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November 20, 2014

Pollution from the steel industry in Benxi, China. Photo by Andreas. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.

China commits to cutting coal

The Chinese government announced yesterday that it will cap its coal use by 2020 in order to uphold its side of last week’s China-U.S. emissions deal. This means that coal use in China is set to peak at 4.2 billion tonnes, a one-sixth increase over today’s consumption. ThinkProgress explained the significance of this commitment: “This is a staggering reversal of Chinese energy policy, which for two decades has been centered around building a coal plant or more a week. Now they’ll be building the equivalent in carbon-free power every week for decades, while the construction rate of new coal plants decelerates like a crash-test dummy.”

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China has work to do on water

In contrast to the encouraging news about emissions, an investigative report by China’s Xinhua News Agency shows that 60 per cent of China’s groundwater is either classified as “bad” or “very bad.” This leaves 300 of China’s 657 major cities facing water shortages based on the United Nations standard. Businessweek reported yesterday that in the North China region, which includes Beijing and Tianjin, water availability per capita is 286 cubic meters annually – far below the 500 cubic meter minimum, which is considered “absolute scarcity.”

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Raising money for the Green Climate Fund

World leaders are in Berlin today pledging their support to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) set up by the United Nations to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. Britain pledged $1.13 billion (U.S.) today, bringing the fund’s balance up to $9 billion. Thirteen other countries have already announced contributions to the fund, which is critical for ensuring that a global climate agreement is reached in Paris next year. Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF) reported today that many have worried the fund would fail to get off the ground, as many other UN fundraising initiatives have in the past. But TRF is hopeful that the GCF can overcome at least some of the challenges faced by past funds, pointing out that it already has more money in hand than any other multilateral climate fund before it.

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Female leadership rising slowly

The 2014 Gender Diversity Index, released today by 2020 Women on Boards, shows that women have are making gains in the boardrooms of Fortune 1000 companies. The number of women on boards rose to 17.7 per cent this year, compared to 16.6 per cent last year, which is 18 more seats than last year. The report was released in partnership with the third annual National Conversation on Board Diversity, which is taking place in cities around the world today.

“This report shows that while Corporate America is moving in the right direction on board diversity, the pace of change remains too slow,” New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said in a statementCorporate Knights’ managing editor Jeremy Runnalls spoke to Stringer last week about his Boardroom Accountability Project, which aims to give shareholders more say over boardroom diversity and accountability. “While everybody knows that directors are supposed to act as representatives of the shareowners, in practice, these elections serve as little more than coronations,” he told Corporate Knights. By working with groups like 2020 Women on Boards, Stringer said he will continue to “fight for boardrooms that promote quality decision-making by reflecting the diversity of [the U.S.].”

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“Poo” bus hits the road in Britain

Britain’s first “Bio-Bus” started making the rounds today. The 40-seat bus is powered by biomethane gas, which comes from the treatment of sewage and food waste, and can travel up to 186 miles on a single tank of gas. The bus, which produces fewer emissions than traditional diesel buses, will run between Bath and Bristol Airport. The gas is generated at the Bristol sewage treatment works facility, which processes about 75 million cubic metres of sewage and 35,000 tonnes of food waste from households, supermarkets and food manufacturers each year, the Guardian reported today. The company responsible for generating the biomethane gas, GENeco, also became the first to inject the gas into the national grid network earlier this week.

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