some parts of the country have already taken even more progressive steps ahead of any official action. A northern town called Li is on track to cut its emissions by 80 percent by 2020 -- 30 years ahead of the EU’s most ambitious targets. Li has ceased using fossil fuels and instead invested heavily in geothermal, solar, and wind energy sources since 2012, with a payoff: The town generates $568,000 in profit each year. On top of this, they are working towards becoming the world’s first zero-waste community, too. The financial success and stability of Li counters a stance by the populist Finns party, who claim that the environmental goals of the country’s left would "take the sausage from the mouths of laborers." The push and pull within the Scandinavian country echoes a worldwide divide, one between economic stability in continuing the status-quo and the risks of system overhaul to address emissions issues around the globe.
Posts tagged with "Carbon Emissions":
Apple is planting a forest in Cupertino, California. When the company’s new headquarters is completed later this year, 8,000 trees, transplanted from nurseries around the state of California, will surround the donut-shaped building by Foster + Partners. The trees are meant to beautify Apple’s 176 acres (dubbed Apple Park). But they will also absorb atmospheric carbon. That’s a good thing. Carbon, in greenhouse gases, is a major cause of global warming. Almost everything humans do, including breathing, releases carbon into the atmosphere. Plants, on the other hand, absorb carbon, turning it into foliage, branches, and roots—a process known as sequestration. That’s why, when architects, landscape designers, and urban planners concerned about climate change talk about their work, they often mention sequestration. These days, seemingly every project that includes greenery is touted as reducing atmospheric carbon. But how much carbon can one tree, or even 8,000 trees, sequester? I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find the answer. Among my sources is a 2016 article from the journal Landscape and Urban Planning titled “Does urban vegetation enhance carbon sequestration?” Its authors, several from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, examine efforts to quantify the sequestration capacity of urban flora. For example, a study of a Vancouver neighborhood found that its trees sequestered about 1.7 percent as much carbon as human activities produced, while in Mexico City the figure was 1.4 percent. The results were worse in Singapore. Overall, the authors write, “The impact of urban vegetation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions directly through carbon sequestration is very limited or null.” Very limited or null. Another study seemed especially applicable to Apple. In 2009, researchers at California State University Northridge studied carbon sequestration on the university’s 350-acre campus. Students inventoried all 3,900 trees by type and size. Using data from the Center for Urban Forest Research, a branch of the U.S. Forest Service, they estimated the amount each tree was likely to sequester. The average was 88 pounds per tree per year. (By contrast, the average American is responsible for emitting about 44,000 pounds of carbon annually.) Then they compared total sequestration to the amount of carbon emitted by campus sources. (Those sources included the production of electricity to power campus buildings—but not transportation to and from campus.) The result: The trees sequestered less than one percent of the amount of carbon released during the same period. Put another way, the amount of carbon sequestered, at a school with 41,000 students, equaled the carbon output of eight average Americans. Are things better at Apple Park? On the emissions side, there is good news: The new building will rely largely on natural ventilation, reducing the need for air conditioning. (Note, though, that promises a building will perform a certain way often prove overly optimistic.) On the other hand, the campus is being designed with more than 10,000 parking spaces for some 12,000 employees, suggesting that the vast majority of employees will be driving to and from work. And those spaces are in garages that require lights and elevators. And the news gets worse. At Northridge, researchers looked at the trees as if they had always been there. But a reasonable approach to measuring the benefits of Apple’s trees would consider the carbon emitted in growing them off-site, bringing them to Cupertino, and planting them. Driving a flatbed truck 100 miles can release 100 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere—and Apple trees’ require thousands of such trips. And, since it wants the campus to be picture-perfect, Apple is using mature specimens. These are no seedlings; some are so large they have to be lowered into place by crane. And mature trees, because they aren’t growing much, hardly sequester any carbon. (Worse, when trees die, their carbon is returned to the atmosphere.) And keep in mind that many of Apple’s trees were already growing in other locations, meaning the carbon sequestered on the Apple campus would have been sequestered anyway. That suggests that any estimate of carbon sequestration at Apple Park should be reduced by at least half. In the plus column, grass and shrubs also sequester carbon, though not merely as much as trees, with their thick trunks and extensive root systems. So how much carbon will Apple’s trees sequester? The figures used in the Northridge study suggest that Apple’s 8,000 trees will remove some 700,000 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere each year. According to Apple’s submissions to the city of Cupertino, the new campus can be expected to produce 82 million pounds of carbon annually. That means that the carbon sequestered will be less than one percent of the carbon emitted. In short, Apple’s decision to plant 8,000 trees, whatever its other benefits, won’t have a significant effect on the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. The campus, even with a very green building at its heart, will emit more than one hundred times as much carbon as its trees absorb. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep planting trees. But it does mean that, as with so many issues related to global warming, there is no quick fix. Thinking there is could keep us from making the tough decisions climate change demands.
On January 21 solar supplier PermaCity and retailer Forever 21 turned on the switch to their 5.1 MegaWatt DC SunPower solar system in Los Angeles' Lincoln Heights neighborhood. The renovation of the former Macy’s distribution center—now Forever 21's headquarters— was designed by Forever 21 staff with Culver City architect Brian Reiff. The project consists of 15,512 SunPower modules placed on the building's roof, using PermaCity’s SolarStrap—an aluminum and stainless steel, light-weight panel system using no ballast or penetrations. The building is now the largest solar rooftop system in Los Angeles County and the third-largest in California. The project was made possible thanks to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Feed-in-Tariff, a program launched in 2013 allowing renewable energy plants to sell their power back to the city. The solar panels on the rooftop will generate enough energy to power the equivalent of 1,450 homes, avoiding the production of almost 13 million pounds of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of taking 1,200 passenger cars off the road.