Equilibrium & Sustainability

Equilibrium/Sustainability — A self-charging smart-watch — for cows

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Fitting cows with a smart-watch-style device could help improve both food safety and supply chain efficiency — without requiring additional energy, a new study has found.

The agriculture sector can benefit from using smart technology to monitor the health, reproductivity, locations and environmental conditions of cows, according to the study, published on Thursday in iScience. 

“On a ranch, monitoring environmental and health information of cattle can help prevent diseases and improve the efficiency of pasture breeding and management,” co-author Zutao Zhang, an energy researcher at Southwest Jiaotong University in China, said in a statement.

Operating such devices, however, can add massive energy costs to an already high-emissions industry — a challenge Zhang and his team tackled while designing a new device.

Rather than requiring an outside charging source, their device is powered by bovine bodily movements — capturing the kinetic energy created by even the smallest motions, according to the study.

Cows can wear the small sensory devices around their ankles and necks and then simply go about their daily routines, the researchers explained.

Once the kinetic energy is captured, it is stored in a lithium battery used to power the device, according to the study.

Zhang and his colleagues said they also tested the devices on humans and found that a light jog was sufficient to power temperature measurement on the device.  

They expressed hopes that their technology could have future human applications in sports monitoring, health care and smart home operations.  

“Kinetic energy is everywhere in the environment,” Zhang said. “We shouldn’t let this energy go to waste.” 

Welcome to Equilibrium, we’re Saul Elbein and Sharon Udasin. Today we’ll see why France and the U.S. are at odds over climate, and how India intends to use its role at the head of the G20 to reimagine global decisionmaking. Plus: The surprising pollution-fighting powers of electric lawnmowers. 

Biden and Macron focus on Ukraine, climate 

President Biden hosted French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday for the French leader’s first official state visit since Biden took office — focusing on issues from Ukraine to the climate crisis, our colleague Alex Gangitano reported for The Hill. 

‘Brothers in arms’: The two leaders used the moment to reiterate their condemnation of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

  • Biden accused Russia of waging a “brutal war” that “has once more shattered peace on the continent of Europe.”
  • Macron echoed these remarks, adding “we need to become brothers in arms once more.”

Friction on climate: The day prior to meeting with Biden, Macron criticized the  Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act for its protectionist climate policies.

  • “This is super aggressive for our business people,” Macron said of the spending package that includes $369 billion in green subsidies, according to Agence France-Presse.
  • The French president expressed concern that the bill’s industrial subsidies, which aim to incentivize U.S.-made products, could hurt European firms. 

‘Not a zero-sum game’: White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said later on Wednesday that the administration is prepared to talk about the issue.

  • “There’s a number of provisions that will contribute to the growth of clean energy sector globally,” Jean-Pierre said.
  • “This is not a zero-sum game for us,” she added.

‘Crying foul’: Washington is about “to pour billions of dollars into environmentally friendly industries,” as a way to “reignite U.S. manufacturing,” as French newspaper Le Monde put it.

“However, European Union governments are crying foul, threatening to launch a trade war by subsidizing their own green economy sector,” Le Monde reported.  

Another point of tension is the cost of U.S. liquefied natural gas exports, which have become pricier to make up for canceled Russian deliveries.  

‘Tweaks’ to be made: Addressing these grievances on Thursday, Biden said he never intended to exclude European allies from the climate provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, Gangitano reported. 

“There’s tweaks that we can make that fundamentally make it easier for European countries to participate,” he said in a press conference alongside Macron.  

“Never intended to exclude folks who were cooperating with us,” Biden added.  

🛢 US BACKS PROPOSED EU PRICE CAP ON RUSSIAN OIL

Across the Atlantic on Thursday, the European Commission asked the bloc’s 27 members states to approve a price cap on Russian oil, The Wall Street Journal revealed. 

Cuts on Russian crude: If approved, the initiative would cap the price Russian suppliers can charge for crude at $60 a barrel, according to the Journal.

  • This would be well below the Brent international benchmark, which traded at about $88 a barrel on Thursday.
  • If the EU agrees on the cap, the Group of Seven (G-7) nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. — need to sign off on it. 

The seven countries and Australia intend to have the cap in place by Monday. 

US signals support: Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo welcomed the EU’s decision at a conference on Thursday, our colleague Zach Schonfeld reported.

“It looks as if Europe is moving towards implementing a price cap that’s in the range of prices that we’ve been talking about for a while,” Adeyemo told Reuters. 

⚡️ CURBING OZONE WITH ELECTRIC LAWNMOWERS

Trading in gasoline-powered lawn equipment for electric and battery-operated models could help curb the ozone pollution plaguing Colorado’s Front Range, a new report has found. 

Huge potential: Making this switch could achieve nearly one-fifth of the reduction needed to address the region’s contamination, according to the report, published by the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG) Foundation.

  • Operating a commercial gas-powered lawnmower for just one hour generates as much ozone-forming emissions as driving a 2017 Toyota Camry about 300 miles from Trinidad, Colo., to Cheyenne, Wyo.
  • An hour of commercial leaf-blowing produces the same amount of emissions as driving 1,100 miles from Denver to Calgary, Alberta.

Packing a punch: “Gas-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers may seem small but they pack a big pollution punch,” said Kirsten Schatz, a clean air advocate for the CoPIRG Foundation.

