Friday, June 17, 2016

First-Ever Global Standard to Measure Food Loss and Waste Introduced by International Partnership

Key points:
  • New international framework launched to empower businesses, governments, and other organizations to measure, report on and manage food loss and waste
  • An estimated one-third of all food is lost or wasted worldwide as it moves from where it is produced to where it is eaten, even as more than 800 million people are undernourished
  • Food loss and waste globally costs up to $940 billion per year
  • Food loss and waste generates about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If it were a country, food loss and waste would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter behind China and the United States
A partnership of leading international organizations is launching the Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard at the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) 2016 Summit in Copenhagen. The FLW Standard is the first-ever set of global definitions and reporting requirements for companies, countries and others to consistently and credibly measure, report on and manage food loss and waste. The standard comes as a growing number of governments, companies and other entities are making commitments to reduce food loss and waste.
The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is a multi-stakeholder partnership convened by World Resources Institute and initiated at the 3GF 2013 Summit. FLW Protocol partners include: The Consumer Goods Forum, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), EU-funded FUSIONS project, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), WRAP (The Waste and Resources Action Programme) and World Resources Institute.
Creating inventories in conformance with the FLW Standard is a critical foundation to develop effective strategies for reducing food loss and waste and monitor progress over time. Moreover, it can help governments and companies meet international commitments, including the Paris Agreement on climate change and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In particular, SDG Target 12.3 calls for a 50 percent global reduction in food waste by 2030, along with reductions in food loss.

The FLW Standard will also help reduce food loss and waste within the private sector. In 2015, The Consumer Goods Forum, which represents more than 400 of the world’s largest retailers and manufacturers from 70 countries, adopted a resolution for its members to reduce food waste from their operations by 50 percent by 2025, with baselines and progress to be measured using the FLW Standard. Some leading companies, like NestlĂ© and Tesco, are already measuring and publicly reporting on their food loss and waste.
In "4 Surprising Reasons to Measure and Reduce Food Loss and Waste" at Brian Lipinski says the project can yield  a suite of benefits:

1) Financial Gains
... Grocery retailer Stop and Shop/Giant Landover conducted an analysis of which products were spoiling on shelves, and saved an estimated $100 million after changing its purchasing decisions to eliminate products that were not selling. Other retailers like Tesco have generated additional sales and reduced their FLW by selling “imperfect produce.” The grocer sells bumpy or misshapen fruits or vegetables that are perfectly good to eat, but that other supermarkets typically throw away.... The charity WRAP, with financial support from the UK government, launched a consumer education program called Love Food Hate Waste. This campaign provides consumers with tips and resources on how to reduce FLW within their homes. Since its launch, consumers have saved 13 billion GBP (almost $19 billion).

Unprepared for a Risky Future

...A [May, 2016 report from the World Bank] is warning that the world is ill-prepared for an increasing rise in disasters, spurred by climate change, rising populations and increasing vulnerability of people in large cities and unregulated housing.

The report, The Making of a Riskier Future: How Our Decisions are Shaping the Future of Disaster Risk, calls for a radical new approach to assessing risk, which takes into account extremely rapid changes in global disaster risk. Annual total damages from disasters have been increasing for decades and models show that population growth and rapid urbanization could put 1.3 billion people and $158 trillion in assets at risk from river and coastal floods by 2050.

In examining literature and case studies from around the globe, the report cites studies showing that densely populated coastal cities are sinking and when coupled with rising sea levels, annual losses in 136 coastal cities could increase from US$6 billion in 2010 to US$1,000 billion in 2070.

It also cites research warning that in Indonesia, river flood risk may increase 166 percent over the next 30 years due to rapid expansion of urban areas, while the country’s coastal flood risk could rise by 445 percent. Earthquake risk in Kathmandu is expected to double to 50 percent by 2045 due to informal building expansion.
File:Trapped woman on a car roof during flash flooding in Toowoomba 2.jpg

At the heart of effective disaster risk management is reliable and accessible risk information. To help catalyze a move towards dynamic, accessible, and actionable risk information, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the World Bank are also releasing ThinkHazard!the first of its kind open-source platform to provide hazard information and recommendations of how to reduce risk across eight hazards including earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and cyclones for 196 countries....

Annual total damage (averaged over a 10-year period) has increased tenfold between 1976–1985 and 2005–2014, from US$14 billion to more than US$140 billion. Average population affected each year has risen from around 60 million people (1976–1985) to over 170 million (2005–2014).

