(I knew when I started writing “The Week in Carbon” that I was strapping on the jets. It’s turned out though that the field isn’t the only thing that’s heating up — so is our business! Four new clients this week alone: building a greenhouse gas baseline, reporting systems and strategy for a large food company; strategy and coaching for a major international brand; facility “eco-assessments” for a new hospitality industry network; and an interactive performance dashboard for a player to be named later. So, with the classic challenge matching our growth in capacity to the growth in our business, these weekly reviews may be a bit more terse some weeks than others.)
Branson’s “Virgin Earth Challenge”
The stand-out item this week was the joint announcement from Sir Richard Branson and Al Gore of a $25 million prize for viable solutions for carbon sequestration.
The Virgin Earth Challenge, according to Environmental Leader, will

award $25 million to the individual or group who are able to demonstrate a commercially viable design which will remove at least 1 billion tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide per year for at least ten years without harmful effects. The removal must have long term effects and contribute materially to the stability of the Earth’s climate. It is the largest science and technology prize ever offerred.
Branson will be joined in the adjudication of the Prize by a panel of five judges – all world authorities in their respective fields: Al Gore, Sir Crispin Tickell, Tim Flannery, Jim Hansen and James Lovelock. The panel of judges will be assisted in their deliberations by The Climate Group and Special Advisor to The Virgin Earth Prize Judges, Steve Howard.

Branson last autumn committed $3 billion to global warming mitigation and renewable energy projects, and asserted that Airlines Can Cut CO2 Emissions 25% in 2 Years.
Austin: Zero emissions by 2020
The Austin Statesman has the story:

Austin will attempt to take the lead among the nation’s cities in the race to curb global warming with an aggressive climate protection plan unveiled Wednesday… [including cutting its CO2 emissions] to almost nothing by 2020, increase the use of renewable energy sources, boost energy conservation, and require better efficiency for homes and commercial buildings. Elements of the proposal could be controversial.

As the comments below the story already show.

This plan launches the city to the forefront of the fight against global warming,” said Jim Marston, a regional director of Environmental Defense, a national environmental group.

Isn’t competition a wonderful thing? It’s such a kick to watch cities race to the top instead of to the bottom!

The Austin Climate Protection Plan includes the following goals:
•Power 100 percent of city facilities with renewable energy by 2012.
•Reduce carbon dioxide emissions from entire city fleet by 2020 through use of electric power and nonpetroleum fuels.
•Achieve 700 megawatts in savings through energy efficiency and conservation by 2020.
•Meet 30 percent of all energy needs through renewable resources by 2020.
•Commit to lowest-emission technologies for any new power plants and carbon dioxide reductions on existing plants.
•Boost energy efficiency in new homes and other buildings.
•Require energy efficiency improvements in existing homes and buildings when sold.

Also last week, my home base of Berkeley CA kicked off its planning & community engagement work on putting last fall’s Measure G [PDF] — mandating 80% reduction in GHGs by 2050 — into action. Some people thought those were aggressive goals. Not any more.
EU ban on energy profligate products moves closer
That was the headline in Green Business News, which reported that the European Commission “is approaching a major legislative breakthrough on energy efficiency that could reshape the entire European technology landscape.”

[S]enior executives at HP… thought that… strict new legislation could be in place within “two years”… [and] predicted that the new proposals would result in wider adoption of energy efficiency specifications in public procurements. … [E]xperts also signaled that progress was being made towards banning inefficient electrical products under the Energy Using Products (EUP) directive… [which] is due to be transposed by member states by August 11th this year….
Meike Escherich, senior analyst at Gartner, agreed that a rare consensus in the European Commission meant that not only could the legislation be pushed through relatively quickly but that the minimum standards could prove surprisingly stringent. “The minimum standards are still being discussed but the early signals are that they will be pretty strict and won’t be easy to achieve,” she said.
Perhaps surprisingly leading IT manufacturers have reportedly not been engaged in intensive lobbying against these new measures, despite the fact they could see swathes of their products banned. “It is actually good news for firms that can afford to do the R&D,” explained Escherich.

With one-third of the tech industry’s global revenue coming from EU markets, the potential business impacts are significant, as are the consequences of failing to respond effectively.

[HP SVP Bernard] Meric hinted that it would indeed support much of the new legislation, claiming that setting standards for procurement and cutting off energy inefficient products would prove “two clever ways of moving the market” that “will punish the worst performers and reward the best”.

A possible downside: less competition. But Escherich argued that:

most customers would see that as a price worth paying if it means they see significant improvements in the energy efficiency of their products.

EPA budgets cut climate science funding
“Follow the money”
Some of us are old enough to remember Ben Bradlee’s guidance to the young reporters who broke the Watergate Scandal. It remains good advice.
Bush Administration’s Budget Request Seeks Reduced Funding For EPA, Environmental Protection Maagzine reports.

On Feb. 5, President Bush unveiled his $2.9 trillion budget request for next year, which includes $7.2 billion for EPA — a cut by more than $400 million from the 2006 enacted levels.
The new budget emphasizes using more citizen-partners as EPA shifts into the next phase of environmental progress — the green culture, officials said.
“As our nation shifts to a green culture, Americans are realizing that environmental responsibility is everyone’s responsibility. Today, EPA has 300 million citizen-partners in our efforts to accelerate the pace of environmental protection,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “President Bush’s budget request will fund EPA’s role as our country enters this next phase of environmental progress.”

Sounds good — and could be a powerful way to leverage the effectiveness and responsiveness of a stretched-thin bureaucracy — except many charge that EPA has been cutting funding for essential information, when information and transparency are indispensable parts of a “citizen-partner” strategy.

The proposed 2008 spending plan includes $549.5 million for enforcement operations, the largest amount ever dedicated to that agency responsibility. However, the budget request seeks a $400 million reduction in the Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund… nearly 37 percent below 2006 enacted funding levels. Additionally… [and] would cut EPA’s science and technology budget for climate protection by about $5 million, from $18.64 million in 2006 to $13.1 million.

I’m hoping that’s a typo. It’s to President Bush’s credit that he’s been speaking workds like “oil addiction” and “global warming.” But he’s got to put his money – sorry, our money – where his mouth is. But $13.1 million on perhaps the biggest science and technology challenge of our time? That’s barely enough to staple the research reports!
Sen. Barbara Boxer, (D-CA), chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, promised to work to “restore funding for these important protections.” One can only hope. (No, wait, that’s not right. One can also lobby like hell!)
PS: Thanks to Environmental Leader or many of this week’s items. Along with GreenBiz.com, it’s becoming a favorite resource for keeping up on the accelerating pace of climate change change.

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