CoPIRG’s report was released ahead of a Colorado Air Quality Control Commission hearing on Dec. 13, at which time the agency will consider adopting an ozone reduction plan. 

A long-term struggle: A portion of the Front Range, from Denver to the Wyoming border, has for years failed to comply with federal ozone standards, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.  

An invisible but insidious pollutant, ground-level ozone can cause asthma attacks and respiratory illnesses, as well as damage agriculture.  

Cutting down: To meet federal air quality standards, the Front Range needs to reduce ozone pollution from about 84 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion, according to the CoPIRG study.  

  • Gasoline-powered lawn equipment makes up about 2.5 parts per billion of the region’s ozone contamination.
  • This is equivalent to almost one-fifth of what needs to be cut.  

To read more about the report and its recommendations, please click here for the full story. 

G20 MOVES

India shakes up global approach to climate change

India plans to shake up global climate goals in its new position as head of the Group of 20 (G-20), a forum representing the world’s 20 largest economies.

  • The world’s second-most populous nation — soon to be the first — intends to use its new position to secure more ambitious green investment from its fellow G-20 members, according to The Associated Press.
  • The country also aims to shift global governance to the benefit of the surging nations of the Global South.

New voice: “Our G20 priorities will be shaped in consultation with not just our G20 partners, but also our fellow travelers in the global South,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday in a statement printed in Indian newspapers, per Reuters. 

Those are countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America “whose voice often goes unheard,” Modi added. 
 

Broader quorum: New Delhi’s new position comes amid calls from leaders of rising economies like Indonesia and Brazil for a broader role in global decision-making.

  • “There’s no explanation why the winners of World War Two should be in charge,” newly elected Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said in a speech at last month’s U.N. climate change conference.
  • “The world has changed. Continents want to be represented,“ da Silva added. “The world needs new global governance on the climate issue.” 

India’s agenda: In its new role, India is expected to continue to push rich countries to keep their long-delayed promises for significant amounts of spending for climate adaptation in lower-income countries.  

  • India was a major force behind the U.N. adoption last month of a specific fund to help poorer countries pay for the “loss and damage” from a climate crisis they did little to cause.
  • The details of this fund will likely come into focus during the year of its G-20 presidency. 

Financial goals: Like leaders across the Global South, Modi has long called for funding far beyond what is needed for loss and damage alone. He has argued that far more investment is needed to make the reforms to decarbonize his country. 

  • At last year’s U.N. climate change conference (COP26), Modi called for $1 trillion in annual financing to finance decarbonization in the developing world.  
  • Some African leaders at COP26 called for more: $1.3 trillion per year. The total global cost of shifting to a low-carbon energy system is much higher — $4-6 trillion per year, according to the U.N. 

Fossil focus: New Delhi will also likely push its fellow G-20 members to make more ambitious cuts to their fossil fuel emissions. 

  • India pushed unsuccessfully at COP27 for a global commitment to phase down the use of “unabated” fossil fuels, not simply coal, according to S&P Global.
  • That is part of a larger strategy to keep global heating to below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). 

There’s still hope: G-20 members committed to hold the line on 1.5 degrees last week in a meeting in Indonesia, Reuters reported. 

It’s also one that is still achievable — despite claims of fossil fuel industry “incumbents,” International Energy Agency head Fatih Birol told The Guardian.

For the rest of the story, please click here

Investment in nature must double: UN

Global spending on protecting nature must double by 2025 in order to meet climate goals, the United Nations warned on Thursday.

  • Current funding is insufficient to meet the challenges of climate change, land degradation and the loss of biodiversity, according to a new report from the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP). 

Scaling up: Governments around the world currently spend about $154 billion per year on “nature-based solutions,” according to UNEP. 

These are projects that use natural systems and processes to tackle social and economic goals.

  • This must double by 2025 and triple by 2030 to halt and then reverse global land degradation and biodiversity loss, the U.N. found.
  • With public finance under strain, the main source of additional funds will be the private sector, according to UNEP.   

Total needs: Keeping global warming below the still-destructive 2 degree Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) red-line agreed upon in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement will cost $9.5 trillion for nature-based solutions alone, UNEP found.  

Keeping that temperature rise to a merely-disruptive 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), meanwhile, will require an additional $1.5 trillion, it said.

For the rest of this story, please click here

Thursday Threats

Lobster sustainability battle draws in White House, Montana’s government faces a challenge from state youth and Amazon deforestation remains high. 

Maine lobster, right whale fuel debates over White House dinner plates

  • A White House decision to serve lobster at its Thursday state dinner has prompted Maine lawmakers to speak up in defense of the state’s favored but recently embattled industry, our colleague Rachel Beitsch reported. Maine lobster lost its sustainability certification two weeks ago, amid a nationwide battle to protect the endangered right whale — a move that prompted Whole Foods to suspend the product’s sale.

Montana teens suing state over climate change

  • A group of Montana teenagers are suing the state over a provision that bars agencies from considering climate change — while “explicitly promoting fossil fuels,” E&E reported. The teens argue the state government has violated their right to a “clean and healthful environment,” which the state constitution guarantees, according to E&E.

Brazil cleared Connecticut-sized patch of Amazon last year

  • While deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon slowed in the past year, it remained just below its recent 15-year high, The Associated Press reported. The rainforest lost 4,500 square miles, an area a little smaller than Connecticut, between August 2021 and July 2022, according to the AP.

Please visit The Hill’s Sustainability section online for more. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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