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The Numbers
Jamais Cascio, 18 May 05

Here are some particularly pleasing numbers about the climate:

132.

37 (including a new set of 10).

Four.

One billion.

2004 and 23.

Together, these numbers show that U.S. federal intransigence over climate disruption does not mean that change for the better isn't happening. We've noted time and again that reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States can come from the actions of concerned local, regional and commercial entities. The numbers above are examples from just this last week of how crucial said actions can be.

Read on to learn just what these numbers mean -- and why they matter.

132 is the number of cities which have signed on to the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, a project begun by Seattle mayor Greg Nickels. The Agreement (PDF) requires that cities work to meet or exceed the Kyoto Protocol targets through "actions ranging from anti-sprawl land-use policies to urban forest restoration projects to public information campaigns," as well as working to change state-wide and national policies. The founding group of 10 mayors included the leaders of cities such as San Francisco, Portland (Oregon), and Boulder -- as well as the mayor of Salt Lake City. New York City has joined the group, which now includes cities in 35 states, representing nearly 29 million people.

37 is the number of major corporations on the EPA's Climate Leaders list who have pledged to take immediate steps to cut greenhouse gases. 10 just joined the program, including the Gap, Green Mountain Energy and Staples as well as Caterpillar, Calpine and Exelon. Planned cuts range from Calpine's 4% per megawatt-hour to Melaver and Green Mountain's goals of zero net emissions by 2006. "EPA estimates that the 37 Climate Leaders' greenhouse gas reductions will prevent more than 8 million metric tons of carbon emissions equivalent per year. These reductions are equal to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of five million cars."

Four is the number of issues covered by Toyota's new 2006-2010 environmental policy: renewable energy/global warming, recycling, management of toxins, and atmospheric pollution. Most notable are Toyota's plans for greenhouse gas reduction related to manufacturing and logistics: "A 20% worldwide reduction in production-related CO2 emissions from 2001 levels per sales unit. [...] A 10% reduction from 1990 levels in Japan for CO2 emissions related to logistics—the transportation of production parts, vehicles and service parts." On the vehicle use end, they'll be pushing to increase the number of hybrids produced and sold (and have just announced that they'll be making a hybrid version of the insanely popular Camry sedan -- in Kentucky!).

One billion is the amount in dollars to be invested directly in renewable energy projects by a group of institutional investors who collectively manage about $3 trillion in assets. These investors include state treasurers and pension fund managers in the US and UK. "Steve Westly, controller of California, told reporters the money could be invested in anything from wind power to more efficient turbines at power plants to auto makers, such as Toyota, that make hybrid cars. [...] 'Our job is to encourage companies to think green. We want it to happen before it's too late,' said Westly."

Finally, 2004 is the focus year for Cinergy's recently-released Annual Report, which is entirely focused on global warming. Cinergy is one of the US biggest users of coal, and might be expected to downplay or ignore global warming in its reports to shareholders. It's a surprise, then, to see global warming treated in such a forthright and constructive way, underscored by a set of interviews with 23 "stakeholders" -- including David Hawkins, the director of the NRDC's Climate center. While the Cinergy Annual Report is not quite as directly transformative as the GE Ecomagination project, it's still a significant culture shift, even while having obvious financial triggers. The Letter to Shareholders from Cinergy CEO (and soon to be post-merger Duke Energy CEO) James Rogers makes clear that a key driver is the recognition that carbon regulation is inevitable, and that acting now will better-position Cinergy in a post-regulation world.

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