Trucost identifies $3.5bn environmental savings from scaling up sustainable plastic

Companies using sustainable plastic could deliver $3.5 billion environmental savings, according to a discussion paper published today by Trucost. To achieve these benefits, business and policymakers have to massively scale up initiatives such as plastic recycling and bioplastics.

The Trucost paper Scaling Sustainable Plastics: Solutions to Drive Plastics towards a Circular Economy identifies the actions needed by companies, governments, environmentalists and researchers to achieve industry-wide scaling up of sustainable plastics. The paper draws on interviews with plastics and recycling experts, as well as case studies of companies that have worked with Trucost to measure the environmental benefits of initiatives, including US computer giant Dell and green technology company Algix.

Plastic has many benefits ranging from reducing food waste by providing packaging to cutting transport pollution due to its light weight. However, around 8% of current fossil fuel dependency is attributed to plastic production and much of our plastic is used just once and then thrown away. The environmental cost to society of plastic use by the consumer goods sector alone is estimated at $75 billion, largely due to climate change and pollution impacts, in particular marine pollution.

Innovations to achieve a more circular economy such as closed loop recycling, plant-based plastic and biodegradable polymers offer ways to reduce the environmental cost of conventional, fossil fuel-based plastic. But so far, few companies are pioneering these new processes and technologies.

For example, Dell’s OptiPlex 3030 computer is produced using recycled plastic recovered from electronic equipment from its own take-back scheme. Trucost’s environmental benefit analysis identifies environmental cost savings to society of $700 million per year if the entire computer manufacturing industry switched to closed-loop recycled plastic.
“There are significant benefits to embracing a circular economy“said Scott O’Connell, Director, Environmental Affairs at Dell. “Our closed loop plastics supply chain enables a resource-efficient product made from recycled content that costs Dell less. Companies need to realize sustainability programs are just good business.”

Algix makes a low-carbon polymer called Solaplast from algae. Trucost demonstrates that if the footwear sector switched to Solaplast, it could reduce its environmental cost by $1.5 billion per year. If the soft drinks sector used the algae-based plastic, it could deliver benefits to the tune of $1.3 billion.

Trucost’s paper identifies the barriers that are preventing business sectors from scaling up use of sustainable plastic and recommends solutions to overcome them. First and foremost is that waste plastic is undervalued in our economy. This is because the market does not price in environmental costs such as climate change and human health impacts from petrochemical plastic production, or the damage done to the marine environment by plastic waste.

Macroeconomic Analysis of Federal Carbon Taxes

An economy-wide federal carbon tax can significantly reduce US carbon dioxide emissions but will also impact the US economy. A modeling exercise examines these macroeconomic impacts and demonstrates the effects of the tax on consumer prices and welfare. 

Key Findings
  • A carbon tax can substantially reduce carbon emissions at a relatively low cost.
  • How the carbon tax revenue is used matters. Using the revenues to reduce existing taxes, such as the corporate income tax, significantly reduces the cost of the policy compared to lump-sum rebating of the revenues to households.
  • The welfare cost per ton of carbon dioxide reduced is significantly below central estimates of the social cost of carbon when the carbon tax revenues are used to reduce corporate income taxes.
  • Based on our estimates, using carbon tax revenues to reduce corporate income taxes would pass a cost–benefit test by a significant margin. 
The purpose of this policy brief is to report some results from a modeling exercise of an economy-wide tax on CO2 emissions where the tax level is designed to be in line with recently revised estimates of the social cost of carbon. The exercise was performed using the E3 computable general equilibrium (CGE) model of the United States with international trade. The E3 model, developed by Lawrence Goulder of Stanford University and Marc Hafstead of RFF, divides US production into 35 industries, with a particular emphasis on energy-related industries such as crude oil extraction, natural gas extraction, coal mining, electric power (represented by four industries), petroleum refining, and natural gas distribution. The model provides a detailed tax treatment, allowing for interactions of environmental policy and preexisting taxes on capital and labor.
The overall welfare cost of emissions reductions in the lump-sum rebate scenario is about $46 per ton, whereas the welfare cost in the case with a corporate income tax cut is about $31 per ton. This cost equates to 0.81 percent or 0.53 percent of total discounted household spending between 2016 and 2030. ... As shown in a separate analysis, a similar tax would cause 2030 CO2 emissions to fall more than 40 percent below 2005 levels while causing a loss of consumption of less than 0.18 percent. 
Find more analysis by RFF experts on the impacts of a US carbon tax:
Resources For the Future (RFF)
Policy Brief 16-06 | June 13, 2016 | 5 pages